A Bohemian birthday present fit for a queen

23-03-2006

It is always a challenge finding a suitable birthday present for someone, at least when that person is a multi billionaire head of state, but this is something with which Czech craftsmen have had to deal this year. As Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II approaches her 80th birthday, a leading Czech glassworks has begun work on a unique birthday gift on behalf of the Czech people.

On the 21st of April this year, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 80th birthday. The milestone anniversary will be marked in Great Britain by a calendar of both private family gatherings and public occasions. They will include the traditional trooping of the colour for the official celebrations on the 17th June, when the Queen will receive birthday gifts from all around the world. During her lifetime, the Queen has been given a number of rare and curious presents. For her 18th birthday in 1944, for example, she received the first of her famous collection of corgis, which now numbers over 30, and a pair of Cartier aquamarine and diamond brooches from her father King George VI. Now, as the Queen approaches her 80th year, the Czech Republic is also preparing a unique gift for Her Majesty. The Sklo Bohemia Glass Workshop has announced that it is currently producing a valuable ornament of Bohemian Crystal, the country's most renowned craft. Although the exact design of the piece is being kept tightly under wraps, Petr Tomisek, a spokesman for the company, revealed a little about the royal birthday present:

"I can confirm that we are indeed producing a birthday gift for Queen Elizabeth II at the Bohemia Glass workshop in Svetla nad Sazavou. I can say that the gift will be a hand crafted and decorated crystal bowl, and I believe it is intended to be presented to the Queen during the official celebration, later than her actual birthday. The decorative bowl will serve as a kind of ikebana vase, and will be made up of 200 pieces in total."

The vase, which will be hand blown and adorned with small glass crowns, should demonstrate the extensive experience of the glass blowers at Sklo Bohemia in Svetla. The production of glass in the Svetla region has a tradition that goes back several hundred years, with the beginnings of lead crystal production dating back to the year 1861, when Viennese merchant Josef Schreiber set up the first cutting shop. As the country's forefront crystal company, the workshop is perhaps most well known in the Czech Republic for the crystal ball created for the winner of the Champion's League Player of the Year competition.

But the piece currently being prepared is by no means the most significant birthday gift given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Czech people. In 1996, when she came to the Czech Republic on a state visit during her 70th anniversary year, she was bestowed with the highest order in the country, the first class Order of the White Lion, by the then President, Vaclav Havel, on the first visit by a member of the British Monarchy to the Czech Republic in history. Yet with this year's gift still being produced, we can only wait and see what the Czech Republic has in store for Her Majesty on her 80th birthday.

23-03-2006