One would think that with so much wealth, and such a long history of possessing it, the British Royal Family would have really rather excellent taste by now. Everything from the soaps they use in their bathrooms to the hi-fi systems in their music rooms, to the cars they drive and yachts they sail, are expertly chosen. The manufacturers of these products are granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment – effectively a Royal endorsement, a highly prized badge of quality.
Any company or a tradesman who is granted a Royal Warrant can proudly advertise the fact that they supply senior members of the Royal Family with their goods or services. They display the relevant coat of arms of either Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Philip or Prince Charles. Underneath this is usually a phrase saying, “By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”, “By Appointment to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh” or “By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales” respectively. Then follows a description of what goods are provided. It is granted normally for five years, and reviewed in the fourth.
Richard Peck, Secretary of the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association, explains that it’s a very old tradition, with records going back to Henry II in 1155. By the time of Queen Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, individual tradesmen were being appointed to court, and then the Royal Warrant Association started in 1840 during Queen Victoria's reign, as a formal recognition of the special relationship that suppliers of the best goods and services had with the monarch. It started with around two hundred Warrant holders, but by the end of the century there were two thousand. He points out that around this time came the issue of fraud. “Companies realised it gave them commercial advantage, and by the beginning of the twentieth century the Association was prosecuting about three hundred companies a year!”
“The Warrant represents the fact that there’s a satisfactory trading arrangement in place between the Royal household and a company,” Peck explains. “We definitely do not say that these are the best companies, but they provide products or services that the Royal household prefer to use. Regularly, companies fall of the list – either because they don't come up to the mark, or their products no longer required. They are constantly under review, and if the company doesn't match up then they lose the Warrant.” Concerns over youth employment, issues of sustainability and the encouragement of international trade all determine whether companies can keep their Royal Warrant. “If Warrant holders do not satisfy these, they are told to up their game”, says Peck. “It is something that really encourages British industry to perform, because if they don't they lose it!
So, if you are considering buying British products, then do look out for a small Royal coat of arms subtly displayed by the company’s name, on their publicity or advertising material. Alternatively, for a full list you can search the Royal Warrant Holders Association website at: www.royalwarrant.org/directory.