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Royal gaming counter (III)




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Gaming counters made for members of the Royal family always hold a special attraction, perhaps because they underline the fact that even the most powerful people of the time were in many ways  just like us. They shared the preoccupations of the common people - right down as far as playing cards and gambling. We already know about the set (or almost definitely double-set) made for the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte; there were also sets made probably for Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and for Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George, Prince of Wales, Regent and future King George IV. This counter is a 'new' one, clearly made for a member of the Royal family. It is almost identical in size to the one made for Queen Charlotte and was made at almost exactly the same time. It has the 'Queen Charlotte' type border in use in around 1790 in Canton and is made of the same lustrous pearl which looks almost like silver - but more beautiful, with the rainbow hues of the finest quality mother-of-pearl.

The counter has the same enlarged roundel with finest back-hatching, giving a matte appearance. We see the full Royal coat of arms for England 1714-1801 which also helps to fix the date of this counter to circa 1790; image 4 shows the arms from 1714 to 1801 and image 5 shows them after 1801 with the omission of the fleurs-de-lys after the historic claim to sovereignty of France was dropped. The full bearers - lion and unicorn - are superbly depicted; above is the full-frontal Royal helmet and to the very top the royal crest above a Royal crown. Turn the counter over and the crown is shown in its full glory and detail: there are several different crowns for members of the Royal family and this one give us a vital (though not conclusive) clue to the owner: it is the crown for the younger sons of the sovereign. This crown is differentiated by the alternating crosses and fleur-de-lys. The variations are shown in image 9 from 'A Dictionary of Heraldry' (Elvin) and the one we are dealing with is number 3.

One further reinforcement of this comes from the coat of arms: if you look closely at the arms, there is a horizontal line with three castellations hanging downwards. This is located towards the top of the coat of arms. This is a 'pallet' used to indicate children of the monarch. Unfortunately there is no further indication as to which of the children this was intended for. In modern times individual children of the monarch are identifiable by unique marks actually on the pallet. 

Images 6, 7 and 8 show the comparison with the Queen Charlotte long-oblong. Were they ordered at exactly the same time? There are minor variations between the two counters - the diaper to the reverse of the Queen Charlotte - but the similarities are remarkable.

So that is the 'evidence'. Counter made for one of the children of George III. Which one?? George II and Queen Charlotte had sixteen children, ten sons and six daughters. The eldest son - George, Prince of Wales, Regent and future George IV - had his own special crown, so not him.  The came Frederick, Duke of York then Frederick Duke of Clarence, Edward Duke of Kent. Edward Augustus Duke of Cumberland had a set of counters made (see above) so probably not him. But the list goes on and there is no way for me to know which one it was. Perhaps someone reading this will be able to help. It would be great to know.

How many more Royal counters will turn up? Where are the others from the set?? Are there any in Royal museums? It is strange that these should appear out of the blue from Canada: how did they get there? So many unanswered questions! But I am extremely grateful to my good friend Mark St. John for helping me to add this one to my collection. Fortunately the previous owner had two available so we both have examples of this very exciting find.

 


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