Later Inscriptions  Can Enhance Rather Than Detract

There are occasions where the later engraving on an object can add significantly to its historical importance.

Sifter with engraved crest establishing its Royal owner
Figure 1

 One example of this is a fiddle thread pattern sifter made in 1805 by George Smith (see above).

Sifter's crest and initials (Augusta Sophia
Figure 2

The initials AS on the front are beneath a Royal coronet (as in figure 2) and are those of Princess Augusta Sophia (1768-1840), the 7th child and second daughter of George III. 

Princess Augusta remained unmarried and she died intestate.  Soon after her death her eldest surviving brother Ernest Augustus (1771-1851), Duke of Cumberland from 1799 and King of Hanover from 1837, was 'disposed to purchase the whole of the Jewels and plate rather than that any part thereof should pass out of the family'[Note 1] .  Other documents in the Royal Archives, and objects in the Royal Collection, suggest that Ernest Augustus was successful in this endeavour. Thus the contemporary engraving on the sifter establishes its Royal provenance but subsequent engraving adds significantly to that provenance.

Extra inscription on back
Figure 3

The later initials EAFs on the reverse of the stem (see figure 3) prove that this piece was definitely acquired by Ernest Augustus.  These initials stand for Ernesti Augusti Fideicomissium-  the entailed estate of Ernest Augustus.  This was engraved on many of the English royal objects owned by the Kings of Hanover as part of the legal disputes between the English and Hanoverian branches of the British Royal family over pieces of royal property. These began with the separation of the two Crowns, united since 1714, in 1837 and the accessions of Queen Victoria in England and Ernest Augustus in Hanover.

The majority of the pieces of silver now on the market from the Hanoverian Royal Collection were released in two distinct dispersals.  The first was in the early 1920s through Crichton Brothers and the second in 2005 through Sothebys.  There is a partial catalogue for the first one and a fuller one for the second that illustrates this sifter as part of lot 1235 [ Note 2].  It therefore belonged to descendants of George III for around 200 years­— a significant enhancement of the provenance being provided by the later inscription.

Beaker with arms of Allen       Detailed arms of Allen showing crescent for 2nd son
Figure 4                                                                                              Figure 5

A second example of this phenomenon, again with Royal links (albeit a little more peripheral) is an unusually heavy beaker made in London in 1818 (see figure 4). 

When new it was engraved with the arms of the Allen family of Perthshire.  The arms have had a crescent added to denote a second son (see figure 5).  Two brothers from this family had their portrait painted by Sir Henry Raeburn in the 1790s and since 2002 the painting has been in the Kimbell Art Museum at Fort Worth, Texas [ Note 3].

However in the later nineteenth century another crest was added beneath the coat of arms — A swan's head out of a ducal coronet.  This was used by a number of families but the later inscription, containing the repeated final initial E, discreetly engraved on the base provides the key to identifying it (see figure 6).

Further inscription under base showing line of descent
Figure 6

The only family that uses it whose surname begins with E is Edmonstone, an ancient Scottish family whose royal service began in the mediaeval period.

Once this has been established the inscription serves to give the history of the beaker throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The family, a branch of an even more ancient one, was related by marriage to King Robert III of Scotland and has been resident at Duntreath since 1445.  They received a Baronetcy from George III in 1774.

The first line of the inscription describes the gift of the beaker to [WGE] William George Edmonstone. William was the eldest son of Sir Archibald Edmonstone the fifth Baronet (1867-1954) and his wife Ida (nee Forbes).  Sir Archibald served as Groom in Waiting to King Edward VII from 1907-1910. His son William was born in 1896 and was presented with this beaker by his godmother [MCM] Mary Clementina Murray (1857-1922).  She was born Mary Clementina Edmonstone and she was the daughter of Sir William Edmonstone, 4th Baronet (an Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria).   Mary Clementina was therefore both aunt and godmother to William George Edmonstone. She married the prominent Scottish lawyer and politician Andrew Murray, 1st and only Viscount Dunedin (1849-1942), in 1874. 

In 1916, when aged only 19,William George Edmonstone was killed at the Battle of the Somme while serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards.  His death is referred to in Diana Souhami's biography of Alice Keppel, the mistress of Edward VII and another aunt of William George Edmonstone [Note 4]:

“A telegram brought news of the death of the nineteen-year-old son of Ida and Archie.  Archie went to bed.  Mrs. Keppel sent for George [her husband, the Hon. George Keppel]...  Ida ... was  embroidering something in greens, yellows and blues.  In the hall they heard Alice say to George, 'Poor Archie, poor darling Archie, luckily dear Ida doesn't feel things like Archie.' When Alice came into the sitting room Ida did not look up from her embroidery”.

After William George's death, the beaker clearly remained in his family and the second two lines of the description detail its subsequent presentation by his father [AE] Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 5th Baronet.  This time it was presented to a member of the next generation — his grandson [WNE], William Neil Edmonstone in 1942.

William Neil Edmonstone was the eldest son of Sir Archibald's 3rd son — Edward St. John Edmonstone, whose godfather and sponsor was Edward VII.  William Neil was born on 11th August 1942 and died in January 2012.  He was survived by his wife and two step daughters [Note 5] .

In both these cases it is the later engraving, albeit discreet, that reveals the history of the piece and a link to the British royal family.  The final connection between the beaker and the house of Windsor comes through the Duchess of Cornwall who is a great grand daughter of Alice Keppel, sister of Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 5th Baronet.  The Prince of Wales, as a direct descendant of George III, is related to all of the owners of the sifter until it was sold in 2005 (also the year the Prince married the Duchess of Cornwall).

Luke Schrager

Note 1:               RA VIC/Add. R 53 cited in George III and Charlotte: 2002: p. 387.

Note 2:               Sotheby's (Schloss Marienburg): 5th-15th October 2005: Lot 1235.

Note 3:    

Note 4:              Souhami, Diana: Mrs. Keppel and her daughter: 1997: p.118

Note 5:               Daily Telegraph, obituary 2012

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