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Instead of touring the Staffordshire factory of British craftwork firm Halcyon Days as originally planned, the company came to her at Windsor Castle earlier this week, along with master artisans demonstrating their skills. It is the sort of engagement the British public are likely to see more of as the Queen, who will be 96 next month, uses a walking stick and struggles with her mobility to get around her kingdom. Her people will increasingly have to come to her instead of hosting her visits.
It certainly seemed to suit the monarch. In the comfort of her own home in the White Drawing Room at Windsor she all smiles as she viewed a display of hand-decorated teapots and antique enamelled trinket boxes.
Wearing the half-moon glasses to examine the artefacts, she peered at the luxury pieces made by Halcyon Days, which is held in such high esteem by her family it is only one of 14 companies in the world to hold three royal warrants.
She also watched a demonstration of traditional enamelling and gilding by hand by master craftsmen from the firm.
The Queen was due to visit the Halcyon Days factory in Staffordshire in 2020 to mark its own Platinum Jubilee of 70 years, but plans were put on hold when the pandemic struck.
With mobility an increasing issue for her, the extended audience at Windsor on Wednesday was a rethinking of the original engagement to showcase the factory’s work and skills.
Dressed for spring in a silk floral day dress and wearing her favourite three-string pearl necklace, the Queen appeared in her element, smiling broadly as she was shown the presentation.
The intricately-decorated coffee cups and saucers and enamelled boxes were laid out on a white linen-covered table in the White Drawing Room.
Aides said the Queen had particularly enjoyed the visit, picking up some of the tiny enamelled boxes to inspect them.
Among the items was a selection of the earliest designs – the company was founded in 1950 just two years before the start of the Queen’s reign.
Inspecting antique pieces, the Queen held a small oval Windsor Castle trinket box with a red base, decorated with a black and white painting of her favourite royal residence.
She also picked up a larger rectangular trinket box, edged in lilac, featuring three colour portraits of her late mother the Queen Mother as a young woman.
The Queen Mother was an avid fan of the firm’s creations, and first commissioned an enamel box in 1970 of her London home Clarence House.
Other members of the Royal Family soon followed suit, and the Queen Mother went on to issue the company’s first royal warrant in 1972.
At the audience the Queen also saw Halcyon Days’ first ever “year box” – from the Silver Jubilee of 1977 – and viewed new Platinum Jubilee pieces which are dark blue and painted with platinum flowers of the realm.
Perched on the crook of the Queen’s left arm was her trademark black patent Launer handbag, and she also held her walking stick as she stood to look at the display.
She wore a sentimental piece of jewellery – her Flower Basket brooch – a basket of gem-studded flowers set with diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, which she was given by her parents in 1948 to mark the birth of her first child, Prince Charles.
Peter Harper, owner of the firm, and Pamela Harper, chairman and chief executive, talked the Queen through the pieces.
Princess Alexandra’s granddaughter Zenouska Mowatt, who is the company’s head of marketing, was also present.
Established to revive the artisan craft of enamelling on copper, Halcyon Days’ master artists employ traditional techniques which have been handed down for generations.
The company, which has an enamel factory in Wolverhampton and a fine bone china and jewellery factory in Stoke-on-Trent, holds all three royal warrants, by appointment to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
It is the only supplier of objets d’art to the Royal Household.
The event was the Queen’s first official face-to-face engagement with a number of people for more than seven weeks since her Platinum Jubilee reception at Sandringham House.
She contracted Covid in February and also spent more than three months from October under doctors’ orders to only conduct light duties.
The Queen is hoping to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday but it is likely she will make a final decision on the day on whether she feels well enough.
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