During the long Georgian century, arts and science flourished. The arts included architecture, portraiture, jewellery, furniture, interior design, prints and books, all of which are beautifully shown at a wide-ranging new exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery, that opens on April 11.
Among all the sciences, botanical discovery was an exciting and important field. In the first half of the 18th century, there were many discoveries of flora and fauna; while, mid-century, Carolus Linnaeus set out the classification system that we use today.
As they were discovered, new plants were painted in great detail by artists such as Georg Ehret. Ehret spent a year in England in 1734, during which he made 300 detailed illustrations. In 1722, the Chelsea Physic Garden had been expanded for the study of medicinal and other useful plants, using land leased to it by Royal physician Sir Hans Sloane (Sloane Square is named after him).
A little way along the river, the Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory used detailed botanical motifs on some of its porcelain. In 1759, the Royal Botanical Gardens were set up Kew.
All this interest in botany came together in a literal flowering of botanical porcelain. There are gorgeous examples in the show, including a set of botanically accurate plates illustrated by Ehret (c 1755); a joyful dessert service from 1752; two sets of tureens done like cauliflowers and bundles of asparagus; and two salts in the form of lobsters holding up scallop shells (for the salt). There are also tea, coffee, and chocolate services by Meissen - figurative rather than botanical, and spectacularly gilded.
Set of plates, Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory (c. 1755) Royal Collection Trust
You can buy into this look at the Queen’s Gallery shop, and from some other palace shops, too. Always strong in good-quality porcelain, the Queen's shop has superb Chelsea Porcelain-inspired items for sale, from a tea-towel at £8.95, a practical apron at £20, to a specially commissioned bone china Chelsea mug for £25. There are also cups and saucers at £39 and many other items available in this collectable design.
Meanwhile, Kensington Palace has a lovely cup and saucer in fine bone china, decorated, in Meissen spirit, in turquoise and 22-carat gold, for £40; a cake stand at £65; and many other single items; these are all part of its ‘Royal Palace’ design range. If your budget is tight, get the same design on sweet napkins for £3.99.
Tea cup and saucer, £40, at Kensington Palace Shop; Chelsea Teacup & saucer, £39, Queen's Gallery Shop
Also in the spirit of botany, Hampton Court Palace shop has a sophisticated Rococo floral silk scarf for £85.
At the V&A shop, alongside its William Kent exhibition, Babbacombe potteries in Torquay is hand-making an adorable pair of salt-and-pepper shakers done like miniature Toby jugs in Georgian dress for £50.
The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760 opens at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, SW1 on 11 April, till 12 October. Visit royalcollection.org.uk for full details.
To shop at the other Royal palaces online go to hrp.org.uk; or for the V&A shop online visit vandashop.com.