Coronation commemoratives

The sixth of May 2023 sees the coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. As well as watching the ceremony on TV, some New Zealanders may choose to buy or make a special souvenir to mark the occasion.

Royal collectables have a long history, beginning with handmade commemorative plates in English delft made to celebrate the coronation of King Charles II in 1661.

While Te Papa doesn’t have souvenirs quite that old in its collection, we do care for many examples of coronation commemoratives, ranging from handmade to mass-produced, classic to crazy. Here are some of our favourites. 1

Royal bristle protector

This moustache cup and saucer celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII in June 1902. The cup has a ceramic ‘ledge’ inside to protect the user’s moustache, with a gap between the cup and ledge allowing liquid to flow through. Both the cup and saucer feature images of the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey and the Sovereign’s Throne at the House of Lords.

Moustache cup with saucer, 1902, England, by John Aynsley & Sons. Gift of Mrs LG Sandlant, 1931. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (CG000432)

Coronation craziness

Crazy quilting, seen here, was a very popular quilting style in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Irregularly sized and shaped pieces of fabric were patched together and embroidered, creating unique designs in a range of colours and textures.

This cushion cover by an unknown maker uses patches of silk and velvet, patched together with variations of feather stitch and other surface embroidery. The words ‘1902 Coronation’ are embroidered in one corner.

Cushion cover, 1902, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs B Newlands, 1984. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC003220)

Louisa’s lace

This lilac silk damask gown features machine-made lace with a motif of a crown and '1902' worked into it. Mrs Louisa Jane Seddon, wife of New Zealand's Premier Richard John Seddon, wore this dress during the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII in London, 1902.

Dress, 1902, London, by Madame Frederic. Gift of Mrs A McIntosh, 1982. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC003403)

Commemorative medals

This is an example of a King George V Police Coronation Medal, awarded to police officers on duty in London during the coronation of 1911. This particular medal was awarded to Police Constable O. Armstrong, and his name is inscribed on the rim.

Commemorative coronation medals have been struck for every British monarch since King Edward VI in 1547. They are given out to soldiers and other service people involved in the celebrations, as well as invited guests.

In 1831, at the coronation of King William IV, there was an unseemly scramble as medals were simply thrown into the crowd at Westminster Abbey. Queen Victoria’s coronation saw similar scenes, but since then the distribution of medals has been more orderly. 2

King George V Coronation Metropolitan Police Medal, 1911, United Kingdom, by Sir Bertram Mackennal. Te Papa (NU006852)

Laborious loyalty

This cushion was embroidered by Nancy Robertson (later Merrick) of Dunedin, using transfers from an embroidery pattern book.

According to notes written by Nancy for her family, she embroidered the cushion in 1937 to demonstrate her loyalty to King George VI. Nancy wrote: 'I am sure you all recall King George VI who ascended the throne during the very difficult years before the War. In Dunedin at the time the local DIC (department store) displayed various pieces to embroider. To show my loyalty I labouriously [sic] embroidered this cushion cover.’

Embroidered cushion, King George VI, 1937, Dunedin, by Miss Nancy Robertson. Gift of The Merrick Girls, 2012. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (GH017530)

Flags and the flowers

This English-made dish by J.H. Cope and Co. commemorates the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on 12 May 1937.

It features portraits of the King and Queen, surmounted by a crown and framed by flags and the flowers of England (rose), Ireland (shamrock), Scotland (thistle) and Wales (daffodil).

Dish, 1937-1947, England, by J.H. Cope and Co. Gift of Rosina May Benson, 1985. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (CG001591)

A locally-made loving cup

This loving cup (a two-handled drinking cup passed around at banquets) is one of only 1000 made by the well-known New Zealand pottery, Crown Lynn. It commemorates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

The cup was designed by Crown Lynn’s chief designer, David Jenkin, and Peter Cooke. It was hand thrown by Ernie Shufflebotham and decorated by Jenkin’s assistant, Doris Bird.

Coronation Loving Cup, 1953, Auckland, by Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd., Ernest Shufflebotham. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (GH009068)

1 Royal family: why even a Charles and Diana divorce mug is important for the monarchy, Pauline Maclaran, 10 February 2022, The Conversation

2 Coronation medals, National Army Museum (London)