Saved By the Queen
Given the release of the newest season of The Crown, we wanted to dedicate today’s blog post to HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Her reign has spanned through many years and accomplishments, but it is the very beginning of her reign— in fact, it is the exact moment in which her reign began— that helped to save Watts from collapse after the post-war period of financial decline. We mentioned last week that we would share the story of how Watts survived through this difficult time, and the moment has finally arrived.
Before we begin, though, we must admit that there were multiple factors during this time that contributed to the preservation of Watts: talented embroiderers and seamstresses, the lasting patronage of a handful of traditionalist architects, designs by director Keith Murray, and the forward-thinking business acumen of Elizabeth Hoare— who was the granddaughter of founder George Gilbert Scott Junior (Middle Scott) and grandmother of the current Watts & Co and Watts of Westminster directors.
Elizabeth Hoare (Left) and the skilled embroidery that helped support Watts (Right)
All of these combined efforts allowed Watts to persist through this period. However, as some of you might have noticed, our team here at Watts has a flair for dramatics— both in our designs and in our storytelling. As the years have passed, the story has grown to near heroic heights. “It was the Queen!” we exclaim across our showroom, as we share the fabled tale of the company’s survival.
In truth, it wasn’t the Queen herself who personally saved Watts; instead, it was the inclusion of Watts’ altar frontal and vestments during the Queen’s coronation. Watts director Keith Murray designed four embroidered copes for the coronation, including the iconic elongated lion and unicorn embroideries worn by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher during the service. The commission was not entirely unexpected: Watts has provided vestments for every British coronation since 1902. However, it was Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 that provided Watts with such a large order— and at such a key moment— that the company was able to persist into the present day.
The elongated lion and unicorn cope and the altar frontal with crown design from Elizabeth II's coronation
Watts & Co went on to become the official ecclesiastical furnishers to the Queen; and, meanwhile, the secular side of the business grew to such an extent that Watts of Westminster was founded to meet the expanding secular demand. To bring the story to a full circle, Watts of Westminster recently provided wallcoverings to be used on the set of The Crown’s earlier seasons. These early seasons chronicled Elizabeth II’s succession to the throne— the exact event that ensured the survival of Watts.
Set design from "The Crown" featuring custom coloured Osborne wallpaper
We find it fascinating the way that history continues on. Sometimes we look to the past so we can replicate the way things were done. In fact, some of our best designs are true and genuine continuations of the original. Other times, though, we look to the past so that we can re-tell the story in a new way, with a reimagined twist, and with a heightened crescendo. The result is a story that is both new and old at the same time, both authentic and enhanced, and both past and present.
So, yes, we may be dramatic storytellers at Watts of Westminster— but that is, after all, what we do. And because of the miraculous, spectacular, and rousing moment in which Watts was saved by the Queen, we are able to continue doing what we love to this day.
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Watts was part of another Royal event a few years back. Anyone know what it was? Comment on our Instagram post to take your best guess!
Watts of Westminster is a leading British design house and creator of Textiles, Wallcoverings, Tableaux Sceniques and Passementerie, with over a century of design consultancy expertise.
You will find us at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, the hub of European interior design. Our showroom exudes personality and warmth, brimming with colour, pattern and expertise. We are there to work with you to achieve your vision.