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Fit for a King: Which pharmacies serve Charles III?

C+D approached pharmacies with Royal Warrants to find out what it's like to provide healthcare to a monarch.

Being an official pharmacy to the reigning monarch is no mean feat. And although King Charles himself probably isn’t popping in to his local chemist to grab some ibuprofen on his way home to Clarence House, several pharmacies can proudly claim a link to the royal family.

Luxury pharmacy John Bell & Croyden, which was sold to Well’s parent company Bestway earlier this month, has long been associated with royalty. It had the enviable title of the “Queen’s pharmacy” for an impressive 64 years – holding a Royal Warrant as pharmacists to Her Majesty from 1958 to 2022. Before then, it was granted the Royal Warrant as pharmacists to the monarch on behalf of King George V in 1909.

Read more: Inside the Queen’s pharmacy: From flu jabs to the coronation anointing oil

Royal Warrants are yet to be issued by King Charles following his coronation as the monarch. However, the Royal Warrant Holders Association lists three General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)-registered businesses as pharmacists or chemists for the late Queen and for King Charles when he was Prince of Wales:

  • Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy on New Cavendish Street, London
  • D.R. Harris & Co Ltd on St James’s Street, London
  • Walter Davidson & Sons Ltd in Blairgowrie, Scotland

Boots also holds a Royal Warrant for the late Queen as a manufacturer and retailer of “health and beauty products”.

While the King has yet to issue Royal Warrants as the monarch, it is generally accepted that those issued while he was Prince of Wales are still valid.

 

“A bit of a mystery”

 

Royal Warrants can be issued by the incumbent, their immediate successors, and their predecessors, if still living – for example, the Queen Mother had the right to issue Royal Warrants until her death in 2002.

It is not unusual for more than one pharmacy to hold a Royal Warrant at the same time, according to a spokesperson for D.R. Harris, who tells C+D that “more than one warrant can be granted for the same service or product at a time”.

Read more: King Charles must recognise pharmacy as the jewel in the primary care crown

But whether the King will choose to issue extend the warrants he issued as Prince of Wales or issue new ones remains to be seen.

The D.R. Harris spokesperson says that they aren’t sure what will happen with their pharmacy’s warrant but hope they will be able to reapply for a new one under the King. The pharmacy held the Royal Warrant as pharmacist for the Queen from 2012 until her death last year, and has held one for the Prince of Wales since 2002.

Read more: A snub to community pharmacy hasn’t got 2023 off to the best start

Tony Pinkus, who owns Ainsworths, is also waiting to hear about the future of his pharmacy’s Royal Warrant from the Lord Chamberlain’s office. “It’s a bit of a mystery at the moment,” he tells C+D.

Ainsworths has held the Royal Warrant for the supply of homeopathic products to the Queen, the Queen Mother, and the Prince of Wales since the 1980s. The royals have had a “strong interest” in homeopathic products since Queen Victoria “and before”, he says.

 

A “strange situation”

 

Ainsworth’s royal connections have long been documented, with a story that the Queen Mother had granted the pharmacy a Royal Warrant gracing the pages of C+D’s December 1981 issue.

Mr Pinkus describes it as a “strange situation” with the changeover from one monarch to another, adding that the King must first decide on the design of his Royal Warrant, and “sift through” those that he issued as Prince of Wales to decide who should continue to hold one. 

He tells C+D that he expects Royal Warrant holders for King Charles will be held to high environmental standards. He says that from the 1980s, as Prince of Wales, he required all his warrant holders to “commit to an environmental policy” so that he knew what he was buying was “sound”.

Read more: Pharmacy bodies pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as national mourning begins

But in the meantime, Mr Pinkus seems satisfied that holding a warrant is good for business. “It's obviously a great draw for customers, because they think if it's good enough for the King or the Queen, it's good enough for them and their animals, because we supply for both,” he says.

However, it might be a wait before the King reveals the pharmacies to which he will choose to grant a Royal Warrant: Mr Pinkus understands that the process might kick off next year. 

Read more: Pharmacies must stay open for King’s coronation, PSNC reminds contractors

The June 1953 issue of C+D noted that the convention for warrants at that time was that “sovereigns do not grant them during the first three years after their accession”. This followed the accepted protocol that warrant holders needed to have supplied the issuer for at least three years in order to qualify for one.

In the meantime, the pharmacies that currently hold Royal Warrants appear to be proud of their important role in keeping the monarch healthy, not to mention the status that comes with it.

As Mr Pinkus says: “We see it as a badge of honour.”

C+D has contacted the Palace for comment.

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