Snuff box c.1770
Amethystine quartz, gold, diamonds, rubies | 2.8 x 4.9 x 3.6 cm | RCIN 9162
Rectangular hinged amethystine quartz snuff box, mounted with gold rim and base tooled with guilloché decoration, large floral thumbpiece of gold set diamonds and rubies. Interior solid amethystine quartz with beautifully moulded base.
Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, was an enthusiastic taker of snuff, a finely ground mixture of tobacco and aromatics popular from the early eighteenth century. The sale of her possessions in 1819 included over 90 snuff boxes made of a wide variety of different materials and 353 bottles of ‘highly scented snuff from the Royal Manufactory of Seville’.
The Queen perhaps used snuff to ease the terrible headaches of which she often complained. Snuff-taking was a habit she had adopted before her arrival in England and one which she and the King did not share. To please his new bride, the King had tried a pinch on the second day of their marriage, but this was said to have ‘made him sneeze prodigiously’. The Queen’s favoured blend of snuff was Violet Strasbourg, a mixture of powdered rappee, bitter almonds, ambergris and attarju, which she augmented with a spoonful of green tea every morning.
This snuff box belonged to Queen Charlotte’s daughter Princess Sophia, after whose death it passed to her sister the Duchess of Gloucester. She in turn bequeathed it to her niece Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, who passed it to her daughter, Queen Mary. Queen Mary’s passionate interest in Queen Charlotte led her to identify this box, perhaps somewhat optimistically, with the ‘Snuff box of the rare and fine root of amethyst, the lid set with flowers formed of diamonds and coloured stones’ sold in Queen Charlotte’s sale on 18 May 1819 (lot 9).
Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004
ProvenancePossibly Queen Charlotte; Princess Sophia; passed to Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (d.1857); by whom bequeathed to Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck; by whom given/bequeathed to Queen Mary (QMB I, no.283).
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