Queen Charlotte of England | Royal Wedding Ring |Amethyst Royal Jewels History King George III wedding gifts |The queen Charlottes jewels
Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818 was Queen of Great Britain and of Ireland, as the wife of King George III, from their marriage on 8 September 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. As King George's wife, she was also Electress of Hanover until becoming Queen of Hanover on 12 October 1814, when the electorate became a kingdom.
This ring formed part of a suite of jewels given to Queen Charlotte by the King on their wedding day, 8 September 1761.
Charlotte Papendiek records that this ring is set with the
'likeness of the King in miniature, done exquisitely beautiful for the coin, by our valued friend Jeremiah Meyer' and was 'given also to her Majesty to wear on the little finger of the right hand on this auspicious day'.
The Queen also received
'a diamond hoop ring ...
a pair of bracelets, consisting of six rows of picked pearls as large as a full pea;
the clasps - one his picture,
the other his hair and cipher, both set round with diamonds,
necklace with diamond cross;
earrings, and the additional ornaments of fashion of the day'.
These personal gifts from the King were additional to the magnificent jewels formerly in the collection of George II. The young Queen Charlotte had at her disposal a truly magnificent collection of jewels which made her 'the first queen since the early seventeenth century to possess jewels rivalling those of Continental royalty'.
On her death the Queen's vast collection was dispersed; her personal jewels, including the famous diamonds given by the Nabob of Arcot, were left to her four youngest daughters, who sold many pieces.
The fate of the ring containing the King's miniature (set under a large flat-cut diamond) is unclear; it re-entered the collection in 1909.
Queen Charlotte's hereditary jewels, which were bequeathed by her 'to the House of Hanover, or to be settled upon it, and considered as an Heir Loom, in the direct Line of Succession of that House', passed to the Prince Regent. Most of these were subsequently lost to the British crown under Queen Victoria when the King of Hanover successfully claimed them as part of his inheritance. (Add.Cat., case 13, no.11).
A exhibition will include items of jewellery from Queen Charlotte’s famed collection, such as a diamond ring featuring a miniature of her husband George III, given to her on her wedding day. Other accessories on display will include beautiful and jewel-encrusted snuffboxes, reflecting the craze amongst both men and women for taking snuff throughout the 18th century.
The rounded, rectangular, amethystine quartz snuff box, the gold mounts tooled with guilloché decoration, with a large floral thumbpiece of gold set with diamonds and rubies, see above in the picture.
Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, was an enthusiastic taker of snuff, a finely ground mixture of tobacco and aromatics, popular from the early eighteenth century. The sale of her possessions in 1819 included over 90 snuff boxes made of a wide variety of different materials and 353 bottles of ‘highly scented snuff from the Royal Manufactory of Seville’.
The Queen perhaps used snuff to ease the terrible headaches of which she often complained. Snuff-taking was a habit she had adopted before her arrival in England and one which she and the King did not share. To please his new bride, the King had tried a pinch on the second day of their marriage, but this was said to have ‘made him sneeze prodigiously’. The Queen’s favoured blend of snuff was Violet Strasbourg, a mixture of powdered rappee, bitter almonds, ambergris and attarju, which she augmented with a spoonful of green tea every morning.
This snuff box belonged to Queen Charlotte’s daughter Princess Sophia, after whose death it passed to her sister the Duchess of Gloucester. She in turn bequeathed it to her niece Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, who passed it to her daughter, Queen Mary. Queen Mary’s passionate interest in Queen Charlotte led her to identify this box, perhaps somewhat optimistically, with the ‘Snuff box of the rare and fine root of amethyst, the lid set with flowers formed of diamonds and coloured stones’ sold in Queen Charlotte’s sale on 18 May 1819.
A major exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace will reveal life in the 18th century through the fashions of the day. This was an exciting period when trade, entertainment and technological innovations became driving forces for iconic fashion trends across all levels of society.
Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians, brings together over 200 works from the Royal Collection, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth, as well as rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories. The exhibition will build up a layer-by-layer picture of what the Georgians wore – from the practical dress of laundry maids to the glittering gowns worn at court – and chart the transformation of clothing and silhouettes from the accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830.
At the heart of the exhibition will be a rarely displayed, full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1781, which usually hangs in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. Painted by candlelight, it depicts the Queen in a magnificent gown, worn over a wide hoop and covered with gold spangles and tassels. The painting will be shown alongside a beautifully preserved gown of a similar style, worn at Queen Charlotte’s court in the 1760s, on loan from the Fashion Museum Bath.
On display for the first time will be Queen Charlotte’s book of psalms, covered in the only silk fabric known to survive from one of her dresses. The expensive fabric, decorated with metal threads to glimmer in candlelight, was most likely repurposed after the dress had passed out of fashion. As textiles were highly prized, Georgian clothing was constantly recycled, even by the royal family, and there was a thriving market for second-hand clothes.
While court dress provided a brilliant spectacle, it was on the streets of Georgian Britain that a fashion revolution was underway. As court styles became increasingly outdated, new forums for fashionable display emerged, including pleasure gardens, coffee houses and theatres. The painting St James’s Park and the Mall (British School, c.1745) brings to life the hustle and bustle of 18th-century London’s most fashionable meeting place and provides a fascinating snapshot of Georgian society, from Frederick, Prince of Wales and his lavishly dressed companions to soldiers, sailors and working-class serving women.
Britain dramatically expanded its global reach during the 18th century via trade, travel and empire. Styles and fabrics from the Ottoman Empire, India and China were incorporated into everyday dress. In a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s stylish mistress wears a floral gown, possibly made of painted silk imported from China. The portrait will be shown alongside a roll of Chinese hand-painted silk from the 1760s covered with an almost identical pattern, on loan from The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
In William Hogarth’s c.1757–64 portrait of the celebrated actor-manager David Garrick and his dancer wife Eva-Maria Veigel – one of the most high-profile couples of the era – Veigel chose to wear a gown in a distinctive ‘egg-yolk’ shade of yellow. The colour was revered in China due to its association with the emperor and became popular in Britain at this time during a craze for chinoiserie, a decorative style that incorporates Chinese motifs.
As well as influences from abroad, fashionable society increasingly looked to the lower classes for style inspiration, adopting previously working-class garments such as aprons and trousers. Knee breeches were worn by men for most of the 18th century; examples on display will include those depicted in Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of the famed musician Johann Christian Fischer, 1774–80, and a red silk-velvet court suit from the 1760s, remarkably like that worn by Fischer, loaned by the Fashion Museum Bath. However, by the end of the Georgian period, upper-class men adopted trousers for the first time, a legacy continued today. The future George IV and Lord Byron were early adopters of the new style, as shown in a portrait of Lord Byron by George Sanders, c.1807–8.
The exaggerated fashions of the period were a gift for caricaturists, coinciding with what has become known as the golden age of the satirical print. In the never-before-displayed New Invented Elastic Breeches, 1784, Thomas Rowlandson depicts a large man being manhandled into an optimistically small pair of leather breeches by two tailors.
Advancements in haircare, cosmetics, eyewear and dentistry will also be explored. Immensely tall and wide hairstyles became fashionable for women in the latter half of the century, resulting in the development of an entirely new trade: the hairdresser. Quirky items on display will include a set of miniature bellows and a sprinkler used for applying hair powder, loaned by The School of Historical Dress.
The exhibition will reveal how the Georgians ushered in many of the cultural trends we know today, including the first stylists and influencers, the birth of a specialised fashion press and the development of shopping as a leisure activity. From the popularity of fancy-dress and the evolution of childrenswear, to the introduction of military uniforms and the role of clothing in showing support for revolutions at home and abroad, Style & Society will explore what clothing can tell us about all areas of life in the rapidly changing world of 18th-century Britain.
Sources: , Royal Collection;QMJI 1893–1953;
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