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The Royal Silver Dining Service, commissioned by George III for his electoral palace in Hanover, will go on indefinite loan at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire in 2003, but until then visitors to the Gilbert Collection’s silver gallery will be able to see the 80-piece service, including a pair of wine coolers lent by the Queen, together in all its glory.

The bringing together of the surviving pieces from the service is quite a coup as it has been divided for decades, and the influence of the chairman of The Gilbert Collection Trust, Lord Rothschild, can only have been a help. It is one of his forebears who built Waddesdon and it is a Rothschild family trust which has recently acquired the service.

The history of the service follows the troubled history of the Hanoverians. In 1837, on the accession of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Cumberland became King of Hanover. His son George refused to support Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and lost Hanover to the new Germany.

The summer palace of Herrenhausen was sacked but the dinner service was buried in the grounds and survived. In 1924 the service was sold by the Hanover royal family and divided. The silver to be shown at Somerset House was bought by Alphonse de Rothschild, whose uncle, Baron Ferdinand, built Waddesdon. After his death 23 pieces passed to the Louvre in Paris, with the remainder changing hands and ending up in a private collection. Now it has been brought together for a major display.

In the neoclassical taste, the service includes coolers, candelabra, sauceboats and tureens designed by Robert-Joseph Auguste, and all marked with the king’s cypher and royal crown. Auguste (1723-1805) was the pre-eminent Parisian goldsmith of his day, who among other commissions made no fewer than four large services for Catherine the Great.

The exhibition will be in two parts: a double-sided buffet showing a massive display of the silver in five cases linked with the emblem of George III of Hanover; and a display devised by Paul Dyson of a table covered by a huge damask cloth which will be an 18th century placement, showing where each piece of silver would have stood.
For more details of the exhibition, which will be open daily from 10am-6pm, contact The Gilbert Collection on 020 7420 9400.