What She Wants

How Brands Earn a Royal Warrant, the Royal Family's Seal of Approval

Live like a king or queen by buying brands and products with royal warrants.

With the recent news about the Queen’s royal bra-maker Rigby & Peller being stripped of its 57-year-old royal warrant, we decided to revisit the business of the Royal Warrant Association and the brands the royal family remains loyal to.

How is a royal warrant granted?

Senior members of the royal family distinguish the brands they regularly patronize with the help of a royal warrant. The Royal Warrant of Appointment recognizes the suppliers of goods or services that only three grantors—Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales—may award. A brand may only be awarded the warrant after at least one of the three royals has made a trading arrangement with the supplier for at least five years, according to The Royal Warrant Holders Association website.

The Warrant itself is an issued document that identifies the supplier, which is then known as the ‘grantee.’ The grantee is given permission to appropriately display the grantor’s royal coat of arms on its products. The coveted warrant is an excellent form of marketing and immediately provides it with an edge.

It's not easy to be granted a warrant, however. Potential grantees must apply for the honor and then the Lord Chamberlain, head of the royal household, gives his recommendations. The warrants, which are only granted to companies that provide goods or services to the royal household, may last only for five years, They may not be granted for professional services, government, or private agencies. Luckily for foreign companies, grantees need not be British-owned or U.K.-based.


How did it start?

Like all things royal-related, the business of awarding royal warrants is backed by tradition. Back in the medieval times, as early as the 12th century, the monarch was tasked with rewarding his country’s best tradespeople. Henry II presented the Weavers’ Company with a Royal Charter, essentially the first form of a document that resembled the warrant. The Royal Warrant of Appointment was established in the 15th century, with one of its first holders being William Caxton, the country’s first printer.

During Queen Victoria's reign that began in 1837, the number of appointed warrants grew until its grantees reached over 1,000 in number. To help regulate the grantees, the Royal Tradesmen Association was formed. Formal rules were put in place to ensure that the royal coat of arms was used by the companies correctly. In 1907 the Tradesmen Association was renamed the Royal Warrant Holders Association.   

Which suppliers currently hold warrants?

With the vast size of the royal household, there are exactly 816 royal warrant holders today and most of these grantees are part of the Royal Warrant Association. Take a look at the complete list here.

Some of the more iconic warrant holders include Berry Bros & Rudd, Britain’s original wine and spirit merchant, which has held a warrant for more than two centuries, and Cornelia James Ltd., which has been the Queen’s choice for all her gloves since her wedding in 1947.

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Other unexpected but everyday warrant holders include Heinz (The Queen must have her ketchup and baked beans), Kellogg’s (her favorite appears to be Special K cereal), and Denhay Farms (Prince Charles’ official bacon curer).

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A handful of popular warrant holders that are available in the Philippines include Burberry, Cartier, Clarins, Jaguar, Bentley Motors, and more. In a number of occasions, Her Majesty was spotted being chauffeured in a Bentley Mulsanne, but she was also spotted behind the wheel of a green Jaguar last year.

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Which suppliers have lost their warrant throughout the years?

Apart from Rigby & Peller, many brands have lost the monarchy’s appointment, but in more or less dramatic ways. Companies lose their warrants if they fail to meet the grantor’s standards, if the grantee discloses details of the service they provide the grantor (just as Rigby & Peller’s June Kenton did by releasing a tell-all book), or if the grantor dies and the warrant expires after five years. The grant is automatically reviewed if in case the “grantee dies or leaves the business, or if the firm goes bankrupt or is sold,” it’s revealed on the Royal website.

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Following Princess Diana’s tragic car crash death in 1997, department store chain Harrod’s was spurned by Prince Philip, who accused the store’s owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, of executing the plot that killed both Diana and his own son. He repealed the 44-year-old royal warrant granted to Harrod’s and Al Fayed responded by banning the prince consort from the store.

In 1999, the tobacco group Gallaher, the makers of Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges cigarettes, lost its royal warrant after 122 years. The Irish Times reports that while the Palace’s decision comes from the lack of demand for cigarettes, it appears that Prince Charles, who abhors smoking, might have influenced the decision. The choice also comes from the royal family’s desire to distance themselves from the habit of smoking, which has endangered the lives of many British people.

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Source: The Royal Warrants Holders Association

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Hannah Lazatin
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