Americans are no strangers to turning popular events into merchandising opportunities, but the British aren't slackers, either. With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding coming up on Saturday, May 19, 2018, the entire nation and, to some extent, the world, are gearing up for heavy-duty merch mode. Porcelain manufacturers and pottery makers churn out commemorative plates and mugs to meet the sudden rise in demand, while more opportunistic souvenir hawkers try to tie any product they can to the royal event.
Anything related to the wedding has souvenir potential, but coming up are the top 10 wackiest pieces of royal wedding memorabilia from the past and present.
1. Mustache Mug
In the Edwardian era, when bushy mustaches (or "moustaches," if you want to spell it the way Her Majesty does) were de rigueur for fashionable gentlemen, there had to be some way for men to drink without getting their mustaches all soggy with tea and lemonade. To rectify this problem, the mustache mug was created. It was an ingenious cup with a small shelf that fit over the lip and a hole underneath to sip through. One such mug, a unique item manufactured to honor King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Denmark, remains in the collection of Church's China.
2. Kate Middleton Porcelain Thimbles
Collecting thimbles is one of those odd pastimes where the memorabilia has outlived the usefulness of the actual item. Whereas thimbles were once a regular household item, nowadays, you can either use a porcelain thimble for its original purpose of painstakingly sewing something by hand, or playing an extremely classy game of Monopoly (assuming someone else already took the top hat). Or you can put Kate Middleton's picture on it — it'll look great next to your "Jersey Shore" samurai sword and Susan Boyle Napoleon hat.
3. Commemorative Frisbee
We're betting that the House of Windsor never signed off on having their names printed on a novelty flying disc that commemorated Charles and Di's wedding. But maybe they should have. Perhaps it symbolizes the couple's whirlwind romance. Or, the manufacturer was so passionate about the royals and disc sports that he wanted to combine the grace and majesty of the British Royal Family with the grace and majesty of Ultimate Frisbee. Then again, he might've just wanted to make a quick buck.
4. Royal Rubik's Cube
Rubik's cubes were popular in the 1980s, but they really didn't hit their stride until the old six-color model was abandoned and replaced with some human interest. It's boring to just sort colors — 3x3 colored blocks are hard to get emotionally attached to. It wasn't until some brilliant toymaker stumbled upon the idea of placing Lady Di's smiling face on one side and Prince Charles' on the other that the Rubik's cube finally made an emotional connection with its audience, surfing into the history books on a wave of popularity.
OK, we made up that story, but the commemorative Rubik's Cube really does exist. Some royal memorabilia is tasteful. Some shamelessly panders to the fads of the time. We'll leave it to you to decide which camp the 1981 royal wedding Rubik's Cube belongs to.
5. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson's Wedding Cake
Have you seen the episode of "Seinfeld" where Elaine unknowingly eats a 60-year-old slice of cake from the wedding of King Edward VIII?
What you might not know is that extremely old slice of cake exists and was auctioned at Sotheby's in 1998 for nearly $30,000. It was wrapped up in a box with the words "A PIECE OF OUR WEDDING CAKE W.E." The W.E. stands for Wallis and Edward, of course, but read backward, it's also a reminder that, however tempting it might be to look inside, that box should probably stay closed.
6. Prince William Royal Wedding Pillbox
The idea of selling memorabilia to commemorate a royal wedding isn't new. And as with all older traditions, there are some objects that may have made sense when memorabilia was a new concept -- but now they just seem dated and stale.
On that theme, we present the Prince William Royal Wedding Pillbox. It's not a hat. It's not a machine gun bunker. It's literally a box for storing pills.
He's not the first royal to grace a pillbox. Years and years ago, before the days of child-proof safety caps, pillboxes were all that stood between a child and a trip to the hospital for a stomach pumping.
We can understand why a pillbox with a picture of someone like Edward VII and his fearsome mustache might have been a deterrent, but Prince William? He's so handsome. We'll have to stick with the child-proof caps until a less inviting royal comes along.
7. Colonial Stamps
Back when having an overseas colonial empire was the cool thing for a nation-state to do, colonies in the British Empire issued commemorative stamps every time there was something to celebrate at home in the mother country. EBay is littered with royal stamps from all over the former British Empire — places like Guyana, Nigeria, Antigua and Kenya that people barely associate with Britain anymore. The stamps suggest that when the colonies heard about Queen Elizabeth II's silver wedding jubilee, they were so excited about being ruled by a far-away monarch that they had to make a stamp to celebrate. It was just about the smallest gesture they could make.
8. Prince William and Kate Middleton Welsh Dragon
Usually, porcelain wedding sets mean gravy boats and teacups, but not when you're the Prince of Wales.
Royal Crown Derby, a prestigious porcelain studio that's been in operation since 1750, produced a limited set of Welsh red dragons to commemorate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
We have to admit that this is our favorite item on the list. One of the perks of being the Prince of Wales is that you get one of the best mascots possible. England gets a bulldog, and Scotland gets a thistle, which are fine, but a red dragon? That's pretty cool, no matter how you cut it.
Royal Crown Derby also produced a collection to mark Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials, but none of the limited edition pieces got us as fired up.
9. Charles and Diana Royal Wedding Beer Mug
Charles and Diana lend a surprising amount of class to a porcelainbeer mug that you can get for 99 cents on eBay. Really, it looks more like part of a giant-sized teacup than anything else — the kind of cup that an earl might use at a garden party if he were 10 feet tall.
With its flowery motif, gold accents, and Prince Charles and Lady Diana smiling out of portraits on the front, you can get royally drunk on the romance and elegance of their 1981 wedding. And also on beer.
10. Dulce de Leche
Margaret Tyler, London grandmother and grand dame of royal memorabilia, has an extraordinarily large collection of royal memorabilia. It takes up five rooms in her house, according to Daily Mail writer Jessica Rach. Along with the usual trappings of commemorative plates, newspaper clippings and royal wedding programs, she also counts a jar of dulce de leche as part of her nearly $65,000 collection.
What's so special about a jar of sweetened milk? Apparently, it contains one of the late Princess Diana's hairs. Just how Mrs. Tyler acquired it remains a mystery, as does the question of how she knows the hair belongs to the late Princess. Whether the dulce de leche is still edible also hopefully remains a mystery.
Originally Published: Feb 14, 2011