Christening font with a bowl in the form of an expanded flower with a border of water-liles and leaves; stem formed of leaves, flanked at the base by three seated cherubs playing lyres upon a circular plinth with coats of arms and supporters.
In anticipation of the birth of their first child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, on 21 November 1840, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned a new baptismal font. It is one of only two English silver fonts (the other having been made for Charles II in 1660). The somewhat secular iconography of water lilies and harping putti was deemed appropriate for a piece of christening plate as lilies were considered to represent purity and water lilies were associated with new life. Water lilies appear later on Queen Victoria's christening present to her grandson, Prince Albert Victor.
The font was ordered through the firm of E. & W. Smith who supplied Queen Victoria with several items of domestic plate in the early part of her reign. Evidently the firm subcontracted the job in their usual manner, in this case to Barnard & Co., who presented a bill on 8 February 1841 for £189 9s. 4d. The sum included an additional charge for altering one of the three coats of arms on the font for the Queen, the Prince and the Princess. It may be that the engraver assumed that the first child would be a boy and after the birth in November an alteration was required to the ‘label of difference’.
The date set for the baptism was 10 February 1841, the Queen and Prince Albert's wedding anniversary. The ceremony was conducted in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury using water from the River Jordan. Queen Victoria judged that the font looked ‘very beautiful’. The baby, dressed in Honiton lace and white satin, did not cry, and her mother recorded that ‘Albert & I agreed that all had gone off beautifully & in a very dignified manner’
A painting by C.R. Leslie shows that the font was placed on a circular centre table for the occasion. At the Prince of Wales's christening, which took place at Windsor a year later, the Charles II font was used as a stand. Barnard's font has been used at every royal christening since 1841.
Text from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love.
Commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1840 and delivered in 1841. Used at the christening of Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal, in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, 10 February 1841. Bill from Barnards 10 February 1841, for £401 10s.