Carved plaques such as these are a form of naval heraldry designed for a specific ship. They are generally and variously referred to as a ship badge, seal, crest, or coat of arms. They were generally applied to the stern — the back or aft-most part of a ship or boat — and thus referred to as sternboards. Ornamental ship signs with identifying the name of the vessel are sometimes referred to as quarterboards. Some ship plaques were applied to the interiors of ships.
Ship plaques would identify the ship at port or sea, or if wrecked, when washed up ashore. They were often salvaged as souvenirs when the plaque was replaced or the ship was decommissioned, scrapped, or wrecked. Ship plaques are now popular decoration for beach houses, libraries, “man caves,” etc. This particular example is extremely fine and a bit fragile, suggesting it was either used very high up over the deck in the stern of the ship, or inside the ship.
This plaque, dated 1821, was possibly used on a ship that was granted a royal commission by the Prince of Wales. In that year, the Prince of Wales, son of King George III, was officially crowned George IV following his father’s death in 1820. (There was not another Prince of Wales after 1820 until 1841, when Albert, eldest son of Queen Victoria, was given the title.) The other inscriptions on the plaque may allude to George IV’s coronation, or may be related to the ship to which the plaque belonged. The Prince of Wales plume is the most recognizable element of the Prince of Wales’s coat of arms. It has become synonymous as a personal insignia of the prince and also of the Principality of Wales itself. The Prince of Wales badge is sometimes granted as a Royal Warrant of Appointment to companies that regularly supply of goods and services to the Prince. At present, there are nearly 200 companies that are entitled to display the badge with the words “By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales” underneath.
Condition: Generally very good, a bit weathered overall, with the usual expected wear for a plaque used on a ship. Some restorations to carved and painted decorations and to old split to wood.