This bust of Léopold of Saxe-Coburg differs from the better-known official and more static representations of our first sovereign. Here, in fact, he is not represented as King of the Belgians, but rather as a future Prince Consort to the British Crown. This bust is thus a unique testimony to his career in Britain before he became our first king.
Léopold of Saxe-Coburg had been a prominent personality in the United Kingdom, having married, in 1816, Princess Charlotte-Augusta, daughter of the future George IV and heir to the British throne. Léopold had been appointed Field Marshall, the highest grade of the British army, as well as Knight of the Garter. However, the sudden death of Charlotte-Augusta after the birth of their child changed everything and Léopold was then to follow an entirely different course. This did not prevent him from maintaining excellent contacts with Britain and in particular with Queen Victoria, whose advice she very much appreciated. In fact, Léopold was one of the most influential diplomats of his time, as is borne out in the Goffinet Archives, acquired by the King Baudouin Foundation in 1993 and kept today in the archives of the Royal Palace.
This bust, in glazed earthenware or faience, was made by the Staffordshire pottery workshop, which produced objects for the general public, often in bright, vivacious colours. Initially, the workshop made mainly small, decorative objects, but later began to make, in more limited numbers, busts of well-known figures from the British socio-political world. The fact that a bust was produced confirms Léopold’s popularity in Britain. Princess Charlotte and her husband were much appreciated and were thus represented by the workshop. The large size of the bust is rather exceptional.