Members of the Royal Family have links with hundreds of charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations. Some are well known, while others may be smaller bodies working in a very specialist area or on a local basis only.
Having a Royal patron or president provides vital publicity for the work of these organisations, and allows their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognised.
Every member of the Royal Family receives hundreds of requests each year from organisations asking for their support. Royal patronages 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. The exceptions to this are The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh who hold over a thousand Patronages between them, many of which were inherited from previous Monarchs.
The Queen’s patronage carries the most weight, and Her Majesty receives the most requests for patronages of all the members of the Royal Family.
Between them, members of the Royal Family have 576 patronages relating to the Armed Services. These vary from honorary roles with specific regiments in the UK and Commonwealth, to involvement with charities providing support to veterans
The first recorded patronage was George II’s involvement with the Society of Antiquaries, an organisation concerned with architectural and art history, conservation and heraldry. The society still exists today and retains its Royal patronage through The Duke of Gloucester’s involvement.
Other organisations have enjoyed a long history of Royal association, for example, The Queen is Patron of the Mothers’ Union, a role which was first held by Queen Victoria in 1898. Patronages are sometimes handed down through generations of the Royal Family. In 2014 The Duke of Cambridge became the third generation to take on the Presidency of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), following in the footsteps of The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Edinburgh before him.
Royal patronages add status to an organisation, and visits and involvement from a Royal Patron can often bring much needed publicity
How are patronages chosen?
Patronages generally reflect the interests of the member of the Royal Family involved, for example, The Duchess of Cornwall is President of the National Osteoporosis Society as both her mother and grandmother died as a result of the brittle bone disease.
Princess Alexandra, who undertook a nursing course at Great Ormond Street Hospital after leaving school, is Patron of both the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service and Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service.
Many of The Prince of Wales’s patronages stem from his passions for the environment and the arts, whilst Prince William’s involvement with the Centrepoint charity reflects his long-standing interest in homelessness and the people affected by it.
The titles of various members of the Royal Family also dictate certain themes in their patronages. The Countess of Wessex is Patron of the regional charity, Wessex Hearbeat. The Duke of Kent is similarly involved with various Kent-based organisations, including the Kent County Agricultural Society.
Occasionally, a member of the Royal Family will hear about a cause whilst on a visit, or via one of their other charities, and will decide to support it. The Prince of Wales became a member of the Society to save the Melmerby and Fellside Village Shop following a visit to the village in 2004.
Watch a video about the Playing Fields Association, of which The Duke of Ednburgh was President. His grandson The Duke of Cambridge took over the Presidency in 2013, and the organisation is now know as 'Fields in Trust':
Do you want to nominate a charity or organisation?
Applications for the patronage of any member of the Royal Family are submitted to the appropriate Private Secretary who will pass on requests which they think may be of interest to the member of the Royal Family that they work with.
If the member of the Royal Family thinks that one of these requests would be rewarding or important to take on, then they will usually ask for more research to be undertaken so that an informed decision can be made.
A range of factors are taken into consideration. These include that the organisation making the request is reputable and well-established and has a good financial track record.
Once it has been decided that the patronage will be taken on, the duration of the patronage must be decided. There is no set length. Sometimes members of the Royal Family might take on a patronage relating to a specific campaign or event which only lasts a finite length of time. Other times patronages are for life.