Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of Liberty & Co. on Regent Street, was memorialised as ‘The Man Who Killed the Best Parlour’ by introducing a whole new aesthetic to his aspirational middle-class customer. Liberty was inspired by London’s Pre-Raphaelite artists, who were not only his customers, but also part of his brand identity. Tapping into the market that Morris & Co had created, he offered unique luxury goods in an age of mass-production. Eclecticism became the watchword for drawing room decoration as the middle classes tried to outdo each other is displaying their newly-acquired ‘artistic’ taste.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is dominating the weekend news in Britain, and no doubt in the United States as well, where there is an insatiable appetite for the British Royal Family and its doings.
Of course we twenty-first century citizens are not the only people to have witnessed lavish celebrations to commemorate a long-standing British monarch. George III was the first to have his Golden Jubilee commemorated in 1809, but Queen Victoria saw Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Her reign (1837 – 1901) is still the longest in the history of Great Britain, though admittedly Elizabeth II is catching up fast.
Victoria, whose portrait hung in the family home when the Rossettis were children, was on the throne long before and long after the Pre-Raphaelite movement. During her reign, the Crown awarded a baronetcy to John Everett Millais (1885) and Edward Burne-Jones (1894). Though Burne-Jones said of his honor, ‘I half like it and half don’t care tuppence’, the half that liked it won the day. He accepted the baronetcy, despite his own reservations, and those of his wife Georgiana and fellow-artists George Frederick Watts (who twice turned down a baronetcy) and William Morris.