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Our Royal Charter

The 1908 Royal Charter of the British Red Cross© InfoWe were granted our Royal Charter more than 100 years ago.

What is a Royal Charter?

A Royal Charter is a way of incorporating a body, turning it from a collection of individuals into a single legal entity with all the powers of a natural person.

At one time Royal Charters were the only means of incorporating a body but there are now other ways, such as becoming a registered company, so the granting of new Charters is comparatively rare. Only a ruling monarch can grant a Royal Charter.

When and why was the Charter granted to the British Red Cross?

Our first Royal Charter was granted by HM King Edward VII, patron of the British Red Cross, at a Privy Council meeting on 3 September 1908 and forms the basis for the British Red Cross as we know it today.

The Charter brought together the various fragmented arms of the organisation, including the Central British Red Cross Council and The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (the original name for the British Red Cross at its foundation in 1870).

The fusion of these two bodies formalised fundraising and aid work and raised our profile across the British Empire. This consolidation also allowed us to face our greatest challenge yet when war broke out in 1914.

Who was involved?

  • HM King Edward VII, patron of the British Red Cross from 1905 to 1911, granted the Royal Charter of 1908.
  • Queen Alexandra, president of the Red Cross from 1905 to 1925, signed the petition for the Charter before it was presented to the King.
  • Lord Rothschild, chairman of the British Red Cross Council from 1901 to 1915.
  • Sir Frederick Treves, chairman of the Executive Committee from 1905 to 1912.
  • Lord Knutsford, member of the British Red Cross Council, was instrumental in drafting the Royal Charter.
  • Colonel Lloyd Lindsay, Lord Wantage, first chairman of the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War.

Has the British Red Cross received other Royal Charters?

A number of additions to the Charter have been made over the years as the financial operations of the organisation have changed. Supplementary Charters were granted in 1919 (to extend our activities to include a peacetime role) and 1998 (to bring our local branches together as one charity).

You can download the Royal Charter on the right side of this page.

How does our Royal Charter affect the British Red Cross’ activities today?

The Royal Charter is the governing document of the British Red Cross. It is legally binding and sets out our charitable purpose, powers, rules and other legal responsibilities. The Privy Council approves any amendments to the Royal Charter and the Charity Commission must be notified of any proposed amendments.

Alongside the Charter, we have Standing Orders which explain our internal governance arrangements for the workings of the board of trustees, finance committee and volunteer councils. Unlike the Charter, our Standing Orders are owned and amended by the board of trustees; however, they cannot contain anything that contradicts the Charter.

Download our Royal Charter (pdf) or read it below.

British Red Cross Royal Charter

Find out more about our governance

Read about the beginning of the Red Cross Movement