Why is the Royal Family called The Firm? The origins of the unusual nickname

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  • The Royal Family has often been called ‘The Firm’ by the press, but the nickname has now also been used by Meghan Markle, in a clip from the Sussex’s tell-all Oprah interview.

    ‘The Firm’ is used to refer to the ‘business’ of the senior members of the Royal Family, with Her Majesty’s ‘Firm of Eight’ revealed just last December. This was interestingly not long after Harry and Meghan ‘stepped back’ as senior royals in early 2020.

    Meghan may have been the latest royal to refer to Britain’s most famous family as ‘The Firm’, but she is certainly not the first royal to use the term.

    Why is the Royal Family called The Firm?

    Journalist Sir Arthur Beverley Baxter revealed that the Queen’s father, King George VI coined the name ‘The Frim’ for his family in his younger years. This was before he was crowned King and was known as Prince Albert.

    This anecdote is shared by historian Edward Owens, in his book titled The Family Firm: monarchy, mass media and the British public: “According to Baxter, the young Prince Albert was caught smoking while in university dress and ‘an officious mentor pointed out how his offence was aggravated by his being a member of the Royal family.’

    “To this the young prince had ‘bitterly’ replied … ‘we’re not a family … we’re a firm’.”

    Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret pose for a family portrait with their parents Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and King George VI at Buckingham Palace in May 1942.

    A young Queen Elizabeth with her parents and sister  Princess Margaret. (Credit: Getty)

    This quote made its way into the 2010 movie The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth uttering the same words in his role as King George.

    Royal biographer Penny Junor reveals that ‘The Firm’ relates to the business and reputation of the Crown. This is explained in the blurb for her book The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor:

    “The House of Windsor is a big business, though one with more ups and downs than the stock market.

    “Prince Philip calls it ‘The Firm,’ and all the royal executives and their powerful associates are supposed to make every effort to avoid even a hint of scandal that could diminish the reputation of the family business,” she wrote.

    Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) standing next to each other outside in Windsor.

    Credit: Getty

    The Duke of Edinburgh reportedly said he was marrying into the ‘The Firm’ when he tied the knot with The Queen in 1947.

    The use of ‘The Firm’ as a nickname for the Royal Family has clearly endured, evidenced by the Duchess of Sussex’s use of the name in Harry and Meghan’s revealing Oprah interview in March 2021.

    “I don’t know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” she is filmed telling her close friend Oprah in a clip from the exclusive interview.

    Who is ‘The Firm’ in the Royal Family?

    According to the royal biographer Penny Junor, a leaked agenda from a 1996 royal meeting was looking at “reducing those working for the Family Firm to include only consort, children and grandchildren directly in line.”

    She also notes “a pecking order in The Firm and she (the Queen) is at the top, then the Prince of Wales and so on down the line of succession.”

    This leads us to believe that ‘The Firm’ is made up of the highest-ranking senior British royals. Particularly those who carry out public engagements on behalf of the crown.

    This certainly supports the ‘firm of eight’ that the Queen allegedly picked out last December and would include the following royal family members:

    • Queen Elizabeth II
    • Prince William
    • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
    • Prince Charles
    • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
    • Princess Anne
    • Prince Edward
    • Sophie, Countess of Wessex
    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge accompanied by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are both key members of the monarchy. (Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

    Harry and Meghan are noticeably missing from the current ‘Firm’. However this is no surprise, given their announcement that they won’t return as working royals.

    Prince Phillip retired in 2017, so he is also not mentioned.

    Prince Andrew is the only one of the Queen’s children not to feature in the new 2021 line-up. The 61-year-old withdrew from royal commitments in November 2019, following controversy around his friendship with the late convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.