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Royal gaming counter (II)




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The term 'new' is clearly a misnomer but this article is about an armorial gaming counter which had baffled me previously when I had attempted to research its original owner; when I came back to it recently a very pleasant surprise was in store.

The counter itself is of very good quality and has a 'drilled' border dating it to around 1810; it has subsidiary borders including point-in-point. It has very well-drawn European-style flowers to the sides and to the reverse a quality character scene with extremely fine back-hatching - another sign of high quality- in a roundel. The counter of course is in a very uncommon octagonal shape; the mother-of-pearl is very bright and dense. So all-in-all a very interesting counter so far.

The crown is the first indiacation of something exceptional. One often sees coronets on armorial gaming counters; the detail and shape are very closely defined to correspond to the different hierarchical levels of the aristocracy: Baron, Earl, Duke etc.. But a crown is a different matter; it relates to a member of the Royal Family. And this is a crown: it is the crown of the Prince of Wales ( see pictures 4 and 5 taken from 'A Dictionary of Heraldry' C. N. Elvin). One of the very few other known examples of a crown on counters was the set made for the Queen of England, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. But the monogram CPW on this counter baffled me: surely a member of the Royal family would not wish to be associated with a lengthy monogram much more likely to have been chosen by a member of the lower orders of the aristocracy?! But here again Queen Charlotte used the monogram - albeit shorter- CR  for Charlotte Regina (Queen).

So the evidence suggested that this special counter was made in around 1810 for the Prince -or Princess?- of Wales. Given the monogram there would appear to be only one explanation: the counter was made for Caroline of Brunswick, Princess of Wales (1768-1821) wife of George Prince of Wales, the eldest son of the king, George III; with the increasing illness of his father (i.e. the 'madness of King George') the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent and later (1820) King George IV.

This marriage was not, to say the least, a happy one. George Frederick Augustus, Prince of Wales indulged in a lavish and extravagant lifestyle. He accumulated huge debts despite his allowance and his father refused to bale him out. There was even the threat of withdrawal of his allowance unless he settled down and married (he had already married  Mrs. Fitzherbert against to his father's wishes and contrary to the law of the land relating to the Royal family marrying Catholics) but he eventually agreed to have his previous marriage annulled and to marry his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. The marriage produced a daughter, Princess Charlotte but almost immediately the couple separated and lived entirely separate lives. Both are reputed to have had numerous affairs. Such was their antipathy, that Caroline decided to attend her husband's coronation in Westminster Abbey despite not being invited: she was barred from entering and died suddenly soon after, claiming that she had been poisoned.

What a story! And once more we see a glimpse of the wealth of historical interest that lies hidden in many armorial gaming counters.

 


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