The Eric Ravilious 1937 Coronation Mug A Unique Testament to a Historic Event – On the 12th of May 1937, a grand event was scheduled to take place: the coronation of Edward VIII as King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and as Emperor of India, at Westminster Abbey. However, a historic turn of events unfolded on 11th December 1936. Edward VIII, ensnared by love and defying convention, made a shocking announcement of his abdication. His desire to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced woman deemed ‘unsuitable’ as the King’s consort by the standards of the British monarchy at the time, led to his decision. The King was presented with a stark choice and in his own words, he “found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility … without the help and support of the woman I love.”
This declaration set in motion a series of events that would mark a distinctive chapter in British history. The anticipated coronation of Edward VIII was abruptly canceled. The responsibility of the crown then fell upon his brother, who ascended the throne as King George VI. As for Edward and Wallis, they transitioned into a new life as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, relocating to France and becoming subjects of speculation and rumors, including alleged sympathies towards the Nazi regime.
In the run-up to the planned coronation, various preparations and paraphernalia were already underway. Among these was a distinctive mug, a memento crafted by the illustrious British painter and designer, Eric Ravilious. The product of a design partnership with the esteemed Wedgwood company from 1936-1940, this mug was emblematic of Ravilious’s inimitable style. The design was applied to a white earthenware mug through a transfer-printed method in black, producing an evocative silhouette that stands out against a backdrop washed in bands of light blue and orange – hues reminiscent of anticipated fireworks in celebration of the coronation. The mug is adorned with the letters ‘ER’ and the date ‘1937’, complemented by a silhouette of the royal seal.
This particular piece is a rarity, not just in its design but also in its significance. It stands as a tangible representation of a coronation that never came to be. Post-abdication, many of these mugs were recalled, with a significant portion either scrapped or modified to suit the coronation of King George VI. The color palette of this design further amplifies its rarity. While the majority of these mugs produced by Wedgwood were rendered in blue and yellow, as evidenced by specimens in the V&A Museum, a select few in blue and orange made their way to the renowned shop, Fortnum and Mason.
The Ravilious 1937 coronation mug embodies a synthesis of historical significance and artistic mastery. It captures the essence of Ravilious’s signature approach characterized by gentle tones and refined lettering, especially evident in this less common color combination. Beyond being a mere object, it offers a tangible link to a pivotal moment in British history, while also standing as a testament to the elegance and artistry of British design, particularly in the delicate era leading up to World War II.
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King Edward VIII Coronation Mug, 1937 (made 1936) by Eric Ravilious for Wedgwood
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