The Royal Treatment: Rare Finds from Palaces Around the World

5 minute read

At M. S. Rau Antiques, we are fortunate to have in our collection several items with exceptional royal provenance. The decadent beauty of these royal furniture pieces is apparent in their meticulously crafted details, luxurious aesthetics, and unparalleled craftsmanship, but their precious nature is bolstered even further by royal ownership, which shrouds the object with an air not unlike holiness.

These royal furniture pieces are often the most exquisite in the world. Kings and queens, tsars and tsarinas, emperors and empresses all have access to nearly anything in their reach, but they acquire only the best of the best. These four items once owned by royal individuals allow us a sneak peek into their lives of luxury. From elaborately decorated armoires to engraved inkstands, these quality furniture pieces represent the famous individuals who owned them.

30-6098_1 Tsar Nicholas II's Winter Palace Armoire - Circa 1895

Towering at an incredible height of just over 11 feet, this Russian Armoire showcases incredible details of turrets, urns, Corinthian columns, and stepped arches. Made to float in the middle of a room, every inch of the piece is ornately decorated. The details included on this quality furniture piece are so spectacular that it is said to have taken sixteen artisans twenty-four years to create! Constructed by twenty separate pieces that fit together like a puzzle, the armoire conceals several secret compartments and drawers. The design of this piece is impressive on its own and is truly one of our finest pieces in our entire collection.

The intricately designed cabinet was commissioned to reside in the Winter Palace during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, the last known Russian Emperor. Nicholas II came to power in 1895 during a time of political turmoil and only resided in the Winter Palace for a short time before moving his headquarters to his summer home just south of St Petersburg. The Winter Palace now houses the Hermitage Museum, considered to be one of the world’s largest and most important museums along with the Louvre.

The armoire was missing for many years after the Bolshevik Revolution until it resurfaced among the cargo of an abandoned freight ship in Ghent, Belgium .

30-6334_1 The Royal Boulle Marquetry Commode by Blake

This elegant chest of drawers, crafted by Robert Blake, was modeled after the esteemed pair of commodes commissioned by King Louis XIV for the Palace of Versailles. Blake pulled inspiration from the royal commodes crafted by Andre Charles Boulle, the premier French cabinetmaker, that were created for Louis XIV’s bedchamber. The pair of cabinets were among the four furnishings deemed worthy enough to be rescued from destruction or sale after the French Revolution.

Boulle’s remarkable craftsmanship is echoed in this marquetry commode created by Robert Blake. Constructed of ebony, the entire commode is decorated with breathtaking tortoiseshell and doré bronze motifs as well as ormolu mounts.

30-7102_1 The Royal Ice Pail by Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell - Hallmarked by Phillip Rundell, London, 1827

This Royal Ice Pail is among the most frequently asked about items in our collection. Accompanied with a fascinating story, the ice pail itself is an exquisitely crafted piece of silver featuring intricate detail.

In 1827, King George IV of England ordered for the Grand Service to be made by esteemed silversmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. The Royal Service cost an astonishing £100,000 to make (approximately $15 million in today’s currency) and shocked the Parliament into administering a cap for the Royal Family’s spending habits still in place today. This beautifully crafted and historically significant ice pail is one of six made to be the centerpieces of the Grand Service. It is the only piece from the collection currently available. Four of the ice pails still reside in Windsor Castle and are used by the Queen to this day!

At home with the Windsors (3)

After ordering for the service to be made, King George IV died before it was ever finished. His successor, Queen Victoria, came to reign much to the dismay of his brother, Ernest Augustus. Ernest was given ruling over Hanover, Germany, but felt as if he was denied his rightful ruling over the United Kingdom. Before moving to Germany, Ernest stole this ice pail and one other along with as much of the Grand Service he could fit into his luggage. Queen Victoria was so infuriated that she unsuccessfully took Ernest to court to sue for the stolen silver. When the judge denied the case access to move forward in reluctance to deal with such a “familial matter,” Queen Victoria made sure to drape herself in royal jewels and crowns whenever in the company of Ernest.

When Hanover fell to Prussia in 1866, the ice pails along with the other royal silver were smuggled into Gmuden, Austria. One of the two ice pails went to a museum while the other went to a private Austrian collector. It is this exceptional ice pail that we are proud to showcase in our gallery.

30-9239_1 The Coronation Inkstand and Pen of King Edward VII

This unique inkstand and pen were used by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII, to sign his coronation oath as King of Britain in Westminster Abbey during the year 1902. Previously the Prince of Wales, King Edward VII was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history and known for his sociability and charm. On January 22, 1901, Edward signed his coronation oath using this ink pen and stand at the altar of Westminster Abbey. It is said that the King personally chose this pen for use at his coronation.

30-9239_4

An engraving on the top of the ink stand reads: “This standish was used by King Edward VII on signing the Coronation Oath in Westminster Abbey being held on the occasion by Victor Albert First Viscount Churchill August 9th, 1902.” Further adornments include the Royal Arms and cypher of King Edward VII, with the initials “ER” for “Edward Rex.” Churchill was involved in planning the King’s coronation, as he served as Lord Chamberlain for the event. Both King Edward VII’s and Churchill’s involvement with this ink stand and pen makes it truly one of a kind.

These impressive items not only allow us to brush shoulders with nobility, but they also offer us a glimpse into the rich history of everyday royal life. Learn to live more like the kings and queens - click here to view other items with a royal provenance in our collection.

 

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