ROYAL GIFTS

Royal gifts are not necessarily royal plate in that their owners pass them on as heirlooms, the interest in them being that they were given to some ancestor by royal donors not because of their one time possession and use by kings and queens. It is well known that many of the most treasured relics in ancient families were originally royal gifts. Among the older of such curios (now in the British Museum) is the cup designed by Holbein for Henry VIII by whom it was given to Jane Seymour. In modern days royal princes have given presents ; it is said that the children of the Queen of Italy were rocked in a silver cradle, weighing about 40 lbs., a present from the Prince of Montenegro. A beautiful cradle was also made for the Queen of Holland, a richly decorated silver cradle -an ornament for the royal nursery. There is yet another kind of presentation plate which is sometimes associated with royal plate, in that it was given to commemorate important events in the Royal house. An instance of this kind occurred on the Coronation of his late Majesty King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra ; to commemorate that auspicious event, Alderman F. J. Beavan, J.P., who was that year Mayor of Cardiff, presented the Corporation with a very fine silver epergne, oval in form, with four branches. It is supported by four winged female figures, and has a large cut glass centre dish and four smaller dishes. It stands on a silver plateau 30 inches by 19 inches. These remark-able examples of the silversmith's art are by no means modern, for although presented to Cardiff in 1901 they were genuine old silver, the epergne being hall-marked in London in 1808, and the plateau in 1814. The epergne weighs 149 ounces, and the plateau 543 ounces. In addition to these there was a silver tea urn on a square base with scroll feet, and an antique silver salver, the first named being hall-marked in 1828, and the latter of much older date, having the London hall-mark for 1775. All the pieces bear the inscription, " Presented to the Cardiff Corporation by Resolution of the Committee, to commemorate the Coronation of Their Majesties, King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra, at which ceremony the Mayor (Councillor Francis John Beavan, J.P.) Chairman of the Local Coronation Committee, was present." Through the courtesy of the Town Clerk we illustrate the urn and tray in Figure 43.

FIG. 43.-SILVER URN AND TRAY. (Presented to the Cardiff Corporation by COUNCILLOR F. J. BEAVAN, J.P.)

Figs. 44 AND 45.-SILVER WAITERS (In the Victoria and Albert Museum.)

CHAPTER XVI PLATE OF THE CITY COMPANIES Curious old pieces-Rare presentation plate. THE plate of the City Companies is outside the ken of the " home connoisseur," but any book upon old silver would be incomplete without some mention, however brief, of the wealth of silver plate still in the possession of the old City Companies, and of those trade guilds which are found here and there located in the older towns in this country. These guilds are to us to-day but a reminder of the trade and commerce of England in very early times ; they are for the most part sinecures now, for unfortunately most of them have lost touch with the actual crafts with which they were once so closely connected. Even the Masters of the Worshipful Companies are seldom men intimately associated with the crafts the names of which they bear. When we see the remains of these old societies and admire their ancient halls, and perchance are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of their archives and their curious relics of a bye-gone age, we recognise what a reality they were in olden time, and how they served a useful purpose ; but alas, the old guilds, as at first constituted, are no more. These societies have at times possessed large estates, through the generosity of wealthy donors, men whose whole souls were wrapped up in the craft they practised, and gave of their wealth for the benefit of their poorer brethren, and for the promotion of the best interests of the trade they loved.