We have all heard of the Rolls Royce, and these days it is a car that is close to my heart, not because I own one, but because I’m pretty sure there are family ties to my son-in-law, Travis Royce and now, my daughter, Amy Royce, and their children, Shai and Caalab. I don’t know that for sure, but I have a hunch, and it’s not just the name. Time will tell as I research further.
Sir Frederick Henry Royce, 1st Baronet, OBE, was an English engineer. OBE stands for “The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service.” Sir Royce was famous for his designs of car and aeroplane engines with a reputation for reliability and longevity. Of course, we probably know much more about the product that brought him fame, than we do the man and his partners, who brought that product to life.
Sir Frederick Henry Royce was born in Alwalton, Huntingdonshire, near Peterborough on March 27, 1863, to James and Mary Royce (née King). He was youngest of their five children. His father ran a flour mill which he leased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Unfortunately, the business failed, and the family moved to London. After his father died in 1872, Royce had to go out to work selling newspapers and delivering telegrams after only one year of formal schooling. With such a beginning, it would seem quite unlikely that Sir Royce would ever amount to anything, but in 1878 with the financial help of an aunt, Royce was able to start an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway company at its works in Peterborough. Unfortunately, the money ran out after three years, and Royce was again forced to change careers. He worked for a short time with a tool-making company in Leeds, and then returned to London and joined the Electric Light and Power Company. In 1882, he moved to their Liverpool office and began working on street and theatre lighting.
Following a few other ventures that produced minimal success, Royce partnered with Charles Rolls (1877–1910) and Claude Johnson (1864–1926) and founded Rolls-Royce. The new company initially focused on large 40-50 horsepower motor cars, the Silver Ghost and its successors. Royce produced his first aero engine shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and aircraft engines became Rolls-Royce’s principal product. While the Rolls Royce aeroplane engine was a much-needed product during the war, it will always be the famous Rolls Royce automobiles that people will remember. They are beautifully elegant, and to be desired by those who have the means to afford them, as well as those who wish they could afford them.
Henry Royce married Minnie Punt in 1893, but they had no children. The couple separated in 1912. Royce, who lived by the motto “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble,” was appointed OBE in 1918, and was created a baronet, of Seaton in the County of Rutland, in 1930 for his services to British Aviation. Sir Royce’s health began to fail him in 1911 and he was finally forced to leave his factory in the Midlands at Derby. He took a team of designers and moved to the south of England, while spending winters in the south of France. He died at his home in Sussex on April 22, 1933. With no children, the baronetcy became extinct on his death.