Hand & Lock – Military Embroidery

Hand & Lock

On the 200th anniversary of Waterloo it seemed fitting to look at the traditional military embroideries of the time from this portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Thomas Phillips.

Duke of Wellington

But first, it’s worth noting that Hand & Lock can trace their history back to this historic period. The London embroidery house was formed by the merger of two great embroidery houses, M. Hand & Co and S.Lock.

Hand & Co is the eldest of the two and can trace it’s long history back to 1767, before the battle of Waterloo. Not much is known about the company founder M.Hand besides the fact he was a Huguenot refugee who came to Britain from France and a talented lacemaker who supplied the British royal forces.

48 years after M. Hand arrived in the United Kingdom most of Europe was under Napoleonic rule and the Duke of Wellington was commanding the allied army which together with the Prussian army under Blücher defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

Order of St Ferdinand embroidery by Hand & Lock

Thomas’ portrait of Wellington after the famous battle tells us a great deal about his military endeavors and the respect he was afforded. He is pictured here wearing about his neck the Order of the Sword, Order of the Golden Fleece and the Peninsular Cross with nine bars; on his chest he wears the Order of the Garter, Order of Saint George, Order of Maria Theresa, Order of Saint Ferdinand and of Merit and the Order of the Sword. Finally, the sash over his right shoulder is the Order of Maria Theresa. The sheer number of them indicate that Wellington was a highly decorated commander.

Many of these Orders would have been embroidered by hand in goldwork, a specialism of M. Hand & Co still to this day. These Orders, their historical significance and meaning are still very relevant today and are still made by Hand & Lock for military and ceremonial purposes. Each one is a precious piece of handmade art.

Order of St Ferdinand embroidery by Hand & Lock (detail)

Taking for example the Order of St Ferdinand, a rich design embroidered in 90 silver spangles,  2% gold spangles, 2% gold bullion and gold passing; featuring cloth of gold and a figure rendered in silks. A badge of this detail and with this level of quality materials takes around 20 hours work to complete. The time, precious materials and dedication to precision required to make a finished badge are a testament to the esteem of those awarded such high Orders.

The Duke of Wellington was said to be very proud of his many Orders and wore them with great pride for official portraits and at special occasions throughout his life.  Knowing how he came to earn them and what workmanship went into each one it’s easy to understand why.


Hand & Lock have been producing the world’s finest hand embroidery since 1767. They cover a wide range of niche markets from Civilian and Military Regalia through to Ecclesiastical and Couture, specialising in bespoke, individually crafted embroidery.