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Royal Warrants: The History Behind the Legendary Seal of Approval


For over 800 years, the British royal family has granted Royal Warrants of Appointment to individuals and companies who provide them with exceptional goods and services. These coveted seals of approval have become a symbol of quality, craftsmanship, and prestige, with a fascinating history that spans centuries. In this article, we will explore the evolution of royal warrants, their significance in British history, and their enduring relevance in the modern era.

The Early Days of Royal Warrants

The origins of royal warrants can be traced back to the 12th century when King Henry II began granting royal charters to trade guilds. These charters were gradually replaced by royal warrants in the 15th century, with the Lord Chamberlain taking responsibility for appointing suppliers to the Royal household.

One of the earliest notable recipients of a royal warrant was William Caxton, who became King‘s Printer to Edward IV in 1476. Caxton‘s appointment was significant not only for his personal success but also for the development of the printing industry in England. By granting Caxton a royal warrant, Edward IV effectively established a quality standard for the printing trade and helped to promote the dissemination of knowledge and literacy throughout the kingdom.

Other early royal warrant holders included the Worshipful Company of Weavers, granted a charter by Henry II in 1155, and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, granted a charter by Edward III in 1327. These royal warrants played a crucial role in the development of their respective industries, establishing quality standards and consumer trust, and contributing to the growth of trade and commerce in medieval England.

Royal Warrants in the Tudor and Stuart Eras

During the Tudor and Stuart periods, royal warrants continued to evolve and reflect the personal tastes and preferences of the monarchs. Henry VIII, for example, granted a royal warrant to a supplier of swans and cranes, while Elizabeth I appointed a Purveyor of Fish who received an annual entertainment allowance and compensation for losses and necessaries.

The political and social upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries also had an impact on the royal warrant system. During the English Reformation, for instance, royal warrants were used to promote the interests of the Protestant faith and to suppress Catholic influence. Similarly, during the English Civil War and the Interregnum, the royal warrant system was disrupted and many warrant holders lost their appointments.

Despite these challenges, royal warrants continued to play a significant role in the development of luxury industries, such as textiles and jewelry. The granting of a royal warrant to a particular craftsman or company was a mark of exceptional quality and helped to establish their reputation and prestige throughout the kingdom.

The Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution

The 18th and 19th centuries saw significant changes in the royal warrant system, as scientific advancements and industrialization transformed the types of goods and services granted royal warrants. During this period, royal warrants were granted to a wide range of industries, from clockmakers and instrument makers to manufacturers of steam engines and telegraphs.

The royal warrant system also played a crucial role in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship during the Industrial Revolution. By granting royal warrants to companies that demonstrated exceptional quality and innovation, the monarchy helped to encourage the development of new technologies and industries.

One notable example is the granting of a royal warrant to Josiah Wedgwood in 1766. Wedgwood‘s innovative ceramic designs and production techniques revolutionized the pottery industry and helped to establish British ceramics as a global leader in quality and design.

Royal Warrants in the Modern Era

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the royal warrant system has continued to evolve and adapt to changing social, economic, and technological conditions. Today, there are approximately 850 individuals and companies that hold around 1,100 royal warrants, granted by either King Charles III or the Prince of Wales.

The demographics of royal warrant holders have also become increasingly diverse, with a wide range of industries represented, from traditional crafts to cutting-edge technology. In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility among royal warrant holders, reflecting the changing values and priorities of modern society.

Despite these changes, the cultural significance of royal warrants remains strong. For many British companies, holding a royal warrant is a mark of exceptional quality and a source of great pride and prestige. The international recognition associated with a British royal warrant also helps to promote British businesses and products around the world.

The Impact of Royal Warrants on British Society and Culture

Beyond their economic and commercial significance, royal warrants have also played a crucial role in shaping British society and culture over the centuries. The granting of a royal warrant to a particular company or individual has often been seen as a reflection of broader social and cultural values, such as quality, tradition, and national pride.

For example, during the Victorian era, the granting of royal warrants to companies like Fortnum & Mason and Harrods helped to establish these brands as symbols of British excellence and refinement. Similarly, in the 20th century, the granting of royal warrants to companies like Barbour and Burberry helped to promote the image of Britain as a nation of quality and tradition.

Royal warrants have also had a significant impact on consumer behavior and brand loyalty in Britain. For many consumers, the presence of a royal warrant on a product or service is a guarantee of quality and a reason to choose that brand over others. This has helped to create a strong sense of brand loyalty among British consumers and has contributed to the long-term success of many royal warrant holders.


The history of royal warrants is a fascinating and complex one, reflecting the changing social, economic, and cultural conditions of Britain over the centuries. From their origins in medieval trade guilds to their current status as a mark of exceptional quality and prestige, royal warrants have played a crucial role in shaping British industry, innovation, and national identity.

As we look to the future, it is clear that the royal warrant system will continue to evolve and adapt to new challenges and opportunities. However, the core values of quality, craftsmanship, and service that have underpinned the system for centuries are likely to remain as strong as ever, ensuring that the legendary seal of approval continues to be a source of pride and inspiration for generations to come.


  1. The Royal Warrant Holders Association. "History."
  2. The Royal Family. "Warrants."
  3. The National Archives. "Royal Charters and Grants."
  4. The British Library. "The History of Royal Warrants."
  5. The Royal Collection Trust. "Royal Warrants: A Mark of Quality and Service."