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Detail showing Queen Victoria drinking tea at a Buckingham Palace Garden party

Serving and sipping a favourite beverage

Martin Guillaume Biennais (1764–1843)

Tea caddy 1809-19

RCIN 48396

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In the seventeenth century dry tea was so valuable that it was generally kept in a locked caddy to prevent servants from stealing it.  Over time, caddies became increasingly elaborate and personal items, as well as a convenient means for the wealthy to transport their preferred blends when travelling. This tea caddy, along with a teapot also in the Royal Collection (RCIN 48395), is from one of the travelling sets belonging to the Emperor Napoleon (1769–1821).  The caddy is designed to fit inside the pot when the pieces were packed into the case.

Edward VII (1841–1910) was so great an admirer of Napoleon that he created a Napoleonic Room at Marlborough House, lined with busts, sculptures, and paintings of the Emperor. However there was little there that belonged first-hand to Napoleon, and so this tea caddy – with its 'N' monogram and Napoleon's imperial coat of arms on one side – proved something of a star piece. It was carefully noted in an 1885 inventory as the Emperor's personal property.