Archive for the ‘Royalty’ Category

Living history

January 31, 2013
HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2010. © RVD, foto: Vincent Mentzel © RVD, photo: Vincent Mentzel

HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2010. © RVD, photo: Vincent Mentzel

Earlier this week HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made the announcement that on 30 April 2013 she will abdicate in favour of her son, the Prince of Orange. By then she will have been on the throne for 33 years, and at 75 she will have been the oldest reigning Dutch monarch.

As constitutional monarch Queen Beatrix represents an element of continuity, an embodiment of ‘living history’. Various members of the House of Orange have had a connection with the Dutch nation from its foundation in the 1570s and 1580s, first as stadtholders and later as monarchs. Now Queen Beatrix’s reign, too, will become ‘history’.

HM Queen Beatrix signing legislation at her desk at the Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2011. © Rijksoverheid

HM Queen Beatrix signing legislation at her desk at the Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2011. © Rijksoverheid

The recent portraits shown here hint at that continuity in various, almost old-masterly ways. The photograph at the top was taken in the Witte Eetzaal (White Dining Room) of the Palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. This room is in one of the wings added to the building by Daniel Marot for Prince William IV of Orange between 1734 and 1737. The image of the Queen at her desk shows her under a portrait of the Dutch pater patriae, Prince William I of Orange.

Long to reign over us

May 31, 2012

Photographic print of the Queen treated to look like an oil painting, 1953, at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Inv. no. 290938. ©National Trust Collections

As the Diamond Jubilee weekend approaches, I thought I would take a look at some of the objects in the collections of the National Trust that relate to the 1953 Coronation.

Silk crêpe handkerchief, c. 1953, at Killerton, Devon. Inv. no. 1363609. ©National Trust Collections

They provide a narrowly focused but vivid snapshot of early 1950s cultural and social trends in Britain.

Blue jasperware Wedgwood teapot designed by Arnold Machin, at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria. Inv. no. 997887.2. ©National Trust Collections

Some of the items show modernist design elements, although in a muted, decorous way. Others are unashamedly traditionalist.

Wedgwood commemorative mug, c. 1953, at Greenway, Devon (Agatha Christie’s holiday home). Inv. no. 122026. ©National Trust Collections

They span the entire spectrum from cheap throwaway items to beautifully designed objects made from durable materials.

Chair of a type used by those attending the 1953 Coronation in Westminster Abbey, which could subsequently be purchased by the attendees (echoing the earlier practice of giving surplus royal furniture to courtiers as perks of office), at Chirk Castle, Wrexham. Inv. no. 1170796.1. ©National Trust Collections

But they all seem to include heraldic elements, befitting the highly symbolic, even hieratic nature of the occasion. Style Court has just done a nice post about Arnold Machin’s iconic silhouettes of the Queen.

Book of matches, Bryant & May, 1953, at Sissinghurst Castle. Inv. no. 802872. ©National Trust Collections

And the early television set reminds us that in 1953 Britain had only fairly recently entered the broadcast media age – there was debate around whether the coronation should be broadcast on television at all, and when it was decided to do so many people bought TV sets especially for the occasion. Perhaps we are in a similar transitional moment now, as interactive media supplement or take over from broadcast platforms.

1950s Bush television, at 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton, Merseyside (Paul McCartney’s childhood home). Inv. no. 2030421. ©National Trust Collections

More Coronation memorabilia can be found on the National Trust Collections website – with thanks to Philip Claris for highlighting a selection of them.

This also reminds me of the upcoming conference at the Courtauld Institute, London, entitled Art and Its Afterlives, looking at how the meaning of works of art and other objects changes and reverberates long after their original creation.

A royal garden party

May 6, 2011

View of the royal wedding garden party from the Powis Castle terraces. ©National Trust/Emma Marshall

To celebrate the recent royal wedding, the colleagues at Powis Castle threw open the garden for free and invited everyone to come and watch the event on a giant screen.

A local marching band led a procession to Powis from nearby Welshpool, including the Mayor and many people in wedding costume and fancy dress. In all over 5,000 people came and the atmosphere was very festive.

Royal weddings

April 29, 2011

The 1863 royal wedding. Illustration in a book in the library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As a modest tribute to today’s event I thought I would show a couple of historical royal weddings, to see if we can spot parallels and differences. This is the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to Alexandra, Princess of Denmark, at Windsor Castle in 1864 (Princess Alexandra can also be seen, depicted twenty years later, in this post).

Admission ticket to the 1863 royal wedding, from the library at Anglesey Abbey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

And this is an admittance ticket to that event. The fact that it directs the bearer to the roof of the New Guard Room seems to indicate that they were expecting significant crowds.

Detail from a commemorative bioscope showing the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1840. ©NTPL/David Garner

And this was Queen Victoria’s outfit for her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840 – with a slightly longer train than we saw today.

A royal brand

April 12, 2010

Seaton Delaval Hall. © 2010 Dan Wakenshaw Photography

Last year, in the teeth of the recession, the National Trust managed to acquire Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland. This was achieved thanks to huge support from many individuals, grants bodies, government agencies and the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme

The house was built by Sir John Vanburgh in the 1720s for Admiral George Delaval and his nephew and heir Captain Francis Blake Delaval. Its theatrical silhouette and massing is an impressive example of Vanburgh’s Baroque genius.

Incidentally, I found Dan Wakenshaw’s dramatic photograph (above) via the thriving Seaton Delaval Hall Facebook group. This group is a good example of the way in which supporters are now helping to shape the perception of National Trust properties. 

Bust of Charles II attributed to John Bushnell, marble. Image: National Trust/Andrew McGregor

One of the works of art acquired with the house is a bust of Charles II attributed to John Bushnell (above). It was reputedly given by the King to Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baronet, in recognition of his family’s loyalty to the Royalist cause during the Civil War. The purchase of the bust was enabled by generous grants from The Art Fund and from Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement.

Model for a bust of Charles II, terracotta, attributed to John Bushnell. Reproduction by permission of the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A related terracotta model is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Alastair Laing, the National Trust’s sculpture expert, has noted that Bushnell was the only British sculptor of the period able to create busts of such monumentality and presence, due to his training on the Continent.

Showing a good leg: King Charles II by Sir Godfrey Kneller, at Powis Castle, Powys. ©NTPL/Clare Bates

Charles II created a strong royal ‘brand’ around his person, partly in imitation of the leading royal brand of the time, Louis XIV of France. Like Louis, Charles believed in the divine right of kings and he enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of his role. 

Elevated status: Portrait of Charles II on plaster by Antonio Verrio, at Packwood House, Warwickshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Artists were employed to glorify the King in a variety of ways. This portrait, from the collection at Packwood House, is a rare surviving fragment of the ceiling of the Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. The distortions are due to the fact that the image would have been seen from below. It is currently on loan to the Verrio exhibition at the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

Certificate of authenticity: Grant of a baronetcy to Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk Castle, Wrexham. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The image management extended to the titles that the King liberally sprinkled among his supporters. Like many other financially straitened rulers before or since, he was adept at rewarding people through symbolic gestures.


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