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Britain’s Royal Warrants Give Snob Appeal but No Guarantees

August 31, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Have you ever bought English tea thinking that the royal seal on the package means Queen Elizabeth II drinks it?

Brace yourself for a disappointment if you did. The warrant doesn’t guarantee that she does. Actually, Buckingham Palace won’t say what Her Majesty prefers.

″Does that matter?″ asks Hugh Faulkner, secretary of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. ″The fact that she might not drink it is irrelevant. That tea goes into Buckingham Palace.″

Nevertheless, the Economist magazine wrote recently, ″Such labels could mislead the unwary for two reasons″ - a warrant holder can display the royal insignia on goods other than just those it supplies to a palace, and warrants also go to companies supplying palace staff but not the royals themselves.

Warrants are dispensed by the queen, the queen mother, Prince Philip or Prince Charles. The warrants entitle holders to put a royal coat of arms on labels, letterheads, trucks and buildings, along with the words ″by appointment″ to whichever royal has given the warrant.

The wording changes with the monarch.

Royal Worcester, the maker of fine china, got its warrant from King George III 200 years ago, and today is ″by appointment to Queen Elizabeth II.″

Other countries’ surviving monarchs also grant warrants, and in Britain the practice is centuries old.

To win a warrant in Britain, a tradesman must have supplied the royal household regularly for three years, and gotten paid by the royal family for his goods or services, Buckingham Palace says.

Various holders have more than one warrant, but only about a dozen elite, including Harrod’s department store, hold all four.

Others, like Royal Worcester, take pride in the length of their service to the queen, who grants the most warrants of the four entitled to.

The queen’s list is studded with luxury goods makers, including 12 jewelers and eight champagne sellers. There also are bagpipe makers, military outfitters, suppliers of venison, chimney sweeps, shipping agents, clock makers, porcelain restorers, purveyors of potted shrimp and sloe gin, suppliers of gold and silver lace, insignia and embroidery, and a heraldic artist.

There’s even a seller of mopeds on the list.

More practical are suppliers who sell eggs and plastic bags and ″installers of intruder alarms,″ something all the more necessary since July 1982, when a London eccentric broke into the queen’s bedroom and woke her up.

The lists do keep up with the times. They contain, for example, more computer equipment makers than in the past.

About 10 to 40 warrants are granted a year. They cost nothing.

A Royal Household Tradesmen’s Warrants Committee decides once a year who should get a warrant from the queen or her son and heir, Prince Charles, subject to royal approval, and announce the results in the London Gazette, the government bulletin. Queen Mother Elizabeth and Prince Philip consider applications throughout the year.

In olden times the granting of warrants was a more personal affair. According to Royal Worcester, it got its warrant from George III after he happened by the porcelain works and was enchanted with the china.

The products don’t have to be British, but most are.

″There are very few outsiders,″ Faulkner said.

British subsidiaries of foreign companies have won warrants, including American ones, like Kellogg, IBM, Heinz, and the makers of Johnson’s wax.

When companies lose their warrants - because they aren’t measuring up, change hands, or the palace’s needs have changed - they are simply omitted from the published list.

No official reason is given, and no figures are available showing how many have been dropped.

But, Faulkner said, ″people ... will notice.″

Does a warrant help sales?

″Yes, it does,″ said a Royal Worcester spokesman.

″As you’re aware, in this country the royal family is very important. People do take note of it.″

Cadbury Schweppes says it displays royal arms on chocolate bars sold overseas.

Faulkner said: ″Particularly in the Japanese market and certainly in the American market, it doesn’t hurt.″

On the question of the queen’s tea, Faulkner said: ″I wouldn’t make too much play of that particular angle. The lovely thing about this is that people’s imaginations can run wild. You don’t want to disappoint them.″

Besides, he said, it’s not something you’d bring up with the queen.

″I think it would really be wrong, it would be bloody bad manners to inquire ... what her personal likes and dislikes might be.″

End Adv Wednesday PMs Aug. 31

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