Items of royal memorabilia are collectible objects with a connection to a royal family or monarch. The term can cover items previously owned by a particular royal family member, those directly associated with an event such as a coronation or royal wedding, or commercial merchandise produced to commemorate such an event.
About Royal memorabilia
Commemorative items are created specifically for the collectors markets, and can come in many different forms such as mugs, plates, tankards, tea towels, vases, figurines, photographs and books. The wide variety and relatively low price of these royal commemorative items makes them popular with entry-level collectors. However, due to the large numbers in which they are produced they are commonplace and rarely hold or appreciate in their value.
The most sought-after items are unique pieces with a personal connection to a member of royalty. These can include autographs, personal letters and correspondence, items of clothing and jewellery. Some of the rarest and most valuable items are historical documents signed by monarchs dating back hundreds of years, such as those signed with a seal by Henry VII or his son Henry VIII.
The most popular royal figure for collectors is Princess Diana, due to her iconic status and premature death. As the most photographed royal in history she was world famous on a level far beyond many others, and her wedding to Prince Charles was watched by hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide. The value of her memorabilia has risen sharply since her death, due to what is often called the ‘James Dean Effect’, and in 2010 the black dress she wore upon her first official royal engagement in 1981 sold for £192,000.
Since the 17th century, souvenirs commemorating royal events have been collected. Charles II was often pictured on stoneware, glassware and silver, and his marriage to Catherine de Braganza of Portugal was celebrated in a ‘Royal Oak’ goblet dated 1663. The union of William III and Mary II in 1689 was similarly commemorated on English Delft plates, and from then until now royal unions and coronations have been recorded and celebrated on numerous objects. Companies such as Royal Crown Derby have been producing royal commemorative porcelain since the 18th century, and since the Industrial Revolution these items have been mass-produced.
King George II was the first monarch to have his likeness reproduced on a mug commemorating his coronation in 1727, and in 1831 King William IV had numerous items produced including the first royal bust and jigsaw puzzles to be offered for sale to the public.
The coronation of Queen Victoria, combined with new manufacturing processes and an expanding market, saw royal memorabilia begin to be collected on a mass level. However, until the coronation of King Edward VII, the production of royal commemoratives was overseen by the monarchy or the Lord Chamberlain's office. But as the regulations were relaxed, images of the royal family began to appear on every conceivable item (including Queen Victoria’s likeness on a tin of peaches).
Edward’s son George V had a relatively low key wedding in terms of commemoratives produced due to being relatively unknown by the public, but during his reign a large number of items were produced such as playing cards, teapots, Toby jugs and candle holders.
Some of the rarest items of modern royal wedding memorabilia are those connected to the marriage of the Duke of Windsor Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, a year after his abdication. Due to the scandal that their relationship caused very few companies celebrated it, but the small amount of porcelain and china items produced are now highly sought-after collectibles.
The marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 has perhaps produced the largest number of royal wedding collectibles and memorabilia. These range from a slice of wedding cake which sold for £1,000 in 2008 to a replica of her wedding dress created for her waxwork at Madame Tussauds which sold for £100,000 in 2005.
The world’s most expensive royal memorabilia
The world’s most expensive item of royal memorabilia is an onyx and diamond panther bracelet designed by Cartier for Wallis Simpson, the former Duchess of Windsor. Simpson, whose love affair with Edward VIII led to his abdication in 1936, commissioned several items from Cartier including gifts for her husband. In December 2010 the bracelet was sold at a Sotheby's auction in London for a record breaking price of £4,521,250.
Other notable items of royal memorabilia
Main article: List of notable items of royal memorabilia
Notable royal memorabilia collections and collectors
//Main article: List of notable royal memorabilia collections
Royal memorabilia dealers
Main article: List of royal memorabilia dealers
Royal memorabilia clubs and societies
Main article: List of royal memorabilia collectors' clubs and societies