History of the Red Coat

History of the Red Coat

For more than 300 years the role of Toastmaster has been a unique position in English society where its’ recognisable history began with Richard ‘Beau’ Nash in the town of Bath around 1705.

Nash became assistant to the City’s then Master of the Ceremonies, King Webster soon after arriving in Bath and after Webster’s death he himself was appointed Master of the Ceremonies. He held the position for over 65 years and through the reign of 3 English monarchs. Wearing a coloured frock coat, knee breeches, black stockings and black silver-buckled shoes, Nash wielded a black cane which he would bang on the floor to gain attention. His style of dress was the accepted dress code until towards the end of the 19th century.

Reputedly, in 1894 William Knightsmith was becoming increasingly incensed at being addressed as a waiter by members of the assembled companies that he was attending to. His wife suggested that he changed the colour of his coat to make him stand out.

In that same year he first wore his new scarlet jacket, much to the amusement of other Toastmasters, who saw it ridiculed him and thought it a joke.

Later seen by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward the Seventh), he led applause and approved of the colour ( the ‘hunting pink’ coat ) that within a year virtually all Toastmasters in London were wearing.