Ever wondered how to get a Royal Warrant? Finito World provides an exclusive survey of those businesses who have won the coveted seal of approval
Like many people, I’ve managed to get through life without holding any strong opinions regarding Henry II, but there are signs he knew a good textile when he saw one. We know this because in 1155 – that otherwise unstudied year in history – he granted the first Royal Charter to the Worshipful Company of Weavers.
It was a stamp of approval; but it was also a precursor. The history of royal patronage has continued from that time to this, and has never been more relevant than in this Coronation year. Royalty blessed the career of William Shakespeare, who we certainly wouldn’t think of so much had he not been a member of the King’s Men. Over time, the charter was replaced by the Royal Warrant.
Over time, businesses came to realise the value not just of supplying the Royal Household, but of being seen to do so. The Royal Warrant therefore has a prime place in the history of public relations in this country. The number of Royal Warrant holders expanded exponentially during the reign of Queen Victoria, and continues to this day, with most holders of the Warrant being members of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. Today around 800 companies can claim the accolade.
So what does it give you? In its essence, it’s extremely simple. Holding the Warrant can be applied for after five years of doing business with the Royal Household. Once granted, a business is entitled to use the Royal Arms in its business for a period of five years. It must then reapply.
So why has it always been such a sought after thing, and why does it continue to be, in spite of the occasionally sour mood towards the Royal Family? When I speak to Nicky Philipps, the society portrait painter, she explains: “When you’re at the Palace, everything – and I mean everything – works like clockwork, and so whenever you’re in that orbit you just feel very privileged to be there.” It’s this atmosphere of excellence with which many of the businesses in our exclusive survey of leading Royal Warrant Holders wish to associate themselves.
Robert Ettinger, the CEO of Ettinger, the luxury goods manufacturer founded in 1934, puts the matter simply: “Having a Royal Warrant is a seal of trust, quality and reliability.”
The possibility of using the Royal crest is also of considerable practical value. “It was, and remains, a very great honour,” explains Royal Warrant Holder Wendy Keith, the proprietor of Wendy Keith Designs which makes shooting stockings and kilt hosiery. “I am entitled to put the Royal Warrant emblem on my letterhead, advertising and packaging. It gives the quality of our unique craft garments great prestige throughout the world.”
Many of the Royal Warrant Holders we feature have been in business for hundreds of years. Queen Victoria would have heard of many of them, such as Truefitt and Hill (founded in 1805). Meanwhile, her grandfather George III would have regarded Lock & Co, also on our list, as well established even at the start of his life, also on our list: it was founded
Others are remarkably new, and even unexpectedly quirky businesses. Wendy Keith has been in business for 40 years; Barker’s the marvellous dry-cleaning business which we also feature, and which supplies linen to Highgrove, is also relatively new. To achieve the Warrant then is to be connected to a history of achievement stretching far back, but it is also a sign of contemporary excellence.
It is a pleasure to look at the ‘history’ tab on the Royal Warrant Holders Association website, and to see images of Queen Elizabeth down the years bestowing her presence on those businesses who had achieved the Warrant.
But this isn’t to say that the Royal Warrant has failed to move with the times. In 2007, the Royal Warrant Holders Associations launched The Green Warrant which encourages its members to take part in sustainable practices, and the onus to do so has only increased since that time. The ascension of King Charles III to the throne with his own commitment to the environment shall likely only increase this aspect of the Warrant.
Sometimes, this process alone can have its benefits. As Robert Ettinger explains: “Every five years we are asked to prove and complete a corporate and social sustainability document which looks at every aspect of our business which has helped us move closer towards zero emissions.”
Matthew Barker, the founder of Barker’s agrees: “It was Charles who drove that: the sustainability piece is a large part of getting a warrant. Fortunately we are of that mind anyway and do what we can to reduce our plastic use and introduce energy initiatives. But the whole warrant process is actually very helpful and to any company it does get you thinking. It’s a permanent prompt, and very, very helpful.”
And of course, Coronation year finds many of these businesses in a transitional period as regards the Warrant. Upon the death of the monarch, all Warrants are reviewed, and there is a two-year grace period while that process is undertaken. It’s also worth noting the sometimes Darwinian nature of the Warrant: according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association website, between 20 and 40 businesses lose the Warrant each year, and a similar number achieve it. So there’s no question of resting on one’s royal laurels.
So our survey was undertaken both during a period of unprecedented excitement as the country – and these businesses – were building towards the Coronation. But it is also a time of uncertainty. Nobody is immune, Royal Warrant or not, from the economy of the day.
But for many it’s a very exciting time. Robert Ettinger explains that in 2023 he’s been inspired to think about the overseas market: “The Coronation. The Coronation year is looking more stable than the last few years and it is highlighting Britain to the whole world which will help our company grow our exports even more than at present.”
Wendy Keith also strikes a positive note: “We are very excited about the forthcoming Coronation, and are making plans to celebrate in style down here in Cornwall.”
And perhaps that’s what it comes down to – it’s all a question of style. The Royal Family remains an important part of the United Kingdom’s so-called ‘soft power’. It is based on the idea that the appearance of power often amounts to power itself. And certainly the businesses we now feature have all achieved great things, and come into their own as a result of their association with the Royal Household.
Photo credit: Royal warrant awarded by Queen Elizabeth II to Jenners, a department store in Edinburgh.