Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra, for Marlborough House, London; thence by descent.
Built in the early years of the eighteenth century, Marlborough House was designed by Sir Christopher Wren for the great Duke of Marlborough, whose descendants continued to occupy this palatial London mansion until the early 18th century, when it passed to the Crown. In 1863, the house was occupied by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and his consort, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, following their marriage on March 10th of that year. The Royal couple continued to live and entertain at Marlborough House until the Prince’s Ascension to the throne in 1901. In anticipation of the Prince and Princess’s arrival, the interior of Marlborough House was extensively remodelled under the direction of the architect Sir James Pennethorne. A suite of fashionable new reception rooms were created, providing the setting for sumptuous entertainments attended by leading figures from British and foreign society. As part of these works, which continued for several years, quantities of furniture were ordered. It was at this point undoubtedly that the present cabinets were commissioned from Holland & Sons. Photographs of the interior of Marlborough House shows this cabinet in the Large Drawing Room. (Arthur H Beavan, Marlborough House and its occupants Past and Present, London, 1896. pp. 25-5).
The commissioning of these pieces and indeed all the Holland and Sons furniture is consistent with the approach taken by the Prince and Princess of Wales to the decoration of their official London residence. They intended for Marlborough House to be a showcase of the highest quality of English craft and design, demonstrating to innumerable foreign dignitaries what England had to offer. As one contemporary commentator wrote of the house ‘in connection with furniture, it has been said that with truth, both the Prince and Princess have ever since their marriage done their utmost to encourage home manufacturers in every department and … everything in Marlborough House may broadly speaking be said to be of British make.’ (Beavan, op. cit., p. 55)
Holland & Sons
Originally founded in 1803 by Stephen Taprell and William Holland, a relation of the architect Henry Holland, the firm of Holland & Sons soon became one of the largest and most successful furniture making companies in the 19th Century. The firm worked extensively for the Royal Family, being granted the Royal Warrant early in the reign of Queen Victoria, hence taking a leading part in the decoration and furnishing of Osborne House, Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor Castle and the apartments of the Prince and Princess of Wales at Marlborough House. Holland and Sons also worked extensively for the British Government, for whom they executed over three hundred separate commissions, including the Palace of Westminster, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and oversaw the State funeral of the Duke of Wellington. Among their private commissions the firm produced a celebrated suite of bedroom furniture for the late Sir Harold Wernher at Luton Hoo.
Always at the forefront of fashion, Holland & Sons employed some of England’s leading designers and participated in all of the International Exhibitions of 1851, 1855, 1862, 1867, 1872 and 1878.