Willie Robertson

February 28th, 2024

We have been delightfully poring over the news that Garden Lodge, the home of the legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is going on the market with Thomas van Straubenzee at Knight Frank for £30million+.

Having been lovingly taken care of by his former fianceé and close friend Mary Austin for 30 years, the property has remained untouched from the time that Freddie lived there. He originally paid £50,000 for the Neo-Georgian mansion in 1980 and stayed there until his passing in 1991.

The area in which it sits – a quiet enclave of Kensington is a very familiar one to us at Harwood. A mere 10 minutes walk away is the house in Holland Park recently sold by Freddie’s lead guitarist, Brian May. And just around the corner is the Phillimore Estate – where the Queen drummer Roger Taylor owned a home for many years.

It is also the area once frequented by Willie Robertson, Sami’s father. A legendary insurance executive for the entertainment industry, he virtually single-handedly created insurance cover for entertainers in the 1970s, when he introduced non-appearance and equipment cover for rock’n’roll bands. Queen were a long-standing client of his international insurance company Robertson Taylor (now acquired by Tysers).

He was a firm believer in doing business over lunch – and one of his favourite local restaurants was the glorious Maggie Jones, where he spent many a long hour.

Clients loved Willie because he was always there for them. When Rod Stewart dislocated a toe and cancelled a series of American dates, he flew out on Concorde and persuaded the insurance company to pay up. When Pink Floyd floated a huge helium-filled pink pig over Battersea Power Station to shoot the cover of their 1977 album Animals, fortunately they had insured the session. The pig broke loose and was finally shot down by a farmer in Kent, but not before a pilot coming in to land had reported seeing a flying pig.

Trusted by most of the biggest rock bands of all time, Willie also provided insurance cover for The Who, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson……and even Pope John Paul II.

Many of the values that Harwood are built on are inherited from Willie Robertson. From his obituary in 2011:

“Willie rarely got stressed by his work. He was never off-duty. He was a loyal and close friend to his immediate circle, most of them dating back to schooldays. And like many busy people, he always took on more.”

Onwards and upwards.