Belfast Telegraph

Queen's heirlooms valued by Antiques Roadshow experts

By Ed Carty and David Young

It was her second TV set visit in two days - but this one seemed much more suited to her style.

Just a day after spurning the chance to sit on the famous Iron Throne, Her Majesty revealed she is a huge fan of the Antiques Roadshow.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh said they were looking forward to a special episode of the BBC show after experts assessed items from the royal collections at Hillsborough Castle.

The royal couple left Northern Ireland yesterday at the end of their 21st trip here which included visits to the Game of Thrones TV set, a walkabout in Belfast’s St George’s Market and a memorial event in Coleraine.

Buckingham Palace officials hailed the three-day visit as an overwhelming success.

Among the pieces the Antiques Roadshow experts focused on yesterday was a small, bronze sculpture of a horse and jockey, believed to be of the 1863 Derby winner Macaroni.

The history of the work by French artist Pierre Jules Mene, and the race, stirred interest after the experts revealed the Epsom winner took home the spoils after 32 false starts.

“It seems very incompetent doesn't it,” the Queen said. “But quite interesting.”

The royals discussed several items with specialists from the popular show at Hillsborough Castle — the royals' home in Northern Ireland — before hundreds of people from across Northern Ireland queue tomorrow to have items valued for the filming of the latest episode of the BBC series.

The Co Down home has been part of the Historic Royal Palaces group since April and is now open to the public.

Prince Philip was keen to find out when their discussions with the experts would air, expected to be in the autumn, or late summer.

The Queen turned from signing the visitors' book to add: “If it is in August then even better because we might have a chance to see it.”

In private discussions with the show's experts, the Queen said she thought she was aware of the owner of 1863 Derby winner, Liverpool banker Richard Naylor.

The horse was bred by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster. The royals were also shown a George IV library table, one of a pair kept at Hillsborough; an 18th century Chinese soup tureen and five figurines from a Meissen monkey orchestra, both of which are held in the National Museum of Northern Ireland.

One of the more interesting pieces was a Wagga Wagga stick which was gifted to the Queen on her tour of Australia in 1954. There is no explanation of how the Aboriginal fighting club ended up in Hillsborough.

The Antiques Roadshow's Paul Atterbury, an expert in miscellaneous items, John Axford, an expert in ceramics and the Far East, and Hilary Kay, also an expert in miscellaneous items, introduced the items and spent about 10 minutes with the royals.

Ms Kay introduced a christening cup to the Queen that has a strong connection to the royal family.

“What was lovely about this is, this is a piece unlike the other objects as it has a direct family connection,” she said. “She loved the silver and she was very interested in the stories behind the items — they were both interested in everything on the table.”

The cup was gifted to the daughter of the chief engineer on a transatlantic liner after she was born while Lord Granville, Governor of Northern Ireland, and his wife were travelling on the ship to America.

On hearing the news Lady Granville, the Queen's aunt, said she would send a gift for the new arrival, Rose.

The Queen heard today how the young woman offered the silver back to the royal family and management of Hillsborough Castle, along with two family photographs, to add to their collections.

The Aboriginal fighting club stirred some interest from the Prince Philip who wanted to know how it was traced to the royals going back to one of their earliest foreign trips 60 years ago.

“Where's the evidence?” he joked.

Mr Atterbury offered what little advice was available to the royals.

“The story between then and now is mysterious. I think that's like a lot of things that arrive here in the palace without any clear knowledge of how or why. All the things here (on the table) are in the house for one reason or another without the back story.”

Six of the best from collection

1. A small, bronze sculpture of a horse and jockey, believed to be of the 1863 Derby winner Macaroni.

The history of the work by French artist Pierre Jules Mêne, and the race, stirred interest after the experts revealed the Epsom winner took home the spoils after 32 false starts.

Pierre Jules Mêne was considered the pioneer of animal sculpture in the 19th century.

Bids for sculptures can reach more than £3,000.

2. A George IV library table circa 1825 – one of a pair kept at Hillsborough. The library tables can differ in shape and size.

It traditionally has a rounded rectangular top with a gadrooned edge – which is an elaborately carved or a decorative series of curved moldings.

A similar table can fetch up to £12,000.

3. An 18th century Chinese soup tureen. With uses ranging from a soup container at dinner parties to a practical vase, soup tureens were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries

Tureens were first made of pewter or silver and the designs developed in metal were later adapted for the earthenware and porcelain.

Prices vary according to age, provenance and condition.

4. Five figurines from a Meissen monkey orchestra, both of which are held in the Ulster Museum. The Monkey Orchestra, consisting of 21 figurines, is one of the most whimsical classics of Meissen Baroque. It was created in 1753 by Johann Joachim Kaendler. A set of these figures was originally made by the Meissen factory for Augustus III, King of Saxony.

He was famous for his lavish banquets and the story goes that one day a guest made fun of his orchestra and said that they played like performing monkeys.

This amused the king so much that someone thought it would be a good idea to make a full orchestra of monkeys out of porcelain and set them out on his table at one of his banquets. Hence, porcelain monkey bands were created by the Meissen factory. Rare examples of the monkeys can fetch up to £10,000.

5. A Wagga Wagga stick which was gifted to the Queen on her tour of Australia in 1954. There is no explanation of how the Aboriginal fighting club ended up in Hillsborough. Clubs are usually always made from mulga wood and can vary in shapes and sizes.

In Aboriginal art paintings, fighting clubs are usually depicted the same as digging sticks.

The cost of a Wagga Wagga stick is not known.

6. A christening cup that has a strong connection to the royal family.

The cup was gifted to the daughter of the chief engineer on a transatlantic liner after she was born while Lord Granville, Governor of Northern Ireland, and his wife, were travelling on the ship to America.

On hearing the news Lady Granville, the Queen's aunt, said she would send a gift for the new arrival, Rose.

The Queen heard how the young woman offered the silver back to the royal family and management of Hillsborough Castle, along with two family photographs, to add to their collections.

Value would largely be based on the provenance of the item.

Keeping ma'am on value of royal artefacts

The value of items in the royal collection remains a mystery.

The Belfast Telegraph yesterday attempted to obtain the estimated values for the artefacts examined by the publicly-funded BBC Antiques Roadshow team.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce and the show's leading antiques and fine arts specialists at the castle yesterday, ahead of a public event there today.

But a spokeswoman for Hillsborough Castle said "in the interests of viewers" no information about the items from the royal collection can be released.

The programme is expected to be broadcast in August.

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