The Royal Warrants

The Royal Warrant: By Appointment

You have certainly seen those seals bearing a phrase that starts with, “By Appointment to”. It is the Royal Warrant, an endorsement by a member of a royal family to a product or provider of services that they deemed worthy of that honor. Does it really mean superior quality? Who can “appoint”? Gentleman’s Gazette explores this famous distinction.

The Prince of Wales Warrant to Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Prince of Wales Warrant to Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky

It is highly probable that the first time you saw a Royal Warrant of Appointment – or Royal Warrant, for short – was in a bottle of Scotch Whisky. In Britain, 27 holders of the Warrant are related to drinks, and since 1994 one of these – Laphroaig – has a Warrant by the Prince of Wales, a regular consumer of the peaty Islay single malt. Though many countries still maintain the system of royal warrants (even if there isn’t a monarchy with an official position), we will focus today on the most famous system of warrants: the British Royal Warrants.

What is a Royal Warrant?

A royal warrant is essentially a seal of approval: a Royal Warrant allows the supplier to boast that he has a royal (the issuer of the honor) as a client, gaining prestige by this fact. In the case of Great Britain, companies may apply for a Royal Warrant if they have been suppliers to the Royal Household for at least five years. After the honor is granted, the holder may display the coat of arms of the granter and the words “By Appointment”.

The History of the Royal Warrant

Henry II Plantagenet

Henry II Plantagenet

A Royal Warrant holder may exhibit the seals – a tradition that started in the 18th century – in their products, premises, stationery, vehicles, and advertisements. But the privilege is much older and comes from the royal charters granted to medieval corporations or guilds, such as the one granted by King Henri II to the Weaver’s Company in 1155. The Warrants are not awarded to professional services such as banking, lawyers, accountants, periodicals and places such as pubs.

The Royal Warrant Holders Association Annual Dinner

The Royal Warrant Holders Association Annual Dinner

In a dinner organized by the holders in 1840 to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria, they decided to create the “Royal Tradesmen Association”, then with 25 members, all men: if a woman or a company belonging to one received a Royal Warrant, she could “appoint a gentleman to represent her.”

Queen Victoria in 1840

Queen Victoria in 1840

Queen Victoria was the main Power behind the prestige of the honor: in her 64-year reign, she and her family granted over 2,000 Royal Warrants, many of them – as those awarded to companies such as Fortnum & Mason, Schweppes, and Twinings – extant. In 1907, a Royal Decree – renewed 100 years later by the Queen – transformed the association in “The Royal Warrant Holders Association”. However, as an option, not all holders are members of the association.

The Royal Warrant Today

The seals of the extant three royal warrant granters

The seals of the extant three royal warrant granters

In the UK, only three members of the royal family may award warrants to a regular and trustable supplier. (The Queen Mother – a keen gin drinker – also granted warrants, but they expired automatically in 2007, five years after her death in 2002.) As of this writing, Queen Elizabeth has 634 standing Royal Warrants, the Prince of Wales 164 and the Duke of Edinburgh 34. In the case of the Prince of Wales, the company must also show that it follows proper environmental policies.

The holders of Royal Warrants form a small and select group of 832 companies with daily, normal activities and also with prosaic ones, such as Cherwell Packaging Ltd, “supplier of washroom hygiene products”, or Hugh Todd, that fits into the “Agricultural and Animal Welfare” and supplies “animal pregnancy scanning”, probably for the horses or corgi dogs of the Queen.

Latitude Cartography Ltd products

Latitude Cartography Ltd products


In an era where almost everyone has a precision GPS in their hands, thanks to the smartphones, it is almost unimaginable that someone may still need a cartographer, but Latitude Cartography Ltd was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment by Her Majesty in 2008! I believe that their main customers are the landed gentry who need to have the exact dimension of their properties – and it comes in a nice package, too.

But I believe that the reader may be more interested in the Royal Warrant suppliers of apparel, or, as the Royal Warrant Holders Association states, “Clothing and Accessories”.

Triple Warrant Holders

Some of these companies hold three Warrants, granted by the Queen, by the Duke of Edinburgh or by the Prince of Wales.

An old Daks advertisement

An old Daks advertisement

Daks

That is the case of Daks, for instance. Founded in 1894, it became famous for the invention of the “self-supporting trousers”, thanks to the adjustable waistband that eliminated the need for belts or suspenders. They also had small rubber pads inside the waistband to hold the shirt in place.

Daks ad

Daks ad

These slacks were a creation of Alexander Simpson, son of Simeon, the founder. By the way, the name Daks come from a combination of the words “DAD” (the founder) and “SLACKS” (the American word for informal trousers).

Ede & Ravenscroft

Ede & Ravenscroft entrance at Chancery Lane, London

Ede & Ravenscroft entrance at Chancery Lane, London


Another garment company to have three warrants is Ede & Ravenscroft, a name that sounds as if it came straight out of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. The company – now almost 330 years old – produces legal and ceremonial dress, as well as regular tailoring.

Gieves & Hawkes

The Prince of Wales tries his hand at cutting a wool fabric for a suit

The Prince of Wales tries his hand at cutting a wool fabric for a suit

Gieves & Hawkes, majestically located at the iconic No. 1 Savile Row, is one of the Prince of Wales’ main tailors. In 2013, during one of his visits to the bicentenary company, he tried his hand at cutting a gray wool fabric, perhaps for a new suit for himself.

The Royal Warrant issued for Gieves & Hawkes

The Royal Warrant issued for Gieves & Hawkes

One of their DNA marks is a soft shoulder, with room at the front and a high armhole, as well as a roped shoulder coherent with their military roots. They now boast all three British royals as clients and granters.

Barbour

Prince Charles in a Barbour jacket

Prince Charles in a Barbour jacket

A name that is probably familiar for those with an active country life is Barbour, “Manufacturers of Waterproof & Protective Clothing” for the three granters. They are most famous for the wax jackets they make in the North East of England. These coats may be rewaxed, meaning that they may be worn for years or decades – something that appeals to the thrifty side of the Prince of Wales. Margaret Barbour said that their warrants “make her very proud” – and to top that off, she was the first lady member elected to the Royal Warrant Holders’ Council.

Other Notable Warrant Holders

Anderson & Sheppard

A visit to Anderson & Sheppard

A visit to Anderson & Sheppard

Per Anderson, one of the founders of the company established in 1906, was a keen disciple of the legendary cutter Frederick Scholte, who made clothes for the Duke of Windsor (of Wallis Simpson fame). They were responsible for most of Prince Charles double-breasted suits for years. In their books, the prince is named “Charles Smith” since he started to order clothes from them in 1982.

John Hitchcock, chief cutter at Anderson & Sheppard

John Hitchcock, chief cutter at Anderson & Sheppard


Mr Hitchcock, the chief cutter, describes the Prince as “very frugal”: the rule is that he will be more called to repair an old garment than to create a new one. Faithful to the old adage, “The suit shouldn’t wear the man; the man should wear the suit”, Anderson & Sheppard still adopts the fluid style established by Per Anderson as a general guide to the minimum of 27 measurements required for each suit. Anderson & Sheppard currently hold one royal warrant.

Lock

James Lock logo and their warrants

James Lock logo and their warrants


James Lock & Co. Ltd. was founded in 1676 by Robert Davis, and it is the 34th world’s oldest family-owned business, as well as the world’s oldest hat shop. Even though the Queen has not granted it a warrant – she buys hats at George Goddard and also at Patey -, her husband and her heir have.

It is a locks measuring device for bespoke hats; not a torture instrument

It is a locks measuring device for bespoke hats; not a torture instrument


The 6, St. James’s Street address company is famous not only for their bespoke and ready-to-wear hats and caps but also for scarves, gloves and headgear accessories, such as hat boxes, brushes, and others. They currently hold two royals warrants.

Burberry

Thomas Burberry

Thomas Burberry


As Britishly iconic as the Big Ben or the Queen herself is Burberry, established in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, then only 21 years old.

Charles and Diana wearing Burberry raincoats

Charles and Diana wearing Burberry raincoats


The brand really became famous after 1880, when Thomas created the waterproof gabardine, the fabric that enabled the trench coat to be the First World War garment. After the war, it became a civilian icon. Burberry currently hold two royal warrants for weatherproofers and outfitters.

Turnbull & Asser

Robert Redford as Gatsby and Turnbull & Asser shirts

Robert Redford as Gatsby and Turnbull & Asser shirts

This is one of the warrants granted by the Prince of Wales alone. The company was founded in 1885 and has made shirts for eminent men – and literary characters, too: one of the most remarkable scenes from The Great Gatsby movie (with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, the version I prefer) had Redford, as Gatsby, flinging his Turnbull & Asser shirts to the air and commenting with Daisy: ” “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.” And Daisy cries: “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she says, “her voice muffled in the thick folds.”

The Prince of Wales also tries his skill at Turnbull & Asser factory

The Prince of Wales also tries his skill at Turnbull & Asser factory

According to the company’s website, “The film’s producer, Robert Evans, wrote in his memoir that he chose Turnbull & Asser shirts to star in the film after his friend, actress Candice Bergen, looked stunning in one when they had lunch together in London while he was filming Gatsby at Pinewood.”
This author had two T&A shirts in Sea Island cotton, over 40 years ago, which could stand to the test: thrown in the air, they would take a lifetime to get to the floor. They were really light – and this is my “Commoner Warrant” if I’m allowed to grant one.

Oops, There Goes My Royal Warrant…

Some 20-40 companies lose the concession every year, for loss of quality, closure, bankruptcy, changes in society and other causes. A similar number receive a Warrant in the same period, which is reviewed every five years.

A Royal Falling Out: Harrods

A man removes the Royal Warrants from Harrods façade

A man removes the Royal Warrants from Harrods façade


The most famous case of a company that lost its warrants is Harrods, the ultra-traditional London department store, bought in 1985 by Mohamed al-Fayed. In December 2000, the Duke of Edinburgh withdrew his Seal of approval allegedly due to a “significant decline in the trading relationship” between the Duke and the store. However, Prince Philip was inflamed by the declarations of owner Mohamed al-Fayed, who suggested that the Duke would be the mastermind of the supposed plot that killed Princess Diana and Dodi, his son.

Mohamed al-Fayed burns the RW at his property

Mohamed al-Fayed burns the RW at his property


After the announcement, al-Fayed removed the royal warrants from the store façade and from its stationery. Not satisfied, he also burned the seals and filmed the act.

Other Royals, Other Warrants

Danish Cookies Bisca

Danish Cookies Bisca

But if you believe that only the British Royal Family grants warrants, you are wrong. The Danish Royals also honor some companies and are even stricter than the British: if a regular supplier wishes to use the seal stating, “By appointment to the Royal Danish Court,” it must have been rendering services or providing goods for 10 years, at least. Among these, we have many Danish suppliers, such as Bang & Olufsen (surprise!) and Carlsberg. Swedish, Dutch and Belgian royal houses also grant warrants.

Conclusion

If you have a friend that is knowledgeable about wine, you will probably ask him or her before buying a case of a Burgundy you have never drunk before. He will state his preference, even though it may not be the best value or the best tasting wine in that price bracket. Similarly, the Royal Warrants are not granted to the best products, but to those preferred by this or that royal house member.

Sometimes, the British treat the RW as a privilege that makes the price of those products go up; sometimes, the products are considered elitist. But take a closer look and you will find Cadbury chocolates, Heinz sauces, Stork margarine, which can hardly be considered elitist.
Some companies, such as After Eight, are no longer using the RW because the younger generation dislikes the royal endorsement. And sometimes, the Royals think twice: Benson & Hedges, famous for their cigarettes, had their Royal Warrant revoked in 1999. Apparently, the Queen did not want her endorsement on products that killed her subjects.
Besides, not everyone is as keen on the Royals’ approval: in a survey mentioned in 2011 by The Guardian, 42% out of 230 adults were indifferent to royal warrants, the same percentage considered them unimportant and only 13% thought they made a difference.
Yes, the fact that Nestlé – read After Eight – dropped their RW may indicate that the multinationals no longer believe in the differential value of that honor in the sales of their products.
Anyway, in a changing world, as this is, it is interesting to patronize whoever supplies goods with inherent quality, and it allows a commoner with monarchist penchants to feel close to the royals: “Prince Charles and I drink Laphroaig, our preferred single malt…”

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The Royal Warrant: By Appointment
Article Name
The Royal Warrant: By Appointment
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What exactly is the royal warrant? Gentleman's Gazette explores this famous distinction.
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Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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7 replies
  1. Jesse Lewis says:

    As a UK citizen living in London i look to warrants as a sign of quality both in service and product, it does not always work, 3 weeks ago i sent the same question to corgi and fort belvedere – will your long socks fit a 19 inch calf, fort belvedere replied with 30 mins, corgi has yet to reply

    Reply
  2. James de Saxton says:

    Splendid article.
    Believe it is “Mohammed Fayed, though.” The “AL,” which would denote some form of nobility, was invented. Successful businessman, yes. His honour and integrity have been called into question rather more times than appropriate for a gentleman.

    Reply
  3. Myron Moore says:

    Sir,

    I am afraid you have got the likeness of a wrong Henry II up there (who was a Valois king of France from XVI century).

    On a different note, I thought your recent article on bubblies was a real corker (pun intended) – covered all the bases for me and I enjoyed it!

    Reply
  4. One says:

    I look for manufacturers that hold themselves up to a standard, and those aiming for the Royal Warrants are no different, and to me they are the sort I tend to find appealing; due to the craftsmanship, heritage, tradition, and generations of passdown know-how, that had enriched their produce to levels of perfection unattainable by your run of the mill commercially driven suppliers. For their focus is not on mainstream profitability, which is the antithesis of quality, branding, and ultimately costumer loyalty. Changing for mainstream survival unfortunately has leads as a result in many cases today, to great products of great historical importance disappearing and ceasing to exist.
    Great Britain has always been at the lead of countries around the world that still maintain and uphold tradition, as a nationalistic pride, and craftsmanship is at the heart of it all. From the most famous gun makers “Purdey & Sons” , “Holland & Holland” to cheese makers, to animal farmers & kennels of pedigree, for whom those animals (rare sheep & cattle) and pedigrees still exist. If it wasn’t for the British Standard for Cat Competeion, the Doll Face Persian Cat would now be replace by the American standard version with its peaked face, as many kids identify with it due to Disney movies.
    Celebrate what makes you British, and Royal Warrants are an integral part of that. The survey conducted above is greatly flawed, as the average Joe, doesn’t read the Gentlmen’s Gazette for one, let alon know what Gazette is. Have never been to “Anderson & Sheppards” nor ever wore a hat, from “Lock & Co.” or any other.
    Had that survey been conducted in Harrods, or any other one of the shops mentioned above, then that would have a true assessment of the reality be told. At least we would know then for sure, if they have been shopping there as a result of these shops owning a Royal Warrant, of if that has influenced their decision making in anyway.
    As for Nestle, as big as they are, I do not use a single product they make, I shop at Waitrose, and if I had to buy good from a multinational, then it would be the likes of Unilever.

    Thank you for the article, the conclusion can contradict the point you were attempting to make. While the irony of it all, I am niether British nor do I live in Britain. However, I am a great admirer of what identifies as truly British, and I frequently shop goods that possess a Royal Warrant, like my latest acquisition of Tea’s from Fortnum & Mason.

    Reply
  5. Niz THAHA says:

    Very useful and informative article on Royal Warrants. As a native Ceylonese domiciled in sunny Singapore, we export the best Ceylon Teas (also sold at Fortnum & Mason and at other leading fine food stores around the world) graded as FBOPF Extra Special but, I wonder if it requires the seal of approval of the royalty to be recognized worldwide as the best tea producing country or that gourmet grade.

    Anytime is tea time!
    Cheers, Niz Thaha
    S.A.M. Thaha & Co, Singapore

    Reply

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