Beginning in the 14th century as a grant for those who provided goods to the royal family, the Royal Warrant Holders Association is now an impressive charitable organisation. By John Shepherd
The Royal Warrant Holders Association was founded in 1840 as the Association of Royal Tradesmen – a group of like-minded purveyors of products to the monarch.
Royal warrants themselves go back much further. In 1300, in the reign of Edward I, Reginald de Thunderley from London supplied 14 uniforms for royal valets and John the Fruiterer supplied apples and pears for the royal table, according to a document in the Public Records Office.
The idea of the Royal Warrant is as old as the institution of monarchy itself, and every monarch since has employed this system. At present, the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles are the three grantors.
In the reign of Queen Victoria, the granting of warrants expanded greatly (including, at one time, a warrant to a public house on Highgate Hill). There are now just over 760 companies that still hold the Royal Warrant – a list that comprises many illustrious names, including John Lewis, Fortnum & Mason, Asprey’s, Gieves & Hawkes, Twinings and Weetabix.
The warrant-holder, known as the grantee, is always an individual rather than a company, which means a personal touch in terms of service is key to maintaining the Royal Warrant.
Grantees are able to display the royal coat of arms at their premises. The holding of the Royal Warrant is reviewed every five years and is subject to guidelines contained in the Lord Chamberlain’s Rules.
As the owner of the Chelsea food shop Partridges, I was granted the Royal Warrant in 1994 when we became Grocers to Her Majesty the Queen. In 2007, I had the honour of being appointed the 106th President of the Association since 1895. There are five regional associations – Windsor, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Sandringham and Highgrove.
In 2008, I was appointed 12th Honorary Treasurer. Very inspiring and educational roles they were, too. I travelled to warrant-holding companies to discuss and develop all sorts of initiatives.
In modern times, and particularly under the current stewardship of the Association’s CEO, former nuclear-submarine commander Richard Peck, and that of his predecessor Christopher Pickup, the emphasis has shifted away from being a delightful dining club (although social events are still very important).
It is now an organisation focused not only on raising over £3m for the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Fund, which upholds traditional craftsmanship, but also on more community-centred projects.
There is a particular focus on sustainability, which is a key criterion for the granting of Royal Warrants. The Association has partnered with a number of leading organisations, including the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership, to promote and spread best practice.
Working with schools and introducing students to the world of work is another vital area the Association is involved in. It works closely, too, with education and employers. All in all, we are a charity that aims to inspire future generations.