Edward Vernon was the son of James Vernon (1646-1727), secretary of State under William III. He was educated at Westminster School and entered the navy in 1700 at the age of 16. He became a lieutenant in 1702 on The Lennox. He took commamnd of his first ship in 1705, the frigate Dolphin. He fought in War of Spanish Succession and served in the West Indies and also spent time in the Baltic. He was made a vice-admiral in 1739 and is remembered both for the spirited capture of Porto Bello later in the same year, and also for his order in 1740, that forbade the serving of raw spirits on board any ship under his command. In home waters the daily ration was a gallon of beer for each seaman, but in the East and West Indies a half pint of brandy, rum or arrack was substituted. This was served neat once a day and resulted in much drunkenness and crime. Vernon ordered that the rum be watered with a quart of water and given to the men in two servings during the day. The resulting improvement of discipline led to the practice being taken up by the whole navy. The name 'Grog', given to the drink by the men, is supposed to have come from Vernon's nickname, which was derived from his habit of wearing a grogram boat-cloak.
His great success at Porto Bello was rewarded with a vote of thank from both houses of Parliament and the Freedom of the City of London. This was later marred by the failure of the follwing campaign at Cartagena due in most part to the incompetance of his fellow commander Brigadier-General Wentworth. Vernon return to England in 1742 where, in his absence, he had been returned as M.P. for Penryn and also for Ipswich. Although he was promoted to Admiral of the White in 1745, he was dissatisfied with the way the Admiralty had treated him. After the anonymous publication of two pamplets containing the confidential correspondence between Vernon, the Admiralty and the Duke of Bedford, he was dismissed. However he continued to show interest in navy affairs in his role as an M.P. He died suddenly at his estate in Suffolk. Some time after his death a monument by Rysbrack was erected in the north transept of Westmister Abbey in his memory.
Vernon was a considerable client of George Wickes. T. Schroder in Silver at Partridge notes that his first purchases, costing some £291 in 1742, were partly paid for with the spoils from his victory at Porto Bello. The account is credited with ninety-seven ounces of 'foreign silver', no doubt war booty, but also five hundred ounces of old plate. He notes further that the basket does not appear in the account, which suggests it was a stock item, as it is struck with the date letter for 1740/1, and was not part of the 1742 commission. Vernon's entries in the Wickes Ledgers continue until 1754. The design for the basket is very similar to that for a pair supplied by Wickes to Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1743. A note in the ledger suggests that the baskets were a gift from the Prince to his mistress Lady Archibald Hamilton, upon her appointment at lady in waiting to the Queen. One was sold from the Donald Morrison Collection; Sotheby's New York, 6 June 1980, lot 22, its pair is in a private collection.