It brought tourists flocking to Windsor and joy to royal-watchers everywhere. The Royal Wedding also had a more tangible effect, as the Royal Collection Trust announces a record year of visitors and gift sales.
The RCT has reported a bumper year in which it received £72 million in income, its highest annual visitor numbers to date, and an 18 per cent rise in retail sales thanks to landmark moments including the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Year-on-year, it enjoyed the biggest increase in income from admissions since 2011, when the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge inspired a 26 per cent rise in ticket sales and a 46 per cent increase from retail.
In 2018-9, the Trust made £48.3m from admissions to residences including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Windsor Castle and Frogmore House: an 18 per cent rise from the previous financial year.
Retail sales, from the palaces’ gift shops, increased from £18.2 to £21.7 million year-on-year, with “noticeable growth” from online shopping “reflecting the popularity of Royal Wedding-related merchandise”.
The annual report noted in particular the success of commemorative china to mark the birth of Prince Louis, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, and the 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales.
Windsor Castle and Frogmore House, the site of the royal weddings and the Sussex’s evening reception respectively, celebrated an extra 200,000 visitors – their highest total ever at 1.7m – thanks to special exhibitions giving a glimpse behind the scenes of the nuptials.
Royal Mews, where the Ascot Landau Prince Harry and Meghan Markle used for their carriage ride was put on show, received £200,000 more from paying guests.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Tim Knox, the new director of the Royal Collection Trust, said: “It is with great pleasure and pride that I look back on the past 12 months, a year in which we welcomed a record number of visitors to the palaces, achieved the highest-ever level of retail sales and staged an unprecedented 22 exhibitions around the UK.”
The report notes that “other retail income”, which includes online shopping and gifts bought through other venues such as John Lewis or the Historic Royal Palaces, went up by around £1m.
In 2011-2, the RCT recorded an “extremely successful year, continuing to benefit from the effects of the celebrations surrounding the marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge”, with more than 190,000 items of wedding-related merchandise sold to make around £4 million.
Since then, only 2016-7 has seen a comparable boost in sales, at 20 per cent, thanks to the commemorative range for the Queen’s 90th birthday and a new selection of leather collars, dog bandannas and coats for pets inspired by her corgis.
While the Trust benefitted from sales of a commemorative range for Prince Louis’ birth, it will not receive a comparable boost from Archie Mountbatten-Windsor next year. As he does not have the title of “His Royal Highness”, no such official memorabilia was produced.
This year, the Royal Collection shops launched two new collaborations: a range of silk pyjamas, eye masks and scarves featuring corgis and crowns, and a collection of jewellery inspired by pieces worn by the Queen.