Watts & Co. has worked on royal projects since the firm was founded in 1874.
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee
One of the most important projects Watts undertook in the 19th Century was the creation of vestments for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. These vestments were the first worn in Westminster Abbey since the Reformation.
Watts & Co. was later asked to create vestments for the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. These included a collection of hand embroidered copes and by the turn of the century, the work of Watts was acknowledged as some of the finest in the country.
Coronation of Edward VII
The reputation of Watts as a firm of designers as well as manufacturers was established when the company was asked to create vestments for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Several copes were made, including in the firm’s ‘Rose & Crown’ fabric (now known as ‘Coronation’), designed especially for the occasion.
An Embroidered Coronation Cope
In 1902, for the coronation of Edward VII, copes of crimson velvet with a stamped design of flowers and crowns were made by Watts & Co. to complement the hangings for the high altar for this service. The copes were also worn at the coronation of George V and are still in use today. The motifs and hem are richly and intricately embroidered in Japanese gold thread: a sumptuous garment fitting for the solemn services.
The Coronation fabric
This striking red and gold damask featuring the motifs of entwined crowns and flowers is woven in our mills in England. It was designed to echo the original hand-embroidered copes made by Watts & Co. for the coronation of Edward VII, and it continues to be used in our bespoke commissions.
Royal commissions extended beyond grander occasions and included furnishings (work now undertaken by Watts & Co.’s sister company, Watts 1874). The firm’s ‘Gainford’ fabric was used to make Viceregal thrones for Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and multiple projects were undertaken for chapels in the Royal Household. On the tailoring side of the business, scarlet cassocks were, and continue to be, made for Royal peculiars.
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Watts & Co. went on to make vestments for future coronations, most notably for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Watts copes were worn by the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Bath & Wells, and Keith Murray designed particularly striking copes, embroidered with a lion and a unicorn, worn by the four Canons. The company also designed and made an altar frontal for the occasion: 6 embroideresses worked on the frontal which took more than a year to complete.
Detail from the Coronation Cope of Elizabeth II
This is a detail from the cope made by Watts in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The emblems of the lion and the unicorn, representing England and Scotland, stand on either side of the cope front. The cope was designed by Keith Murray and skilfully incorporates traditional emblems in a bold design with a nod to modernity.
Detail from a Coronation Altar Frontal
This is a detail from an altar frontal in Watts’ own blue ‘Gothic’ Silk Damask, sewn in the workrooms of Watts & Co. and presented by Queen Elizabeth II to Westminster Abbey on the occasion of Her Late Majesty’s coronation in 1953. Six hand embroiderers were employed on the frontal, which took 62 weeks to complete.
Our commissions include a number of copes for Bishops and Archbishops, both in the UK and globally. Copes were made in our Red ‘Pentecost’ brocade and worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York when Queen Elizabeth II opened the General Synod in 2010. In the background there are more Watts vestments, in our Red ‘Coronation’ fabric.
The Royal Wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales
Many royal events of the 21st Century also featured Watts commissions. A cope was made for the Archbishop of Canterbury and worn at the royal wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, along with a kneeler in Watts’ exclusive ‘Bellini’ Silk Damask.
The following year in 2012, multiple projects were undertaken for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. A new cloth of gold fabric was designed, featuring the monarch’s Royal Cypher. This fabric was then used to create copes for St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
The Diamond Jubilee copes
A set of five hand-embroidered copes was made for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. Created for St George's, Windsor Castle, these feature a custom fabric named our 'Windsor, Cloth of Gold'. The fabric includes the Royal Cypher of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
To view other bespoke silks please visit our custom fabric page.
The Royal barge "Gloriana"
Watts was also commissioned to work on the royal barge ‘Gloriana’, for the Diamond Jubilee. A particularly special element of the Jubilee was the commission of a cushion, using the same piece of cloth that was used for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The meterage of silk was still held in our archives and used to craft the cushion.
The Coronation chair in Westminster Abbey
The Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey is one of the most precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world. Commissioned by King Edward I between 1297 and 1300, this Gothic-style armchair was carved from oak and has been used since the 14th century for the coronation of most English and British monarchs, the last being Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In 2013 Watts was honoured to be involved in the creation of a new plinth and canopy display for the chair in St George’s Chapel, featuring our ‘Comper Cathedral’ Silk Damask.
A Close-up of the Coronation Chair
Following the creation of a new plinth and canopy display for the Coronation Chair featuring Watts’ exclusive ‘Comper Cathedral’ Silk Damask in 2013, a further programme of restoration and conservation has been undertaken for the coronation of King Charles III. The Chair only leaves its secure location on in St George’s Chapel in the nave when it is carried near the high altar in the Abbey for the monarch’s coronation.
Robes for the Coronation of Charles III
We recreated the ceremonial gowns of the High Steward and High Bailiff for the coronation of HM King Charles III. Each was handmade in a luxurious velvet and our silks, combined with a fully bespoke braid. We sensitively modernised the gowns so that they were more practical whilst retaining their original majesty.