What is a royal warrant and how do you get one?

A royal warrant is seen as being a stamp of approval from the King himself. But they’re not just for luxury products, they can be for roofing and even a can of baked beans. What is a royal warrant and how do you get one?

You may have spotted the regal royal warrant logo on something that you have bought. Maybe it says, “By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”. But what does that mean, can it boost sales for your small business, and how are you even granted one?

What is a royal warrant?

A Royal Warrant of Appointment is granted as a mark of recognition to people or companies who have regularly supplied goods or services to the late HM The Queen, the late HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales or their households.

These symbols on packaging or websites not only show that the companies meet high standards but have also supplied the Royal Household on a regular basis.

One thing though is that the royal households outside of London, whether that’s Balmoral or Windsor Castle, are keen to use local tradesman. Hence a royal warrant for a roofer and even a sporran maker.

The Royal Warrant Holders Association, which represents warrant holders, told Small Business: “The warrant is a mark of recognition from the royal household. Most of its suppliers do not have a royal warrant. They can be for everything from the everyday through to almost the crown jewels. It’s everything that a country estate or a hotel or a restaurant could need.”

How many royal warrants are there?

Approximately 850, held by around 750 companies or individuals, but it changes almost monthly.

Which companies can have a royal warrant?

Until their deaths, the late Queen, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh were all what’s called grantors of royal warrants, as was the new King in his position of Prince of Wales.

Existing royal warrant holders will have to reapply to the Royal Warrant Holders Association by the new King and Prince of Wales but can continue to hold their existing warrants for two years.

The 180 royal warrants King Charles issued as Prince of Wales will continue now that he is King, as they go with the household, not the title.

However, many royal warrant holders are on tenterhooks as any decision at to renew or withdraw their warrants is only expected to be made after the coronation on May 6.

However, the RWHA is confident that the system will restart with the coronation out of the way.

“The warrant is the personal gift of the monarch, and they decide who they will grant it to,” the RWHA told Small Business. “The same goes for charities, which are also on hold. However, the new king has granted warrants for 42 years and has supported the current system.”

For how long does a royal warrant last?

A royal warrant is usually granted for up to five years and reviewed in the year before it is due to expire so that a decision can be made as to whether to renew it for up to another five years.

What kind of goods hold royal warrants?

They can be anything used by royal households on a regular basis from chimney sweeps to dry cleaners. For example, my plastic dish cleaning wand is by royal warrant holder Minky and it tickles me to think of Her Majesty also doing the dishes with one.

There are currently over 800 Royal Warrant holders, including such luxury British brands as jeweller Asprey, shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser and hotel The Goring, where the Princess of Wales stayed the night before her wedding, just as you’d expect.

What’s surprising is that there are also multinational brands including Coca-Cola and Nestle among royal warrant holders, as well as American brands including Heinz and Kellogg’s. You wonder whether these multinationals really need the royal seed of approval.

On the other hand, there is also a scaffolder, a window cleaner and even a sporran maker – all by royal appointment.

One insider points out that being a royal warrant holder is nothing to do with promoting UK plc abroad or being there to help with luxury goods exports, but is simply a recognition of good service.

How long does a royal warrant last for?

A royal warrant is initially granted for up to five years to a named individual at a company, known as the “grantee”. An official royal warrant display document is sent to the grantee which provides evidence of the authority to use the royal arms.

Do I have to supply my products for free?

No, each royal household buys products on commercial terms.

What can a royal warrant do for my business?

Obviously, there is quality by association, and being a warrant holder can certainly help when it comes to luxury goods and exports.

However, being granted a royal warrant means you can do nothing more than state you are a warrant holder. There are strict rules about how the warrant must be displayed on products, stationery, and advertising materials. 

Indeed, warrant holder Rigby & Peller, once supplier of lingerie to the Queen, lost its warrant in 2017 after a former worker revealed details of bra-fitting sessions within Buckingham Palace.

How to apply for a royal warrant

Companies can apply for a warrant after they have supplied a royal household with goods or services for at least five years out of seven (to include during the 12 months before applying).

Applicants must complete an application form, a trading review form, and the sustainability criteria as part of their application. The forms and details on how to complete the online sustainability criteria may be obtained from the RWHA.

The closing date for applications in each year will be advertised on the RWHA’s website.

Businesses that cannot apply for royal warrants

  • Bankers
  • Brokers or agents (including insurance brokers or agents)
  • Solicitors
  • Employment agencies
  • Party planners
  • Training providers
  • Veterinary service providers
  • Newspapers, magazines, journals

How can I get product into a royal household?

This is the confusing part. The process of getting your product as a small business owner in front of the royal household is opaque. Basically, you can’t. There is no central procurement system and, as one insider told Small Business, if there was, the palaces would be inundated with free samples.

Rather, each household from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace to Sandringham has its own needs. A bit like being knighted, one must wait to be tapped on the shoulder.

Why might a company lose a royal warrant?

Because a company or brand loses favour with the Royal Family. Unsurprisingly, Harrods lost its royal warrants in the early 2000s as the Queen, Prince Philip and the then Prince of Wales all ended their association with the department store after the death of Princess Diana and her relations with Mohamed Al-Fayed.

Other reasons include that the product or service is considered substandard, or the company itself goes out of business and the product is no longer manufactured.

What happens if a royal warrant is rescinded?

You have up to 12 months to alter packaging, stationery, and advertising and to remove the warrant from buildings and vehicles. 

How many royal warrants are cancelled each year?

Between 20 and 40 – and a similar number of new ones are granted.

Further reading

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...