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A game of thrones

Last year we lost a beloved monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who reigned for a record 70 years. On this day, May 6, her son, King Charles III is crowned alongside Camilla, Queen Consort. It is a monumental day for Great Britain and the Commonwealth. So here, in homage to this great chapter in our history, our Guest Editor Denise Barrett has curated for you some precious ‘regalia’ that has made its mark throughout history. With kind courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

To celebrate this glorious Coronation event, and the pageantry Britain does so well, we wanted to bring you a special edition of the Gladstonian Journal. 
Stately possessions including precious "regalia", bags and luggage have played a pivotal role in Royal life throughout time, for example the spectacular royal coronet or the monumental artefact gifted to one of our most revered Peers and military heroes. 

                                                                                                                                         The revered chair

In paying homage to the grand treasures of the Coronation, nothing comes near the staggering simplicity yet beauty of the Coronation Chair, one of the most precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world, which has been the centrepiece of coronations for over 700 years.

His Majesty the King will be crowned in the Coronation Chair, known historically as St Edward's Chair or King Edward's Chair, as monarchs have been before him, including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Elizabeth II in 1953. Made in about 1300, the Chair was commissioned by Edward I to house the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, the stone brought from Scotland in 1296, which was the throne for Scottish kings for hundreds of years.

Images by kind courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Images by kind courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster

The Chair is made of oak and was originally covered in gold leaf gilding, and elaborately decorated with coloured glass. It is known to have been painted by Walter, the King’s Master Painter who decorated it with patterns of birds, foliage, and a king. It would have looked to the medieval eye as if it was made of solid gold and been a glittering spectacle in the holy ceremony.


The crown on the cushion
As we stay within the royal bloodline, just marvel at this glittering sapphire and diamond coronet that belonged to Queen Victoria. One of Victoria's most treasured jewels, the coronet was designed for her by Prince Albert in 1840 – the royal couple's wedding year – and made by Joseph Kitching, partner at Kitching and Abud. 

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In 1842 Victoria wore the newly completed coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, a German painter and lithographer, known for his portraits of royalty in the mid-nineteenth century. Over twenty years later, in 1866. she wore the coronet instead of her crown when she finally felt able to open Parliament for the first time since Albert's death. Her actual crown was carried on a cushion.


The exotic and the unfamiliar
We follow up with a rare memento of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert, his signed season ticket of admission to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was inaugurated on 1 May 1851, and staged in the purpose-built Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. The Great Exhibition included examples of industrial design and fine art from around the world. Foreign travel was unusual at the time, and the exhibition enabled visitors to see the exotic and the unfamiliar for themselves.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

                                                                                                                                        Fit for a Duke

This delicate artifact is the central portion from the Portuguese Centrepiece, presented to the Duke of Wellington in 1816 in Lisbon. The silver gilt Centrepiece stands on the 26-foot-long mahogany table in the Dining Room at Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's London residence. It was made in the Military Arsenal in Lisbon and was presented to the Duke in 1816 by the Portuguese Council of Regency in gratitude for his support against the Napoleonic army.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is said to be one of the finest pieces of neo-classical silver in Europe and a unique design produced in honour of the Duke’s victory over the French in Portugal during the Peninsular Wars. It was designed by Domingos António de Sequeira, the Portuguese court painter and crafted by men from the Lisbon Military Arsenal. The Portuguese silver gilt service arrived in London in 1817 packed in a total of 55 crates!


Art meets science
This wondrous piece of scientific kit is an Astronomical Compendium made for King James I, who ruled 1603-1625. The engraved brass compendium was made by Elias Allen, who was the most distinguished instrument maker of his day (he made the first slide rule.)
His sophisticated compass-dial was used to tell the time throughout the day and night. In daytime, the hours are indicated by a sundial. At night, the pointer on the larger and lower of the two discs is set to the current date engraved on a scale on the back cover.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The compass-dial is held up to the eye and the smaller disc rotated until the slot cut in it is aligned with the two 'pointer' stars in the Great Bear. A pointer on this disc will then indicate the hour on the large disc.
The age of the moon, measured in days, and the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac are also indicated by rotating discs and a pointer on the back of the case. A fabulous fusion of art and science!


All that glitters
This ingenious gold change purse consists of twelve overlapping panels attached to a central base by chains that operate as drawstrings to secure it shut. Delicate acorns hang from the end of each chain, exemplifying the skilled craftsmanship of the house. In France these small change purses were known as bourse à Louis, after the national gold coin, the Louis d’Or.
The precious ‘drawstring’ purse, which belongs in the collection of the Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul, is a treasure from Napoleonic times, and was made by Boucheron, which opened in Paris in 1858 and quickly attracted a discerning aristocratic and royal clientele.

                                                                                                                      The fantastical Throne Chair
Before we go, I couldn’t resist reminding you of this special Coronation edition’s headline, A Game of Thrones. Fast forwarding centuries in time, this opulent little number is relatively contemporary compared to the ancient Coronation Chair. But as a design piece we think it is stunning.
It is, fittingly, called the Throne Chair and its rich upholstering is superbly complemented by painted and gilded walnut. It was designed in 1800-05 by F.Fabbri, in Rome.  Where else!

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
We hope you enjoyed this special Coronation edition of the Gladstonian Journal, we certainly enjoyed putting it together. Wherever you are, unless you are so fortunate to be in the congregation of the Abbey, we wish you a fabulous day – and that you can delight in watching the pageantry unfold on-screen!

With thanks for this edition to Denise Barrett, Guest Editor and
author of Handbag Homage

Missed any of the Gladstonian Journals? Click here to catch up
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