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The Prince of Wales and his entourage on camels posing for camera in front of Pyramid of Cheops and Pyramid of Cephrenes, Giza, Cairo. The Prince is seated on the camel fifth from the left. The man in the white suit with a cigar, gazing up at the Prince,

Modes of travel and travelling accessories used by monarchs past and present

China [Asia]

Pair of peach-shaped boxes and covers second half of eighteenth century

RCIN 10803

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Buying gifts for friends and family has long been a feature of royal travel overseas. During his visit to the Far East in 1922, Edward, Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) spent many hours seeking examples of Chinese and Japanese craftsmanship to take home. In Hong Kong he frequented Kowloon, 'visiting the markets and buying souvenirs in the shops'. At Nikko, he also 'spent a morning walking through the precincts of the temples; [and exploring] the quaint curio shops'. Many of the purchases were for his mother, Queen Mary (1867–1953), who was an enthusiastic collector of Chinese and Japanese works of art. Before the Prince's trip, she seems to have given her son careful instructions about pieces he should acquire during his travels. This pair of Chinese boxes, purchased in Japan, contains the label 'to the order of the Queen'.

The wooden boxes are covered with lacquer, which is derived from the sap of a tree found only in China and Japan. Lacquer was usually applied in numerous layers and then carved with designs illustrating mythical figures or creatures. In this case the boxes depict two of the 'Eight Immortals', legendary figures from Chinese mythology.