Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: A Pair of Diamond and Enamel Earrings by Chaumet, 1920

Diamonds, Platinum, Gold, Enamel
Chaumet, c. 1920
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Platinum, gold, enamel, and baguette-and brilliant-cut diamonds hang in sheer elegance with these impressive earrings by Chaumet. They date to the early 1920s.

Long earrings were the height of fashion during the 1920s. The September 1925 edition of “The Illustrated London News” attributed this fashion trend to changing hairstyles, stating, “As the fashion for ‘Eton’ cropped heads grows daily, long, decorative ear-rings are becoming increasingly fashionable.'

Some jewelers, however, decided that the new short hair was not good for business. After all, gone were the days of jewelled hair ornaments. “Queen Magazine” noted that same year, “now no ornament is worn in the hair for dances.”

Though long earrings were selling well, for many jewelers, the this fashion did not compensate for the decline in demand for the more expensive larger jewelled combs, hair ornaments and hair slides.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Gold Presentation Box Given to Queen Mary

Presentation Box
The Royal Collection
Designed for Fabergé by Henrik Wigström, 1862-1923, this presentation box of gold, enamel, jasper, and rose-cut diamonds was presented to Queen Mary by the royal family on her birthday, May 26, 1934

This elegant gold box is applied with pale green enamel which has been striped with gold. The lid of the box is set with a panel of jasper on which a vase of flowers--encircled by diamonds and with diamond swags—has been applied.

Queen Mary had an impressive collection of Fabergé and by all accounts loved the gift.

Mastery of Design: A Miniature Vinaigrette, 1800

Miniature Vinaigrette
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Here we have a miniature vinaigrette which is designed to resemble a coffee table (in gold) with a coffee service of six coffee cups with saucers and spoons, a sugar bowl with spooon and a coffee pot (in parcel gilt) attached to the top. The wee table featues cabriole legs and a hinged top.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “vinaigrettes” were boxes designed to hold scented sponges. These were used by both men and women to prevent inevitable fainting fits and counteract the myroad unpleasant smells inherent to life in the city.

When the Victoria & Albert Musem acquired this miniature vinaigrette it contained a card from the donor which offered the following story:

This vinaigrette was the property of Princess Charlotte (daughter of George IV) who died in 1817. An ancestor of mine, name probably Wyatt, was librarian to the above King and saved the vinaigrette when the princess threw it into the fire in a fit of temper. I cannot verify this account but I think it probably correct.

According to the V&A, research indicates that there never was a royal librarian with the name of Wyatt. However, the architect James Wyatt and his son Matthew Cotes Wyatt were frequent visitors to the palaces during this period.

I imagine that Princess Charlotte—throughout her short, unhappy life—had many reasons to throw a variety of objects into the fire. So, I like to think that this story is true.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 323

Gerard rolled over on his side and peered over the top of his blankets at Charles who lay across from him on his own small cot in the Spartan room they shared in the servants’ quarters of the Royal Street mansion.

“You asleep, Charlie?” Gerard asked.

“No.” Charles responded. “And, I’ll thank you not to refer to me as Charlie.”

“I see. See, I like to be called ‘Gerry,’ sounds friendlier than Gerard. Don’t you think? Hope you don’t mind me bein’ here.” Gerard smiled.

“I don’t suppose I have a choice.” Charles mumbled.

“No, guess not.” Gerard said softly. “Here, I hope we can be friends. I know I ain’t the kind of bloke you’re used to bein’ ‘round. Had a rough life, you know. But, I aon’t a bad fella. Don’t judge me by my company. I only was with Arthur so I could get out of a bad place. You know how it is? See, I was on a ship. Wasn’t ‘sposed to be there. It was a misunderstandin’. See, I had the money. But, I just couldn’t get me hands on it. So, them folk took me off and put me on the ship to pay off me debts. Now, I ain’t sayin’ I never did nothin’ wrong. I sure have. But, that’s all in the past. And, see, now I have a chance and I ain’t gonna ruin it. The doctor were fine to offer me this position. I’m hopin’ you’ll help me. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout bein’ no valet. I hope I can learn from you.”

“What’s to learn?” Charles grunted. “You bring up their bath water, you help them dress, you bring them food and polish their shoes and stand around and watch them live their lives even if you don’t approve of what they’re doing.”

“Oh.” Gerard whispered. “You mean the Duke, right? He’s an odd one, isn’t he? Talkin’ like some rough fella and actin’ mad. But, I realize he ain’t mad. He’s just different. And who’s to say that a Duke can’t talk or act anyway he wants?”

“Yes, who is to say?” Charles growled. “Who’s to say he can’t be a wild lunatic? After all, he has a title and gold and jewels and a fine estate. I suppose that means he can do whatever he wants.”

“Here, I think he’s nice.” Gerard responded.

“Oh, yes, he’s nice.” Charles chuckled dryly.

“We’re lucky, you know.” Gerard answered. “Some blokes got bad masters. We’ve got it good. A fine house, a chance to travel. Two proper gentleman to look after and who’ll look after us. Plus, we get to eat good food and spend time with fine ladies. And the other servants are very nice.”

“I’m so glad you’re happy.”

“What choice do I have?” Gerard asked, beginning to get irritated. “I can be happy or I can be miserable. What good’s bein’ miserable? I didn’t like Artie much, but I’m sad he died. But, somethin’ good came of it. So, isn’t it better to be grateful?”

“Can’t you just be quiet and go to sleep?” Charles croaked.

“You’re just angry ‘cause you’re in love with that Barbara Allen. Don’t you know she’s no good? Don’t matter that she was once a great lady. She ain’t no more. She ruined that when she got herself pregnant and married a footman. No great lady’s gonna be involved with a servant! And, look at her now, Artie said she’s a whore. Forget about her. You can find a nice cook or an upper house parlor maid. That’s more fitting for a valet.”

“You had better shut your mouth,” Charles growled, sitting up. “Never mention Barbara to me! Never speak her name!”

“All right,” Gerard mumbled, rolling over and drawing the covers over his face. “Sorry to bother ya.”

Charles shook his head and rose from the bed.

“Where you goin’?” Gerard asked.

“Out!” Charles spat as he left the room.

“He’s barmy, that one.” Gerard mumbled to himself as he settled back into his bed. “No matter. I got a home now. And, that’s all that matters.”

At that very moment, Mr. Punch sat on the floor of the parlor and played with his puppet while Toby slept at his side. Robert—who was sitting behind Punch on a settee--gently tapped Punch’s back with his foot.

“Here, quite kickin’ me, I’m talkin’ with the puppet.” Punch laughed.

“I see that,” Robert smiled, “but don’t you think we’d better get some sleep?”

“I guess.” Punch sighed. “I got a lot on me mind. Don’t know how well I’ll sleep, I don’t.”

“You’re thinking about Barbara?”

“I am.” Punch nodded. “Though I don’t know why I should.”

“Because—regardless of what she’s done—she’s your sister. Or, at least, Julian’s sister. And, you don’t want to let him down.”

Punch nodded.

“Nevertheless, we’ve got a lot to do tomorrow. We’ve got to be rested. Just getting to the ship will be tricky. You know that Edward Cage and many others will be watching us. We’ve got to get on that ship and, then, when we’re safely at sea with the whole family, we can rest easily.”

“Is everything arranged?” Punch asked.

“Yes.” Robert said. “Cecil, Adrienne will travel under the names Mr. and Mrs. Arlecchino. You will be Julian Pulcinella and I will be Roberto Amici. The ship registry shows we’re traveling with two children and a dog as well as two valets—Gerry and Charles—and, in steerage, a servant and another child. Marjani and Columbia will use the surname Colombina.”

“I’m glad we were able to convince her to come with us.” Punch smiled.

“As am I.” Robert said.

“I’m sure me master will find a right good place for her at Fallbridge Hall where Columbia can grow up with all the horses and land and pretty things to see.”

“Yes,” Robert said.

A knock at the door interrupted them as Marjani entered the room.

“Ah, Marjani, we were just talking about you.” Robert smiled.

“Yes, sir.” Marjani nodded nervously.

“Is something bothering you?” Robert asked.

“Yes, sir.” Marjani answered, pressing on her stomach.

“What is it?” Punch asked.

“I got a funny feelin’.” Marjani gulped. “There’s somethin’ new. Somethin’ evil.”

“What do you mean?” Punch asked.

“Marie Laveau.” Marjani said softly. “I…don’t know. I think she’s got somethin’ that’s gonna hurt us. Is there any way that we can depart now?”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “The ship won’t depart until the early afternoon.”

“We gotta get on that ship now, Sir.” Marjani said nervously. “I just got a terrible feelin’.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-322? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, August 22, for Chapter 324 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. Queen Mary

When I die India will be found engraved on my heart.
Queen Mary

My affection for Queen Mary is no secret. She was a minsunderstood figure in history. During her life, she was thought by some to be cold and distant. Others thought her dull. Others still recognized that she was solely devoted to two things: the Monarchy and the preservation of Britain’s art history.

Mary of Teck had a difficult life. As a young child, she was often used as a pawn by her larger-than-life parents. Her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge was a beloved figure in Britain, but privately, she was difficult, extravagant and disorganized. Her father, The Duke of Teck was loving, but given to fits of madness and anger. The Duke of Teck was bitter that he was always considered as a “lesser” member of the family and became consumed with a preoccupation about status. Both parents spent money freely, but had no means of bringing any money in. Queen Victoria—at a loss as to how to handle her cousins lack of financial control—exiled them to Italy in the hope that they would develop some fiscal responsibility. They did not. And, eventually, Queen Victoria allowed them to return to England where, upon their return, Victoria quickly became impressed with the level-headed Princess May and realized that she would make a perfect mate for the rather wild Prnce Albert Victor of Wales whose father, The Prince of Wales would be King upon the death of his mother, Victoria.

While Mary was certainly not in love with Prince Eddie, she liked the idea of being the wife of the heir presumptive because she—above all else—wanted to serve her country. Though not in love, the Prince and Princess were fond of one another. Eddie admired Mary’s passion for art and knowledge of history and world humanities as well as her rational way of thinking. Mary appreciated Eddie’s sense of fun and playfulness. But, that was not to be. Prince Eddie died unexpectedly and, as she mourned, Princess May feared that she’d have to return to her life of playing go-between for her strong-willed parents. Thankfully, she formed a friendship with her late fiance’s brother. Prince George quickly fell madly in love with Mary. Queen Victoria was all for a union between the two and hoped that the Prince would propose. He did and Mary accepted.

Upon the death of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII took the throne. He respected his daughter-in-law—the future Queen Consort—and asked her advice on matters of state. Meanwhile, Queen Alexandra was deeply jealous of the newly created Duchess of York. Alexandra didn’t like the fact that her son preferred the company of his new wife over her own companionship and started a campaign within the Royal Family to snub Mary. Mary didn’t allow this to bother her. She carried on with the same dignity and grace with which she always comported herself, and earned the affection of the British people.

As Queen Consort, Mary made sure that English traditions remained alive and she fostered the preservation of important historical objects and places. But, she also realized that times were changing. An endless source of support during the Great War and King George V’s numerous illnesses, Mary never failed to put the good of the nation before her own personal feelings. Queen Mary was instrumental in making sweeping improvements in living conditions and helped to reform the less savory parts of Royal life.

Because of her inherent reserve, she remains a mysterious figure in history, but her works and her life speak for themselves. Because of her love of the Empire and her love of foreign travel—especially to India and Italy—countless works of art have been preserved. These works of art will forever serve to remind us where we have been as a world culture and where we will ultimately go.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Wood and Leather Work Box, 1815

Work Box
English, 1815
Donated by Queen Mary
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Every household had a work box or two. Work boxes were ostensibly containers for sewing and embroidery materials which featured a variety of small compartments to hold tools and little objects. Here’s a very handsome work box with a handy drawer at the front. The drawer opens by means of pulling a hidden catch.
This is not just your run-of-the-mill work box. This example with its leather cover and silk lining is the top-of-the-line and was probably quite expensive. It retains its original fittings which include two fixed pin cushions covered with printed silk, and several lidded compartments. Furthermore, this box still holds an assortment of small tools and souvenirs including a pin cushion in inlaid wood which sports a paper label that reads “A trifle from BRIGHTON,” an ivory tape measure with its original silk tape, and a small circular needle case covered in green silk.

The original owner of this particular box is unknown. While there is a brass plaque on the front, it was never engraved with the owner’s initials. At some point, as many antqiues did, this ended up in the hands of Mary of Teck (Duchess of York and Cornwall, Princess of Wales, and Later Queen Mary, Consort of King George V). This was one of many items that Queen Mary obtained specifically with the intention of giving them to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

A Message from Mr. Punch: We’re takin’ Sunday off

Hullo, hullo. It’s me…Mr. Punch. Coo! A lot goes on in this house. Since I been here, I seen a lot of things. And lots of cake! The little white dog what’s called Bertie has had surgery, he has. He’s doing well and healing quite nice and such. But, me Professor what’s called Joseph has been stayin’ up nights to watch the Bertie Dog so he can make sure the little furry fella is doin’ well and is comfortable. That seems to make me Professor tired and he’s walkin’ ‘round the place kind o’ like one o’ them zombies Marie Laveau makes in the story what me Professor writes ‘bout some strange, rich bloke what thinks he’s me.

So, ‘cause of all that, me professor’s gonna take tomorrow off. I don’t know what that means ‘xactly ‘cept that I think he’s not gonna sit with that flat box on his lap pressin’ on all those black buttons what’s got the alphabet on them.

He wants me to tell ya that even though he won’t be writin’ new stuff on Sunday, there’s gonna be lots of stuff on Monday and all next week—including my story and lots of pictures of stuff from museums and from Her Majesty’s palace.

But, you never know, I may pop in here and have a say of me own on Sunday. You never know with me.

That’s the way to do it!

Mr. Punch

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Ralli Portrait Miniature Bracelet, 1850

Bracelet with Portrait Miniatures
French, 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When Her Serene Highness Princess Mary of Teck married her cousin, Prince George of Wales, she had already become a favorite of her husband’s grandmother, Queen Victoria (or, as Queen Mary called her, “Aunt Vicky.”) The two women shared a passion for jewelry and spent much time talking about their favorite jewelers and gems.

Queen Victoria’s love for jewelry contributed to an increase in business for both English and French jewelers as members of London Society tried to win the favor of the reclusive Queen by adorning themselves with the best jewels.

Victoria, and her granddaughter-in-law both favored R. & S. Garrard as a jeweler. However, they would often find beautiful items created by Parisian jewelers. One of these was Pierre-Jules, Chaise.

Here’s an example of the work of Chaise from about 1850. This bracelet of enamelled gold, rose and brilliant-cut diamonds, and painted ivory backed by mother of pearl, feautres alternative central pieces. One is a miniature portrait of Mr. Pandeli Ralli, the other shows his wife—for whom the bracelet was made. When one miniature was set in the bracelet, the other could be worn as a brooch. The bracelet shows the maker's mark: "JC" aboce the symbol of a bird.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Punch and Judy Show in Naples

A Punch & Judy Show in Naples
G. Torino
Late Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Of course we know that our Mr. Punch has Italian roots and is descended from the black-masked Commedia dell’ Arte character Pulcinella. By the time Pulcinella had become a marionette—far easier to control than a pesky actor—and traveled to the U.K. his name had become Punchinella and, later, Punch as he took the form of a glove puppet.

But, Pulcinella and his ancestor haven’t been apart. By the early Nineteenth Century, as travel abroad became quite fashionable for high society Londoners, Punch went along with them. Once returned to Italy, Punch—courtesy of his intrepid professors—began to perform on the streets of Italy as he did in London. Sometimes, a professor would join forces with a Pulcinella performer and the two puppets would enjoy a brief reunion.

Such a scene is depicted in this late Eighteenth Century hand-colored lithograph signed G. Torino which is entitled “A Punch & Judy Show in Naples.” Here, we see Mr. Punch in his red costume alongside his ancestor, the white-robed Pulcinella. I’m sure it was a joyful reunion indeed.

Antique Image of the Day: The Procession of the Coronation of King George V, 1911

The Royal Procession Through London
Sir Benjamin Stone, 1911
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This black and white print from 1911 shows a street lined with crowds who had gathered to see the procession of the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary.

The photographer, Sir Benjamin Stone took great care in waiting until the best moment to capture the image. Here, we see the moment in the procession when the Lord Mayor met the King at Temple Bar. It’s a fascinating moment in time which would have been lost had it not been for this photo.

Friday Fun: A Punch and Judy Show in Covent Garden

Covent Garden
I’m not sure who the professor is that’s performing this show. His swazzling is quite good. His puppets are quite different and I’m not quite sure how I feel about them. They have very long arms.

Still, it’s a fun show and an interesting opportunity to see one of the Punch and Judy performers who frequents Covent Garden.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 322

Iolanthe stared directly into Marie Laveau’s flashing eyes which sparkled in the light of the raging fire.

“Join the celebration, Iolanthe!” Marie grinned. “Today, all is forgiven. You and I can put our past quarrels behind us and be united on this glorious day!”

“Yes, Marie,” Iolanthe nodded slowly.

“Boy!” Marie hollered. “Bring Zombi! He shall sit with our friend Iolanthe.”

“No need.” Iolanthe shook her head as she watched a young man come toward them with the snake that Marie called Zombi.

“Oh, yes,” Marie said. “You must. You must sit with him.”

“Very well,” Iolanthe nodded, talking the enormous snake who flicked its tongue toward Iolanthe’s face.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Marie sighed happily. “Isn’t this a perfect night?”

“Certainly, Marie.” Iolanthe answered.

“Iolanthe,” Marie continued. “I want you to help me with the child. Without you, this life would not exist.” She placed her hands over her abdomen.

“Is that so?” Iolanthe asked.

“Yes. Your girl, Nellie—she is part of this. Without her offering, I’d not have been able to conceive.”

“Oh?” Iolanthe nodded.

“Of course.” Marie grinned. “Her passion will live forever now. And, so will my late husband’s. His brother—his blood—it is now inside me—nourishing this child.”

“And, the other man—Arthur?”

“He is the most important part.” Marie laughed. “For it is his contempt, his hatred, cunning and wickedness which will cause the child to grow large and fierce!”

“How?” Iolanthe asked. “How is this possible?”

“You doubt my power, Iolanthe?” Marie frowned. “I thought we were reunited.”

“No.” Iolanthe shook her head. “I don’t doubt you. I simply want to know how this is possible. How did you come to be with child?”

“Never you mind about that.” Marie laughed. “I shan’t divulge all of my secrets to you—not yet. Those are rewards you must earn.”

“And, how shall I earn them?”

“My child will soon be hungry and will need sustenance!” Marie laughed.

“What does he want?” Iolanthe wondered, straining to hear Marie over the noise of the energetic crowd.

“More offerings. That’s why you must help us. You are, after all, his Godmother.”

“Godmother?” Iolanthe repeated trying not to laugh at the idea.

“Yes.” Marie said with great seriousness.

“I’m honored.” Iolanthe replied, biting her cheeks. “What do you require of me?”

“In order to feed on our enemies, the child will need a taste of the blood which will sustain him forever.”

“I see.” Iolanthe said. “And, how do you propose I obtain that?”

“It’s simple, Woman.” Marie guffawed. “Bring me the blood of those who have wronged us!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-321? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. King George V

Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.
King George V

Here’s our friend, H.M. King George V again. Of course he’d make a few appearances in this series of cards by Godfrey & Phillips. After all, the cards were produced in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of the King and Queen Mary.

In this hand-colored photo, the King is seen in his coronation robes wearing the Imperial crown. He looks quite uncomfortable actually. Perhaps he didn’t have a chance to use the facilities. He was a proponent of bathroom breaks.

Following the death of his father, King Edward VII, King George V ascended the throne alongside his beloved wife, the former Princess Mary of Teck. George had enjoyed a few years of relative peace to get used to the idea of being the King. It was not something he’d ever really considered. After all, his brother, Prince Albert Victor, had been the next in line. However, Prince Eddie—as he was called—died while engaged to Mary of Teck, leaving George his intended bride and, also, as the heir to the throne.

The Coronation of King George V
Laurits Regner Tuxen
The Royal Collection
The coronation of King George V and Queen Mary (she had been forbidden to use her original first name—Victoria) took place at Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911. A celebration ensued with the Festival of Empire in London. Later that year, the King and Queen travelled to India to participate in the Delhi Durbar (their coronation as Emperor and Empress of India). There, they were presented to Indian dignitaries and princes on December 12, 1911.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia about the Delhi Durbar. Queen Mary—always a fan of jewels—thought it better that they have new crowns for the Durbar. It wouldn’t do, thought Mary, to wear the English crowns for the Indian coronation. Parliament said that such an expense was not needed. Mary, however, disagreed and gently asked their friends to donate jewels to assemble new crowns for the Indian event. She got her way and new crowns were made at no cost to the empire.

King George V and Queen Mary wore the newly-created Imperial Crowns of India at the ceremony. There, they declared the controversial change of the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi.

Here are some videos of both the Coronation and the Delhi Durbar. Enjoy!

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Electric Skull Stickpin, 1867

Gold, Diamonds, Enamel
Fitted with Electrical Terminals
French, 1867
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Well, this is bizarre. In all my years of collecting stickpins, I’ve never come across one like this. Which, I think, is good--because it’s scary. But, it’s the kind of scary that’s interesting.
So, here we have a stickpin of gold, enamel and diamonds. So far, not so odd. But, it’s in the form of a human skull. Okay, that’s a little more peculiar, but we should remember that the human skull has long been used symbolically in art to represent vanity.

Now, here’s the truly strange part. The jewel is fitted with electric terminals so that, when connected to a battery concealed in the wearer's pocket, the eyes roll and the jaws snap. That, I think, would be a little unnerving, but nonetheless captivating.

This is the work of French jeweler Auguste-Germain Cadet-Picard. Cadet-Picard was celebrated for the electrical pins that he made and showed at the Paris 1867 Exhibition. At this exhibition, his jewels, and other jewels with moving parts by different designers—were the main center of attention.

Few examples remain because—with their tiny moving parts—such jewels were prone to breaking. So, it’s good to see that this one survives in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Invalids

“Excuse me! I’m pretty sure that the baby and Miss Melodrama 1868 over there can take care of themselves. More attention for me, please!”

Image: The Visit: A Dutch Interior, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda, 1868, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: King George V’s Cigarette Case

Cigarette Case
Before 1896
The Royal Collection
Queen Alexandra’s famed good taste extended to the gifts that she gave to her friends and family. Take this cigarette case for example. This was a gift from Queen Alexandra to her son, The Duke of York (later King George V) and his wife, Mary of Teck.

King George V was a longtime smoker. Even Queen Mary was known to take a puff or two—especially later in life. Cigarette smoking was quite fashionable by the Nineteenth Century, and, of course, was also a good excuse to collect a good many handsome items which only made smoking more glamorous. Chief among smoking related objects was the cigarette case.

Fabergé perfected the art of producing cigarette cases and created cases which ranged rom the simplest styles to the most elaborate gold and enamelled versions. Cases by Fabergé feautured concealed hinges, smooth edges and jewelled push pieces. These details made them the poshest accessory of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

This particular case of gold, brilliant diamonds, cabochon sapphires was designed by Eduard Schramm for Fabergé. The goldwork is rendered in a technique known as samorodok (gold nugget), in which the plate metal is brought almost to a melting point and then removed quickly from the furnace. This causes rapid shrinking which creates a crumpled appearance.

Royal Fashion: Princess Alexandra’s Evening Dress, 1900

Evening Dress
Made for Princess Alexandra of Denmark, 1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum
As both Princess of Wales and Queen Consort, Alexandra of Denmark was known for her impeccable fashion sense and her enduring beauty. Her style was the benchmark for upper class fashion and ladies of the court looked to Queen Alexandra to see what was in vogue.

Here’s one of her gowns. This elegant evening dress of figured satin, decorated with imitation pearls, diamantes and spangles was designed by the famous Paris fashion house Maison Laferrière which was was frequented by only the wealthiest in London society. Maison Laferrière was celebrated for their exquisite designs and fine workmanship. The chief mind behind the fabulous fashion house was Madame Laferrière's whose designs were among those shown by the Collectivité de la Couture at the Universal Exhibition of 1900 held in Paris.

This gown was made for Princess Alexandra of Denmark (later Queen Alexandra). It was given to theVictoria & Albert Museum by one Lady Lloyd as part of the Cecil Beaton Collection—an exhibition of style collected by the society photographer Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980).

Gifts of Grandeur: A Royal Rock Crystal Inkwell, Before 1896

Presented to Queen Elizabeth
The Royal Collection
This unusual inkwell of rock crystal, silver, glass, and guilloché enamel was made by Fabergé and was a wedding present to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Lt. Philip Mountbatten (now the Duke of Edinburgh) from Baronne Sophie de Buxhoeveden in 1947.

The Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden had been Tsarina Alexandra’s favourite lady-in-waiting. After her escape from Russia in 1917, she came to live in London, in a “Grace and Favour apartment” at Kensington Palace. To earn her keep, she unofficially served as the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven’s lady-in-waiting. During this period she became a favorite of the court and was quite involved in the lives of the Royal Family.

This magnificent inkwell with its rock crystal base was made by Anders Nevalainen for Fabergé before 1896. The lid is set with a Catherine the Great rouble dated 1722 which has been enamelled in red with gadrooned silver mounts.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 321

Charles scowled as Robert embraced Mr. Punch upon his return to the house on Royal Street.

“I was beginning to worry.” Robert said. “I see by Barbara’s absence that your efforts went unrewarded.”

“She chose to stay in that house with Iolanthe.” Mr. Punch nodded. “It’s her funeral. Both Charles and I tried to convince her to come with us.”

Charles grunted.

“Do you have something you wish to say, Charles?” Robert asked.

“No, Sir.” Charles replied curtly.

“Charles is in a foul mood, he is.” Punch said. “He probably thinks I didn’t do ‘nough to get Barbara back.”

“I’m sure that His Grace did all that he could.” Robert said firmly.

“Including striking Iolanthe and Agnes Rittenhouse with an umbrella.” Charles muttered.

Robert raised his eyebrows.

“Well, I ‘spose I did. But, they deserved it.”

“What was Agnes Rittenhouse doing there?” Robert asked, unfazed by the announcement that Punch had been hitting with “sticks” again.

“She’s Barbara’s maid,” Punch shrugged.

“Were the women harmed?” Robert asked.

“No.” Charles answered.

“No matter, then.” Robert nodded. “Charles, I’m sure you tried your best to convince Barbara.”

“She wouldn’t hear me.” Charles replied quickly. “She’s gone utterly mad.”

“Well, there’s nothing we can do about that tonight.” Robert said. “I suggest you retire for the evening.”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles snorted.

“You should know that you’ll be sharing your room.” Robert added.

“With whom?”

“Gerard.” Robert said. “I’ve enlisted his services as my valet.”

“Wonderful.” Charles mumbled.

“Go to bed, Charles,” Mr. Punch sighed, rubbing his temples. “I’ve had enough of you today.”

“As you wish, Your Grace.” Charles growled, retreating toward his room.

“Good Heavens,” Robert exclaimed, leading Punch toward the parlor. “What’s gotten into him?”

“He’s miffed that Barbara wouldn’t come with us.” Punch responded. “’Sides that, I think he’s frustrated with me, he is.”

“Whatever for?”

“For bein’…different.”

“Ah,” Robert smiled. “That’s part of your charm. I’m sure that once he rests, his mood will improve.”

“I hope so.” Punch sighed. “So, how’s things here?”

“We have a problem.” Robert answered gravely.

“The boy?” Punch answered nervously. “Is Colin safe?”

“He’s well. He and Fuller are sleeping well. As are Cecil and Adrienne.”

“Marjani, then?”

“No. She’s well also. However, she did discover that Arthur’s gone missing.”

“Arthur? Ain’t he dead yet?” Punch asked.

“Quite dead.” Robert nodded. “Has been for hours. It appears that someone has absconded with his remains.”

“Who’d want that bastard’s corpse?” Punch asked.

“Marjani believes it was Marie Laveau.” Robert explained.

“Here, what for?”

“That remains to be seen.” Robert replied softly.

At that very moment, Iolanthe Evangeline arrived at the “Place Congo.” Her face glowed in the flickering light of the bonfire. She rushed through the crowd toward Marie Laveau who stood at the center.

Marie spotted Iolanthe and extended her hand toward her onetime enemy. “You came!”

“Of course.” Iolanthe said breathlessly.

“Then, you received my message?”

“Yes,” Iolanthe nodded, glancing at the scene behind Marie—the three corpses which had been arranged behind the Voodoo priestess.

“What is all of this?” Iolanthe asked.

“The start of a new life—as I said.”

“But, these people are dead.” Iolanthe answered quietly, recognizing Nellie’s body.

“Yes, they are. However, they will live on.” Marie smiled.

“How?” Iolanthe asked, beginning to look disappointed.

“Through me!” Marie exclaimed. “Their lives are in me! I am with child, Iolanthe—a child who will conquer the world and exact our revenge!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-320? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. Princess Arthur of Connaught

Yesterday, we had a glimpse of Prince Arthur of Connaught who had been depicted on one of the Godfrey and Phillips Cigarette Cards which were produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935.

Today, we’re treated with his wife, The Princess Arthur of Connaught. Not only was she his wife, she was his cousin, but that wasn’t unusual for the Royal Family. She was born Princess Alexandra—the daughter of the Duke of Fife and Princess Louise of Wales (the daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). So, let’s examine this: The princess’ grandfather was Edward VII and her great-grandmother was Queen Victoria. She would go on to marry the son of Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught—Queen Victoria’s grandson. So, Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter married Queen Victoria’s grandson.

Now, here’s what I always think of when I think of Princess Alexandra (which isn’t often). I recall reading the journals of Queen Mary wherein, in 1911, she expressed her shock upon learning that the Duke of Fife and his family had been shipwrecked off the coast of Morocco. Queen Mary explained that Alexandra—always strong and plucky—survived the shipwreck quite well, but her father fell ill. Upon the death of her father, Princess Alexandra became the Duchess of Fife.

As Duchess of Fife, after her marriage in 1913, she was created the Princess Arthur of Connaught. The princess is best remembered for her selfless war work—serving as a nurse during the First World War at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. After the War, she lent her services to the hospitals of the Union of South Africa.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Princess Alexandra Pocket Knife, 1863

Pen Knife
Denmark, 1863
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Today, we’ll be looking at objects related to members of the Royal Family named “Alexandra,” and there were a good many of them! Alexandra is one of the names that one sees repeatedly throughout English history.

Here’s an object related to one of the more famous Alexandra’s. She was known as Princess of Alexandra of Denmark until she married Queen Victoria’s eldest son—the Prince of Wales. As the Princess of Wales, Alexandra captured the affection of Britain with her beauty and her devotion to a variety of causes. When the Princes of Wales ascended the throne as King Edward VII, Alexandra became the Queen Consort and—despite her increasing deafness, frequent inability to walk and her husband’s very public infidelities—served the Empire to the best of her abilities.

This penknife of etched, blued and gilded steel was made to commemorate the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra. On one side of the knife is adorned with the letter A, set between the arms of England and Sweden and Norway. The other side’s decoration is a little more peculiar. It shows to images of interlacing monsters between which is a seated figure of a Norseman playing a harp—as one does when seated between two monsters.

The penknife was made in Denmark for the Princess of Wales in 1863.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Parisian Basket of Flowers Brooch, 1830

Basket of Flowers Brooch
French, 1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Today’s sparkler comes from Paris and dates to about 1830. The work of an unknown maker, this brooch of gold, emerald, turquoises and topazes is in the form of a stylised basket of flowers—a popular subject for jewelry at the time.

Jewels of the 1830s often relied on natural themes. According to the V&A, “a love of nature was one of the most universal and respected sentiments in the 19th century.” This reliance on nature was one of the cornerstones of the Romantic Movement and stemmed from the revival of the Rococo style, which had developed earlier in the period.

Around this time, these jewels offered very precise copies of the flowers, leaves, fruit and insects that they depicted and gave rise to substantial, brilliant and complex compositions. While this example is more stylized than those created later in the Nineteenth Century, we can see the development of the realism that would soon take hold. And certainly the beginnings of the experiments with colorful stones is quite evident.

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Victoria with the Duke of Connaught and Others, 1886

Queen Victoria with the Duke of
Connaught and others
W. Watson, 1886
The Royal Collection
The work of acclaimed photographer W. Watson, this 1886 photograph shows Queen Victoria with some of her children including Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught. WhileVictoria shied away from public life after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, she did enjoy spending time with her large family. One of those happy intimate moments is recorded here.

In the photo, from left to right: Duchess of Connaught (seated) with Princess Patricia on her lap; Princess Beatrice seated behind Duchess of Connaught; Prince Henry of Battenberg; Queen Victoria, holding Princess Margaret; Prince Arthur; the Duke of Connaught (seated).

Precious Time: An English Bracket Clock, 1710

Bracket Clock
Paulet, 1710
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here’s a nice looking clock. This type of bracket clock (too large for use in a carriage, but too small for a reception room) would have been used when travelling. They were designed to be carried from place to place and worked nicely on board a ship where they were fitted into a case fixed to the wall of a cabin.

This clock is signed by the maker—known only as “Paulet.” Little is known about Paulet except that his signature appears on several clocks found in wealthy English estates. Despite his French-appearing name, he is believed to have worked in London. One example of his work resides in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. This clock retains its original key which bears the royal monogram of Queen Anne (ruled 1702-1714).

A masterpiece of chased, gilt brass and silver, the clock strikes hours and repeats the hours and quarters. The alarm is set by means of the central dial and the indicator on the top dial is for the calendar.

Unfolding Pictures: The Lilies Fan, 1895

The Lilies Fan
French, 1895
Presented to Queen Mary
The Royal Collection
A beautiful example of the art of late Nineteenth Century fan-making, this delightful hand fan features a paper leaf backed with kid leather mounted à l’anglaise with blond tortoiseshell guards and sticks decorated in gold, enamel and diamonds.

Known as “The Lilies Fan” for its floral decoratio, it was a gift to Queen Mary (Mary of Teck, Consort of King George V) from Princess Hélène (1871-1951), the second daughter of the Comte de Paris and the younger sister of Princess Amélie.

Now, that might not seem too strange--one Princess giving another former Princess (then Queen at the time) a luxurious gift. But, let’s examine the history between these two women for a moment.

In August 1890 the Princess Hélène had become engaged to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. Albert Victor (known as Prince “Eddie”) was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, later King Edward VII) and his wife, Princess Alexandra (later Queen Alexandra. Prince Eddie was obsessed with Princess Hélène. But, Eddie had a habit of becoming infatuated with pretty young ladies. In fact, that’s about all he was good for.

The Great Grandchildren of French King Louis-Philippe
That's Princess Hélène there on the left, sitting up in the
dark dress.
The Royal Collection
The engagement was called off. Some say that it was on the instruction of Princess Hélène’s father, but there’s strong evidence to suggest that Queen Victoria disapproved of her grandson’s choice of mates. Princess Hélène was, after all, a Catholic (gasp!) and that just wasn’t going to work. The Prince of Wales—as heir presumptive to the throne—was expected to be King one day, and therefore, head of the Church of England. For his consort to be Roman Catholic would have been problematic to say the least.

And, so, Eddie being the resilient chap that he was found himself, in December 1891, engaged to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary). We’ve discussed what happened next. After Eddie’s unexpected death in that coming January, both of his fiancées grieved his loss. Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck soon accepted the marriage proposal of Eddie’s younger brother, the Duke of York (later King George V). In June 1895, Princess Hélène married Prince Emanuele of Savoy (1869-1931), 2nd Duke of Aosta.

The Princes Albert Victor and George of Wales
The Royal Collection
This fan was given to her for her wedding. The guards are adorned with the arms of France and Savoy, set in diamonds. But, was Princess Hélène happy with her new husband or did she always mourn the death of Eddie who—even had he lived—would not have been her husband in the first place.

Queen Mary’s biographer, James Pope-Hennessy, wrote in 1953:

On the grandiose tomb erected to the Duke of Clarence’s (Eddie’s) memory [at Windsor] there hung until quite recently a wreath of immortelles inscribed simply, ‘Hélène’. And Princess Hélène it is who deserves to have the last word on the subject of the Duke. In November 1892 Queen Victoria had a conversation with this charming girl who had so faithfully loved her not very lovable grandson. Je l’aimais tant, said Princess Hélène, adding, somewhat surprisingly, Il était si bon.
So, it’s rather odd that Princess Hélène would present this fan to Queen Mary who had, in effect, taken her place as the bride-to-be to the Prince of Wales. But, good ol’ Mary had a way of getting things that she admired from people. We’ll never quite know how this fan came to rest in the Royal Collection.

The floral painting on the leaf is by Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire (née Colle; 1845-1928). She was a prominent French fan-painter and illustrator who was quite popular with the court, particularly amongst the descendants of Queen Victoria. A watercolor by Lemaire was listed in the catalogue of the contents of Queen Victoria’s summer home, Osbourne House in 1876. Said painting was a gift from the Prince de Joinville to Queen Victoria, but it seems to be missing. No trace of it can be found. However, a concert program designed by Lemaire from June 1898 remains in the Royal Collection—preserved in one of the Duchess of Connaught’s photograph albums.*

*(See what I did there? I managed to talk about Mary of Teck—a favorite subject--and still got in a connection to the Duke of Connaught—today’s theme. That was exhausting!)

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 320

What I do ain’t none of your concern, Ogress,” Mr. Punch spat.

“It is my concern, Your Grace, if you’re intending to leave Louisiana with something that belongs to me.” Iolanthe shook her head.

“I ain’t got nothin’ what belongs to you!” Punch responded angrily.

“Don’t you?” Iolanthe smiled. “Barbara Allen is here, and so is her great protector—your valet. Neither of them has the child who was previously at Marie Laveau’s. The very same child who should be returned to Edward Cage.”

“A child is a person.” Mr. Punch said. “Not some hunk of rock to be fought over and passed around.”

“A child is an investment,” Iolanthe sighed. “I’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into supplying Edward Cage with a son—as your people would call it, an ‘heir presumptive,’ should his monstrous eldest child fail to preserve to family’s interest. Now, I’m no fool, Your Grace. I don’t want you thinkin’ that I am. Do you have the boy? You may as well just tell me because I’ll find out anyway.”

“Someone help me,” Agnes Rittenhouse moaned from the floor. “I’m injured.”

Charles started toward the fallen nanny.

“Leave her!” Punch and Iolanthe said in unison.

“She’’ll find her own way up,” Iolanthe added. She smiled at Punch. “You see, Your Grace, we aren’t so different—you and I. We both want to protect the people that we care about.”

“You don’t care about anyone!” Punch growled.

“Not true.” Iolanthe laughed. “I care about my son. And, I certainly care about myself. Now, tell me, do you have the boy?”

Mr. Punch squeezed his hands together and grumbled to himself. “Ain’t tellin’ this woman nothin’, I ain’t.”

“You don’t need to.” Iolanthe said, raising her hand. “Your response tells me all I need to know.”

She turned to Charles and grinned. “You there—what’s your name?”


“Charles, be a good man and go fetch Mala for me. She can take Agnes to her room. Once you’ve finished that, you may go and see your beloved Barbara Allen. If you can convince her to go with you, then, by all means, you’re welcome to take her. However, be forewarned. I don’t think she wishes to leave her home.”

Charles looked to Mr. Punch.

“Go on,” Punch nodded. “I’m gonna talk to the Ogress.”

“You know I don’t enjoy being called that,” Iolanthe grumbled as Charles fled the room.

“I don’t enjoy being called a lunatic, but you do that.”

“What else would you call a man who thinks he’s someone else and whose chief reaction to any situation is to strike people with heavy objects?”

“Coo! Well, then, what else would you call a woman what murders folk and what sells babies and women? I’d call her an ‘ogress’ and that’s what you are.”

“You’ve got fire in you.” Iolanthe laughed.

“I got all sorts of things in me.”

“I don’t doubt that.” Iolanthe chuckled. As the door creaked open, Iolanthe signaled to Mala who had just entered the room. “Mala, be a dear and drag this woman downstairs. She’s struck her head, but no doubt, she’ll be fine.”

“Yes, Miss.” Mala grunted, bending over and effortlessly picking up Agnes’ limp body.

“Isn’t she strong?” Iolanthe winked. “What she lacks in beauty and wit she makes up for in sheer animal strength. Don’t you, Mala?”

“Yes, Miss.” Mala mumbled as she carried the nanny from the room.

“Good servants are so hard to find.” Iolanthe sighed. “You’re fortunate to have your Charles. Even if his loyalty is questionable, at least he’s loyal to something.” She pointed to a chair. “Do sit.”

“No.” Punch spat. “I ain’t gonna sit with you.”

“Suit yourself.” Iolanthe shrugged, flouncing into an upholstered chair. “Now, listen. You know that I’m going to find that child and get him back. So, why don’t you just save all of us a lot of trouble and effort and bring him to me. Then, you and your doctor companion can go anywhere you want.”

“Not a chance,” Punch shook his head.

“Oh, why must you be so difficult?” Iolanthe groaned.

“And, why won’t you give up?” Punch retorted.

Iolanthe began to speak but was interrupted when one of her henchmen entered her budoir.

“Yes,” Iolanthe said curtly.

The man handed Iolanthe a note which she read with great delight.

Cackling, Iolanthe narrowed her eyes at Mr. Punch.

“What?” Punch asked.

“Be on your way.” Iolanthe said, waving her gloved hand at Punch.

“Pardon me?” Punch asked.

“Go get your man and see what your sister decides. I have things to do.”

“So, you are giving up?”

“Hardly. But, I now have a weapon which will render your cooperation unnecessary. So, be on your way. You’re just in my way now.”

“What were in that message?” Punch asked.

“I see no reason I shouldn’t tell you.” Iolanthe laughed. “Oh, dear, it is wonderful news. I can’t imagine what that irritating Ulrika Rittenhouse will say.”

“Tell me!”

“That, Your Grace, was a missive from Marie Laveau. We’ve had some troubles, she and I, but I will never doubt her power again. You see, Your Grace, Marie has accomplished a great miracle!”

“What’s that?” Punch asked cautiously.

“A new life, my dear Duke. A new life which will prove to be your undoing!” Iolanthe laughed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-319? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught

Prince Arthur of Connaught in
His Garter Robes
Prince Arthur of Connaught was born in 1893 to Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. As a grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Arthur was granted the style of His Royal Highness. Such styles and titles are very sensitive and complicated things which are subject to all sorts of regulations, so, it was a good thing for the Prince that he was allowed the honor of being a Royal Highness.

Arthur holds the distinction of being the first Royal Prince to be educated at Eton College. After this, he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst before being commissioned into the Seventh (Queen’s Own) Hussars with whom he endured active duty during the Second Boer War. The Boer Wars were a whole big kerfuffle which greatly grieved Queen Victoria. We’ll discuss those in greater detail at another time.

By 1920, Prince Arthur was elevated to Colonel in Chief of his regiment. During the First Wolrd War, he served as aide de camp to his cousin, the King, George V. By all accounts, the Prince balanced his military career with his personal life, marrying the Duchess of Fife in 1913. Their marriage produced one child, a son—Prince Alastair of Connaught.

For all of his military excellence, Prince Arthur most excelled at his charitable duties, acting as a patron to a variety of organizations. Most notable, his involvement as patron and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Middlesex Hospital. He died of stomach cancer in 1938—four years before the death of his celebrated father. Arthur’s son, Alastair (who was created Earl of MacDuff as a courtesy) would later succeed his grandfather as Second Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Earl of Sussex—an honor which his father never achieved.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Drawing of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 1882

Duke of Connaught and Guards Brigade Entering Alexandria
Melton Prior, 1882
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Yesterday’s "Card of the Day" showed an image of Albert, the Duke of Connaught—one of the sons of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Today, we’ll get a look at the Duke’s son, also called Arthur (styled as Prince Arthur of Connaught). Like his father, Prince Arthur of Connaught enjoyed a distinguished military career and served as a valued aid to his cousin (another of Victoria’s grandson’s) King George V and Queen Mary (Mary of Teck).

However, in many ways Prince Arthur of Connaught was always in the shadow of his celebrated father, the Duke who outlived his son by four years. The Duke of Connaught was doubtlessly a military hero and the subject of many works of art.

Here’s one. This drawing from the Victoria & Albert Museum shows the Duke of Connaught in 1882 (a year before the birth of his son and namesake) as he enters Egypt with his troops. The drawing is entitled, “The Duke of Connaught and Guards Brigade Entering Alexandria.” Rendered in 1882, this pencil drawing is heightened by white accents and is the work of the famed Melton Prior.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Trembler Twig Bracelet, 1850

Gold, Enamel, Pearls
English, 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made just before the Great Exhibition, this lovely bracelet of gold, enamel and pears shows the leaning toward Naturalism in Nineteenth Century jewelry design. We’ve already discussed the addition of movement in such designs by introducing springed pieces called “tremblers” which quivered sparkled when the wearer moved.

Several of the pearl pieces of this bracelet act as tremblers and create a shimmering effect as it slid around on the lady’s wrist. This jewel was made during the societal reliance on

The Language of Flowers,” which assigned meaning to paricular floral groupings and blooms. Here, we see entwined twigs which represented unending love.

This would have been given as a courting gift and would have led up to a proper engagement.