A Prince Charles Investiture Chair Designed by Lord Snowdon, 1969
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Width: 54.5 cm (21½ in)
Vermillion red beech with olive ash laminate, impressed with the Prince of Wales feathers and motto ‘Ich Dien’ (I Serve) in gilt; the seat upholstered in red Welsh tweed, and complete with its original and now scarce Welsh tweed cushion, buttoned at the centre with a Prince of Wales’s feathers medallion.
The present chair was the creation of Lord Snowdon and was designed for the 1969 Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. Investitures of the Princes of Wales have ancient origins but and were revived in the modern era at the instigation of David Lloyd George in 1911. The 1969 Investiture was conceived as a heraldic pageant for the television age and tapped in to the Sixties’ phenomenon of ‘Swinging London’. Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the Earl of Snowdon, the Queen’s brother-in-law through his marriage to Princess Margaret, was the principal designer and was assisted by John Pound, a ‘brutalist’ designer from the Ministry of Works, and Carl Toms, the set designer who had trained under Snowdon’s uncle, Oliver Messel. The investiture took place on a circular dais, beneath a transparent Perspex canopy bearing a huge Prince of Wales feather crest, made from moulded plastic. Snowdon, as Constable of Caernarfon Castle wore a high collared bottle green costume of his own design that would not have looked out of place on Carnaby Street.
The Ministry of Works’ proposed seating in the form of planks mounted on scaffolding for the majority of guests, with only the VIPs permitted chairs. Fortunately this was overruled by the design team, who in tune with egalitarian vibe of the times, responded with distinctive vermillion investiture chairs for all. The designers attention to detail included the selection of a dye for the seat cover that would not run onto the guest’s clothes in case of a Welsh downpour.
The now iconic investiture chairs were manufactured by Remploy at Bridgend and after the 1969 ceremony were offered for sale and sold part assembled. Lord Snowdon bought six.