The lucrative business of the crown’s official suppliers

Aymeric Mantoux

By Aymeric Mantoux22 septembre 2022

The queen is dead, long live the king! But what will happen to the royal court of England’s numerous suppliers? The business represents millions of euros of annual purchases. An overview of the brands that bear her majesty's label.

The tradition of royal warrants dates back to the 15th century (Shutterstock)
In 1904, just two years after moving to London, Cartier received its first royal patent from King Edward VII, a testament to the strong ties between the House and the ruling family (Cartier)

What do Burberry, Cartier, Fortnum & Mason, Barbour, Land Rover and Laurent Perrier have in common? All these brands have a royal patent to supply the court or a member of the royal family. This special status is given to companies that regularly supply goods or services to the royal household. Once they receive this recognition, these companies are allowed to use the royal arms on their products for marketing and communication purposes. A godsend, as Sam McCarthy, who supplies fruit and vegetables to the court, explains: "If you can achieve this level of product and service, then what you do for royalty, you can do for anyone else. The whole thing is very much framed, just like the protocols put in place for the Queen's funeral. And the custom is that the warrant is automatically revoked upon the death of the sovereign.

A six-century-old label

Land Rover is one of the many brands to have a royal patent (Shutterstock)

The tradition of royal warrants dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until 1840 that the young Queen Victoria actually instituted the process to prevent impostors. During her 63 years of reign, she issued no less than 2000 warrants. Today, an association "royal warrant holders" gathers all the brands concerned and ensures the strict application of the rules. It organizes an annual gala dinner at Buckingham that brings together representatives of all the companies," says Thierry, a Frenchman who has had the opportunity to attend. A unique and prestigious moment". The authorized coat of arms that suppliers can put on their product represents the English lion on the left, the Scottish unicorn on the right holding a shield with the different emblems of the different regions of the United Kingdom.



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 Kate Middleton wore Cartier Halo tiara lent to her by the Queen for her wedding day (Shutterstock)

It is usually accompanied by a legend at the foot of the crown indicating which member of the royal family granted the warrant. For example: "By appointment to his majesty the King". It is issued for 5 years and can be reviewed before expiry. Between 20 and 40 new certificates are issued each year and the same number withdrawn. A famous withdrawal had marked the spirits in 1999, that of the cigarette manufacturer Benson & Hedges: officially, it had been justified "because of a change in the demand of the royal family". Unofficially, the Queen could not decently see British people dying for having consumed products from one of her suppliers. In any case, there is no point in sending a gift to the royal palace to hope to be able to wear the precious coat of arms. The relationship is purely commercial, nothing else.

A greener turn with the new King Charles III?

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