Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Her Majesty’s Furniture: King William III’s Silver Table, 1699

Silver Table,
English, 1699
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Made in 1699 of silver and oak, this magnificent table is part of a suite of silver furnishings commissioned by William III for Kensington Palace in 1698. While the suite had been created expressly for Kensington Palace, it’s not certain whether or not they made it to their intended location. The records for this table are sketchy and aren’t well maintained until the reign of King George III.

On his accession in 1760 George III inherited three late seventeenth-century suites of silver tables, mirrors and stands. For decades, these pieces had been displayed in the State rooms at Windsor Castle where they had sat, at least, since the reign of Queen Anne. George III had the suite cleaned and repaired. This table was among those pieces of furniture.

However, by the reign of George III, the popularity of silver furnishings had diminished and in February 1764, records indicate that “three silver tables and six stands,” together with numerous old sconces, chandeliers and firedogs “which are not English Standard,” were “Delivered to be melted . . . to be reduced into English Sterling to complete his Majesty’s Gift of 8000oz of old Plate to the Duke of Gloucester.” This refers to a generous gift that the King was making to his third brother, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester.

At that point, no record of silver furnishings is shown in any of the collection archives nor in the records of the Jewel House. However, in February of 1805 an account of “their Majesties’ Fete at Windsor Castle” noted “the novel and grand appearance of four silver tables, between each window [in the Queen’s Ballroom]. The magnificent effect of the tables was considerably heightened by four most elegant pier glasses over each with silver frames.” Records also show that for this same ball, five silver chandeliers were hung in the Ballroom and the Queen’s Drawing Room next door.

Somehow, this table and three of its mates were spared from being melted down. This particular table was left in the Queen’s Ballroom on a more permanent basis after that night in 1805. It was recorded in a view of the Queen’s Ballroom in 1817 and remains as part of the Royal Collection in Buckingham Palace to this day.

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