Tales from the royal novelty stores

Aug 26, 2013, 10:36 IST | Kiran Mehta

As Prince George of Cambridge completed a month recently, brands across the globe continue to cash in on the royal birth. But what products appeal to British royalty? Kiran Mehta takes a look at a handful of royal warrant holders, brands that have the royal seal of approval, and the quirky stories related to their coveted titles

By the time you’ve read this, according to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) estimates, made before the Prince George’s arrival, baby fever would add £243 million to the UK economy. Earlier in July, The Times (UK) welcomed the Prince with a print ad of a swan delivering the royal baby, as opposed to a stork, which is perhaps fit only for commoners. A less regal approach was taken by Charmin, makers of toilet paper, who placed their product next to a gold potty, with the British flag and the royal coat of arms in the background. Warbuton’s, a baking firm, took a similar approach by showing a bun, fresh out of the oven with the line, “One’s bun is done.” These and other ads congratulating the royal family, gave the British economy a boost.

The Queen visits the Bentley stand at the Coronation Festival in July 2013. Pic Courtesy/Bentleymedia.com

A look at some of the goodies inside the British royal family’s shopping bag Prestat: Frenchman, Antoine Dufour whose family created the chocolate truffle, in 1896, in France, founded Prestat in 1902. Antoine’s wife had a cousin named Pierre Prestat, after whom the shop is named. After Antoine, his son Tony ran the store. But Tony had no heir and sold Prestat to the Croft brothers in 1958. The brothers knew little of chocolate yet capitalised on their theatrical background and roped in famous customers including celebrities like actor Peggy Ashcroft and writer Roald Dahl who mentioned Prestat in his book, My Uncle Oswald.

Bentley attends Mille Miglia 2013 in May 2013. Pic Courtesy/Bentleymedia.com

Prestat was awarded HM The Queen’s warrant in 1975. They were also the last to be awarded Her Late Majesty The Queen Mother's warrant in 1999. Bill Keeling, co-owner of Prestat reveals, “A steward visited our store and told us to apply for the Queen Mother’s warrant, and we did. But the Lord Chamberlain told us that the Queen Mother wasn’t buying enough of our chocolate for us to qualify. (Lord Chamberlain is the position given to the senior official of the royal household). So, the Queen Mother called up the Lord Chamberlain and asked him how much chocolate an old woman ought to eat!” With that Prestat earned its second royal warrant.

Bentley at the Coronation Festival. Pic Courtesy/Bentleymedia.com

The store at the Prince’s Arcade in Piccadilly is chocolate paradise. Keeling reveals that the Queen Mother particularly enjoyed the Rose and Violet Crème, and wafer-thin mints.

Bentley: Bentley Motors Ltd. played a pivotal role at the recently held Coronation Festival (July 11-14, 2013). Bentley was one of the main partners at this unique event that saw the gardens of Buckingham Palace open to visitors for a small fee of 30 pounds. The daytime events at the festival saw royal warrant holders celebrate innovation, excellence and industry, as part of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations. The warrant holders set up tents and staged shows and spoke of their products and services while taking pride in serving Britain’s royal family. 

An employee holds up a giant card congratulating Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on the birth of their baby boy in Hollywood, California on July 23, 2013. Pic/AFP Photos

At this event, Richard Durbin, Bentley Motors’ UK Public Relations Manager, revealed that when Bentley was entrusted with the task of creating HM The Queen’s state limousine, the Queen had one requirement of her vehicle --- visibility. To cater to this need, the customer’s vital statistics are needed; a task, which one might assume, could be awkward in this case. Durbin explained, “A polite discussion took place with the royal family and a craftsman was sent over to get the Queen’s measurements.”

Fortnum & Mason: An upmarket departmental store in Piccadilly, central London, Fortnum & Mason has been at the same location since 1707, but has expanded several times over. In 1705, Hugh Mason had a small shop in St James’s Market and a room to spare in his house. William Fortnum's family were builders and had come to London, from Oxford, to rebuild the St James’s and Mayfair areas after the Great Fire. Legend has it that William Fortnum took up the room at Mason’s, and a job as footman in Queen Anne’s household. The royal family had a tradition of lighting new candles each night, which made for a lot of leftover wax. Fortnum’s duty included getting rid of this wax, which he melted down to make new candles. He sold them for a profit and with this money; he started Fortnum & Mason.

Jewel Box by Prestat. Pic Courtesy/ www.ideasnetwork.co.UK

A humble enterprise grew to receive recognition 1 Warrants from the Prussian and Spanish royal families; a warrant from Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia. Fortnum & Mason also served every British Monarch since 1707. Today it holds two British Royal Warrants -- one from HM The Queen and the other from HRH The Prince of Wales. Dr Andrea Tanner, archivist, Fortnum & Mason reveals, “The Queen used to visit the store often when she was a Princess. The last time the Queen visited us was on March 1, 2013. We welcomed the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duchess of Cambridge. We showcased to Her Majesty several products created for her diamond Jubilee and she seemed amused by a musical biscuit tin that played, God Save the Queen.”

To find out more about Royal Warrants, log on to: http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Symbols/Royalwarrants.aspx

A royal warrant is granted to those people or companies who have regularly supplied goods or services for a minimum of five consecutive years to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales. Today, there are over 800 royal warrant holders. To spot a royal warrant look for a coat of arms or a heraldic badge of royalty.

Other royal mentions
Milborrow Chimney Sweeps: The company’s website reads, “We specialise in all types of property, including caravans, flats, bungalows, sheds, houses, domestic, industrial and business properties including Pizza ovens and Launderette flues, Stately Homes, Mansions and Royal Palaces!!” Other regular super market inclusions that also have royal warrants include Heinz (baked beans), Weetabix Limited (breakfast cereal), McVitie’s (biscuits) and Kellogs (cereal). 

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