Celebrating Her Majesty, The Queen's 70-Year Reign
This year sees HM Queen Elizabeth II reach the incredible milestone of 70 years of service, reigning longer than any other British monarch. To celebrate, we reflect on our own unique connection with the royal family, highlighting the special collaborations we have embarked upon throughout our history and recalling some of the royal visits we have proudly hosted during the seven decades of Her Majesty’s reign.
The Queen's Balmoral Estate has been a British royal family residence since 1852, situated less than 60 miles from our Elgin weaving mill. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert famously fell in love with Scotland during their first visits during the 1840s, later purchasing Balmoral from the Farquharson family. Our own relationship with the royal family followed when Prince Albert, inspired by the concept of estate tweeds, designed a Balmoral tartan and a 'Super Balmoral Tweed', a design we still produce today exclusive to the Balmoral Estate.
Edward, Prince of Wales, was also a fan of tweed tailoring - his outfit of choice for the golf course. More than 150 years later, the current Prince of Wales, known in Scotland as HRH The Duke of Rothesay, would grant Johnstons of Elgin a Royal Warrant to manufacture and supply Estate Tweed to the royal household. The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay visited our Hawick knitting mill in 2013 to unveil The Royal Warrant, meeting with our experienced craftspeople and chatting to apprentices. While onsite, The Duke of Rothesay also met with local farmers, growers of the Cheviot wool used in Johnstons of Elgin’s tweed and was shown bales of their wool fibres.
Our production of tweed continues, as does our connection with Balmoral. A recent collaboration resulted in the launch of the Balmoral Blue collection by Johnstons of Elgin. The unique Balmoral Blue pattern captures the essence of the River Dee in its blue tones and the local granite in its greys. Balmoral Blue is the first Royal Tweed to be made available for the public to purchase, sold exclusively at the royal estate.
We were incredibly proud to receive the Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1978,1994, and 2002. The Queen's Awards for Enterprise is an awards programme for British businesses and other organisations who excel at international trade, innovation, sustainable development or promoting opportunity through social mobility. They are the highest official UK awards for British businesses and are world-renowned.
In 2021, we were delighted to receive the Queen's Award for our work on sustainability. Our commitment to minimising our impact on the environment is not a new concept; it has been inherent to our business since the very beginning. We were proud to be recognised in The Sustainable Development category of the Queen's Awards for Enterprise, which honours organisations developing products and services that positively impact the environment, society, and the economy.
Over the years, we have welcomed several royal family members to our weaving and knitting mills in Elgin and Hawick in the Scottish Borders. In 2002, HRH Anne, The Princess Royal, opened our new dye house, the result of a £600,000 upgrade in facilities that more than doubled our capacity to produce dyed yarn, fibre and fabric.
In 2017, the princess visited our Elgin site as president of the UK Fashion and Textiles Association to celebrate our 220th year of manufacturing. After her visit, she praised our commitment to developing our employees and overcoming adversity.
‘During my visit to Johnstons of Elgin in 2017, I was impressed by the company's programme for developing its workforce and its modern apprenticeship scheme,' she said. 'Since its formation in 1797 (the brand) has faced many challenges, but it has successfully endured by doing what it does extremely well, and I send you my best wishes for the future.'
Throughout 2020, businesses everywhere navigated the most unforeseen circumstances as the COVID-19 pandemic made its mark on the world. Projects continued with new measures in place to protect employees’ health. Our Chairman Jenny Urquhart marked Wool Week in a socially distanced meeting with HRH The Duke of Rothesay, presenting him with an exclusive woollen blanket featuring the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Fund (QEST) tartan designed by Edinburgh kiltmakers Kinloch Anderson, another of Scotland's oldest family businesses.
QEST is a charity dedicated to excellence in British craftsmanship, for which The Duke of Rothesay is Patron. We produced a limited run of QEST tartan blankets to celebrate the fund’s 30th anniversary and the 180th anniversary of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, with proceeds from sales going to the charity.
For decades, The Duke of Rothesay has worked tirelessly to champion the benefits of wool, in particular highlighting its renewable and biodegradable properties. He is Patron of the Campaign for Wool, and to mark its 11th year, coinciding with COP26, we launched our Highgrove Heritage Scarf, a collaboration between Johnstons of Elgin and the Prince of Wales’s family estate, Highgrove. 10% of retail sales from the scarf went to The Princes’s Foundation, dedicated to creating communities for a more sustainable future.
All of us at Johnstons of Elgin would like to congratulate the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee and wish her continued health and happiness for many years to come. Such an historic milestone is truly worthy of celebration.