At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s mighty army faced the British ‘thin red line’.

And the distinctive uniforms worn by the Duke of Wellington’s battle force were made from fabric which started out here in Yorkshire.

The cloth came from Hainsworth, which has operated in Farsley, near Leeds, for more than 225 years and has been a family business for seven generations.

Today the company’s iconic scarlet cloth is worn by the Queen’s Guards and as the Military’s ceremonial dress. Prince William wore it on his wedding day, and Prince Charles wore it when he married Diana in 1981.

The rich heritage has inspired Hainsworth’s new luxury lifestyle brand, Scarlet & Argent, comprising woollen blankets, throws and home accessories.

Nine iconic items in the range include the Lupton Blanket – a nod to Hainsworth’s purchase of William Lupton & Co. Ltd from the great-grandparents of the Duchess of Cambridge in 1958. The Yorkshire company belonged to Kate’s great-grandmother Olive Lupton, and the Lupton family crest is the inspiration for the Scarlet & Argent blanket.

Hainsworth has the Royal Warrant for supplying the Queen with interior fabrics, for Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and its cloth covers the Woolsack; the centuries-old seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords.

The company is also a luxury fabric supplier to royalty worldwide, from Denmark to Malaysia, and its fabric is used by designers including Paul Smith.

Ever since its presence at Waterloo, Hainsworth has supplied fabric for the British armed forces, and for military around the world. In 1917, when the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps requested uniforms, Hainsworth happened to have a bulk load of light blue cloth. It had been ordered by the Russian Czar for his Cossack Regiments, but when the revolution came the order was withdrawn, so the cloth was supplied to the Royal Flying Corps, leading to the nickname ‘Boys in Blue’ which the RAF retains today.

This year, as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Hainsworth’s cloth will be on display for all the world to see.

“Hainsworth on parade” is what company boss Tom Hainsworth’s children call the Queen’s Guards in their scarlet tunics lining the Mall.

Red was the standard uniform colour for the British infantry up to the 19th century – it was said to enhance morale and patriotic pride, and distinguish friend from foe – and the Crimean War was the last time it was worn in conflict. By 1914, the highly visible uniforms were replaced with camouflage khaki, as the British marched into the First World War.

But in ceremonial terms, the scarlet uniform has remained. “It is the pride of the UK, and is very much linked with our Scarlet & Argent brand,” says Tom Hainsworth, managing director of the Yorkshire company. “At last year’s Royal Wedding, three billion people around the world saw Hainsworth cloth on parade. There’s a pride, passion and dedication in our product, and a rich history that inspires it. Every other nation aspires to have that.”

The Hainsorth story dates back to 1783, when Abimelech Hainsworth, known as ‘Old Bim’, started collecting cloth woven in handloom weavers’ cottages, transporting it by horse and cart to Leeds Coloured Cloth Hall. By 1800 he’d saved enought to rent mill premises where, in partnership with his brother Joseph, he employed handloom weavers.

Today, Hainsworth is one of the country’s top textile companies. “We’re extremely proud of our history and everything we have achieved over the past two centuries,” says Tom. “Our business strategy going forward is about harnsessing the best of our heritage with the best in modern manufacturing, technology, sales and marketing.”

The wool is from Australian and New Zealand sheep, producing a fine, soft fibre for blankets and throws in the Scarlet & Argent range. Each piece is created in Hainsworth’s specialist mill, from the selection of raw wool to the hand-finished touches.

“The whole process - from delivering the wool, blending it, spinning the yarn, weaving, dyeing and all other finishing processes - is all done here in Yorkshire,” says Tom. “Woollen textiles are very much a Yorkshire root. The Dale and Moor throws, in the Scarlet & Argent range, are a modern tribute to a traditional wool drying process in which cloth was stretched over wooden tenter frames and pinned in place with hooks. This is where the saying ‘on tenterhooks’ comes from. In reference to this, we have left tenterhooks in the side of the fabric.”

With such attention to detail, and a timeless style, the Scarlet & Argent collection exudes relaxed elegance and contemporary charm. It includes the Equine Amber Throw, inspired by equestrian heritage style and woven with the Newmarket colour palette of amber, red and navy; the Liberty Born Blanket, a baby blanket woven with soft merino wool and trimmed with Liberty fabric; and the Twill and Granite throw, inspired by two special weaves used to create subtle stripes.

“The collection plays on a British theme,” says Tom. “Britain’s trading history is very much based on textiles, and blankets played a big part in that. They were transported around the world.”

As well as luxury fabrics, Hainsworth has been at the forefront of protective fabrics for 100 years, suppying materials for clothing for fire brigades in the UK, and in America, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sweden and Germany. The company also produces fabric for items as diverse as biodegradable coffins and snooker and pool tables in China!

“China is booming in snooker halls, there’s a big demand for fabric but they can’t get the right quality there. The cloth has to be faultless, otherwise the whole table is useless. It is that level of quality that sets us apart,” says Tom. While this is very much a 21st century rise in business, he reveals that the origins of the company’s biodegradable wool coffins lie four centuries in the past.

“A 17th century act ruled that people had to be buried in woollen shrouds to aid the struggling wool industry,” he says, adding that Hainsworth’s wool coffins have earned Royal recognition.

“Prince Charles, who is patron of the Campaign for Wool, referred to them at the Wool Modern exhibition in London. He understands the industry,” says Tom.

“Wool is a natural fibre, it keeps you warm and cool, it’s sustainable, renewable and versatile. In this climate, consumers are discerning and are seeking quality. They would rather invest in a good quality product, and a touch of luxury, that lasts rather than a few cheap ones that don’t.”

For more about Hainsworth’s Scarlet & Argent range, visit