Our unique position as one of Britain’s oldest and most iconic heritage brands spans over 208 years, and throughout that time it has, and remains a privilege to serve the Royal family. The coronation of King Charles III in May this year marks a wonderful time to reflect on these Royal connections.
While Purdey was founded in 1814, the brand’s relationship with the Royal family really started in 1838 when James the Founder attended Buckingham Palace, supplying Queen Victoria with pistols to gift the Imam of Muscat, part of a group he received to mark her coronation that year. In 1868, James the Younger received the firm’s first Royal Warrant as gunmakers to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (pictured above, shooting at Sandringham). Ten years later in 1878, Queen Victoria followed suit with a second Royal Warrant, and we have proudly remained the monarch’s gunmakers ever since.
Purdey hasn’t just served the British Royal family, though. Our geographical reach is huge and we have supplied guns to most of the crowned heads of Europe over the centuries. Purdey has received Royal Warrants from the King of Spain (Alfonso Xlll) and Sweden’s Gustaf V. We also supplied rifles to many of the Maharajahs of India; and Tom Purdey had a long friendship with Prince Frederick of Prussia (pictured together below in 1934).
There are heirlooms and memorabilia of our prestigious Royal connections everywhere at Purdey, from wonderful photographs and records in our archives, to guns on display. The Long Room has hosted many members of various Royal families over the years, including King George Vl and Queen Elizabeth ll. Perhaps I am a little biased, but I still feel it is one of the finest and most special private dining rooms in Mayfair. The walls are lined with portraits and the room filled with artefacts detailing every aspect of Purdey’s past and present.
Some of my favourite Royal stories are about our miniature guns. Firstly, the miniature toy guns that were made for Queen Mary’s dolls house. Secondly, the pair of fully working 1:6 scale miniature hammer guns that we made to mark King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. They were presented in a silver case and based on his final pair of Purdey 12-bores. A third miniature gun was made and presented to Tom Purdey on his 41st Birthday, the detail is astonishing and it remains on display in the Long Room to this day. (Read more about it, here.)
The Royal connections extend beyond the Purdey family, too. Richard Beaumont joined the board at Purdey in 1946, and he had grown up as a neighbour of the Queen when she lived in Mayfair as a child. Their friendship lasted a lifetime; the Queen attended his wedding (pictured below) and his retirement party at Audley House. Meanwhile, Richard’s wife Lavinia Beaumont was Prince Edward’s governess. It was Lavinia who started the clothing and accessories side of Purdey, opening a small shop full of exquisite tweeds at 84 Mount Street in the 1970s, still the number of that door today. I have no doubt that her impeccable Royal connections helped establish Purdey as very much the brand to wear.
Royal stories from the Purdey family
From a family perspective there are many wonderful stories of Royal visits and connections, some of which I only discovered recently when researching this piece.
My great uncle Tom Purdey’s nanny, Charlotte ‘Lala’ Bill, went on to work at the Palace for Queen Mary, and he was often invited to tea with the young princes. My grandfather 'JOK' Purdey was an usher at Queen Elizabeth ll’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953; his wife was also a guest, and apparently had the most amazing seat with a spectacular view of the altar.
In our bicentenary year, Purdey's Hammersmith factory was rebuilt, and the Duke of Edinburgh kindly agreed to do the official opening (pictured below at the old factory in the 1960s). My father Richard Purdey, who was Chairman at the time tells a rather hair-raising story about the preparations for the Duke's arrival. Though the brand new electric gates had been thoroughly tested and were working perfectly, they suddenly failed moments before the Royal arrival, leaving the Duke stuck for a moment or two on the other side. Thankfully after much anxious button pressing they opened. Apparently the Duke found it very amusing, my father rather less so!
The Duke of Edinburgh also came to Audley House to present the prizes for the annual Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation. The Duke was Patron of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) for 48 years, before King Charles picked up the baton in 2022; both father and son shared a lifelong passion for conserving and protecting the British countryside, supporting Purdey’s efforts in this area too. The Duke was charming, great fun, and all our guests on the night of the Awards were completely delighted by his presence, no one had been told he was coming so it was a marvellous surprise for everyone.
Royalty brings a certain magic to any occasion, and I see it as a great honour to have these wonderful Royal stories within our heritage as a brand. As a nation, we are entering into a new Carolean Age with King Charles lll as our monarch. Here at James Purdey & Sons we hope for a long and happy reign, and offer our continued loyal support to His Majesty The King and his family.