London’s Most Unusual Royal Warrant Holders

Coat of Arms of Queen Elizabeth II as issued in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Coat of Arms of Queen Elizabeth II as issued in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Have you ever wondered who’s responsible for the Queen’s internet connection, or whom she might call if Buckingham Palace were suddenly overrun with rats?

Many of Her Majesty’s shopping habits are a matter of public record, thanks to the Royal Warrant Holders Association, a prestigious group of 800 or so companies selected as official suppliers to the Royal Household.

The granting of a Royal Warrant is a tradition that dates back to the reign of Henry II in 1155, with each new monarch deciding whether or not to renew the existing contracts. Over the past 859 years the Warrant has been seen as a guarantee of quality and skill, although in reality it simply means that the Royal Family counts among a company’s clientele.

While Royal Warrant-Holders can be found across the country and now even around the world, London businesses make up well over a quarter of the Association’s members. The earliest recorded Royal Charter was granted to the city’s Worshipful Company of Weavers, and the longest continuous warrant-holders (since 1761) are Justerini & Brooks, the wine merchants currently based in St James’s Street.

Coat of Arms of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Coat of Arms of the Duke of Edinburgh.

At present only the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales are entitled to grant Royal Warrants, but the Monarch has the authority to extend this list at his or her discretion.

While many of the suppliers are wine merchants, tailors, jewellers and designers of gilt inlay (as you would expect from a family with notoriously simple tastes), the full membership list does contain a number of surprises.

Deep kitchen-cleaning

You know how it is — you’ve been slaving away all day preparing a 12-course banquet for the crowned heads of Europe, and now they’ve gone you haven’t the strength to clean the kitchen all on your own. Well, why not follow the Queen’s lead and ring up Indepth Hygiene Services, who’ve been making her countertops sparkle since 2002.

Badge of the Prince of Wales.

Badge of the Prince of Wales.

Groceries

Fortnum & Mason has the honour of being Grocers & Provision Merchants to HM The Queen as well as tea merchants to the Prince of Wales. The warrant was only granted in 1955, which makes one wonder how the Queen got by for the first three years of her reign.

Internet

It’s a tough job, but somebody needs to make sure Her Majesty has 24/7 access to the internet. Otherwise how could she share her favourite dancing cat gifs or read Londonist’s latest articles? BT stepped up to the mark in 2007, and from its offices in Newgate Street is the official Supplier of Communications, Broadband and Networked Services to HM The Queen.

Passenger lifts

Businesses often have their ups and downs, and none more so than Otis, Manufacturers & Suppliers of Passenger lifts to HM The Queen. On the job since 1960, the Chiswick Park-based company can give any crumbly old building a well-deserved lift.

Pest control

From rodents to insects, birds and squirrels, Shield Pest Control has been keeping the royal residences pest-free since 2008. The company is based, almost somewhat appropriately, in Catford.

Royal Maundy Purses

For over 800 years, English monarchs have distributed small silver coins to those attending religious ceremonies on Maundy Thursday, the day immediately preceding Good Friday. For the last 46 of those years, the small silver coins have been kept in Royal Maundy Purses manufactured by Barrow & Gale, the South London firm (full address unknown) also responsible for the Cabinet’s iconic red boxes.

Tamper-proof bags

Apparently being Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith involves handling a lot of sensitive material. Versapak in Erith, one of the newest of the royal warrant-holders, stepped in to fill this gap earlier this year, supplying Tamper Evident Bags and Security Seals to the Royal Household.

Vending Machines

Who knew the Queen was such a fan of crumbling Wispa bars and aging cans of Sprite? Since 2005, Strong Vend in the Royal Docks has been her official Suppliers of Drinks & Snacks Vending Machines, though Cadbury’s, Nestle, Schweppes and Coca-Cola have a near-monopoly on their contents.

Wallpaper

Cole & Son has been producing fine printed wallpaper since 1875, and for the past 53 years has had the privilege of seeing it papered over some of the country’s most impressive walls.

By Gilead Amit

Tags: , ,

  • Pieers

    Barrow & Gale Ltd
    Dettingen Crescent
    Camberley
    GU16

    • MattFromLondonist

      We found that too, but it’s a residential address, where the company is registered, rather than a business premises.

  • Kjell

    It’s not really a monopoly if 4 different companies supply the vending machines, is it?

  • http://www.maggiesovenservices.co.uk/ Shirley

    Well, these companies are lucky to have such customer but i wonder how
    do they get there? I mean, how can a small company like the one that
    clean in my kitchen –
    http://www.maggiesovenservices.co.uk/ reach such clients. There are many
    other great companies which cannot deliver to the royal family despite
    the fact they deserve it.