No more patrons pending

The Royals are giving up the free gaspers. What else can they do without?

THERE'S SOMETHING comforting about a royal warrant. One of the nice things about the honorific was the way it brought the Queen into your own home. You could look at a jar of Robertson's jam and know that, if she ever came round for tea, your crumpets wouldn't make her feel depressed and homesick.

It also brought you into the Royal Household. There are more than 1,000 products with the royal warrant, including Brasso. It's made by Reckitt & Colman of London, which also makes air fresheners and laundry products. Goddard's Long Term Silver Polish, too. And they both say "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen", so you know that it really is the Queen who polishes the silver on Sunday evenings while watching the telly.

It was the idea that the Queen was human - in express contradiction to her constitutional position as head of state - that made the royal warrant appealing even to republicans like myself. And so the removal of the royal warrant from packets of Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, and other tobacco products made by Gallaher, is rather saddening. We could imagine The Firm of an evening, puffing on their fags, drinking Brasso from crystal glasses and pouring gin on the dogs, and imagine a vital link between ourselves and our ruling family. If the Queen drinks/ smokes/ spreads this fish paste on her toast, it can't be bad for you, can it?

Of course, there is no rule that a royal warrant is going to guarantee commercial success.

Hatchards used to have a royal warrant but lost it when they started selling what one newspaper describes as "soft pornography", whatever that means; anyway, it would appear that the royals don't buy books from anyone any more.

The problem with the Royal Family is that since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales it has suddenly become keen on the idea of bringing itself up to date. And while there is a rationale behind withdrawal of the royal warrant - that members of the family and their guests don't touch the weed any more - the withdrawal of the warrant from Gallaher appears to be very much in touch with the spirit of the times: this is one family desperate to at least look, sound and smell modern.

The irony being, of course, that if the Royal Family really wanted to modernise itself, it'd stop being the Royal Family and move to Sidcup.

Still, we should at least be grateful that the royal warrant survives on unhealthy products such as gin and guns (Purdey, naturally). A Suffolk sausage-maker called Musk's holds the royal warrant for sausages. Anton Laundry in Andover, Hants, washes the Prince's underpants and is now allowed to brag about this. (Employees make a 100-mile round trip to and from Highgrove, which either means that they are superb at their job - or else HRH should get a copy of the Yellow Pages).

W Forbes of Aberdeenshire is the royal taxidermist. The "At-a-Glance" Calendar Company makes the calendars. Valerie M Bennett-Levy of Hindhead makes its nosegays. Robin Tuke of Haslemere supplies Prince Charles's mobile phones, although I have a feeling that he hasn't always done so. (Think of Tampongate.)

As a marketing tool, it must be considered effective by the privileged few: they reckon that a couple of dozen free containers of jam or fags are well spent, since there are still a number of people who feel that the crest confers class, as well as those who acknowledge the quaint absurdity, the touchingly inept commercialism of the whole system.

But there is one area where the royal warrant is becoming highly troubling, far more so than the tobacco question. And that is in the case of purveyors of creative imagination to the Royal Family: in other words, the Poet Laureate. This, as a poem published yesterday by Tony Harrison makes clear, is a position he would run a mile in tight shoes to avoid.

Worse: his verse rejection is an impressive act of lese-majeste. He would, he says, rather be "free not to have to puff some prince's wedding,/ free to say up yours to Tony Blair,/ to write an ode on Charles I's beheading/ and regret the restoration of his heir."

That we can still read that and say it has taken balls to write it shows how far we have to go. And if, one day, a manufacturer can turn round to a royal at the counter and say: "If you don't mind, we'd rather not have your patronage" - that is, not to be associated with a world of unearned privilege, unearned wealth and unearned respect - then it will show that we are finally beginning to grow up.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits