Image for Of Envoy’s Past ...

The word envoy appeals to me.

Defined as a minister plenipotentiary ranking below ambassador and above charge d’affaires, the word came into my life when I sold this important plateau. In fact I have sold it twice.

It bears the arms of Stewart with a crescent for difference, for Charles William, 1st Baron Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854) in addition to the Royal arms as used in ambassadorial plate when issued by the Jewel House.

His diplomatic career began with his role as Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to Berlin 1813-14 for which this service of plate was issued. Later he was promoted and served as Ambassador to Vienna until 1823. He began this post by serving as the British Envoy to the Congress of Vienna.  Lord Charles’ possessions, displayed during the Congress, earned him the nickname “Golden Peacock.”  The Congress gossiped about his drunken loutish behaviour, for example punching cab drivers and his coachman’s horse, goosing debutantes at the Opera, and his affairs with the Duchesse de Sagan and Princess Bagration.

His lordship’s personal flair was matched by that of his table. This plateau, a few years old but updated by Paul Storr with the arms of its recipient in 1814, was one of the most impressive items supplied by the Jewel House for the new envoy to Berlin . Much of the rest of the Londonderry plate has now been purchased by the British government and is in the Banqueting Room at Brighton Pavilion, along with a pair of gilt soup tureens, six gilt wine coolers, and a gilt candelabrum centrepiece, all by Paul Storr, 1813-14, and four gilt decanter stands and ten gilt wine labels by Benjamin and James Smith.

This impressive dining plate was put to good use for Stewart’s chef in Vienna, the great Antonin Carême, fresh from cooking for the Prince Regent.  Carême described Stewart as “handsome, polite, spiritual, intelligent, loyal, generous ... and a great lover of the table.”

Despite dedicating several books to the Stewarts, and inventing a “partridge soup à la Stewart”, by 1820 Carême had left for Russia to cook for the Tsar.

This was when an Envoy had real substance, but then he never wrecked a political party or, on the cooking front, had to deal with Annabel Crabb ... however there is now a shortage of horses and coachmen to punch.

*John Hawkins born and educated in England. He has lived in Tasmania for 13 years. He is the author of “Australian Silver 1800–1900” and “Thomas Cole and Victorian Clockmaking” and “The Hawkins Zoomorphic Collection” as well as “The Al Tajir Collection of Silver and Gold” and nearly 100 articles on the Australian Decorative Arts. He is a Past President and Life Member of The Australian Art & Antique Dealers Association. John has lived in Australia for 50 years and is 75 this year. In two of the world’s longest endurance marathons and in the only teams to ever complete these two events, he drove his four-in-hand team from Melbourne to Sydney in 1985 and from Sydney to Brisbane in 1988.