The Royal seal of success: From tea to perfume, holders of the Royal Warrant give a unique insight into the Queen's personal tastes
21:30 GMT, 25 May 2012
21:30 GMT, 25 May 2012
On 25 May, 1840, Queen Victoria’s most favoured tradesmen met for dinner to celebrate the monarch’s 21st birthday. That gathering marked the beginnings of today’s Royal Warrant Holders Association, whose members boast the most prestigious client list in the world.
There are about 850 Royal Warrant holders today, by appointment to the Queen, the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Edinburgh.
This elite band, who must have supplied one of the three most senior royals for at least five years to be granted a warrant, comprises craftsmen and family businesses but also multinational companies and a supermarket chain – Her Majesty shops at Waitrose, as well as department stores (John Lewis, Selfridges and House of Fraser) and, famously, the upmarket Piccadilly grocers, Fortnum & Mason.
Mint tea anyone The Queen peers into a Fortnum & Mason hamper with with the Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge
The original Mr Fortnum, a footman in Queen Anne’s household in the early 18th century, had a sideline selling half-used candles from the Palace (the Royal Family insisted on having new candles every night). Her Majesty’s warrant holders are just as enterprising today. For instance, West Sussex-based Milborrow Chimney Sweeps, who clean the Palace chimneys, can also provide a chimney sweep and a lucky black cat to attend weddings.
Virtually every type of goods and service is covered by a Royal Warrant, from toothpaste to coal, and, of course, the Queen’s clothes – there are warrant holders for everything from shoes to gloves, petticoats to handbags. On the Queen’s dressing table you’ll find beauty products she’s been loyal to since she was a girl – Cyclax face creams, pink Elizabeth Arden lipsticks, Floris scents, Bronnley soap and Yardley talcum powder.
But there are more contemporary brands too. She’s given Clarins a warrant and was seen browsing their counter for an hour in the duty free shop at Singapore’s Changi airport on a stopover from Australia in 2002. Some royal appointments aren’t as highfalutin’ as you’d expect.
Like many of us, the Queen buys her mobile phones from Carphone Warehouse. There is a pest controller by Royal Appointment (Shield), a supplier of baked beans (Heinz), and when the Queen relaxes with an afternoon cuppa it’s courtesy of two more warrant holders – Twinings tea served in Paragon Fine Bone China.
The Royal seal of approval: Prestat chocolates
For something stronger, Gordon’s gin, Laphroaig whisky and Bacardi are just a few of the drinks with the Royal seal of approval. But not every supplier boasts of their connection. Two years ago, the Royal Warrants were dropped from the packaging of After Eights and Jacob’s Cream Crackers. Nestl, which owns the After Eight brand, said the decision arose from a desire to standardise its packaging around the world.
Warrants are awarded on the advice of the Lord Chamberlain – the senior official of the Royal household – and entitle the holder to display the ‘By Appointment’ coats of arms over their business premises as well as on products, stationery and delivery vans.
But it isn’t always plain sailing winning his approval. Nick Crean, who co-owns the Prestat chocolate company, is purveyor of chocolates to HM The Queen, and was also the last warrant holder to be appointed by the Queen Mother – who adored Prestat’s Rose & Violet Crmes.
‘Our original crme maker remembers the Queen Mother buying these for the young princesses,’ explains Crean. ‘We were encouraged to apply for the Queen Mother’s warrant by her Steward and Page of the Backstairs, the late William ‘Billy’ Tallon, who said he always made sure there was a box of our chocolates by her chair. He said she kept our chocolates for herself – and put other brands on the piano for the rabble.
So we did, but word came back that “Mother”, as he referred to her, didn’t like our writing paper. So we changed it, from dull cream and brown to white with a pink border. ‘Then we had to fight the Lord Chamberlain, who suggested Clarence House didn’t spend enough money with Prestat to merit a Royal Warrant.
According to Billy, the Queen Mother said, “How many chocolates do I have to eat” Her point was she seldom had to buy them herself – because her friends gave them to her as they knew they were her favourite.
‘I met the Queen at the Royal Warrant Holders’ Christmas fair at Buckingham Palace two years ago. She said our chocolates were very popular around the Palace. They’re given as gifts to visiting heads of state and are placed in their suites, and they used to travel the world on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
‘We send the Queen a large Easter egg every year,’ Crean admits. ‘In days gone by, the previous owner would write, very formally, “May I beg the pleasure of laying an egg before you…”
Very Alice in Wonderland! But this year I was slightly late writing to ask if I might send the Easter egg, and the Monday before Easter, I got a call from the lady-in-waiting, asking, “Where’s our egg Please send it immediately.” So it’s nice to know the egg’s needed.’
The 4lb dark chocolate egg, made to a special recipe, contains chocolate carrots filled with hazelnut ganache and a white chocolate rabbit. ‘It’s a large egg for a large family, full of little surprises and fun,’ explains Crean. ‘No one else gets the Queen’s special blend of chocolate. Except I do make another smaller version for our mother, who is 82. That’s only reasonable if you have sons who own a chocolate company.
‘I write to the Queen once a year, telling her what we’ve been up to. Last year, I mentioned our racehorse had won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on the same day I’d been invited by the Royal Warrant holders to go pheasant shooting at Windsor. It was one of those days you wish you could be in two places at once.
‘Being a Royal Warrant holder is very flattering,’ says Crean. ‘And it certainly keeps you on your toes.’