Monday, June 17, 2013

Masterpiece of the Week: Queen Charlotte’s Snuff Box, 1770

Snuff Box
Amethystine Quartz, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies
The Royal Collection

Wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte, was an "enthusiastic taker of snuff." The snuff in question was a blend of herbs, tobacco and aromatic powders. By the time of her death, she had collected over ninety snuff boxes and three hundred fifty bottles of “highly scented” snuff. Queen Charlotte often complained of terrible headaches and took snuff in order to combat them. I’d guess, however, that the snuff was more of a cause of the headaches than a cure. When they first married, King George III, to please his wife, inhaled a pinch of snuff (something to which he was unaccustomed). The experiment was unsuccessful and only resulted in a vicious bout of sneezing. Undaunted by her husband’s lack of interest in the stuff, Queen Charlotte continued to take snuff for the remainder of her life.

This snuff box is particularly fine. The box itself is made from amethystine quartz and set with a foliate pattern of gold, rubies and diamonds. This was among the items of Queen Charlotte’s which were auctioned of in 1819. The box found its way into the hands of Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester who bequeathed it to Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck by whom given to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (Queen Mary). Queen Mary had a keen interest in Queen Charlotte and happily added the object to her collection of the late Queen’s items. 

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