• Explore the fascinating links between the Wedgwood brand and rulers from all corners and time periods of Europe.

Wedgwood and Royalty

  • by Carenza Price

George III ‘Health restored’ portrait medallion

Theme

Portrait medallions are the most obvious links between Wedgwood and royalty, as hundreds of medallions have been produced over the years, depicting royalty from all over Europe. Wedgwood was started up in the reign of George III making him an important monarch in the Wedgwood story. George III and Queen Charlotte had been patrons of Wedgwood since the early days of the firm, so when the king made an apparent recovery from a bout of madness in 1789, Wedgwood helped commemorate the event. The company produced three medallions, each with a different theme that were on sale to the public. The largest of these medallions depicted the figure of Nike (personification of victory) carving 'Health rest...' on a shield, while this medallion (the smallest of the three) shows the king wearing a laurel wreath, below a crown and ribbons bearing the words 'Health Restored'.

Given his importance, it is strange no events from George III's reign were commemorated by Wedgwood until the 1780's, not even the birth of the Prince of Wales in 1763. It is also strange because George was a popular king so products associated with him wouldn't do badly if sold to the public. One reason for the lack of associated products was Josiah Wedgwood's decidedly left wing stance against a king who had prosecuted against the American revolutionaries, but ultimately royal patronage came before personal politics which led to the production of the 'Health restored' medallions and other similar portrait medallions. The medallions would have done well not just from the king's popularity, but the widespread hatred of his son, the Prince Regent. His father's recovery meant the Prince was out of power for the time being, an occasion worth celebrating for the public.

After Josiah Wedgwood's death, Josiah II was less silent in commemorating the king as a service was issued for the Golden Jubilee in 1810, along with a bulb pot, decorated with a printed orange ground, 'famille-rose' print and enamel style flowers. The tradition of Wedgwood producing commemorative ware for royal jubilees was almost certainly started during the reign of George III and still continues today, the most recent examples being the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  

Catalogue

A blue jasper ‘dip’ cameo portrait of George III surmounted by a crown and ribbons featuring the legend ‘Health Restored’ was issued by Etruria in 1789 to celebrate the monarch’s apparent return to sanity. The bas-relief head is from the Academy Prize Medal entry by the artist Edward Burch dated 1785.