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Royal Travel Cases :: Nécessaires de Voyage

Royal Travel Cases :: Nécessaires de Voyage

by , April 8, 2014

The times aren’t what they used to be. We hear our parents, grandparents and (if you’re lucky) great grandparents saying that time and again. Although Mr Zing happens to not always agree with that, he has seen proof recently. And boy, what proof it was!


Belgium’s magnificent city of Antwerp, boasting one of the largest ports in the world, home to Belgian elite fashion designers, amazing chocolate and great beers (hey, even Obama said it) hosts a small exhibition dedicated to royal travel cases (link in Dutch) from February 7 to June 15, 2014.

royal travel cases

And wow! I could never have imagined how the royals might have traveled a hundred years ago – the term ‘packing light’ now feels like it has an entirely new meaning. Hope you’ve caught our enthusiasm so far…

The “Royal Travel Cases” exhibition gives an impression of the kind of items the upper classes took with them on their travels from the early 18th century to the mid-20th century. The travel prerequisites, or nécessaires de voyage as they were called in the court language of French, and the cases that held them changed over time depending on fashion and the mode of transport.

At first tableware was the main requirement but as the exacting French court travelers increasingly demanded more for their trips, toiletries, cutlery, flasks, candle holders, sewing kits and writing materials were all custom made and superbly crafted for travel in accompanying bags, trunks and cases. They were produced by cabinetmakers such as Louis Vuitton and Asprey (you might have heard of them, ha!), gold and silversmiths, crystal and porcelain manufacturers all working together in collaboration. Travel cases with tableware and toilet prerequisites were standard items in princesses’ dowries in the 19th century.

mahogany-paris-royal travel cases

The exhibition includes a Louis Vuitton picnic hamper dating from 1906 and ingeniously constructed 19th century travel cases by the famous French makers Biennais and Maire. Some of the Dutch royal family cases include a writing case belonging to Queen Wilhelmina, Prince Bernhard’s flight case, a toilet case of Queen Emma’s and an apothecary’s case owned by Prince Frederik (Willem II’s brother). The field bag with cutlery was used by King Willem II at the battle of Waterloo (1815) and the travel case belonging to Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel, Princess of Orange and the mother of the stadholder Willem IV, contains a valuable 18th century Meissen porcelain service.

Go check it out or if you’re not anywhere near Antwerp, check out the accompanying book “Royal Travel Cases” by Mies and Jaap Kamp with the stories behind 25 exceptional nécessaires de voyage of royal allure.



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