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British Royal Pageantry Would Be Much Less Colorful Without This 300 Year Old Firms Artisan Products

by: Geoff Ficke

Many Americans are dazzled by the solemnity, richness and dash of Great Britain’s royalty and landed gentry class and their balls, parades, hunts, weddings and state funerals. From Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in the 1950’s to Princess Diana’s wedding and untimely funeral to the spectacular PBS television series Downton Abbey, we are shown glimpses of a world of etiquette, discipline, heritage and beauty far from our own. One firm, holders of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Warrant, has been ringside for much of this pageantry for the better part of three centuries.

The Toye family was Huguenot refugees. They had fled religious persecution in France and arrived in 1685, settling near what is now Bethnal Green. In France they had been artisans working and crafting lace, silk, embroidery and gold and silver wiring for garments and military embellishments. They continued this work upon settling near London.

By 1784 Guillaume Henry Toye was well established in the trade and had established the firm’s first shop. His grandson William Toye, expanded the business in 1835. In addition to adding a ribbon works, William opened two retail stores near central London to capitalize on the growing demand for uniform and military parade products.

In 1890 facilities were acquired for the weaving of heavy, double-twilled silk products. The trade union movement, Friendly Societies and the Masonic trade was flourishing and Toye seized on the opportunity to accelerate the Company’s growth by serving these customer bases. A banner department was established. Painting and embroidery of the banners proved to increase the desirability of Toye’s products immensely.

The Company continued to grow under the direction of William Toye’s three sons in the first three decades of the 20th century. Then a seeming disaster, the Great Depression hit the United Kingdom in 1930. Despite massive unemployment, poverty and hunger Toye and Co. maintained full employment throughout the Depression.

In 1937 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. Their coronation proved most profitable for the Company as it required six months of overtime work for the artisan craftsman of Toye & Co. to produce the required banners, uniforms, epaulets, robes and regalia required for the regal occasion.

To this very day Toye & Co. produces a wide range of ceremonial and fashion products. The Company operates a number of factories in the United Kingdom, including a jewelry production facility in Birmingham and a textile production plant near Coventry. The firm operates a wonderful retail shop on Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London. There, much of the firm’s highly crafted product is available for consumer purchase.

Toye & Co. is still managed by descendants of the founder, Guillaume Henry Toye. As Royal Warrant holders the firm has proven over more than 300 years of creative work that quality, detail, and dependability are touchstones that every enterprise should strive to attain and perfect in each product or service on offer.

Any 21st century entrepreneur would do well to study these honored businesses and learn the attributes that separate them from competitors.

When visiting Great Britain I always seek out firms displaying the crested sign that indicates the residence of a Royal Warrant Holder. This award is only given to firm’s possessing the absolute highest standards. Just browsing these purveyors of old world craftsmanship is enthralling and educational.