The monogram H St A and coronet are those of Harriot Mellon, Duchess of St. Albans (circa 1775-1837), previously the wife of Thomas Coutts, the banker.
"A remarkably handsome brunette with a very tall, fine figure, raven locks, ivory teeth, a cheek like a peach and coral lips," actress Harriot Mellon caught the attention of the wealthy and elderly banker Thomas Coutts. When Coutts's first wife died in 1815, Harriot and Thomas married; she was 35 and he was 80. Upon his death seven years later, Thomas Coutts bequeathed his entire estate, consisting of over £600,000 and his half-share in Coutts's Bank to Harriot. For her second husband, Harriot chose the 9th Duke of St. Albans. Although penniless and twenty-four years her junior, the Duke offered Harriot an elevation to the peerage, and this second marriage completed Harriot's steady upward climb from actress to Duchess.
During an age of extravagant parties and excessive food and drink, Harriot entertained on a regal scale. She regularly hosted 500, 600 and 700 guests at her London residence at Stratton Street, Holly Lodge, her villa in Highgate, and St. Albans House in Brighton. Guests might snicker at her extravagance, but gladly attended her parties. Sir Walter Scott wrote "it is the fashion to attend Mrs. Coutts's parties and to abuse her." Indeed, Harriot's humble origins, her public persona and her profuse spending made her a constant target of the press, and she became the subject of endless caricatures and pamphlets, such as The Secret Memoirs of Harriot Pumpkin.
Not surprisingly, Harriot commissioned extravagant silver for these fêtes, amassing one of the more significant silver services of the Regency period. While The Morning Post credited the collection to Thomas Coutts, declaring that "the service of plate [left to Harriot] is said to be the most valuable in any of the country," it is clear that it was Harriot, rather than her husband, who was the driving force behind this collection, as silver was acquired during both of her marriages and her widowhood.
Harriot's silver collection remained intact well after her death in 1837. Careful to safeguard her possessions and the memory of Thomas Coutts, she settled her estate upon only one of his grandchildren, Angela Burdett-Coutts. When this noted Victorian philanthropist died in 1906, the silver remained in storage until sold in successive Christie's sales from 1914 to 1922.