Had she lived, today would have been Queen Victoria’s 195th birthday. She still “holds the crown” for longest-reigning British monarch (until 10 September 2015 at which point Queen Elizabeth II—should she still hold the throne—will surpass Victoria). Victoria was quite far-down the line of succession but circumstances cleared a path for her—her father died when she was very young and none of her three uncles had any legitimate heirs. She ascended the throne at 18 years of age when her uncle, William IV, died in 1837. Despite the happenstance of her accession, she reigned over a period of tremendous British growth, modernization, and imperial expansion.
The piece above was made in 1897 to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the throne). It is made of “Parianware,” a type of bisque ceramic named after the white marble found on Mount Elias, on the island of Paros, Greece. It was made by the British firm Robinson and Leadbeater of Stoke, England. While there were many pottery workshops that crafted Parianware items (alongside their normal range of ceramics), Robinson and Leadbeater focussed exclusively on it, making only Parianware. They began business in 1865 when they took-over an existing pottery factory and bought the company’s old moulds. Artist Roland Morris was the chief designer and man responsible for the consistently high quality of the work. Because of Morris—and the fact that they only made Parianware—Robinson and Leadbeater are recognized as having produced the best product of this type.