A Chinese silver-gilt mounted blue and white bowl, with contemporary English mounts, circa 1580-1600.

This bowl is known as the ‘Walsingham Bowl’. An associated box bears an inscription which reads : ” The bason inclosed herein, was given by Queen Elizabeth, when she stood, Godmother, to my great grandfather Walsingham and was given to me by my Aunt, ye Lady Osborne, (granddaughter to ye said Walsingham) as being the only male heir of ye family left, so that my children may be christened in it, as all her family were before. 1731.” The bowl was inherited by Isabella Poyntz, wife of Brownlow, 2nd Marquess of Exeter in 1842, having passed to her mother through inheritance, and continues to be used for christenings.

Sir Francis Drake sailed from England in December 1577, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to raid Spanish shipping and settlements in the Americas.  Before returning home, he sheltered in the natural harbour of a bay on the California coast to effect repairs on his ship. Modern excavations of the area have revealed shards of porcelain that bear decoration very similar to that on this bowl. It seems entirely possible that Drake brought back ceramics looted from a Spanish vessel, or vessels, that had been trading in the Far East, including perhaps, this bowl, which he would have presented to the Queen on his triumphant return.


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