A Royal Exhibition
Thursday 13 July, 2017 – LONDON During their visit to Buckingham Palace yesterday Their Majesties The King and Queen of Spain were shown an exhibition of items relating to the long relationship between the two countries drawn from The Royal Collection.
These include material relating to the gift of a butt of Sherry (720 bottles) to The Poet Laureate by the Sherry producers of Spain.
At a lunch, before the visit, guests were served with ‘Laureates Choice’ Manzanilla Sherry, specially bottled by Delgado Zuleta for the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy - the 20th and first female Poet Laureate, who wrote the poem ‘At Jerez’, which is incorporated on the back label of her bottles.
Who wouldn't feel favoured,
at the end of a week's labour,
to receive as part-wages
a pale wine
that puts the mouth in mind of the sea ...
and not gladly be kissed
by gentle William Shakespeare's lips,
the dark, raisiny taste of his song;
bequeathed to his thousand daughters and sons,
the stolen wines of the Spanish sun...
or walk the cool bodegas' aisles -
whereflor and oxygen
grow talented in fragrances and flavours
to sniff, sip, spit, swallow, savour...
In the UK, successive monarchs have appointed an official poet since 1630. The current incumbent and the first woman to be appointed is Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy, who is now the Poet Laureate in Ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Traditionally, the Poet Laureate was rewarded with a small stipend and a Butt of Sherry (once called Sherry Sack) from 1630, when Ben Jonson received it for the first time, until 1790, when the Laureate of the day, Henry Pye, relinquished his Butt for a payment of £27 per year.
In 1984, to mark over 600 years of the trade in Sherry between the two countries, the Sherry Producers of Spain offered to revive the custom on the appointment of Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate. He travelled to Jerez in Spain, chose some Sherry and signed his cask, a traditional mark of respect for distinguished visitors.
Sir Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy also went to Jerez in their turn, on appointment as Poet Laureate, to make their choices and sign their casks.
The Laureate’s Sherry is bottled using their own exclusive labels. Hughes designed and drew his own; Motion’s daughter, Siddy, was responsible for his; whilst Duffy’s label was created by the textual artist Steven Raw.
There is a strong literary connection with Sherry over the years, with it being mentioned by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pepys, Dickens and others in their works.
(Photography credit: Press Association; Spanish Royal Visit 2017)