Following the history coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, we explore Knightsbridge’s fascinating links to the CrownWords: Edwina Langley
After nearly 70 years since the United Kingdom last celebrated a coronation, in June 1953, the country enjoyed a grand celebration once again on Saturday 6 May 2023 with the crowning of King Charles III alongside The Queen Consort. The historic ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey, the location for every coronation since that of William the Conqueror in 1066.
The flags, bunting and banners still remain in the capital. And one district in particular that went all out for the festivities is Knightsbridge. Situated a short distance from Buckingham Palace, the luxury shopping district has been closely connected to the Crown for centuries, as history relates…
Knightsbridge’s royal connections
Its expansive park – Hyde Park – is not only owned by the Crown Estate (and one of the eight Royal Parks), but has been linked to royalty for hundreds of years. It was “acquired” by Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries, for use as a hunting forest. Anne Boleyn is believed to have once ridden through it in a resplendent white and gold chariot, while some years later, her daughter Elizabeth I reviewed her cavalry there.
It was Charles I who opened the park to the public in 1637, and Queen Caroline – wife of George II – who created an 11-hectare lake within it, now famously known as The Serpentine.
Many hundreds of years later, in 1993, Queen Elizabeth Gate was built as an entrance to the park. It was unveiled by Elizabeth II to mark the 90th birthday of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and for that reason, the exquisite stainless steel structure is also known as ‘The Queen Mother’s Gate’.
Nearby, one of the park’s most renowned landmarks, Wellington Arch – which sits in the midst of Hyde Park Corner roundabout in front of Apsley House, home of the first Duke of Wellington, after whom the arch is named – has also been central to many Royal events. Elizabeth II’s coronation procession passed through it, and poignantly, so too did her funeral cortège last year. The funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales also passed under the arch, in September 1997.
To the West of Hyde Park Corner, overlooking the park, is Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London – formerly, ‘The Hyde Park Hotel’. There, in the 1930s, it is alleged Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, were taught to dance in the ballroom. In fact, it is believed to have been one of her late Majesty’s favourite hotels; she asked for its traditional entrance to be kept for royal visits only, and so a second entrance was opened up on Knightsbridge, which remains the hotel’s primary entry point today.
Down Exhibition Road, Knightsbridge’s royal associations continue. When the South Kensington Museum changed its name to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Queen Victoria herself laid the foundation stone for its extensions in May 1899. Her preference was to name it the Albert Museum, but she was persuaded to include her own name too by the Duke of Devonshire. Her attendance that day was historic in more ways than one; it turned out to be her last public ceremony.
As for our current Royals’ connections to the district, The Queen Consort’s parents, Major Bruce and the Hon Rosalind Shand, were married at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge – and, believe it or not, King Charles III began his school life in the area. He joined Hill House prep school in nearby Chelsea in October 1957 and in so doing became the first future monarch ever to attend school.
What is a Royal Warrant?
In addition to its landmarks and buildings, many of Knightsbridge’s prestigious brands also boast ties to royalty, with a select few even holding Royal Warrants.
A Royal Warrant of Appointment is a document granted to a company or individual who has regularly supplied goods or services to the Royal Household of a Grantor for at least five years. The monarch decides who the Grantors are; most recently, they were Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the former Prince of Wales.
Why is this such an honour? Well, Royal Warrant holders are allowed to display the Grantor’s Royal Arms in relation to their business – such as on their packaging or website – demonstrating high standards and raising prestige. There are rules attached, however. Beyond a description of the business to accompany the Royal Arms, the specifics of what is supplied must never be revealed. Dents’, for example, currently reads: “By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales, Manufacturers of Gloves”.
Royal Warrants are applied for, and they last for roughly five years. The year before expiration, they are reviewed and can be renewed again, but when the country welcomes a new King or Queen, all Warrant grants are reviewed.
Who will keep their Warrant?
Knightsbridge plays host to many Royal Warrant holders, but those that were granted by the King (as The Prince of Wales) have a good chance of being renewed, for the simple reason that His Majesty might still wish to use their services.
Burberry is one such holder. With its eye-catching store on Brompton Road, the renowned British label is described as “Outfitters” to the former Prince of Wales and “Weatherproofers” to Queen Elizabeth II, meaning that until recently it was a double Warrant holder. And it was not the only one…
Waitrose & Partners was granted a Warrant by both Queen Elizabeth II and the former Prince of Wales – the first supermarket chain to be awarded a Warrant by the monarch, which it has held since 2002.
A further possibility is Crockett and Jones Ltd, granted its Warrant in 2017. That the “manufacturer and supplier of footwear” to the former Prince of Wales is still a holder suggests its Warrant has recently been renewed and is therefore likely to remain.
Also Penhaligon’s, the British perfume house with its luxury concession in Harrods, has been similarly favoured by royalty since the 19th century. Founder William Penhaligon ventured from Cornwall to London in 1869 to set up a barber’s shop on Jermyn Street. So successful was it, he became Court Barber and Royal Perfumer to Queen Victoria.
He died in 1902 and on learning of his death, Queen Alexandra – wife of Edward VII – awarded Penhaligon’s its first Royal Warrant. Skip forward to 1956 and the Duke of Edinburgh granted the business its second. In 1988, the former Prince of Wales granted it a third. With such close links to royalty over so many years – and with a perfume currently on sale named Highgrove Bouquet, an homage to the King’s Gloucestershire garden – one might say the brand has a good chance of continuing to serve the monarch for years to come. The aforementioned Burberry has also paid homage to the King’s private residence with an exquisite new organic silk scarf made in partnership with Highgrove. The intricate print features key elements of the gardens, including birds, dragonflies, wildflowers and magnolia trees. It is available from both Highgrove House and Burberry online and at the fashion brand’s Knightsbridge boutique.
Delve a little into Knightsbridge’s royal history and a host of intriguing tales and interesting facts emerge. One suspects there are many more to uncover – best saved for the next Royal celebration.
Edwina Langley is a freelance journalist who writes for the Evening Standard