The Queen was Patron of over 500 organisations in her lifetime, from charities and military associations to professional bodies and public service organisations. Having Her Majesty as Patron or President often provided vital publicity for their work, and allowed their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognised.
Her Majesty’s first Patronages were taken on before her Accession to the throne: her first military appointment was on 21st April 1947, her 21st birthday, when she was appointed Colonel in Chief of the Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Many of Her Majesty’s Patronages were inherited from her father, King George VI on her Accession, whilst others were taken on during her reign because they reflected her interests, including Action for Children and the Royal Voluntary Service. Supporting and encouraging public and voluntary service through Patronages was one of the most important aspects of The Queen's work.
Range of Patronages
Some of Her Majesty’s Patronages were well-known, such as Cancer Research UK and The British Red Cross Society, and many had Royal Charters, while others were smaller bodies working in a very specialist area or on a local basis such as Norwood, a Jewish charity which supports vulnerable children and their families, children with special educational needs and people with learning disabilities and autism.
In all, The Queen held Patronages with over 70 education and training organisations, over 60 sports and recreational organisations, over 30 faith organisations and over 40 arts and cultural organisations.
Her Majesty was Patron of a number of hospitals, including Great Ormond Street and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and higher education institutions such as Glasgow Caledonian University and Birmingham University.
The Queen’s work with her Patronages
Her Majesty did not just lend her name to these diverse organisations - much of her working life was spent supporting her Patronages both in the UK and overseas.
Almost every year of her reign as Patron of The Royal British Legion she attended its Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on the Saturday of Remembrance Weekend - a commemorative event dedicated to all those that have served and sacrificed from Britain and the Commonwealth.
She met staff and volunteers working for her Patronages along with the groups they were supporting during her many official visits.
Her Majesty marked special anniversaries and milestones for her charities and organisations, sending messages of support and sometimes visiting in person.
In 2020, when the British Red Cross marked their 150th anniversary - in the first year of the Coronavirus pandemic - The Queen, who had served as their Patron for almost 65 years, thanked staff and volunteers for their dedicated work, saying, “Whether those involved in the society are assisting people to return home from hospital safely, offering care and support in the aftermath of a disaster, volunteering in a shop, administering first aid or some of the many other activities the British Red Cross encompasses, their contribution is recognised, valued and greatly appreciated.”
Her Majesty was regularly updated on her charities’ key activities and initiatives and, even through lockdowns, kept in touch with her organisations by video link.
The Queen opened up her Royal residences to many of her Patronages, holding a special Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace each year for staff, volunteers and beneficiaries of the Not Forgotten Association which supports military veterans. The Women’s Institute celebrated its centenary in 2015 with a Garden Party attended by members of the Royal Family, as well as its members from across the UK.
Passing on her Patronages
Following The Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, it was announced that a number of Her Majesty’s patronages were to be passed on to other members of the Royal Family. In some cases the new Patron or President had already been serving the Institution in question as Vice-Patron or Vice-President, in other cases they were chosen because of their interest in its work. The Prince of Wales, known for his interests in faith communities, became Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and The Duchess of Cornwall became Patron of Battersea Dogs Home, having adopted her dogs Beth and Bluebell from there.
A history of Royal Patronages
The practice of members of the Royal Family lending their names to organisations through formal Patronages is thought to have existed since the 18th century.
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 his grandfather The Duke of Edinburgh and his father The Prince of Wales.