All royal events come with memorabilia, but the coronation wears the proverbial crown. Mugs, flags, dishcloths, tea cozies, biscuit tins, and bunting all come out to play in a glorious display of British eccentricity. “I love the crazy ladies who appear in our newspapers around this time surrounded by thousands of objects all crammed together in one room,” says interior designer Ben Pentreath, himself a collector of royal memorabilia.
More is more when it comes to memorabilia, something Pentreath’s husband, Charlie McCormick, knows all about. He has collected more than 500 royal mugs that range from early Queen Victoria to Charles and Diana. Many are used at the couple’s home in Scotland, while the more special items are gathered on mantelpieces and drawers at their home in Dorset. These include Pentreath’s complete set of Eric Ravilious–designed coronation mugs, made by Wedgwood for Dunbar Hay in the 1930s.
Ravilious’s royal designs are now highly collectible; a Queen Elizabeth II coronation mug might sell for $700 at auction. Those commemorating Edward VIII’s ascent in 1937 might fetch $1,200 to $1,500. Not only are they older, but they have a juicier story, given that the memorabilia was made in advance of a coronation that never happened. “They are amongst the most beautiful examples of English 20th-century design ever made,” says Pentreath. “Some of mine are astonishingly rare, so it’s a bit of a fetish collection, if I’m honest.”
Fetishism and fanaticism go hand in hand. Claudia Waddams, owner of Number One Bruton hotel, in Somerset, recalls a moment prior to the property’s renovation when she stumbled upon a room that was, she says lustily, “completely covered in posters of the Queen and Prince Charles all done up in tinfoil frames.”
The previous owner, a certain Mr. Windmill, had been a dedicated royalist, and, inspired by this discovery, local artist Candace Bahouth was commissioned to make a royal mirror to go in that bedroom, now known as “the Prince Charles.” (Its name will soon be revised to “the King Charles.”)
Bahouth’s kitschy mirrors are highly sought after, and three will be available for purchase. One will be displayed in the window at Number One Bruton, and another two, of the King and Queen, will be sold at Philo & Philo, a vintage-furnishings store up the road.
Another hotel worth window-gazing next month is Claridge’s, where mementos from their historic royal archives will be on show. See the cocktail cards created for King George VI in 1937 and sip their new Coronation cocktail of Fino sherry, dry vermouth, Kina, agave, and orange bitters.
Really, though, it’s during teatime that coronationware comes into its own. Why not deck a table with Daylesford and Hugo Guinness linens, covered with a triumphant “Hip, hip, hooray!” Then try Emma Bridgewater for mugs, Pentreath & Hall for tea towels, and Fortnum & Mason for biscuits; their coronation tin plays “God Save the King” as it spins.
Music, trumpets, and a marching band might be expected from the procession, and those watching at home can drape their houses in flags stitched with His Majesty the King’s insignia and Royal Crown motifs, thanks to textile designer Jan Constantine’s embroidered pennants. These are designed, in part, as heirlooms. “I have quite a lot of vintage flags from previous coronations,” she explains. “In the same way I hope these will be handed down to the next generation.” And just like that, a great national tradition lives on.
All Tat, and Then Some!
Daisy Dawnay is a London-based writer