Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral has been nothing short of a spectacle fit for, well, a queen. Tens of thousands of people waited up to 24 hours in line to see the queen lying in state. The funeral itself was a who’s who of dignitaries, celebrities, and royal heirs (and one pesky spider), all being closely watched as they attempted to properly dress and curtsey in a manner befitting Her Royal Majesty. But when the period of public mourning is over, it’s back to royal business as King Charles III steps up to take over where his mother left off, sorting through a deluge of royal requests coming his way. Among them are pleas from some 800 brands hoping to hold onto their Royal Warrant under a new reign.
The concept of a Royal Warrant can be traced back to the 12th century, when Henry II granted the Weavers’ Company a Royal Charter. In the 15th century, the Royal Warrant as we now know it was created, essentially as recognition that the Royal family uses particular items; it also grants approval for the makers of those items to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business, according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association.
A business must supply products or services to the Royal Household for at least five out the past seven years and have “an appropriate environmental and sustainability policy and action plan” in order to qualify to even apply for a Royal Warrant. It is up to the Monarch to decide who is the grantor of Royal Warrants (of course the Monarch themself can be the Grantor), and when the warrant is approved the brand can include the Royal Arms along with fine print that reads something like “BY APPOINTMENT TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN / PURVEYORS OF HEINZ PRODUCTS.” (Yes, Heinz has a Royal Warrant.)
This distinction doesn’t necessarily mean that a given product is the best out there. Rather, it indicates that, to some extent, the royals use it, and in the monarch-obsessed country of England, that can have a real positive impact on sales.
Companies must reapply for their Royal Warrant every five years, and along the way Warrants can be taken away if the products are not on par with royal expectations. When the grantor of a particular Royal Warrant dies, that warrant is null and void. Thanks to that policy, 100 food and drink brands are currently scrambling to secure approval from King Charles III in order to keep the Royal Arms on their labels.
According to The Grocer, it’s not unprecedented for brands to hold onto Royal Warrants through successive monarchs. In 1928, for instance, British supermarket company Waitrose was awarded a Royal Warrant by King George V to supply groceries and cleaning supplies—and Waitrose remains on the list of companies with Royal Warrants to this day.
Even before becoming king, Charles III had been a grantor of Royal Warrants, so companies that he previously approved may remain safe. The Grocer reports that those include:
- Berry Bros & Rudd (a British wine and spirits brand)
- Carluccio’s (an Italian restaurant chain)
- Foodari (a fresh produce delivery company)
- Laurent-Perrier UK (champagne)
Brands in danger of losing their Royal Arms due to the death of the queen include:
- Johnnie Walker
- Premier Foods
- At least eight different champagne brands other than Laurent-Perrier UK
Companies whose Royal Warrants are now void have two years to either phase out the use of the Royal Arms on their branding or get approval from King Charles III and any other grantors he appoints. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the list of old and new approvals that come through, not just to see how businesses handle it but to see exactly where Buckingham Palace’s values lie under a new reign.