The Royal Commonwealth Society, the oldest and largest organisation dedicated to the Commonwealth, is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018
The Royal Commonwealth Society, the oldest and largest organisation dedicated to the Commonwealth, is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018.
In 1868, a group of individuals established a `literary and scientific body’ in London dedicated to achieving a greater understanding of what were at the time British colonies.
A year later it was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria and became a Royal Society, though it wasn’t given its present name of The Royal Commonwealth Society until 1958.
The Society became increasingly progressive at the start of the twentieth century, admitting women members from 1922 and encouraging a younger, more diverse membership in 1931.
In the latter half of the century, it became a centre for the exchanging of ideas and a platform for a number of African leaders in their efforts to defeat apartheid, including Ghana’s first Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah in 1957 and Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Its future has been threatened numerous times in its history, having struggled to secure financing for its charitable work.
It sold a major part of its world-renowned library collection to the National Library of Australia in 1968, whilst a national appeal in 1991-3 raised £3million and bought the library, gifting it to Cambridge University.
More recently, in 2013 the Commonwealth Club building was sold to clear long-standing debts.
Alongside its location, the organisation’s role has continuously evolved over the years to reflect changes in the Commonwealth, supporting debate and action within an international network.
It currently has over 60 branches worldwide and in particular champions youth, education and environmental programmes.
Independent of governments and working for the benefit of Commonwealth citizens, it above all promotes the value and values of the modern Commonwealth.
Read More: The Queen’s Royal Commonwealth Team – Chapter taken from `Queen & Commonwealth: 90 Glorious Years', published by Commonwealth Business Communications on behalf of the Royal Commonwealth Society