Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, United Kingdom March, 2014
A widowed Queen. A widowed Baron. Both find expressions for their grief. The Queen looked inward and defined an era with her decision to wear mourning until her own death. Ferdinand de Rothschild looked outward to the creation and running of Waddesdon Manor, the backdrop for lavish house parties.
Imagine…Lace at Waddesdon is a joint project of the Lace Society, the Lace Guild, and the Ring of Tatters. In spring 2013, interested lace makers were invited to tour Waddesdon Manor with the goal of finding inspiration to create a piece of lace. Following the proposal review process, 48 individual pieces were selected for exhibition at Waddesdon Manor during the 2014 season.
Finding inspiration was made challenging by the vast array of extraordinary objects. I took dozens of photographs as references, and finally settled on the border of the carpet in the Baron’s sitting room. It was not only the carpet that inspired me, though. The Waddesdon Manor guest list comprised only the best. Queen Victoria’s son Prince Edward was a frequent guest, and it was at his suggestion that she accepted a lunch invitation in 1890.
In considering these two fascinating figures, Queen Victoria and Ferdinand de Rothschild, and the moments together in which they must have recognized the grief of losing a beloved spouse in each other, I felt compelled to create a piece that would commemorate their connection. The ornate beauty of Waddesdon Manor and the loyalty of the Queen and the Baron to their lost spouses occupied my thoughts throughout the creation of “Queen Victoria’s Visit”.
A careful examination of the Baron’s sitting room revealed the symbols that inform “Queen Victoria’s Visit”. The piece’s entwining ribbon and flowers emulate those in the Baron’s sitting room carpet, the beauty of which I imagine the Queen enjoying. The atmosphere at Waddesdon Manor during the Queen’s visit must have been celebratory, and the ribbon represents that feeling of an extraordinary event.
As a jeweller who uses bobbin lace techniques to make my pieces, I have long been aware of Queen Victoria’s influence on jewellery style: her mourning jewellery was limited to austere and elegant pearls, diamonds, and jet. Flowers and leaves often appear in traditional lace, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Neckpiece, with its trefoil and quatrefoil diamond motifs, inspired the flowers in “Queen Victoria’s Visit”. Trefoils and quatrefoils represent good fortune and optimism, and so my flowers symbolize hopefulness. The combination of elements creates a contemporary necklace that pays homage to the past.
My original piece is made of gold, a metal of wealth and refinement; black (oxidized) silver and jet to represent Queen Victoria’s mourning jewellery; diamonds and pearls, to symbolize opulence and enduring love. The replica uses copper and crystal and is displayed at Waddesdon Manor 26 March to 26 October as part of the Imagine…Lace at Waddesdon exhibition.
Waddesdon Manor’s incredible, priceless collection, alongside its welcoming charm, must have made a lovely site for Queen Victoria to visit, just as contemporary visitors find it exquisite yet inviting.