A triumph of design – Royal Ascot heritageMay 14, 2019
There is one race in an already famous week that is perhaps the most prestigious of all.
That is the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Her Majesty The Queen presents the trophy to the winner, who then has the privilege of keeping it in perpetuity.
For this reason, a new Gold Cup is created every year – along with the Queen’s Vase and Royal Hunt Cup – to a design approved by the reigning monarch. It was Garrard that made the very first Gold Cup in 1842, and it is Garrard that designs these trophies today.
The original appointment, a year before Garrard became Crown Jeweller, was a natural choice. The House had already gained a considerable reputation as silversmith from its days working under the sign of the Kings Arms on Haymarket. Coffee pots, tureens, wine coolers and inkstands were regularly made for royal patrons, as well as other customers at the height of society.
The concluding moments of the Battle of Crécy dominated the first Gold Cup, with the King of Bohemia’s banner being laid at the feet of the victorious Black Prince. Describing the group in 1842, the Illustrated London News wrote: “The contrast between the golden ornaments and weapons, the burnished silver which imitates the plate armour and the frosted silver forming the chain mail produce a remarkably fine effect.”
Similar subjects featured on Garrard’s other Royal Ascot trophies. For example, ‘Mexican throwing the Lasso’, ‘Arabs hunting a Lioness’ and ‘Sioux hunting Bison’ adorned the Queen’s Vase over the years. Horses buck and rear, necks twist, flags flutter: all demonstrate the House’s technical brilliance in burnishing, patination and gilding.
With the move into the twentieth century, the three trophies became smaller and more classically elegant – an approach that is still in evidence today. These cups were joined by other Royal Ascot commissions, including gifts for the week’s jockeys and trainers, and trophies for other races at the course, such as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July. To these were added trophies for the Premier League, British Masters and the Derby, as well as medals for the Invictus Games.
As this year’s Royal Ascot trophies are unveiled, the question on everyone’s lips will be: who will their winners be? Only one trophy is presented to the owner of the winning horse on the day. As a result, Garrard is kept busy with replica commissions and engravings.
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