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The Grand Service

George IV's spectacular silver-gilt dining service and buffet

A set of silver-gilt plates; the reeded rim cast with fruiting vines and scallop shells. The plate is engraved with the Royal coat of arms, with supporters, mantling and coronet.
Dessert plate (part of The Grand Service) ©

The Grand Service is the magnificent silver-gilt dining service commissioned by George IV (1762–1830) when Prince of Wales. It is made up of over 4,000 pieces for dining and display in a vast range of styles. Among them are elaborate dessert stands, candelabra and ice pails, as well as simpler items like trays and egg cups.

A set of silver-gilt plates; the reeded rim cast with fruiting vines and scallop shells. The plate is engraved with the Royal coat of arms, with supporters, mantling and coronet.

Dessert plate (part of The Grand Service) ©

The Service was made by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, following an initial commission of £60,000 worth of plate. The first delivery was made to Carlton House in 1811, and at a dinner there that year, the Prince sat against a glittering backdrop of the new silver gilt. In addition to this impressive Service, guests were also surprised by a channel of water running down the centre of the table, with real fish swimming in the stream.

As both Prince Regent (1811–20) and King (1820–30), George IV added to the Service, commissioning further dining plate and pieces for display. The first instalment had included plain silver as well as silver gilt, but gradually George IV ordered every piece to be gilded. This may have been a response to comments that the silver plate seemed 'cold and poor' next to the gilded plate, as well as an attempt to rival the gilded collections of Napoleon I. Gilding the entire Service also helped to give the varied pieces a feeling of consistency.

Among other items, the Grand Service includes 140 dishes, 288 dinner plates, 118 salts, 12 ice pails, 58 dessert stands and centrepieces and 107 candelabra. The pieces have no single style of decoration but include a range of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and oriental designs. Some pieces include marine themes, inspired by the dining service of George IV's grandfather, Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–51).

The Service is so large and so magnificent that it has never been replaced. It remains in use to this day and is placed on the table for State Banquets at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, as well as for other official and ceremonial events.

The film below shows pieces from the Grand Service being prepared for a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace.