The Royal Archives were first established in 1914, during the early years of the reign of King George V. The need for an archive for the papers of the Royal Family and the Royal Household had become evident only a few years earlier, following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
Previously, historic records had been stored in tin trunks, cupboards and storerooms in the various royal residences, with no appointed archivist to care for them. However, the legacy left by Queen Victoria’s 63-year reign, in the form of a vast collection of official and private correspondence, required a permanent home.
Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward VII, appointed Lord Esher as the first Keeper of the Royal Archives shortly after Victoria’s death. A few years later, following King George V’s declaration in 1912 that ‘All the Royal Archives shall be kept in a Strong Room or Rooms in the Round Tower’, work began to construct a Muniment Room in the top half of the medieval Great Hall in the Round Tower. The first records were transferred to the new Muniment Room in 1914.
The last few years have seen the Royal Archives embark on some exciting projects. In 2012, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, all 141 volumes of Queen Victoria's Journal were digitised, transcribed and made available online at www.queenvictoriasjournals.org.
'Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook' was also launched in 2012 at www.queen-victorias-scrapbook.org. This online educational resource focused on Queen Victoria’s life and reign, in particular her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It contains documents from the Royal Archives, paintings and photographs from the Royal Collection, as well as audio and film clips.
The same year, records of Royal Household staff from 1660 to 1924 were digitised and made available online by Find My Past at www.findmypast.co.uk.
Find out more about the collections in the Royal Archives in this downloadable guide.
A guide to the Royal Archive collections