Queen's delight at display of hand-crafted artefacts at Windsor
The Queen was all smiles as she viewed a display of hand-decorated teapots and antique enamelled trinket boxes brought to her Windsor Castle home for her to see.
Wearing half-moon glasses to examine the artefacts, she peered at the luxury pieces by British craftwork firm Halcyon Days, which is held in such high esteem by the royals it has three Royal Warrants.
She also watched a demonstration of traditional enamelling and gilding by hand by master artisans – all in the comfort of her own royal residence.
The Queen was due to visit the Halcyon Days factory in Staffordshire in 2020 to mark its own Platinum Jubilee of 70 years, but plans were put on hold when the pandemic struck.
Much has changed since the outbreak of Covid-19, with the Queen, 95, now using a walking stick, confessing to mobility problems, and usually carrying out only light duties at Windsor.
Last week she missed the Commonwealth Day service due to comfort issues.
The extended audience on Wednesday was a rethinking of the original engagement, with the factory’s work and skills being brought to the Queen instead – on a minor scale.
Dressed for spring in a silk floral day dress and wearing her favourite three-string pearl necklace, the Queen appeared in her element, smiling broadly as she was shown the presentation.
The intricately-decorated coffee cups and saucers and enamelled boxes were laid out on a white linen-covered table in the White Drawing Room.
The Queen was said to have particularly enjoyed the visit, picking up some of the tiny enamelled boxes to inspect them.
Among the items was a selection of the earliest designs – the company was founded in 1950 just two years before the start of the Queen’s reign.
Taking a closer look at the antique pieces, the Queen held a small oval Windsor Castle trinket box with a red base, decorated with a black and white painting of the monarch’s favourite royal residence.
She also picked up a larger rectangular trinket box, edged in lavender, featuring three colour portraits of her late mother the Queen Mother as a young woman.
The enamelled piece was released in 2005 and features Samuel Warburton’s 1923 triptych painting of the Queen Mother in the year she married the Queen’s father.
The Queen Mother was an avid fan of the firm’s creations, and first commissioned an enamel box in 1970 of her London home Clarence House.
Other members of the royal family soon followed suit, and the Queen Mother went on to issue the company’s first Royal Warrant in 1972.
The monarch also saw Halcyon Days’ first ever “year box” – from the Silver Jubilee of 1977 – and viewed new Platinum Jubilee pieces which are dark blue and painted with platinum flowers of the realm.
She was especially taken with the Castle of Mey tea range, admiring the pastel floral detail, which was inspired by the Queen Mother’s favourite flowers including primulas, pansies and Albertine roses.
Perched on the crook of the Queen’s left arm was her trademark black patent Launer handbag, and she also held her walking stick as she stood to look at the display.
She wore a sentimental piece of jewellery – her Flower Basket brooch – a basket of gem-studded flowers set with diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, which she was given by her parents in 1948 to mark the birth of her first child, Prince Charles.
Peter Harper, owner of the firm, and Pamela Harper, chairman and chief executive, talked the Queen through the pieces.
Mrs Harper described the event as a “great privilege”, saying afterwards: “We are deeply honoured and the experience was simply fabulous.”
Susan Jones who, along with fellow master artisan Susan Shakespeare, performed the demonstrations for the Queen, said: “The experience was truly, truly wonderful and one that not many have had and I’m still a bit in shock.
“We were so nervous, but Her Majesty’s nature made us feel so relaxed. It was absolutely amazing.”
Princess Alexandra’s granddaughter Zenouska Mowatt, who is the company’s head of marketing, was also present.
Established to revive the artisan craft of enamelling on copper, Halcyon Days’ master artists employ traditional techniques which have been handed down for generations.
The company, which has an enamel factory in Wolverhampton and a fine bone china and jewellery factory in Stoke-on-Trent, is one of only 14 firms in the world to hold all three Royal Warrants, by appointment to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
It is the only supplier of objets d’art to the royal household.
The event was the Queen’s first official face-to-face engagement with a number of people for more than seven weeks since her Platinum Jubilee reception at Sandringham House.
She contracted Covid in February and also spent more than three months from October under doctors’ orders to only conduct light duties.
The Queen is hoping to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service on Tuesday.