The world’s oldest tailors

Ede & Ravenscroft

SAID to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world, Ede & Ravenscroft have been robemakers to everyone from the royal family and the judiciary to professors and students since 1689 – the same year that William and Mary came to the throne, wearing coronation robes provided by the firm.

The firm, in Chancery Lane, has supplied coronation robes – made of silk, mantua, satin, damask, sarsnet, cloth-of-gold, ermine and priceless gems – for 12 subsequent coronations, including that of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is one of a very few companies to hold all three royal warrants from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales.

Ede & Ravenscroft also supplies garments for ceremonial occasions for every branch of government, from the monarch and Parliament to the legal system and local municipalities.  It has supplied attire for royal funerals, robes and regalia for chivalric orders such as the Order of the Garter, robes for Parliament and for the Lord Mayor of London, legal dress and wigs for judges, barristers, and QCs, and academic garb for university graduates. It is particularly known for its white horsehair wigs worn by members of the legal profession – although it is a vanity to wear a very old, well-worn one. Its extensive records contain invaluable documentation of centuries of the ceremonial history of London.

But did you know it also owns one of the world’s finest collections of miniature furniture? With the same interest in fine detail and design which has allowed them to retain royal patronage for more than 300 years, Ede & Ravenscroft have commissioned artisans to create miniature period rooms which painstakingly and accurately reproduce 18th-century furniture.

Pieces of furniture by the great French ébénistes found in the Wallace Collection, such as a secretaire by Carlin, and a roll-top desk by Riesener, are reproduced in miniature scale, incorporating fine materials such as Sèvres porcelain, Carrara marble, gilt bronze, and velvet.  The tiny, delicate results are works of art combining historical detail with modern luxury – much like the grand robes and finery which Ede & Ravenscroft have been producing for hundreds of years in the same neighbourhood of London.


Queen’s Birthday Salute – April 21

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AS if she wasn’t privileged enough, the Queen has two birthdays. Her Official Birthday is in June, when good weather is more likely for ceremonial events such as Trooping The Colour (also called the Queen’s Birthday Parade).

Her actual birthday is on April 21, which is marked with two major gun salutes.

The first is in Hyde Park at noon and is given by the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). They fire off 41 rounds; 21 in honour of the Queen with an extra 20 rounds because it is a Royal Park. (The same applies to salutes fired in The Green Park).

The second salute is at 1pm at the Tower of London and is given by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC). They fire off 62 rounds: 41 as above and an extra 21 for the City of London.

If you love the smell of gunpowder in the afternoon, be at the Tower on June 10, 2017. On that day the Queen’s Official Birthday, celebrated on the second Saturday of June, coincides with the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday. The HAC will be firing off 124 rounds – 62 for each royal.

On parade with its guns, the RHA takes precedence over all other regiments in the British Army. Nicknamed the ‘Rocking Horse Artillery’, the RHA’s ‘E’ Battery fought at Waterloo and fired the first British round of World War I.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery was formed in 1945 and named by King George. When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, she was asked if she would like the name changed to The Queen’s Troop but she has left it as a memory of her father.

They use vintage World War I era 13-pounder guns which, with their limbers, weigh in at 1,5 tonnes. It is an awesome sight to see them charging across Hyde Park and a tribute to their skill and training.

Their horses are usually Irish or Welsh and they have around 140 at any one time. Their names start with the same first letter as the Commanding Officers’ surname when the horse was bought but they also have a stable nickname.

The men and women of the King’s Troop are trained as fighting soldiers and several are now serving in Afghanistan at any one time. RHA

The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army, dating to 1087 and having a Royal Charter from Henry VIII in 1537. Its uniform is based on that of the Grenadier Guards and it uses 105mm towed howitzers. One soldier of the HAC has been killed in Afghanistan and several injured. HAC

Read more on other gun salutes at: