If you are alive and in Australia, chances are you have had a pint in a Royal.
This wonderful land is crawling with Royal Hotels and one curious Aussie recently went looking for answers.
“Something that tickles my imagination is how come there’s a Royal Hotel in just about every town in Australia?” Berril Castles asked ABC’s Curious Central West.
The ABC went to Emeritus Professor of History at La Trobe University and co-author of “The Australian Pub” to get to the bottom of it.
“It’s quite true the Royal was the most popular name for a pub in Australia for something like 120 years,” Professor Kirkby said.
That’s a pretty good innings, and according to Kirby, there are two likely reasons for it.
The first is that it was an early marketing technique. Before digital influencers were secretly selling you stuff on YouTube, the advertising industry was far less subtle. Calling yourself “The Royal” simply gave you a connection to the actual British royal family, who were still a pretty big deal a century ago.
Best of all? Naming your pub The Royal cost nothing and no one could sue you for it.
Other common pub names relate to royalty, which lends credence to the first theory. You also may have found yourself in a “Victoria”, “Grand” or “Crown” at some point.
Having been to a few Royals, I can testify that the connection to royalty is pretty slight. But if you squint, down three pints and use your imagination, you can surely picture it.
The second major reason behind the prevalence of “Royal” pubs is connected to Australia’s colonial past. Early hotels were set up on transport routes used by the Royal Mail, and Kirby says that Royal Hotels were perhaps official coach stops along those routes.
According to Publocation, a site dedicated to Aussie pubs, “Royal” is the most popular name for a pub with 242 across the country.
This is followed by “Commercial” (137) in distant second and then “Club” (107). “Grand” (81) and “Railway” (74) round out the top five.
ABC notes that one Aussie legend named Joan Tunstell has spent the last decade photographing Royals all over Australia.
You can see the whole collection, which is pushing 100, on her blog. You’re almost halfway there, Joan – keep it up!