Collectible souvenirs for Queen's 90th birthday slated

The official commemorative merchandise specially created to mark the Queen's upcoming 90th birthday has been branded 'ugly' and 'useless' by a leading Scottish designer.

Gold-encrusted plates decorated with flowers have drawn disbelief from designers, while prices are felt to be too expensive. Picture: PA

The Queen, who is set to become a nonagenarian on 21 April, is said to be “delighted” with the collection, over which she had final approval.

But Edinburgh-based David Gerrard, a former chairman of the Chartered Society of Designers in Scotland and fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, has said he is “less than excited” by the offerings.

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Mr Gerrard, who is head of product design consultancy Gerrard and Medd, was the Scottish representative on the selection committee for approved souvenirs for the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Diana.

He expressed his astonishment that the gold-encrusted china, decorated in forget-me-nots and cornflowers – which traditionally flower in April, the month the monarch was born, and in June, the month of her official birthday – was chosen as the official Royal Collection Trust range.

“Quite who decided on producing such ephemeral objects to commemorate a monarch of the technological age, I cannot imagine,” he said.

Among the items are a mug and a tankard featuring the words of duty spoken by the Queen – then Princess Elizabeth – in 1947 in a radio broadcast on her 21st birthday: 
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”

The Scottish designer believes such mementos should be stylish, humorous or useful, but most of all cutting-edge.

He says the wares dreamed up for the Charles and Diana wedding were more inspiring. “It was an absolutely amazing collection of stuff,” he said. His personal favourite was a quirky mug featuring a Marc Boxer cartoon of Prince Charles and uses his ear as the handle.

Mr Gerrard’s view was supported yesterday by Professor Mike Press, chair of design policy at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, who said: “It is excellent to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday by showcasing the craft skills of those who live and work in the potteries.

“But why are the designs so tired and old-fashioned? Hers has been a remarkable reign that has seen the transformation of the United Kingdom – multiculturalism, cutting-edge science and the regeneration of our cities. Britain is looking to the future, not to the past. This Royal Collection is a missed opportunity to celebrate the true significance of the Elizabethan age.”

Prince Philip is a patron of the Chartered Society of Designers and has sponsored a prestigious design award in his name since 1959, won by the likes of Terence Conran, James Dyson and Norman Foster.

Mr Gerrard added: “The Duke of Edinburgh, as patron of the Chartered Society of Designers, I would have hoped might have had a thing or two to say about these horrible souvenirs. Such a pity, and such a wasted opportunity.”

Others have said the souvenir ceramics are too expensive, with a single cup and saucer coming in at £55 and a single dinner plate at £89.

The collection is available to buy in the gift shop at the Queen’s Scottish residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.