Harry Mottram reports
The news that employee owned printing trust Barnard & Westwood of London have printed the invitations to Print Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on May 19, reminds the printing industry of the long heritage of the wedding invite.
Before the advent of printing in the late 15th and early 16th centuries wedding invites were issued by town crier or word of mouth for the illiterate and hand written for those who could read which were mainly the educated and upper classes. Printed invites to Royal weddings did not appear until later in the 18th century when the quality of print had improved to include that most over used type face: palace script. For those who object to the country having a Royal family the nation’s only Republican leader Oliver Cromwell got hitched to Elizabeth Bourchier in London in 1620 with hand written invitations the most likely form of notification.
If there was one man who could have done with a ready template for a printed wedding invite in the Royal lineage it was Henry VIII. He wed six times and there is no truth in the rumour that he simply had one invite printed with a blank space for his future wife’s name. Like all ruling monarchs the invitations were sent out by The Lord Chamberlain and you certainly didn’t refuse by saying you were washing your wig that day. The Lord Chamberlain had the power to have you beheaded for many an indiscretion. Henry’s invites would have been made by a Royal Courier or herald who would turn up on horseback and make the announcement.
In the 17th century printing had really expanded as an industry with pamphlets, leaflets, news sheets and posters being turned out by the thousand as the heady politics of the Civil War, the Commonwealth Government and the Restoration unfolded. In 1642 metal-plate engraving was introduced and the printed wedding invitation business began to take hold amongst the well-heeled. By the end of the 18th century lithography aided the ever expanding business of printing invites, although they were still mostly delivered by horse-back rider usually packed in two envelopes. A standard one for outer protection and an inner one to compliment the invite – a tradition that continues to this day although few are delivered by horse riders.
By the early 19th century the printing of wedding invitations had become a staple of most print factories and as literacy increased and technology improved various flourishes, fancy borders and embossing new techniques were included to add value and style to the message. The wedding invitation for the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 set the style, layout, terminology and design for the next two centuries. Printed on a blue card the type is centred for the venue and date are centred with a signature to the bottom right and a Royal Crest above with the fonts chosen being Palace Script and a bold Gothic face. Looking at Harry and Meghan’s invitation there would seem little has changed in this most simple of printed message. Less is more as they say. Harry and Meghan’s invitation uses a London printer, paper from Cumbria and ink fittingly from America to recognise the Trans-Atlantic nature of the affair.
Barnard & Westwood’s print worker Lottie Small, who recently completed her apprenticeship, printed all 600 of the invitations using die stamping, on a machine from the 1930s that she calls Maude. Antique printing presses are retained in many print shops due to their reliability, long life and quality of print – if not for their speed. The printing company holds royal warrants of appointment granted by Queen Elizabeth II (1986) and the Prince of Wales (2012), and supplies a range of bespoke stationery as well as printing books and the usual range of literature. The firm based near Kings Cross is now owned by the workers as a trust and has for this day and age a long history which began just after the First World War when the war veteran Albert Reginald Barnard set up the firm with the help of his aunt Miss Westwood in 1921. Eddie Kopley of the International Master Printers Federation joined the firm as a partner in 1941 and steered the firm towards the niche market of upmarket stationery and quality printing despite the paper rationing of the time. In 1946 Barnard & Westwood joined forces with E. Nicholas Printers while in June 2015, Barnard & Westwood went from being a family-run company to an employee-owned enterprise.
The invites to the May wedding are die-stamped in gold and then burnished, and features The Three Feather Badge of The Prince of Wales. The Daily Telegraph reported Austen Kopley, the managing director of the firm, as saying: “The wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle will be a truly special occasion and we are thrilled to be able to create equally special invitations for their guests. We are incredibly honoured to continue our longstanding work for The Royal Family, and to be involved in such an important moment for the couple and their family and friends.”
Apart from the 600 invitations for the wedding ceremony in St George’s Chapel in Windsor there are also more than 2,000 invites for the two receptions. So check your post just in case you’ve got an invite.