It was with great sadness that the world learned, on 8 September 2022, of the death of Queen Elizabeth II the longest reigning monarch in British history. Immediately on her death, Charles III (then Prince of Wales) became king, and shortly thereafter Prince William (by virtue of being the next in line to the throne) was appointed as the Prince of Wales.
“Royal Warrants” were, until the death of Queen Elizabeth II, granted by, and in the name of, HM The Queen and (the former) HRH The Prince of Wales. A Royal Warrant allows a business providing goods or services to the Royal Household (the immediate family, principal courtiers and servants of the monarch) to display the coat of arms of the Royal Household (Royal Arms) on, or in relation to, its products or services.
Royal Warrants date back to medieval times and the competition for Royal favour. In a practice which continues to the present day, the Lord Chamberlain, as head of the Royal Household, formally grants Royal Warrants of Appointment. Royal Warrants were preceded by Royal Charters and the first recorded Royal Charter was granted in 1155 to the Weavers’ Company by Henry II.
By the 18th century, the Royal Arms were being displayed on the premises and stationery of those to whom Royal Warrants were granted. In 1840, the Royal Warrant Holders Association was formed to assist with the administration of Warrants and to advise Royal Warrant holders.
The right to display the Royal Arms is valid for five years, renewable for further five year periods (with renewal being assessed in the year before the Warrant expires). The Royal Arms are included alongside the branding, together with the text “By Appointment to HM The Queen/HRH The Prince of Wales” (as applicable).
To apply for a Royal Warrant, a business must have supplied products or services on a regular basis to the Royal Household of the grantor (e.g. King Charles III) for not less than five, out of the past seven, years. Royal Warrant holders comprise a broad range of trades and goods and services, from inter alia hospitality providers to outdoor wear, food and drink to flag makers.
Below are some examples of how Royal Warrant holders display the Royal Arms on their products:
Whilst Royal Warrants are used alongside the brands of their holders, they are separate and do not operate in the same way as trade marks, i.e. they do not denote trade origin but rather act as a “seal of approval”.
Royal Warrants granted by “HM The Queen” became void immediately on Queen Elizabeth II’s death. That was similarly the case for Royal Warrants granted by HRH Duke of Edinburgh, which, on his death in April 2021, also became void. However, Royal Warrant holders can continue to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business for up to two years following the date of the Queen’s death.
The Royal Household reviews Royal Warrant grants on a change of sovereign, and it is expected that current holders of Royal Warrants will have to reapply. It is not clear the extent to which the Royal Household may wish to continue with some or all Royal Warrants.
Also unclear is whether Royal Warrants granted in the name of the former “HRH The Prince of Wales”, now King Charles III, will continue. As the grantor still lives, these Royal Warrants do not, in and of themselves, become void, but one has to query:
• Whether Royal Warrant holders will be required to update their branding to reflect King Charles III’s new title of “HM The King”.
• How, if at all, the appointment of Prince William as the Prince of Wales will impact brands currently operating under a warrant granted by the former Prince of Wales.
The death of the grantor (e.g. Queen Elizabeth II) is not the only ground on which a Royal Warrant can come to an end. A Royal Warrant can be cancelled if the Royal Warrant holder:
• Conducts itself in a way likely to bring the Royal Household into disrepute.
• Breaches (or is suspected to have breached) the rules on using the Royal Warrant; or
• No longer supplies a product or service of a quality sufficient to justify continuation.
Around twenty to forty Royal Warrants are cancelled each year for one or other of these reasons, and a similar number of new Warrants are granted.
Given the prestige attached to being a Royal Warrant holder (and presumably the consequential positive effect on sales), Royal Warrant holders will doubtless be keen to understand how Queen Elizabeth II’s death and a change of monarch impacts their ability to display the Royal Arms. The Royal Warrant Holders Association is expected to provide guidance shortly.
This article was first published by IPKat on 4 October 2022.