An Edward Prince of Wales Royal Presentation Cigarette Box, 1921
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17.3 cm (6.5in) x 9cm (3.5in) x 4.5cm (1.75in)
Silver. The hinged lid applied with the ‘E’ cypher of Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor (1894-1972)) encircled by the Garter and surmounted by the Prince of Wales’s feathers and motto ‘Ich Dien’ (I serve). Engine-turned decoration to all sides and chased floral borders, gilt interior. Maker’s mark of Royal Warrant holder Henry Hodson Plante of Bury Street, St. James’s, London. Hallmarked London 1921.
The present silver box is almost certainly a personal gift from the Prince of Wales rather than a royal presentation item given in acknowledgement of service. The majority of royal presentation items are small personal items such as cufflinks, brooches, stickpins and cigarette cases, many of them supplied by Plante of St. James’s. An identical table box to this example was given in February 1922 by the Prince to his only sister H.R.H. The Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood (1897-1965) who married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882-1947). It was sold at Christies, London in 2012 at a sale of items from Harewood House, Yorkshire.
In 1922 the Prince of Wales was emerging as a modern royal in wake of the Great War. He was in the midst of the imperial tours, 1919 to 1925, that made him a global celebrity. Though he had his reservations, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Mary’s marriage, believing she would finally be freed from the secluded life their father would have preferred for her in the ‘Buckhouse prison’. The fact that he gave this particular type of box to Mary elevates its significance, though it should be said his wedding present to her was a diamond and sapphire bracelet. In November 1922 he gave a seemingly identical ‘silver cigarette box the lid engraved with raised cipher and feathers’ as a wedding present to General The 10th Earl of Cavan and his second wife Lady Joan Mulholland. Lady Joan was a former Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Mary, while the Prince had served in France at the headquarters of the Guards Division under ‘Fatty’ Cavan during the war. The Prince attended the wedding in person.