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In medieval Europe, royal charters were used to create cities (ie, localities with recognised legal rights and privileges). The date that such a charter was granted is considered to be when a city was "founded", regardless of when the locality originally began to be settled.

At one time a royal charter was the only way in which an incorporated body could be formed, but other means (such as the registration process for limited companies) are generally now used instead.

Among the past and present bodies formed by royal charter are the British East India Company, the Hudson's Bay Company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), the British South Africa Company, and some of the former British colonies on the North American mainland.


Universities and colleges

Professional organisations


The royal decree is the equivalent in Belgiummarker of a Royal Charter. In the period before 1958, 32 higher education institutes had been by royal charter: these were typically engineering or technical institutions rather than universities.

However, several non-technical higher education institutions have been founded, or refounded, under royal decree:


A Royal Charter is granted by Order-in-Council, either creating an incorporated body, or giving an existent one special status. This is an exercise of the Royal Prerogative, and, in Canada, there are hundreds of organizations under Royal Charters. Such organizations include charities, businesses, colleges, universities, and cities. Today, it is mostly charities and professional institutions who receive Royal Charters.

Application for a charter is a petition to the Queen-in-Council. To receive a Royal Charter, the organization must have corporate members who have at least first degree level in a relevant field, consist of 5,000 members or more, be financially sound, and it must be in the public interest to regulate the institution under a charter. However, meeting these benchmarks does not guarantee the issuance of a Royal Charter.

Companies and societies

Companies, corporations, and societies in Canada founded under or augmented by a Royal Charter include:

Territories and communities

Cities under Royal Charter are not subject to municipal Acts of parliament applied generally to other municipalities, and instead are governed by legislation applicable to each city individually. The Royal Charter codifies the laws applied to the particular city, and lays out the powers and responsibilities not given to other municipalities in the province concerned.

Universities and colleges

A number of Canadian universities and colleges were founded under Royal Charter.

Hong Kong

The Emblem of Royal Observatory Hong Kong
1842-1997, a number of organizations had received Royal Charter:


A number of Irish institutions still have a "Royal" prefix, even though the country has been a republic since 1949.

A list of former Royal institutions with ties to Ireland, but they were mostly Britishmarker institutions created in Ireland during British rule:

South Africa

The University of South Africamarker received a Royal Charter in 1877.

United Kingdom

Among the 750 or so organisations with Royal Charters are cities; the Bank of England; the BBC; theatres such as the Royal Opera Housemarker and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lanemarker; Livery Companies; universities (mostly those founded before 1993); professional institutions and charities.

A Royal Charter is the manner in which a British town is raised to the rank of city. Most recently Invernessmarker, Brighton & Hovemarker and Wolverhamptonmarker were given their charters to celebrate the millennium, and Prestonmarker, Stirlingmarker, Newportmarker, Lisburnmarker and Newrymarker to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2002.

Most British universities operate under Royal Charters, which give them the power to grant degrees. The most recent generation of UKmarker universities were granted the power to grant degrees by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 instead of by Royal Charter, while some other universities operate under Acts of Parliament. The University of Buckinghammarker is the only private education institution that received its royal charter, granted in 1983.

The BBC operates under a Royal Charter which lasts for a limited period of ten years, after which it is renewed.

Most Royal Charters are now granted to professional institutions and to charities. For example, the six accountancy institutes which make up the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies each have a Royal Charter which allows their members to call themselves Chartered Accountants. A Charter is not necessary for them to operate, but one is often sought as a recognition of "pre-eminence, stability and permanence".

A Royal Charter changes a body from a collection of individuals into a single legal entity. Once incorporated by Royal Charter, amendments to the Charter and by-laws require government approval.

United States

Although several American universities which predate the American Revolution purport to hold royal charters, in a number of cases they were in fact created by a grant from a local authority such as a colonial legislature.

Colleges created by royal charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England:

Colleges created by King George II of Great Britainmarker:

American colleges popularly believed to have been established by Royal Charter, but actually by some other type of grant:

External links


  2. Non-University Higher Technical Education in Belgium Gilbert Van Vaek and Henk Van Daele
  3. Gilbert Van Vaek and Henk Van Daele
  4. Belgium Royal Historical Commission
  5. The Irish International University
  6. Privy Council Office: Royal Charter
  7. Privy Council: Royal Charter
  9. The Royal Commonwealth Society: Values of the Royal Commonwealth Society
  10. New Brunswick; reprint of: Kurley, Daniel; Times Globe: Elusive Oak; June 11, 1998
  11. Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Going Royal: A History of Public Service
  12. ScoutDocs: Scouts Canada Act: Royal Charter of The Boy Scouts Association
  13. Royal Academy of Dance Canada: About us
  14. Royal Conservatory of Music: The RCM: History of The Royal Conservatory of Music
  15. Canada Council for the Arts: Royal Winnipeg Ballet
  16. The Royal Life Saving Society of Canada Saskatchewan Branch, Inc.; Constitution
  17. The Canadian Encyclopedia: Royal Hamilton College of Music
  18. Royal Western Nova Scotia Yacht Club: Annapolis Basin
  19. The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada: Ottawa, Ontario
  20. Saint John: History Public Records and Archives
  21. Canada's Cities: Unleash our Potential
  22. Canada4Life; Nova Scotia
  23. McGill University: Admin and governance: Secretariat: University Charter and Statutes: The Royal Charter of McGill University
  24. Trinity College: About Trinity: History
  25. Queen's University: Queen's University Royal Charter
  26. Le Bas Canada 1763-1867
  27. Canada Post: Canada Post confers stamp on Bishop's University; 20 January 2003
  28. [1]
  29. Privy Council Office - Chartered Bodies

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