This magnificent casket, a presentation which demonstrated the close ties between Austria and Germany, encompasses symbolic figures of Love, Peace, Fertility and Fidelity, appropriate for a silver wedding gift and for a longstanding alliance between two powerful countries.
The design, though based on earlier German and Italian examples by such masters as Wenzel Jamnitzer, is most likely to have been inspired by the tastes of the Crown Princess Victoria, whose flamboyant style and interest in artistic matters is well documented. Born a Princess Royal of Great Britain at Buckingham Palace, beloved eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, Victoria was in a position to influence contemporary attitudes towards art and design. She was elected to membership of the Berlin Academy in 1861, and her encouragement of the arts was translated into a permanent feature for the public when the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum was established in 1881 under her auspices. Of their former Princess Royal, the Illustrated London News, 3 February 1883, reported that 'Her appreciation of painting and knowledge of art might be seen reflected in the presents sent at the Silver Wedding. Not only were the objects all marked by high development of taste, but pictures and articles which were purely artistic were very prominent.'
The Crown Princess' staunch 'Englishness' was not universally appreciated, however, nor was her insistence on referring to England as 'home'. In the mid to late nineteenth century, when Prussia was effectively ruled by Bismarck, the friendship of the Austrian royal couple towards the Crown Prince and Princess provided a lever to keep Bismarck's hostility in check. Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who had succeeded at eighteen and ruled for sixty-eight years, strongly suppressed uprisings in Austria, Hungary and Italy. His reign saw increased prosperity and economic growth at home. The arts flourished, influenced by his wife, Empress Elizabeth (later to be assassinated by an anarchist) who, as an expert horsewoman, was particularly popular in Great Britain.
The Silver Wedding of the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany would prove to be one of the last great occasions at which could be seen the full measure of Habsburg, British, Prussian and German interconnection before these houses were divided by anarchy and war.