Sunday 24 March 2024

Royal Related Discoveries (Part One) - The Queen Mother's Chinaware


"Minton" Bone China Set
with a Royal provenance.
[From my own collection]

As a collector, it has always given me great pleasure to discover, with subsequent research or simply through being (I believe) knowledgeable on the subject, that items have not been correctly identified which, in some cases, has added to their subsequent value. And even more so of course when such items are in or come into my own possession.

In August 2004 I was travelling in a hire car with my then employer through Te Puke in the North Island of New Zealand and at my urging we stopped at a large collectible shop which specialized in old china.

On a dusty back shelf in what was a store literally bursting at the seams with old second hand china, I spied a very fine quality 'Minton' bone china cup, saucer, side plate and dinner plate with gold decoration and bearing a Crown. While not exactly at a bargain price, it appealed to me as being not just exceptionally fine china but also rather unusual. Upon inquiring about it, the shop owner told me that it had most likely come from British Foreign Embassy use and should probably never have ever left there but could give me no further information. It had probably simply been bought as part of a large auction or estate lot.

Dinnerplate from the "Minton" Royal Service
[From my own collection]

But I bought the set which I then placed in a china cabinet and quietly forgot about it. It was not until just a couple of years ago when I did some further research that I discovered that, incredibly, this china appears to have actually come from the disposal of items from Clarence House after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in March 2002. 

Matching Dinnerware Items sold by a Dealer in Windsor
[Source :]

Try as I may I cannot obtain any further information other than the fact that an established (and I believe reputable) dealer in Windsor (UK), and who specializes in Royal related memorabilia, sold this china, including similarly monogrammed milk jug(s), water jug(s), tureen(s) and sugar bowl(s). As to how he came by these items he writes;

"...a rare Bone China water-jug produced by the Company Minton as part of the Royal Household Dinner-service for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother used in Clarence House in the 1980`s. The piece shows the Royal Crown in superb gilding but does not show the letters E R due to the pattern looking to similar to the official set for the Queen . The piece was sold as part of a Butler sale many years ago on which this was purchased by me together with lots of other Royal Household pieces."

"Minton China - [19]47" Impression
[From my own collection]

I have no reason to doubt this attribution as certainly the quality of this bone china set is of an exceptionally high standard. What I find intriguing though, is that the side plate is stamped with an indentation of "Feb 1945" while the dinner plate is stamped "47" for 1947. All the pieces have stamped Minton marks that pre-date 1951. 

As His Majesty King George VI died on the 6th February 1952, and assuming the attribution of Royal Household Service is indeed correct, that would mean that this service was obviously in use at Buckingham Palace during the latter years of the late King George and Queen Elizabeth's reign. I cannot however find one genuine example of standard fine china commonly used in Royal Household Service during the latter reign of King George VI. 

"Minton" China Mark in use until 1950
[From my own collection]

After the Accession of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother obviously had such items of her household china transferred to Clarence House where they simply continued in use. That new items of Minton china used by Queen Elizabeth II included an "ER II" cypher would help to confirm the Dealer's description of events although perhaps he had not realized (although he should have) that the china was older than he imagined. 

Matching Dinnerware items sold by a Dealer in Windsor
[Source :]

Having not found one example of British period embassy china I am unable to totally aboslutely disprove the Te Puke Dealer's assumed attribution but my feeling is that the Windsor Dealer's story is mostly correct, he just had the time period wrong. Additionally, the fact that the set is of fairly thin and fragile bone china and included some rather fancy jugs along with elegant lidded tureens and sugar bowls would indicate rather more than standard diplomatic service usage, especially under a post war Labour Government (1945 - 1951) where austerity would be the norm. And the question of how this china ended up in New Zealand will no doubt remain a mystery. Had they bought it then brought it half way around the world with them or had they perhaps been an employee of the Royal Household at some period and "surreptitiously purloined" this set for themselves as a souvenir? 

If anyone can add more information about this china, I would be happy to hear from you and can be contacted using the "Email Me" function in the right hand menu bar.   

Please click HERE to read the second instalment.

All Rights Reserved

Sources :

- My own collection

- Various Internet Resources

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