From classical times in both Greek and Roman mythology, and in many cultures the world over since then, turtle does have been regarded as symbols of love.

In the first instance they were considered to represent the fertility and fecundity of the goddess Demeter, who herself was the embodiment of such abundance. At the same time they were also associated with Fides, a Roman deity who encapsulated honesty and trustworthiness.

Doves are known to establish enduring pair-bonds which can last many years, rather than the rather more ad-hoc couplings of other birds. It’s easy to see how all these influences and inferences led to doves being seen as the perfect metaphor for long-lasting, faithful relationships, rather than unseemly, far more transient comings-together, motivated purely by lustful excess or other improper cravings !

It was deemed entirely reasonable that should any paramour be looking to make an impression upon a partner they could offer a pair of turtle doves as a token of their affections – the ideal gift from any discerning “true love”. Clearly, however, the gifting of actual birds may prove to be somewhat problematic, and hence the proliferation of artefacts which had representations of the feathery prosopops instead – enamelled boxes, small silver trinkets, engraved stemware and so on.

And so – with little ado – to 1743, and the Pearl River Delta in South East Asia, the mercantile entrance to Canton. A British naval fleet under Commodore George Anson was moored up and, as luck would have it for the locals, the crew were able to play a huge part in saving the city from a huge fire which broke out while they were there. The area which had been most threatened by the conflagration was full of merchants, and they showed their gratitude to Anson by having a service of porcelain decorated for him.

The merchants asked one of Anson’s officers what the most appropriate decoration would be and, as they were told that the wares should in some way represent the fact that Anson was deeply in love with his fiancée, Lady Elizabeth Yorke, and that anything which alluded to this relationship would be well received. Consequently, all the pieces of the dining service featured – along with Anson’s coat of arms – a pair of doves, and once the pattern had returned to England and been copied by our own native ceramicists – it became known as the ‘Valentine’ pattern.

Anson’s actions in saving Canton are just a small part in the narrative of his epic voyages – more details further down these blog pages (just search for Anson)

While you’re here, why not take advantage of our Christmas Sale – select anything you want on the entire store, and use the code TWELVEDAYS in the shopping cart to get 12% off the marked price – the promotion runs until January 6th, so take your time and browse through the very many items we have listed