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Harrods’ hidden history: Famous London store once hired a COBRA to guard a diamond encrusted shoe, TV documentary reveals
- The Rene Caovilla shoe remained safely in its display case in Knightsbridge
- Harrods was opened in 1849 the use of a snake was just on extraordinary events
- Today its 12,000 staff in 330 retail areas serve 15 million shoppers a year
Any shop displaying a shoe encrusted with rubies, sapphires and diamonds has to take its security seriously.
But only one store in the world would go to the extreme of guarding it with a live cobra.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Harrods’ decision to use the snake at its famous Knightsbridge store in London paid off – and the Rene Caovilla shoe remained safely in its display case.
The cobra was guarding Rene Caovilla shoes which were encrusted with rubies
The use of the snake in 2007 is just one of the extraordinary events recalled tonight in a TV documentary about the store’s hidden history.
Former security guard Ray Wilding recalls that the most expensive single item he ever saw sold at the store – known for its big-spending customers – was a £500,000 watch. But other only slightly less eye-watering sales were a daily occurrence.
‘People would just come in during their lunch hour and buy an emerald necklace for £350,000,’ he says.
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The use of the snake in by the Knightsbridge department store (pictured) in 2007 is just one of the extraordinary events recalled tonight in a TV documentary
Shoppers today don’t give a thought to using the store’s 16 sweeping escalators. But when, in 1898, the company installed Britain’s first ‘moving staircase’, customers’ nerves had to be steadied. So a liveried footman stood at the top serving gentlemen shoppers with a glass of brandy, while a maid offered smelling salts to the ladies.
Children of the rich and famous have long escaped their parents and sought refuge in the world-famous toy department. Viewers will learn how Princes William and Harry used to try out the latest video games.
The toy department was also an inspiration for author A. A. Milne. In 1921, his wife Daphne bought a teddy bear for the birthday of their son, Christopher Robin. He named it Winnie and the rest of the boy’s toys became Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga and Roo in Milne’s classic Winnie-The-Pooh. Ever popular was the store’s exotic menagerie of live animals which, in 1969, included a lion club called Christian, acquired from a zoo in Ilfracombe. He was later bought for 250 guineas and taken to Kenya, and then released into the wild.
Harrods was opened in 1849. Today its 12,000 staff in 330 retail areas serve 15 million shoppers a year. Last year they spent £2 billion.
‘You could buy a baguette [to eat] or you could buy a whole necklace of baguettes made from diamonds,’ says Michael Cole, the store’s former director of public relations.
- Inside Harrods will be shown on Channel 5 tonight at 7pm.
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