Royal Christmas Gifts of Regency-Era Artifacts

Queen Mary often gave her acquisitions as Christmas gifts to her husband. She loved them. He did not. (Snuff boxes were the exception–the king had quite a collection.)
George V pictured here with Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth, future queen.

Queen Mary (1867-1953), grandmother of HM Queen Elizabeth II, was a noted collector of art and decorative objects. The Royal Collection owes its comprehensive and thoroughly organized condition to her efforts. She not only focused on fetching back historical items significant to the royal family, she meticulously labeled and catalogued the whole lot.

Her labels are still in use.

Since the Prince Regent himself was a connoisseur, he acquired many decorative objects. His taste was the gold-standard for what was fashionable during the period that bears his name. Thanks to Queen Mary’s acquisitions on behalf of the Crown, we can view some of the finest of Regency-era artifacts today–online, even.

The examples I’ve noted below were all Christmas gifts of the Royal Family.

A vinaigrette from the Regency era would have contained smelling salts or vinegar. Dowager Lady Ingham resorted to hers throughout Georgette Heyer’s novel, Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle. It was usually supplied by Mucker, her ‘grim handmaiden,’ especially after Phoebe scandalized the ton when she left the Duke of Salford ‘ridiculously alone’ on the dance floor, ‘white with fury.’

“I never saw anyone with less dignity; she’s abominable, and damnably hot at hand, frank to a fault, and – a darling!” — I’m ambivalent about these impressionist Jove covers from the late 70s, early 80s.

The Royal Collection has the one pictured below. Its description reads: “A silver-gilt vinaigrette in the form of the Imperial State crown; the gilt interior with a hinged grille pierced and chased with a basket of flowers. Suspension loop.” Queen Mary received this vinaigrette at Christmas from her Lady of the Bedchamber, Lady Eva Dugdale. Her ladyship was accounted to be the queen’s closest friend and confidante.

According to gossip, hosts and hostesses felt compelled to give up treasured items with royal provenance whenever HM came to visit.

This Wedgewood scent bottle — circa 1810 — shows the staying power of the classical motif in Georgian decorative arts. Made of blue stoneware, it has a white relief depicting Pysche. The Royal Collection categorizes it as Etrurian, a stylistic method that is found in Regency-era interior design–from furniture and wall coverings to figures of birds and sphinxes. Robert Adam used the Etruscan style in his designs for the third drawing room of the now-demolished Derby House in London’s Grosvenor Square, favoring shades of Pompeian red and terracotta, with black accents.

Actually, the ancient artifacts found in Etruria weren’t Etruscan at all–they were Greek.

The queen received the bottle as a Christmas gift from Lady Shaftesbury. Her ladyship’s husband, the Earl of Shaftesbury, was HM’s Lord Chamberlain. His grandson, the 10th Earl, was murdered by his wife, dubbed the ‘call-girl countess.’

Snuff boxes were the very stuff of a man’s life during the Regency. Beau Brummel made snuff-taking fashionable. The Prince Regent had his own blends of snuff. Handling it properly it was a mark of good ton. Sharing your snuff with another indicated a very close friendship. Edward VII gave the bloodstone snuff box below to his daughter-in-law when Queen Mary was Princess of Wales. They called her “May” in those days.

Of all the gemstones, bloodstone was considered the most masculine.

Mounted with a gold coronation medal commemorating the accession of George VI, the snuff box originally belonged to the Duke of Cambridge’s family. The dukedom had fallen into extinction until HM Elizabeth II bestowed it upon her grandson when he married Kate Middleton.

This beautiful 1816 gold snuff box contains a miniature painting of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, the last-surviving child of George III. The intriguing, repetitive pattern on the lid is created by an engraving technique called engine-turning, or Guilloché. It’s a process similar to using a spirograph.

Merry Christmas!

Spirograph was one of the best Christmas gifts ever--thanks, Santa!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.