Why You Can’t Use the Word “Royal” in the United Kingdom

If you're not, well, an actual royal, you'll need permission to use that word in certain ways!

As any Anglophile knows, while the British royal family enjoys worldwide stardom and some seriously awesome perks, they don’t actually have much in the way of governing power. Yet it’s thanks to them that people in the United Kingdom aren’t allowed to use a certain word willy-nilly—a word that describes them, to be precise. In the United Kingdom, you need special permission to use the word “royal” in certain contexts. These are the amazing perks of being part of the royal family.

Of course, Brits are allowed to use the word “royal” in daily conversation; the monarchy certainly isn’t going to forbid their subjects from speaking about them. But it’s when citizens want to name something after royalty that this unusual stipulation comes into play. If someone wants to use the words “royal” or “royalty” in the name of a business, company, or product, they have to seek permission first. According to gov.uk, the words are considered “sensitive” because they might mislead the public by suggesting an association with the capital-R royals.

And in something of a cruel twist, after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back from royal dutiesthey lost the privilege to use the word “royal” just like anyone else in the U.K. While they formerly used the name “SussexRoyal” for their branding, since stepping back they haven’t been able to use the word anymore. They claimed that they would’ve removed the word from their brand anyway, but weren’t thrilled that they were being forced to do it, because the U.K. doesn’t “own” the word. Alas, this odd rule still means that they can no longer use it. But hey, at least Meghan doesn’t have to follow these royal pregnancy rules anymore!

And “royal” isn’t the only monarch-themed moniker that you can’t just slap up on your building. If you live in the United Kingdom, you must request permission to use “King,” “Queen,” “Prince/Princess,” “Duke/Duchess,” and “His/Her Majesty” in a business context as well. To get such permission, you have to send an application to the Cabinet Office in London. You must include why you want to use the word, evidence if that word is your last name, and details if your business actually is connected to the royals or the government.

According to an official document from the United Kingdom’s registrar of companies, though, the rules can be bent in cases of “occasional events of national importance.” After all, it’s hard to sell souvenirs for, say, a royal wedding when you’re not allowed to put “royal” on products. Next, learn the words you’ll never hear the royal family say.

Sources:

  • Atlas Obscura: “In the U.K. You Need Permission to Put ‘Royal’ in Your Business Name”
  • gov.uk: “Annex A: Sensitive words and expressions that require prior approval to use in a company or business name”
  • Parade: “Harry and Meghan Won’t Be Using the Word ‘Royal’ Anymore—Here’s Why, and What It Means For Them”

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.