Loving Antique Royal Memorabilia

Attribution: Michael Pead (see footer)

With a rather important Royal Jubilee just around the corner we all know how the news channels are buzzing and the shops are crammed full of related souvenirs. Our national desire to commemorate Royal events is of course nothing new so it seemed apt timing to delve a little into the long history of Royal Memorabilia in the UK, and to shine a well-deserved spotlight onto some of the interesting items our dealers on Love Antiques are currently offering. Whether you are a staunch supporter of the Monarchy or hold opposing views, antique and vintage Royal Memorabilia is keenly collected and offers a fascinating insight into the social perspectives of the day.

A Short History of Royal Memorabilia:

The United Kingdom has had a continued unified ruling Monarch for over 1100 years since the Saxon clan leader Athelstan had himself crowned ‘King of the English’ in 927 AD. In fact the Queen traces her lineage back even further to King Egbert in the early 800s AD, but whichever date you choose to start with we have had Kings and Queens here for many, many years. While relevant trinkets and souvenirs probably existed during the first few centuries, the earliest known Royal Commemorative wares still in existence date to the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. At this time such souvenirs were not just intended as keep sakes for reminiscing over by the fire years later, but more importantly were tangible visual reminders that the King was back and that his authority was unquestionable and absolute. Although few could afford to commission or purchase paintings (or purchase books) of the King, potters in particular found a ready market for somewhat crude slipware plates and mugs which often depicted a cartoon-like image of the King or just simple words recalling the event and date.  

While commemorative ware may have started off with a slightly subversive political motive, it very quickly turned into a genuine celebration and show of public affection for our ruling Monarchs. All of us look back on our lives even today and marker our own memories around the important national and international milestone events which took place during out lifetime, and that was no different in the past. While wars and pestilence are naturally sobering events, Royal celebrations have always been a time for national unity and public joyfulness.

Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Plate

offered by Verdi Art & Antiques

For collectors of Royal memorabilia the advent of the Industrial Revolution from the mid 18th Century onwards was a major game changer. Not only was the English Empire (and the Monarch's authority) stronger than ever before, but suddenly small cheap souvenirs could be mass produced with ease. It was therefore during the Georgian Era that we see an explosion of souvenir printed works, commemorative cups, engraved ornaments, handkerchiefs, and in fact any other object you could paint, print, engrave or embroider a royal themed image or message onto. During the reign of Queen Victoria Royal Commemorative ware in the UK really reached its zenith and alongside the other types of objects already mentioned, the first official commemorative coin was minted in 1887 for the Queens Golden Jubilee. These were issued the size of a Crown (old money, not head-dress) because it was larger than other coins so allowed for more detailing, and Royal Commemorative coins have remained a popular and valuable collectable to this day. The first Royal Jubilee postage stamp was issued for King George V in 1935.

What Collectors look for:

When it comes to collecting Royal Memorabilia then there are really two tiers of object: those mass produced as souvenirs for the public including limited edition items, and then those items which have a direct association with the event in question. The Prince of Wales Investiture chairs of 1969 which were given to the invited attendees on the day are a good example of this. This difference in the type of Royal Memorabilia can have a big effect on the item’s value so while a commemorative printed mug from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee may only be worth in the low tens of pounds, a piece of George VI’s wedding cake given out to guests will be worth several hundred pounds (£250 at Auction in 2017 to be precise). Amazingly a Prince Charles Investiture Chair made a staggering £4000 at auction only last year showing interest in good pieces remains strong. Naturally, the more personal the item is connected to the Monarch, then the price can escalate dramatically. Earlier items that pre-date mass production will also usually be more valuable. However on the flip side, more recent widely circulated commemorative souvenirs tend to remain quite cheap because the owners usually look after them leaving a great number in circulation.

What our Love Antiques dealers have on offer:

Image 1Image 3

As usual our dealers have a great selection of quality Royal memorabilia for sale. This includes a lovely Queen Victoria Jubilee jug from 1897 made by Royal Doulton and offered by Graham Smith Antiques. At the time Doulton were one of the finest commercial pottery companies around and were producing Art Pottery in the Medieval revivalist style that was popular during the Arts & Crafts period. As such this jug very much harks back to the original Commemorative Ware of Charles II.

Image 1Image 5Image 9

Rams Head Antiques are offering a very sweet hand-stitched embroidery commemorating the Jubilee of George V in 1935. Depicting all different aspects of the British Empire we often forget how impassioned ordinary people get when it comes to Jubilees, and there is a long tradition of ordinary people creating embroideries as a unique reminder of the occasion. Created in 1935 this embroidery was celebrating the last decades of the unified British Empire.

Image 2Image 1

For an item from the present Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Bridport Antiques are offering a fine quality Silver plaque issued by the College of Arms. The College are the organisation responsible for all heraldic and genealogy related matters within the Commonwealth so it is not surprising that they chose to issue this commemorative piece.

Image 2Image 4

Finally for those who like to use their collectables Verdi Art & Antiques are offering a great little cup and saucer commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897. Transfer printed with a lovely shape and decoration, this set would be perfect to sip your tea as you sit and watch the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in a few days time!!

Queen Elizabeth Jubilee photo: By Michael Pead - michaelpead.co.ukMICHAEL PEAD :: PhotographyMICHAEL PEAD :: Photos of the Golden Jubilee, CC BY-SA 2.0 uk, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=497332