The Monarch decides who may grant Royal Warrants. These are known as the Grantors. Today The King grants Royal Warrants. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh were also grantors of Warrants.
There are currently over 800 Royal Warrant holders. They represent a huge cross-section of trade and industry, from individual craftspeople to global multi-nationals, ranging from dry cleaners to fishmongers, and from agricultural machinery to computer software. There is no requirement for the company concerned to be British owned or UK-based. Warrant-holding firms do not provide their goods or services for free to the Royal Households, and all transactions are conducted on a strictly commercial basis.
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.
The grant of a Royal Warrant gives a Warrant Holder nothing more than a right to display the Royal Arms and they are not entitled to claim or imply any exclusivity of supply. When a company displays the Royal Arms in relation to their business, the Coat of Arms must always be accompanied by the 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 to them 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. The Grantee has responsibility for ensuring these rules are followed correctly.
All Royal Warrants 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, as far as the relevant Royal Household is concerned. A Warrant may be cancelled at any time and is automatically reviewed if the Grantee dies or leaves the business, or if the firm goes bankrupt or is sold.
Since the Middle Ages, tradesmen who have acted as suppliers of goods and services to the Sovereign have received formal recognition. In the beginning, this patronage took the form of Royal charters given collectively to various guilds in trades and crafts which later became known as livery companies.
In the reign of Henry VIII, Thomas Hewytt was appointed to 'Serve the Court with Swannes and Cranes and all kinds of Wildfoule'.
In 1684 goods and services to the Palace included a Haberdasher of Hats, a Watchmaker in Reversion, an Operator for the Teeth and a Goffe-Club Maker.
According to the Royal Kalendar of 1789, a Pin Maker, a Mole Taker, a Card Maker and a Rat Catcher were among tradesmen appointed to the court.
Over the centuries, the relationship between the Crown and individual tradesmen was formalised by the issue of Royal Warrants. Some firms have a record of Royal Warrants reaching back over more than 100 years.
The Royal Warrant Holders' Association
On 25 May 1840, a gathering of 'Her Majesty's Tradesmen' held a celebration in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. They later decided to make this an annual event and formed themselves for the purpose into an association which eventually became known as the Royal Warrant Holders Association.
The main objective of the association is to ensure the continued existence of the Royal Warrant as a treasured and respected institution. It advises members on everything to do with their Royal Warrants and assists with the correct interpretation and implementation of the Lord Chamberlain's Rules. It also helps its members to communicate and network with each other through a programme of social, business and networking events.
The Association is not part of the Royal Household, but belongs to its members.
More information is available on the Royal Warrant Holders Association website
How to apply
Companies can apply for a Royal Warrant after they have supplied the Royal Household with goods or services for at least five years out of seven (to include during the 12 months before applying).
Royal Warrants are not granted for any professional services, including (but not limited to): bankers; brokers or agents (including insurance brokers or agents); solicitors; employment agencies; party planners; training providers; veterinary service providers; or government agencies. Nor is a Royal Warrant granted to newspapers, magazines, annual publications, journals, periodicals or other similar publications. The final decision about a grant in this respect will reside with the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.
Royal Warrants are only granted to companies that provide goods or services to the Royal Household. Goods purchased for re-sale by souvenir shops run by Royal Collection Enterprises and the Private Estates, and goods or services provided to the Crown Estate, Historic Royal Palaces, the Duchies of Cornwall or Lancaster and Royal Parks do not qualify.
The Royal Warrant Holders Association deals with any initial queries about the application process. Details are available on the Royal Warrant Holders Association website.
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 Royal Warrant Holders Association.
The closing date for applications in each year will be advertised on the RWHA's website and applicants are advised to check the website accordingly.