International Museum Day: 30 Objects – The Duchess of Cambridge, a German Princess

04 May 2017

For International Museum Day on 18 May our Head of Collections, Alice, has chosen her top 30 objects from Mount Stuart’s Collections which we’ll bring to you throughout the Month. Ranging from books, furniture, silver-work, paintings and documentation from hundreds of years of Stuart family life, this barely scratches the surface of our Collections so make sure to plan your visit and experience it for yourself!

This delicate porcelain inkwell made by the Nantgarw Pottery in Wales bears the portrait of the last lady to bear the title Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Augusta Hesse-Kassel, before it passed to Catherine Middleton on her marriage to Prince William.

The inkwell was part of a set commissioned for Cambridge House by George III in 1818 to celebrate his youngest surviving son’s marriage. The couple had two marriage ceremonies the first at Kassel, Hesse on the 7th of May and then later at Buckingham Palace on the 1st of June 1818. The union was apparently a happy one producing three children but an age difference of over two years meant the extremely long-lived duchess outlived her husband by thirty-nine years, dying at the age of ninety-one.

Duchess of Cambridge - Nantgarw Inkwell

The rare and important Swansea and Nantgarw collections produced in South Wales between 1812 and 1828 had relatively short production spans due to the harsh economic climate. The skill of the potters, painters and workers at these small factories produced porcelain of supreme quality and purity without financial or government aid.

Made and decorated by William Billingsley the inkwell bears a portrait miniature of the Duchess of Cambridge by Thomas Baxter described as “the most accomplished artist who painted Worcester porcelain in the first half of the eighteenth century” and it is thought to be the only portrait painted on a piece of Nantgarw porcelain in existence.