Fir for a king! A fine pair of heart-shaped dessert dishes, part of the service made for the Prince of Wales at the Derby factory c.1788. The cobalt blue border, gilded with a palmetto design, surrounds the familiar motif of the Prince of Wales's feathers, which is the heraldic badge of the office. It consists of three white feathers behind a gold coronet. A ribbon below the coronet bears the motto Ich Dien (German for "I serve," a contraction of "Ich diene"). The image is thought to have originated with Edward the Black Prince, ruler of Wales. According to legend, the Black Prince obtained the arms from the blind John I of Bohemia, against whom he fought in the Battle of Crécy in 1346. After the battle, the prince went to the body of the dead king (whom he admired for his bravery) and took his helmet, lined with ostrich feathers. The feathers and the dead king's motto made up the prince's new badge and came to be used by subsequent Princes of Wales. The Prince of Wales for whom these dishes were made, later King George IV, was known for his extravagant lifestyle and sexual excesses. His amorous nature was highly controversial. As Prince Regent, he had many mistresses until he secretly married Maria, a Catholic. His father George III had the marriage dissolved and the prince again turned to mistresses until he submitted to his father's wishes by marrying the unfortunate Caroline. The couple detested each other and their marriage was barely intact when their daughter was born in 1796. Caroline took the child and moved to Italy, returning to England when George succeeded his father, and she returned then only to claim the rights of queen, not to reunite with her husband. George managed to have her barred from his coronation, trying to deny her the title of queen. George was an enigma: bright, witty and able on the one hand, but indolent, spoiled and lazy on the other. The Duke of Wellington described him: "He was the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy and good feelings, in short, a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good, that I ever saw in any character in my life." One would hope that the next owner of this splendid pair will not imitate the dissolute king, at least in such a public fashion. These literally regal dishes measure ten inches across and are, of course, one of the most prestigious commissions of the Derby factory. They are identified in puce by the factory mark on the back. No chips or repairs. Slight staining and gilt wear.
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