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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.