Where have all the royal souvenirs gone?

Stephanie Gibson, Te Papa’s Curator of Contemporary Life & Culture writes: It was with great sadness last week that I read about the demise of royal visit souvenirs (‘No royal knick-knacks thanks, we’re Kiwis’, The Dominion Post, 1 April 2014). According to the journalist ‘tacky royal collectibles are becoming relics of a bygone age’. There would be very few souvenirs apart from stamps and coins to mark the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their baby George.

April Fool’s?

I hoped it was an April Fool’s joke because we treasure the royal visit souvenirs in our collections. So I went in search of material. I found generic Union Jack flags, baby booties printed with Union Jacks, and one lonely badge printed ‘George’ in blue – all imported. I immediately wanted to collect the badge but was told it was for display purposes only!

The smallest of souvenirs

Badges are amongst the smallest of souvenirs, and one of my favourite types. Sometimes known as buttons, they are cheap and quick to mass produce, easy to distribute and wear, and small enough to keep without becoming nuisance clutter. Being round in shape, they are the perfect format for displaying portraits, symbols and concise messages. In one tiny hit, they can deliver significant history, politics and culture.

Badge, ’Royal Tour’, 1953, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Tony Mackle, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Tour’, 1953, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Tony Mackle, 2011. Te Papa

This badge (above) celebrates the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1953-54. A young school boy wore it with great pride when he and his class were taken to see the Queen when she visited Devonport, Auckland, on Christmas Eve, 1953. He kept it for over 50 years in a box with other special mementoes before gifting it to Te Papa.

Badges never worn

The most beautiful royal visit badges in the collection never actually made it to anyone’s chest.

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badges were among the many souvenirs produced in preparation for the royal tour of King George VI in 1949. The tour was cancelled due to the King’s ill health.

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

These pristine badges are still attached to their sale cards, and sport fabulous ribbons in the patriotic colours of blue, white and red.

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Their lavishness illustrates New Zealand’s excitement about the tour as it was to be the first time a reigning monarch had set foot in New Zealand.

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Each badge lovingly details different aspects of the tour and the royal experience – the people, transportation (from coach to plane), and even remembrance.

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

Badge, ’Royal Visit’, 1949, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Gift of Lynette Townsend, 2011. Te Papa

 

 

 

One Response

  1. adele

    I must look out my Royal collection, cup and saucers etc… what I have got, is a lovely photograph taken of King and Queen back in London, surveying bomb damage at the Palace together with my Gt Uncle with them, he was working there for over 40 years so I have been told by his side of the family who sent me two photographs taken by Daily Mail.. he is not listed as having worked at the Palace but, was there in the Ministry of Works Dept.. I love going to second hand shops and seeing what they have off Royalty for sale…best shop is up at Woodville!

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