What are Royal Warrants?
A “Royal Warrant of Appointment” is an official document which allows a business to display the coat of arms of the Royal Household, “Royal Arms”, on its products or in relation to services. It is granted in recognition for an ongoing supply to the Royal Household (the immediate family, principal courtiers and servants of the monarch). It is a way of showing they are a “preferred” product or service. The Warrant is granted to a named individual within a company, known as the “Grantee”.
There are currently approximately 850 Royal Warrants, held by around 750 holders. They represent a large variety of industry, ranging from dry cleaners to fishmongers, and from agricultural machinery to computer software.
Royal Warrants date back to medieval times and were preceded by Royal Charters, the first of which was granted by Henry II in 1155 to the Weavers’ Company. In 1684, royal purveyors included a Haberdasher of Hats, a Watchmaker in Reversion, an Operator for the Teeth and a Goffe-Club Maker. In 1789, they had a Pin Maker, a Mole Taker, a Card Maker and a Rat Catcher.
The Royal Arms started being displayed on the premises and stationery of those to whom Royal Warrants were granted during 18th century. In 1840, the Royal Warrant Holders Association was formed to assist with the administration of Warrants and to advise Royal Warrant holders.
Who grants them?
The Monarch decides who may grant Royal Warrants, called the “Grantors”. Royal Warrants were, until the death of Queen Elizabeth II, granted in the name of HM The Queen and (the former) HRH The Prince of Wales. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was also formally a Grantor of Warrants.
Royal warrant by appointment to HM The Queen
Royal warrant by appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales
Royal warrant by appointment to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
During her reign, Elizabeth II granted a total of 686 Royal Warrants. By comparison, almost 2,000 Royal Warrants were granted during the reign of Queen Victoria. Royal Warrants granted by “HM The Queen” became void on the Queen’s death. However, holders can continue to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business for up to 2 years. The Royal Household reviews Royal Warrant Grants on a change of sovereign, and it is expected that current holders of Royal Warrants will have to reapply.
There is the question of whether Warrants granted in the name of the former “HRH The Prince of Wales”, now King Charles III, will continue. If they do, the Grantees will likely be required to update their branding to reflect the Grantor’s new title “HM The King”.
In practice, the Lord Chamberlain formally grants Royal Warrants as head of the Royal Household.
Royal Warrants are initially granted for up to 5 years and are reviewed by the Royal Household Warrants Committee in the year before they are due to expire. Warrants may not be renewed if the quality or supply for the product or service is insufficient.
A Warrant is automatically reviewed if the Grantee dies or leaves the business, or if the company goes bankrupt or is sold. A Royal Warrant can be cancelled at any time if the holder:
- Conducts itself in a way likely to bring the Royal Household into disrepute;
- Breaches (or is suspected to have breached) the rules on using the Royal Warrant; or
- No longer supplies a product or service of a quality sufficient to justify continuation.
Around 20 to 40 Royal Warrants are cancelled each year. The holder is normally allowed up to 12 months to alter their packaging, stationery, advertising, buildings and vehicles. A similar amount of new Warrants are granted each year.
Rights and correct use
When a company displays the Royal Arms in relation to their business, the Coat of Arms must always be accompanied by a “Legend”.
This Legend provides the details of which Member of the Royal Family has granted the Royal Warrant, the company name, the nature of the goods or services provided and the head office address of the company.
The Lord Chamberlain's Rules govern how the Royal Warrant may be displayed on a company's products, stationery, advertisements and other printed material, in their premises and on delivery vehicles.
According to the Rules, the grant gives the Warrant Holder nothing more than “a right to display the Royal Arms and the associated Legend(s) purely as an indication and mark of recognition that the Warrant Holder is a regular supplier of goods or services to the relevant Grantor”.
They are not entitled to claim or imply any exclusivity of supply; nor indicate that there is any form of Royal patronage or authorisation when there is not.
The Holders are not entitled to allow any third party, including related / affiliated companies (whether by way of a franchise, joint venture, licence agreement or any other arrangement), to use the Royal Arms unless use by such third party is expressly approved in advance by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.
Advance written approval will also need to be sought in order to display the Royal Arms on good or services produced in collaboration with a third party (i.e. whenever another entity's name is involved).
Relationship with trade marks
Whilst Royal Warrants are used alongside trade marks, they are completely different and do not have the same function. Trade marks indicate commercial origin whereas the use of the Royal Arms indicate an approval, or “preference” from the Royal Household.
The Rules state that the Royal Arms should not in any way be used as a trade or service mark (i.e. a logo device, whether accompanied by words or not), or as part of such a mark. They should not be used in any way as, or as part of, a brand device that indicates, or is likely to lead persons to think on seeing the mark, that the goods or services being produced / offered under such brand device in some way originate from (or are connected with) the Royal Household or a member of the Royal Family.
The use and display of the Royal Arms as a Royal Warrant must be separate from, and not form part of, the Warrant Holder's brand(s).
How to apply
To apply for a Royal Warrant, a business must have supplied products or services on a regular basis to the Royal Household of the Grantor for not less than 5 out of the 7 past years. Royal Warrants are not granted for professional services – e.g. bankers, brokers or agents, solicitors, employment agencies, government agencies – or to newspapers, magazines, journals, periodicals or similar publications.
Amongst other things, applicants are required to show that they have an appropriate environmental and sustainability policy and action plan. It is not essential for the company to be British owned or UK-based, hence, around 10 Champagne houses hold Royal Warrants.
The rules are slightly different for Warrant Holders incorporated in Scotland, or whose principal place of business is Scotland. They must display the Scottish version of the Royal Arms, even where goods or services are sold or provided outside of Scotland.
Royal warrant by appointment to HM The Queen (Scotland)
Whilst there is no Scottish version of The Prince of Wales's Badge, the Legend beneath should read 'By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay…etc'.
According to the Royal Warrant Holders Association’s Members’ Directory, there are currently seventeen Scotland-based holders of Royal Grants:
Bread and Biscuits:
- Byron Bakery (Aberdeen)
- Fisher & Donaldson (Fife)
- Walker’s Shortbread (Aberlour On Spey)
- Laphroaig Distillery (Isle of Islay)
- Matthew Gloag & Son (Glasgow)
- Royal Lochnagar (Cairngorm)
Fruit and Vegetables:
- Deeside Deli (Ballater)
- Mark Murphy (Edinburgh)
- Donald Russell (Inverurie)
- M. Sheridan (Ballater)
- Wark Farm (Alford)
- George Strachan (Aboyne)
Fish & Shellfish:
- Inverawe Smokehouses (Argyll)
- John Ross Jr (Aberdeen)
- Keltic Seafare (Dingwall)
- Mowi (Rosyth)
- Valvona & Crolla (Edinburgh)