It’s difficult to realise that The Queen is 80 years old; she seems much younger than her age. When most pensioners of similar years are thinking of taking things easy, The Queen still undertakes hundreds of public duties each year, as well as maintaining an active life away from the cameras – she takes long walks and rides her horses.
Pictured right: Coalport Queen’s 80th Bithday Corinthia Plate 27cm
She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York (later, on the abdication of Edward VIII, they became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), and she was born by Caesarean section in London on 21 April 1926. A beautiful cup and saucer made by Paragon, decorated with magpies and cherry blossom, was issued to commemorate her birth.
Pictured left: 1953 Coronation Memorabilia
She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the chapel at Buckingham Palace and her early years were spent in London. When she was six, her family used Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as their country home. By now, she had a sister, Margaret Rose, who was born in 1930. When her father succeeded to the throne in 1936, they moved to Buckingham Palace.
During the 1930s, there was tremendous interest in the two Princesses; the general public were enchanted by the demure children immaculately dressed in matching coats, hats and flower-sprigged frocks. The girls resembled two little dolls, an image not lost on manufacturers of the time, with companies such as Dean’s producing beautiful cloth dolls in their likeness.
Pictured right: 1937 Coronation Tin
However, the most spectacular – and certainly the most extravagant – royal dolls were two Jumeau bisque-headed girls which were presented to the Princesses in 1938 on behalf of the children of France. These huge dolls, with a wardrobe equipped by top French couturiers of the day, had Cartier jewellery and Vuitton luggage, and can be seen on display at Windsor Castle.
Products bearing the children’s image are not that common, though tins are sometimes found, as well as mugs and beakers issued at the time of the 1937 Coronation. Princess Elizabeth was 21 when she made her first official overseas visit, accompanying her parents and sister on a tour of South Africa in 1947.
Pictured left: 1953 Coronation Mug
Not long after they returned, her engagement was announced to the dashing Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, and they married in November of the same year. He was given the title His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the couple made several overseas visits, which included longer stays in Malta as the Duke was stationed there for a while.
King George VI had been ill for some time and in 1952 was forced to abandon his proposed visit to Australia and New Zealand. Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by Prince Philip, took his place, and while they were staying in Kenya they received news of his death. Elizabeth was now Queen, and a year later, on the 2nd June 1953, her Coronation took place in Westminster Abbey.
Pictured right: Silver Jubilee Tin
It was a time of rejoicing; the British public were still recovering from the after-effects of the war, and the Coronation was a great morale booster . Many souvenirs were issued and street parties were held. Britain had a young Queen, and suddenly, the grey world seemed full of colour.
The Coronation in 1953 produced a flood of commemorative dolls amongst the mugs and dishes. Highly sought after today are specials from the Pedigree range such as Elizabeth and Little Princess, as well as the slightly later Bonnie Charlie. Elizabeth was not intended to portray Her Majesty facially, and she was sold as a ‘Dressmaking Doll’ but she was still an obvious ‘tie-in’. Many large composition dolls, dressed as The Queen, were manufactured too, while Peggy Nisbet, after making a Coronation doll, embarked on her series of miniature dolls produced especially for collectors, and amongst them were many models of the Royal Family.
Pictured left: 1953 Coronation Doll
Souvenirs have been issued for all of The Queen’s major events (and many lesser events too), in particular the Silver and Golden Jubilees, her 75th birthday, Golden Wedding, and now her 80th birthday. Not all the souvenirs issued over the years have been respectful, notably the 1980s caricature puppets as used in the programme Spitting Image. These vinyl heads, designed by Fluck and Law, included several members of the Royal family amongst them The Queen and Prince Phillip. They appeared on all kinds of things from doggy toys to keyrings, and even a pair of slippers which depicted the Royal couple in their beds. However, the majority of Royal souvenirs are much more tasteful.
Pictured right: Silver Jubilee Die-Cast Bus
Amongst the latest batch of 80th birthday commemorative items are attractive plates and loving cups bearing The Queen’s portrait garlanded with yellow roses, made by Royal Doulton, Regal Rose perfume bottles by Caithness Glass and enamelled boxes by Halcyon Days. Royal Crown Derby has issued a beautiful loving cup featuring a view of Windsor Castle, the Dartington Gallery is releasing an elegant lead crystal vase engraved with a design of roses in full bloom, while John Lewis have produced a commemorative tea set featuring the Royal coat of arms surrounded with a delicate gold and pink design on a turquoise background.
Celebrations will continue for much of 2006, with Her Majesty making many visits and hosting receptions and parties. The majority of the souvenirs sold for the event will probably never rise in value, so if you are hoping to eventually see some return on your outlay, it is best to buy one of the very limited edition pieces, or, alternatively, one of the more quirky types of souvenir.
Another good investment is to save ephemera such as newspapers, printed napkins and paper cloths, or commemorative wrappers and boxes – these are the things which soon get thrown out.
Next year The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will celebrate their Diamond Wedding anniversary, so look out for more souvenirs!