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InsightThe Sussexes

Official commemorative china for the Royal Wedding inspired by St George’s Chapel

The exclusive range of official pale blue and white commemorative china, commissioned by Buckingham Palace to mark the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has been released. Their wedding will take place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 19 May 2018. Made from English bone china, the design features the coronet of His Royal Highness, above the entwined monogram of ‘H’ and ‘M’, tied together with white ribbons. The exclusive range includes a tankard, pillbox, mug, miniature mug, tea towel, biscuit tin, crystal tot glass and a commemorative plate.

The design has also been inspired by the spectacular Gilebertus door at St George’s Chapel, reflecting the Chapel’s history and the place that the wedding will take within that history. St George’s Chapel first became popular for weddings during the reign of Queen Victoria. The choice of St George’s Chapel for weddings properly began with the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, which was celebrated there in 1863, thereby starting a tradition which has continued ever since, with the most recent royal marriage being that of Peter Philips – son of The Princess Royal – and Autumn Kelly, on 17 May 2008.

The Gilebertus door numbers among those few surviving parts of St George’s Chapel which was, in fact, part of the already existent thirteenth-century Chapel of St Edward the Confessor constructed by Henry III, to which Edward III’s new College of St George (1348) became attached. It therefore represents a remarkable survival of what remains of Windsor Castle’s first chapel. The door has been in its present position since the mid-thirteenth century, although it does not form the main entrance to St George’s Chapel. This is because it performed this function instead for Henry III’s royal chapel when it was part of the west wall. The Gilebertus door is still, however, the entrance for the Royal Family, on occasions such as the Easter service at the Chapel – an appropriate continuum of its earlier ceremonial use under Henry III. The magnificent door can be glimpsed on the public route before visitors pass out through the Albert Memorial Chapel.

The striking feature of the Gilebertus door is its beautiful, spiralled design, which includes animals, delicate leaves and trees amidst its loops. The present appearance of the door, with its red paint and magnificent ironwork, is the result of a 1955 restoration of the ‘scarlet gesso’ paint. This was once believed to have been part of the original colour scheme, during which the ironwork was also re-gilded. The lower section of the Gilebertus door was cut in the nineteenth century, possibly in connection with the development of what became the adjoining Albert Memorial Chapel, following the death of the Prince Consort in 1861, as part of which the floor in today’s east wall, may possibly have been heightened. The name ‘Gilebertus’ is taken from the name stamped into the design, which would seem to point to the maker of the door, whose identity, whilst not certain, could in fact point to a number of known individuals who worked at Windsor Castle in the thirteenth century. St George’s Chapel even suggests the design of the door could be linked to a pattern on coins introduced by Henry III in 1247.

The commemorative china range features a spiralled pattern in white on its borders; the entwined monogram is in gold, perhaps again, picking up on the gilding of the spectacular Gilebertus door. It would seem to be a most fitting inspiration – like the ribbon in the design – which ties the wedding to earlier, historic royal weddings celebrated at St George’s Chapel.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian and writer, specializing in Queen Victoria's family, Russian royalty and the Habsburgs. An independent scholar of royal studies, she has studied historic British and European royalty for nearly twenty years, speaking on the subject for both TV and BBC radio.