RCPCH and the Royals

To celebrate King Charles III’s coronation, we’ve been digging back into our archives to explore the connections between RCPCH and the Royal family over the years. With visits from the reigning monarch, knighthoods of members and the College’s Royal patronage, there’s been plenty to discover.
Princess Royal talking to guests at 'Supporting Child Health in Post-Ebola Sierra Leone' event, March 2019
Princess Royal at 'Supporting Child Health in Post-Ebola Sierra Leone' event, March 2019

From the early days of the British Paediatric Association (BPA), members have had significant relationships with the Royal family. Sir George Frederic Still, First President of the BPA, was appointed Physician Extraordinary to King George VI and his family in 1937, also being knighted the same year. BPA Honorary Member Alan Reay was Queen Elizabeth II's Honorary Physician from 1976 to 1985.

Numerous members have been honoured over the years, including Professor Dame June Lloyd, first female president of the BPA, and Professor Russell Viner CBE, RCPCH President until 2021.

Congratulations letter sent to Dr Still
Letter of congratulations to Dr Still, May 1937

There have been a number of Royal visits to our offices over the years. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Institute of Child Health building in March 1966, where the BPA had been given a small office. Queen Elizabeth II also visited in 1986, this time at the formal opening ceremony of the medical precinct at St Andrews Place where the BPA had moved the previous year. Queen Elizabeth II planted a tree outside the BPA Offices and signed a special visitors’ book in the President’s room. 

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited the following year, inspecting a poster display prepared by Dr Graham Clayden depicting changing childhood disease patterns over the reigns of King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen's signature in British Paediatric Association visitor book, June 1986
Queen Elizabeth II's signature in BPA visitor book, June 1986
Queen Elizabeth II signing British Paediatric Association visitors' book
Queen Elizabeth II signing visitor book, June 1986

In 1996 the College was granted a royal charter and the title of ‘Royal’ College, leading to the College’s most significant Royal relationship. The Princess Royal is wellknown for her interest in child wellbeing and in 1996 became Patron of the new Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The following year, the Princess Royal came to the first annual meeting of the RCPCH. She presented certificates to the new Honorary Fellows and presented the Spence Medal to Barbara Ansell, before addressing the audience for 15 minutes.

Letter of permission for the college to be known as 'Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health'
Letter confirming 'Royal' designation, 1996

Since becoming patron, the Princess Royal has attended several College events, including the annual meeting, meetings of the International Task Force on Children Affected by War and Absolute Poverty (formed by RCPCH) and the opening of the current building in 2008. More recently, in March 2019 the Princess Royal attended an event to celebrate the success of the College’s global programme in Sierra Leone. The Princess Royal also wrote the foreword to From an Association to a Royal College, the History of the British Paediatric Association and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 1988-2016, edited by Professor Sir Alan Craft and Dr Keith Dodd.

RCPCH’s most recent royal contact was only a few weeks ago. On 20 April the Princess Royal received Jo Revill and Robert Okunnu at St James's Palace to acknowledge Robert’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer of RCPCH.

We’ve updated our display cabinet in the members’ area at our offices in London to celebrate the coronation. It will be a short-term exhibition so do visit soon if you’d like to see it.