Out of all of the Royal memorabilia circulating in the world my favourite items tend to be home made. ‘Fanmade’ objects always resonate with me more than commercially produced souvenirs –infused as they often are with love and obsession.
In 2012 the Merrick Girls gifted Te Papa a cushion, intensely embroidered by their mother Nancy, who in 1937 was a young woman enthralled with the King George VI. The second son of King George V and Queen Mary, George VI (who had formerly been known as Albert) ascended to the throne in May 1937 following his brother Edward’s scandalous abdication (he chose Wallis Simpson over the throne).
In Dunedin, New Zealand, Nancy Robertson commemorated the unexpected coronation with her needle and thread, and as she later told her daughters, ‘laboriously embroidered this cushion cover’ to show her loyalty. Her local DIC had featured a large display of Coronation-related patterns. Nancy purchased a luxurious gold satin fabric for her background and a Book of Coronation Transfers and Motifs for Embroidery by J & P Coats of Scotland. She embroidered the new King in his official regalia – even managing to capture the King’s characteristic raised eyebrow. He is flanked by the Royal Supporters – a ‘lion rampant guardian, royally crowned’ and a ‘unicorn, rampant argent’.
In 1937 Nancy would have been spoilt for choice when she went shopping for souvenirs and patterns relating to the Coronation. As my colleague Stephanie Gibson observed in last week’s blog, Where have all the Royal Souvenirs Gone?, the market is not what it once was. While Stephanie has been disappointed by the lack of commercial memorabilia relating to the current Royal visit, there also appears to be a distinct lack of home-made memorabilia on show during the ‘walkabouts’ (although admittedly the weather may have been a deterrent). We were lucky in 2011 to secure this charming pair peg-dolls following the Royal wedding. They were made by Brodie Domb, who was eight at the time, for a competition run by a local business, the owners of which obviously still see the value in putting kids in a room with some pegs and scraps of fabric to be transformed with glue and their imagination.
We certainly hope that these are not the last handcrafted Royals to come into the collection.