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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Palace sniffed at Queen souvenirs
Commemorative Royal wedding flag, 1947
The plastic flag amounted "almost to a caricature", officials complained
The Queen's courtiers turned up their noses at souvenir handkerchiefs commemorating her wedding, previously unseen documents have revealed.

But Buckingham Palace officials failed to prevent "tasteless" memorabilia marking her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 going on sale.

The Home Office ruled the hankies were acceptable, since buyers were unlikely to blow their noses on them.

Their correspondence has been released by the National Archives in London.

'Not desirable'

Other items celebrating the wedding which officials viewed with distaste included a brooch and a plastic Union Flag "defaced" with a portrait of the Royal couple which they asked to have withdrawn.

But despite their low opinion of the products, the Home Office advised they were powerless to intervene.

Cheadle Fabric Co's request to produce handkerchiefs printed with pictures of the then Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten clearly irritated the Royal household.

My own view is that it is not desirable for such a handkerchiefs to be made
Commander Dudley Colles
Privy Purse Office, 1947

But in a letter to the Palace, one civil servant wrote: "Hitherto, the Home Office attitude has been that where a handkerchief would, by virtue of its small size, design and material not be suitable for the ordinary purpose for which handkerchiefs are made, but would be purchased and laid away as a souvenir of an historic occasion, objection would not be taken."

Commander Dudley Colles in the Privy Purse Office had contacted the Home Office asking vainly if he could do anything to prevent their sale.

He wrote: "My own view is that it is not desirable for such a handkerchiefs to be made, but I am not sure that the decision in this matter is one for the Privy Purse to make."

Indicating that he shared the courtiers' view of the handkerchief, HA Strutt of the Home Office told Colles that he should inform Cheadle Fabric Co that formal permission could not be given to the proposals, leaving the firm "to draw its own conclusions" about the Palace's attitude.

The wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in November 1947 attracted a flurry of businesses hoping to cash in.

The item which appears to have most antagonised the Palace was the plastic flag with portraits of the couple in the middle.

Royal wedding, 1947
A more accurate rendering of the Royal wedding on 20 November 1947

The Home Office also shuddered at the drawings, complaining that the rendering of Philip amounted "almost to a caricature".

In addition, it said, "in the sample submitted, the Union Flag is not a proper drawing".

The red stripes of the St George's Cross were of unequal width, it said, the St Patrick's cross was the wrong way round and the flag was the wrong shape.

'Not good likenesses'

In a letter to its manufacturer, Crescent Studio in Stoke Newington, north London, an N Storr of the Home Office said it was free to produce the flag.

He wrote: "With reference to your recent interview with an officer of this department, I am directed by the Secretary of State to say that no objection will be raised to the production of a Union flag defaced with representations of Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, as a souvenir of the Royal Wedding."

But he added: "It is suggested that the two drawings should be redesigned as at present they are not good likenesses."

In the midst of post-war austerity and rationing, Strutt was uneasy that Britain's weakened industrial base producing such trinkets.

He wrote: "Timber and metals are short and there is an overall scarcity of labour.

"There are so many urgent domestic needs to be satisfied which are a long way from satisfaction that it seems to me doubtful whether industry generally, in its various branches, would be able to venture into the field of permanent souvenirs, even if it wanted to and had the necessary materials available."

A more senior civil servant pointed out that the lack of legislation covering the issue made the government powerless to act.

He wrote: "There are no enforceable rules prohibiting manufacture of articles which, it is considered, should not bear the Royal portrait."

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