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Use of the word "Royal" guidelines

Use of the word "Royal" : guidelines from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The word “Royal” has special connotations which may attach to any organisation or business activity to which it is applied. New Zealand therefore has particular rules and procedures governing the use of the word. These rules and procedures vary, depending on the nature of the use in a given case.

Royal patronage

“Royal patronage” means patronage of an organisation by a member of the Royal Family.  If the patronage of the Queen or other member of the Royal Family is desired, this patronage must be explicitly sought.  The Ministry for Culture and Heritage can advise on the process for doing this.  The decision is the Royal individual's own to make.

Note that the Royal Family's official website (www.royal.gov.uk) includes the following information:

Every member of the Royal Family receives hundreds of requests each year from organisations asking for their support.

The benefits of Royal patronages are twofold. They add status to an organisation, and visits and involvement from a Royal Patron can often bring much needed publicity.

For this reason, members of the Royal Family tend to limit their patronages to a manageable number to ensure that they can give each organisation a significant amount of their time.

Grant of the title “Royal”

Sometimes an organisation does not intend to seek formal Royal patronage, but nevertheless wishes to be granted the title “Royal” as part of its name. 

Permission to use the title “Royal” is a mark of Royal favour granted by the Queen. The title “Royal” is subject to the Royal prerogative, and the reasons for a grant or refusal are not disclosed. It should be noted that the title “Royal” is conferred sparingly, and all applicants must satisfy the following general conditions before their application can be considered:

  • Be non-profit
  • Have a charitable or scientific status
  • Be of considerable eminence
  • Operate on a national scale

These general conditions are of long standing. The grant of the title “Royal” is not, and never has been, a right which can be claimed by a body fulfilling certain criteria.

Organisations wishing to make an application for the grant of the title “Royal” should supply the following information to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage:

  • Reason(s) why the title “Royal” is being sought
  • A history of the organisation/body
  • Future plans
  • The present administration and activities
  • Details of leading members, and membership numbers
  • Report and Accounts for the last three years
  • Details of any Royal/Government associations
  • Details of publications, providing examples where necessary
  • Any other information that is considered appropriate

The Ministry may consult with third parties on the application where this is appropriate. 

Use of the word “Royal” as part of a business activity, including in a trade mark or the name of a company or other legal entity

Applications from those wanting to register the name of a company (or other legal entity) or a trade mark including the word “Royal” are predominantly referred to the Ministry by the Companies Office and the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).

In assessing applications, the Ministry considers the following:

  • Does the use of the word “Royal” suggest Royal sanction or approval where none exists?
  • Is the proposal likely to cause offence or generate inappropriate association with (and reflect negatively on) the Sovereign?

The Ministry maintains discretion to consider any other matters that may be relevant to an application and to consult with third parties where this is appropriate.  Any authorisation for the use of the word “Royal” will be given by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Applications should provide sufficient information to assess the application, including the following:

  • A profile of the applicant’s business/organisation that explains what it does;
  • A history of the applicant’s business/organisation; and
  • A copy of a recent annual report of the applicant’s business/organisation (where applicable)

Unauthorised Use

Use of the word ‘Royal’ in organisational names or in business is an offence under the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act 1981 if it does not have the express authorisation of the Queen or the Governor-General.  Other words that claim or imply the patronage of the Queen or another member of the Royal Family are similarly protected, and their use requires the express authorisation of the Queen.

The Act does allow for certain limited exceptions to this, in cases where the use of the word is in relation to a surname or place name, or is allowed under another Act.

The Ministry can upon request provide more detailed guidance about the legislation and specific applications.

Further information

For further information about making applications for the use of the word “Royal” and other protected terms, please contact the Ministry for Culture and Heritage by email on info@mch.govt.nz, or by phone on (04) 499-4229.


Updated on 12th September 2016