Illustrated Guide to Titania's Palace, A Short Account (Nevile Wilkinson)

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An overview of the contents of Titania's Palace, by Sir Nevile Wilkinson (1869-1940).


Titania's Palace was invented, designed and decorated by Sir Nevile Wilkinson, and contains his private collection of tiny-craft,


The entrance to Fairyland. By making an obeisance grown-ups may see the Pearl and Peacock Throne through the doorway opposite. The tapestries represent "pretty maids all of a row," holding shields with the Arms of the great Guilds of Handicraft in mediæval Florence. The cannon in the foreground was made by Michael Mann, armourer of Nuremberg, about the year 1580. The spears behind it are those of the Pricker Guards, the Queen's Bodyguard. The ceiling, together with all the others in the Palace, is the work of Sir Nevile Wilkinson.


The casket containing the Insignia of the Order of the Fairy Kiss, and the Royal Sleigh, stand on a floor made of 2,000 pieces of inlaid wood. In the foreground is a model of the Golden Hind, given to celebrate Queen Titania's adventure across the Spanish Main to Buenos Aires in 1931. There are many flowers by Miss Hindley, and a carved jade screen stands before the silver doorway leading to the Chapel. Portraits of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary hang on the walls. On seeing the latter Princess Elizabeth exclaimed “There's my Granny!" A remarkable staircase leads to the Minstrel's Gallery, under which are seen a bronze Dancing Faun, and a pair of valuable Chinese vases.


The reredos, with Murillo's Prado Assumption in the centre, took Sir Nevile Wilkinson four years to complete. In front of it is a copy of the Cross of Cong, while below it stands the Ardagh Chalice in miniature, both the originals being early Irish work. The design of the ceiling is adapted from the Book of Kells, in Trinity College, Dublin. The windows of translucent enamel, by Miss Kathleen Quigly, are unique of their kind. On the left is a boxwood group of the Holy Family from South Germany carved about 1600. An original illuminated Book of Hours written about 1450 is open on the chorale stand. The font was once the private seal of the Duke of Leinster, and the smallest rosary in the world hangs at the side of the Prie-Dieu (or fald-stool). Objects of exceptional interest are kept in the show case in the foreground. The chamber-organ, which can be played, is the gift of Mrs. Sillars of Glasgow.


This room is connected with the Chapel by a secret panel. The satin-wood writing-desk is the masterpiece of Mr. Fred Early; even the locks are perfect. The spinet is a working copy of that used by Handel at the Foundling Hospital. Alice's black kitten sits in front of the fireplace. Fairy fires need no chimneys, for they are made of glow-worms, fed on red currents. The elaborate inlaid ceiling was presented by the Knights of the Order of the Fairy Kiss, and contains their stars. Notice the screen made of early Persian Playing Cards, the Rose and Tiger-lily which spoke to Alice-through-the-Looking-glass, and the ivory spinning-wheel which belonged to the Sleeping Beauty.


On the floor above is the bedroom of two Princesses of Fairyland, Iris and Ruby. The furniture was painted by Sir Nevile Wilkinson. The washstand is supplied with soap, sponges and tooth-brushes,


A set of Bristol glass, more than 100 years old, stands on the table. The satin-wood sideboard, by Mr. Early, is perfect in every detail; and Mr. Uphill's William and Mary cupboard is remarkable. The two show-cases contain a collection of tiny-craft; notice the silver figures on horseback. At the end of the room there are two tables executed by Mr. Tommy Lennon. The fireplace is the work of Sir Nevile Wilkinson. Round the room are original paintings by Claes Molinaer, a 17th century Dutch Artist.


The Fairy Dollshouse stands in the corner of the Day Nursery, one twenty-fourth of nature. Before the fire stands Prince Crystal's cot, and visitors are respectfully asked to make as little noise as possible, in case the occupant is asleep. Here may be seen the clock down which the mouse ran. There are many toys collected from all parts of the world, and interesting examples of early French furniture.


The miniature flower painting on the right was the gift of Miss Laura Coombs Hills of Boston. U.S.A. The toilet service is of Limoges porcelain, and the embroidery on the sheets and towels is the work of the crippled girls at Croydon.


This room contains a remarkable collection of lacquer furniture, two pictures by Horace Vernet, and a landscape by Samuel Palmer. The bookcase was made by Mr. Harry Hicks and painted by Sir Nevile Wilkinson. It contains a collection of 75 tiny books, printed, illustrated, and bound in calf. The bureau and small cabinet are the joint work of Sir Nevile and Mr. Tommy Lennon. In the foreground stands a chess-table which has an authentic pedigree of more than 100 years. The ceiling is the work of Sir Nevile Wilkinson, and the tourmaline ornaments on the mantelpiece were carved for the ex-Empress of China. The ivory doorway also is Chinese.


On the floor above, a narrow passage, paved with mosaic, leads to the Bathroom and the Nurseries. Various articles of household utility are kept in this passage. The bathroom is famous for its floor, frieze and ceiling, painted in mosaic by Sir Nevile Wilkinson, A tiny sampler on the left wall bears the date 1797. On the right stands the rock-crystal basin in which the Fairies dye their wings, and there is an old Dutch silver towel-press and an up-to-date gas fire. The bath itself is of Roman marble.


Queen Mary's own signature is on the first page of Queen Titania's Visitor's Book, bearing the date 6th July 1922, which lies on the table. Prince Crystal's perambulator and Her Iridescence's bicycle stand on either side, and below is a pair of curling stones. Notice the Cromwellian hall-chairs. The double staircase is decorated with French flower-pieces, and there are genuine horns of the Blue Duiker gazelle from East Africa over the doors.


The landings on either side are remarkable for the inlaid work by Colonel Gillespie. The Queen's bed is inlaid with Charles II ivories, and was painted and designed by Sir Nevile Wilkinson, who also painted the elaborate ceiling and the yellow Italian furniture. The coverlet or bed-spread represents the Royal Arms of Fairyland executed in the finest Swiss needlework. Queen Mary presented the tea and toilet services. Queen Titania's ruby ring and gold thimble lie on the dressing table. The verses painted in gold round the frieze are copied from the earliest English song set to music, dated about 1350.


The Persian prayer-rug in the foreground was worked in petit point by Mrs. Scott Cator, and Mr. Withers of Wardour St. made the tiny ‘cello and bow. Bonnie Prince Charlie's claymores and Napoleon's sword hang beside the bureau, the latter is another masterpiece by Mr. Fred. Early. Americans will be interested in the smallest known engraved portrait of George Washington, which hangs between the windows. The ceiling of this room is worth noticing, and the settee and chairs are interesting.


The ceiling of this room, painted by Sir Nevile Wilkinson, was reproduced in color by the Illustrated London News of Jan, 23rd, 1932. Look for the "little mouse under the chair"; he and his companion should be properly in the Princes' bedroom, but they like the warmth from the study fire below. The carved bed is by Mr. Uphill of Wilton, and the furniture by Mr. Pierre Metge. A wonderful copy of the Red Boy by Mr. Spencerlaye hangs over the wash-hand-stand, on which is a razor and shaving-brush, while on the dressing-table the famous ivory collar-stud may be seen beside a pair of scissors.


In the centre case is the finest collection of tiny Bristol glass in the world. Every piece is at least a hundred years old, while the soup-ladle and egg are believed to be unique. The side cases contain specimens of blue Bristol, Nailsea, Bohemian and Murano (Venetian) glass, beside a Ming period Chinese Temple bell, and some carved amber Chinese pieces. In the background is a bead work bed of the time of Charles II.


The wash-stand and the walnut tallboy are by Mr. L. Leserve. The snow-shoes were a gift to the Princes from Canada, and the Windsor chairs are worthy of notice.


The diamond peacock set in the back of the throne was made by M. Baugrand, the French jeweller, for the Paris Exhibition of 1856, and was given to the Empress Eugenie. The tiny gold figures on the arms of the throne were made by Benvenuto Cellini himself, and the white plaque above is of Sevres biscuit. On the canopy is a second diamond peacock, which belonged to an Indian Ranee. The whole of the woodwork of this room was carried out by Mr. Tommy Lennon and Mr. Arthur Dunn from designs by Sir Nevile Wilkinson, who painted the mosaic ceiling, frieze and floor. On the mosaic tables, carved by Mr. Charles Bennett and painted in mosaic by Sir Nevile, stand a Greek cameo in the form of an onyx vase, and a gold, enamel, and diamond cup from King Theebaw's palace at Mandalay. The silver horses date back to the 17th century, and the jewelled crown of Fairyland stands on a gold and enamel table. Above the bronze door is an early French watch mounted by Mr. Pote Norris, and a carved rock-crystal plaque by Mr. Cecil Thomas is mounted in the wall to the left.
On the mosaic pavement in front of the throne is inscribed the dedication of the Palace to the Crippled Children for whom it was built, written in Greek:-"Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give thee."

Books by Sir Nevile Wilkinson containing the story of the Palace are as follows:–

(1) "Yvette in Italy." With 24 Illustrations.
(2) "Grey Fairy." With 25 Illustrations.
(3) "Yvette in Venice." With 28 Illustrations.
(4) "Yvette in Switzerland." With 20 Illustrations.
(5) "Yvette in the U.S.A." With 53 illustrations.

They may be obtained at the exhibitions of Titania's Palace, or from your local bookseller.

A more detailed description of the contents of the various rooms follows.

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