Blog: Marking 21 years since the RCPCH received its Royal Charter

In 1992 members of the British Paediatric Association (BPA) were asked to vote in a referendum on whether they wished the organisation to apply for a Royal Charter to become a Royal College. Following fifty years of debate on the issue, 61% of the membership said yes and the process formally began. On 23 August 1996 the RCPCH officially received its Royal Charter, following approval from Her Majesty the Queen and the Privy Council.

Charters and bye-laws

A Royal Charter is issued by a monarch and is used to define the privileges and purpose of significant organisations who can demonstrate pre-eminence, stability and permanence in their particular field.

Following the BPA’s referendum, the Association petitioned the Privy Council to grant the Charter, and in 1996 they were invited by the Council to discuss the development of the bye-laws which would define the rules of the organisation. 

ACCESSION Letter from Privy Council 04 Jan 1996

This set of rules must be decided before a Charter is granted, and they govern the workings of the council, elected officers, members, elections and fees. The final  bye-laws that were agreed with the Privy Council follow the existing rules of the BPA – one of the many ways the College maintains its connections to its roots!

Objectives of the RCPCH

The RCPCH received its Royal Charter on 23 August 1996, after it was granted by Her Majesty the Queen on 23 July 1996, and then by the Privy Council.

The charter lists four objectives of the RCPCH:

  1. To advance the art and science of paediatrics
  2. To raise the standards of medical care provided to children
  3. To educate and examine those concerned with the health of the children
  4. To advance the education of the public (and in particular medical practitioners) in Child Health, which means the protection of children, the prevention of illness and disease in children, and safeguarding their optimal developmentRoyal Charter

However, the Royal Charter did not grant the College the immediate right to be called a Royal College; this privilege was to be decided by the Queen on the advice of the Home Office.

Traditionally it takes years to add ‘Royal’ to a title, and other Colleges had their Charters for decades before they were designated.

However, a request detailing the reasons why the College should be allowed to use the title immediately was accepted and the College added the ‘Royal’ to its title in October 1996.

A new medical college 

Following the granting of the Royal Charter, Professor Roy Meadow, President of the BPA and the RCPCH, from 1994-1997 said:

“No new Medical College has had a richer inheritance – the advantage of being created from such a robust organisation as the BPA. None has had such a firm foundation of democratic representation, vigour, commitment, loyalty, tradition, friendship and fun; and quite certainly none has had a more worthwhile cause.”  

Royal Charter granted

Since the Charter was granted in 1996 the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has grown to a membership of 17,500, and has offices in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you have the opportunity to visit the London office in Theobalds Road you can find the Charter in the President’s Office.

21st birthday concert

As part of the RCPCH’s year-long 21st birthday celebrations, the College has organised a special concert featuring a fantastic line up of artists to perform iconic works by Handel, including a piece which includes words from the College motto, ‘Nisi Dominus’.

To find out more about the evening and book tickets visit the St John's Smith Square website.