This weekend, as the eyes of the world turn to London, the great city’s transport arteries will be engorged with travellers converging like corpuscles on Buckingham Palace at its heart.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is something some of us who remember the old world Silver Jubilee street parties of 1977 never even dreamt of.
This time, celebrations are very much centred around the capital in general and Buckingham Palace in particular.
This time, visitors who make their way to London’s West End, just a short carriage ride from the palace, are reminded that they can make a courtly connection with the kind of pretty and exquisitely crafted wares that the royals enjoy.
When most of us think of the West End, we think Theatreland, Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square. Piccadilly Circus and that evocative statue of Eros. Oxford Street, Regent Street for shopping.
If we do know about the posh shops and posher hotels just along the way in Piccadilly and just round the corner in jostle-free Jermyn Street, we may feel they’re a little out of reach; we may not even dare to darken their doors.
But fear not!
Go West to sample the world class cultural delights. You’ll find the staff are genuinely welcoming, ordinary folk and not stuffy – they’re very well accomplished at putting visitors at their ease. You’ll find prices are, yes, a little higher and sometimes a lot higher – but that there are goods that suit all pockets.
If you enjoy shopping and the thrill of it all, you’ll relish this experience.
You’re shopping in the very shops that regularly supply goods and services to the Queen and Prince Charles. These are the shops that are thereby granted a Royal Warrant.
There is no better way to see them than in the smiley, enthusiastic and knowledgeable company of dynamic blue badge guide Katie Wignall.
We joined her just outside Green Park tube station, just a few minutes from our beautifully appointed and ridiculously well located Radisson Blu Hampshire hotel, whose door steps on to Leicester Square itself.
The bespoke tour, commissioned by cultural initiative Art of London was a regal roam around some of the sheer splendour of the West End.
Home to galleries, theatres, restaurants, cafés, bars, world-famous shops, cultural institutions and associations, the area is truly unique with an experience-based economy that caters to every taste. From the BAFTA headquarters to the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, the area’s cultural heritage stretches back centuries.
Art of London Royal Warrant tour
Floris – A family business run by the 8th and 9th generations of the Floris family, they hold Royal Warrants from HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales. They’re the only perfumer to hold a Royal Warrant from the Queen.
The 300-year-old perfumery creates quality fragrances from the finest essential oils and essences from around the world, crafting a meticulous ‘symphony of art and science’ in a sustainable yet innovative way.
Website: https://www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk/Instagram: @paxtonscheeseAs pioneers in artisan cheese-making, Paxtons have gone on to hold seven Royal Warrants. Over the years, Paxtons have held Warrants to Edward VII, George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and today they still hold the Warrant from The Queen and Prince Charles.
The Ritz – The first and only hotel to ever be awarded a Royal Warrant, The Ritz was awarded a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services in 2002 by HRH The Prince of Wales who also held a birthday party here in the same year.
The Queen Elizabeth Room, named after Her Majeshttp://@turnbull_asserty, can be found in the hotel’s William Kent House, as well as the Royal suite, overlooking the Royal Green Park, and the Prince of Wales suite.
Website: https://www.theritzlondon.com/Instagram: @theritzlondonPrestat – This chocolatier received their first Royal Warrant from HM The Queen in 1975, later receiving another from The Queen Mother in 1999.
Over the years, Prestat has attracted customers such as Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Prestat remains one of the few British artisan chocolatiers to make all its own chocolates, giving them complete control over recipes and sourcing of raw ingredients.
Website: https://prestat.com/Instagram: @prestatfinesttrufflesFortnums – This Royal Warrant has served the monarchs for three centuries and founder William Fortnum served as a footman in the royal household of Queen Anne in 1707.
Fortnum & Mason is also home to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. Today they hold two Royal Warrants, from HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales.
To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee, Fortnum’s recently held a competition for a member of the public to create a Platinum Pudding recipe.
Website: https://www.fortnumandmason.com/Instagram: @fortnumsJohn Lobb – The original John Lobb earned his first Royal Warrant by producing a pair of riding boots for the Prince of Wales in 1863. With this approval, Lobb opened his first store in London at 296 Regent Street, three years after being awarded a warrant.
John Lobb is run by the 5th generation of the Lobb family making their famous bespoke handmade-to-measure shoes and boots, catering to ‘the most discerning tastes and requirements’ .
They hold Royal Warrants from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.
Hatchards – The royals have been purchasing their books from Britain’s oldest bookshop since 1797, and Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III was one of its first visitors. Today, Hatchards holds three Royal Warrants; HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.
The bookshop regularly hosts literary events and book signings, which attract visits from the world’s most acclaimed authors – it’s said that Hatchards was Oscar Wilde’s favourite bookshop and the table that Wilde signed books at is now known as ‘Oscar’s table’ and can be found on the ground floor.
Website: https://www.hatchards.co.uk/Instagram: @hatchardspiccadillyTurnbull & Asser – In 1980, Prince Charles granted Turnball and Asser a Royal Warrant when he was made a Grantor. Today whenever in need of a new shirt, The Prince of Wales still heads to Bury Street where their bespoke and impeccable service can be found.
The business started when John Arthur Turnbull, a hosier and shirt-maker, opened a shop in St James in 1885. In 1893 he brought the salesman; Ernest Asser into the business and when Turnball died, the name changed to Turnball & Asser.
Website: https://turnbullandasser.co.uk/Instagram: @turnbull_asser
Her Majesty’s Theatre – Established by John Vanbrugh on Haymarket in 1705, it was originally named the Queen’s Theatre after Queen Anne. When Queen Anne died, the name changed to the King’s Theatre – a tradition of following the current monarch that continues to this day. It has hosted the Phantom of the Opera since September 1986, the second-longest running musical in London after Les Misérables.
Website: https://lwtheatres.co.uk/theatres/her-majestys/Instagram: @lwtheatresPiccadilly Arcade – In a Grade II listed building and home to 28 shops dealing in high-end fashion and vintage jewellery, the site contains Royal Warrant holders Benson & Clegg which has tailored clothing for members of the monarchy for more than 80 years.
Website: https://www.piccadilly-arcade.com/Instagram: @piccadillysw1The Weiss Gallery – Established in 1985, they are specialists in Tudor and Stuart portraiture, often featuring royals through history.
The institution was commissioned to make khaki shirts and ties for Queen Elizabeth II’s Women’s Royal Army Corps uniforms inn 1949.
BAFTA – Prince William is the institution’s president.
Website: https://www.bafta.org/Instagram: @baftaBeau Brummell Statue – Statue of Beau Brummell, the man responsible for the Royal Ascot dress code who was also famous for his friendship with the Prince Regent. Beau Brummell is credited with making the trousers fashionable in the 19th century.
The Sofitel – Situated next to St James’s Royal Park and the perfect springboard to discover the West End. The hotel is also only a stone’s throw from Horse Guards Parade, where the mounted guards hold ceremonial activity for The Queen. For the Royal Jubilee they have created a bespoke cocktail menu of royal-themed drinks.
Website: https://www.sofitelstjames.com/en/Instagram: @sofitellondonRoyal Academy of Arts – In 1768, a group of 36 artists and architects signed a petition. Sir William Chambers, the renowned architect responsible for Somerset House, presented it to King George III with the aim of establishing “A society for promoting the Arts of Design” as an annual exhibition and school. With the King’s approval, the Royal Academy was born.
Today the RA still has a special relationship with the Sovereign and HM The Queen is the current Patron, Protector and Supporter, even personally paying a visit in 2018 to celebrate their 250th Anniversary.
Website: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/Instagram: @royalacademyartsThe Wolseley – A perfect place to enjoy finger sandwiches and tea, introduced to Britain by Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II.
Website: https://thedillylondon.com/Instagram: @thedillylondonThese are just some of the locations in the West End and around St James’s that hold a Royal Warrant. If you'd like to do the tour yourself, visit the Art of London https://artoflondon.co.ukwebsite here to discover the stops.
Or book yourself in with expert tour guide Katie Wignall by emailing [email protected]All photos by Cliff Edwards