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A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under
royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi- ...
as
letters patent upLetters patent transferring a predecessor of the Nancy Nancy may refer to: Places France * Nancy, France, a city in the northeastern French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle and formerly the capital of the duchy of Lorraine ** Arrondiss ...
. Historically, they have been used to promulgate
public law Public law is the part of law that governs relations between legal person In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousnes ...
s, the most famous example being the English
Magna Carta (Medieval Latin for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a Royal charter, royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor, on ...

Magna Carta
(great charter) of 1215, but since the 14th century have only been used in place of
private act Proposed bills are often categorized into public bills and private bills. A public bill is a proposed law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to for ...
s to grant a right or power to an individual or a
body corporate In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of ...
. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as boroughs (with
municipal charterA city charter or town charter (generically, municipal charter) is a legal document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as we ...
s),
universities A university () is an of (or ) and which awards s in several . Universities typically offer both and programs in different schools or faculties of learning. The word ''university'' is derived from the ''universitas magistrorum et scholari ...

universities
and
learned societies A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a compan ...
. Charters should be distinguished from royal warrants of appointment,
grants of arms
grants of arms
and other forms of letters patent, such as those granting an organisation the right to use the word "royal" in their name or granting
city statusCity status is a symbolic and legal designation given by a national or subnational government. A municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-governmen ...
, which do not have legislative effect. The British monarchy has issued over 1,000 royal charters. Of these about 750 remain in existence. The earliest charter recorded on the UK government's list was granted to the
University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge. , established = , other_name = The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of ...
by
Henry III of England Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272), also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death in 1272. The son of John, King of England, King John and Isabella o ...

Henry III of England
in 1231, although older charters are known to have existed including to the Worshipful Company of Weavers in England in 1150 and to the town of
Tain Tain ( Gaelic: ''Baile Dhubhthaich'') is a royal burgh A royal burgh was a type of Scottish burgh which had been founded by, or subsequently granted, a royal charter. Although abolished by law in 1975, the term is still used by many former roy ...
in Scotland in 1066. Charters continue to be issued by the British
Crown '' File:서봉총 금관 금제드리개.jpg, The Seobongchong Golden Crown of Ancient Silla, which is 339th National Treasure of South Korea. It is basically following the standard type of Silla's Crown. It was excavated by Swedish Crown Pri ...

Crown
, a recent example being that awarded to
The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human FactorsThe Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF - formerly The Ergonomics Society) is a United Kingdom-based professional society for Ergonomy, ergonomists, human factors specialists, and those involved in user-centred design. History ...
, in 2014.


Historical development

Charters have been used in Europe since medieval times to grant rights and privileges to towns, boroughs and cities. During the 14th and 15th century the concept of incorporation of a municipality by royal charter evolved. Among the past and present groups formed by royal charter are the Company of Merchants of the Staple of England (13th century), the
British East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known as John Company, Com ...
(1600), the
Hudson's Bay Company The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC; french: Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson) is a Canadian, now American-owned, retail Retail is the sale of goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with va ...
, the
Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (informally The Chartered Bank) was a bank incorporated in London in 1853 by Scotsman James Wilson (UK politician), James Wilson, under a Royal Charter from Victoria of the United Kingdom, Queen Vi ...
(since merged into
Standard Chartered Standard Chartered plc is a British multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kin ...

Standard Chartered
), the
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company P&O (formerly the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) was a British shipping Freight transport is the physical process of transport Transport (commonly used in the U.K.), or transportation (used in the U.S.), is the M ...
(P&O), the
British South Africa Company The British South Africa Company (BSAC or BSACo) was charteredChartered may refer to: * Charter, a legal document conferring rights or privileges ** University charter ** Chartered company * Chartered (professional), a professional credential * ...
, and some of the former British colonies on the North American mainland, City livery companies, the
Bank of England The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694 to act as the Kingdom of England, English Government's banker, and still one of the bankers for t ...

Bank of England
and the
British Broadcasting Corporation The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster Public broadcasting involves radio Radio is the technology of signaling and telecommunication, communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic ...
(BBC).


Corporations

Between the 14th and 19th centuries, royal charters were used to create
chartered companies A chartered company is an association with investors or shareholder A shareholder (also known as stockholder) is an individual or institution (including a corporation) that legally owns one or more share (finance), shares of the share capital of ...
– for-profit ventures with shareholders, used for exploration, trade and colonisation. Early charters to such companies often granted trade monopolies, but this power was restricted to parliament from the end of the 17th century. Until the 19th century, royal charters were the only means other than an
act of parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries, acts of parliament begin as a Bill (law), bill, wh ...
by which a company could be
incorporated Incorporated may refer to: * Incorporated community * Incorporated (Grip Inc. album), ''Incorporated'' (Grip Inc. album), 2004, by Grip Inc. * Incorporated (Legion of Doom album), ''Incorporated'' (Legion of Doom album), 2006 * Incorporated (TV seri ...
; in the UK, the
Joint Stock Companies Act 1844The Joint Stock Companies Act 1844 (7 & 8 Vict. ''c.''110) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of ...
opened up a route to incorporation by registration, since when incorporation by royal charter has been, according to the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 "he head of state He or HE may refer to: ...
, "a special token of Royal favour or ... a mark of distinction". The use of royal charters to incorporate organisations gave rise to the concept of the "corporation by prescription". This enabled corporations that had existed from
time immemorial Time immemorial ( la, Ab immemorabili) is a phrase meaning time extending beyond the reach of memory Memory is the faculty of the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ that serves as the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate ...
to be recognised as incorporated via the
legal fiction A legal fiction is a fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth i ...
of a "lost charter". Examples of corporations by prescription include
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2017, its population was estimated at 152,450. It is northwest of London, southeast of Birmingham, and northeast of Bristol. The city is home to the Unive ...
and
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a College town, university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, the population of the Cambridge built-up area (which is larger ...
universities.


Universities and colleges

According to the ''
Catholic Encyclopedia The ''Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church'' (also referred to as the ''Old Catholic Encyclopedia'' and the ''Original Catholic Encyclopedia'') i ...
'', of the 81 universities established in pre-Reformation Europe, 13 were established ''ex consuetudine'' without any form of charter, 33 by
Papal bull A papal bull is a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the leaden Seal (emblem), seal (''bulla (seal), bulla'') that was traditionally appended to the end in order to auth ...
alone, 20 by both Papal bull and
imperial Imperial is that which relates to an empire, emperor, or imperialism. Imperial or The Imperial may also refer to: Places United States * Imperial, California * Imperial, Missouri * Imperial, Nebraska * Imperial, Pennsylvania * Imperial, Texas * ...
or royal charter, and 15 by imperial or royal charter alone. Universities established solely by royal (as distinct from imperial) charter did not have the same international recognition – their degrees were only valid within that kingdom. The first university to be founded by charter was the
University of Naples Main building, university of Naples, Federico II The University of Naples Federico II ( it, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II) is a public university A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state o ...
in 1224, founded by an imperial charter of
Frederick IIFrederick II, Frederik II or Friedrich II may refer to: * Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1194–1250), King of Sicily from 1198; Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 * Frederick II of Denmark (1534–1588), king of Denmark and Norway 1559–1588 * Freder ...

Frederick II
. The first university founded by royal charter was the
University of Coimbra The University of Coimbra (UC; pt, Universidade de Coimbra, ) is a Portuguese public university in Coimbra, Portugal. First established in Lisbon in 1290, it went through a number of relocations until moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537. The ...

University of Coimbra
in 1290, by King Denis of Portugal, which received papal confirmation the same year. Other early universities founded by royal charter include the
University of Perpignan The University of Perpignan (french: Université de Perpignan; ca, Universitat de Perpinyà Via Domitia) is a French university, located in Perpignan Perpignan (, , ; ca, Perpinyà ; es, Perpiñán ; it, Perpignano ) is the Prefectures in F ...
(1349; papal confirmation 1379) and the University of
Huesca Huesca (; an, Uesca) is a city in north-eastern Spain, within the Autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community of Aragon. It is also the capital of the Spanish Huesca (province), province of the same name and of the Comarcas of Spain, com ...

Huesca
(1354; no confirmation), both by
Peter IV of Aragon Image:Alfonsino sardo.jpg, 300px, A Sardinian ducat (or principat), also called an ''Alfonsino'', of Peter IV's reign. Note the four bars representing the Crown of Aragon. Peter IV, ; an, Pero, ; es, Pedro, . In Catalan, he may also be nicknamed ...

Peter IV of Aragon
; the
Jagiellonian University The Jagiellonian University ( Polish: ''Uniwersytet Jagielloński''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around ...
(1364; papal confirmation the same year) by
Casimir III of Poland Casimir III the Great ( pl, Kazimierz III Wielki; 30 April 1310 – 5 November 1370) reigned as the King of Poland Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country ...

Casimir III of Poland
; the
University of Vienna The University of Vienna (german: Universität Wien) is a public university, public research university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the Geograph ...
(1365; Papal confirmation the same year) by
Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria Rudolf IV (1 November 1339 – 27 July 1365), also called Rudolf the Founder (german: der Stifter), was a scion of the House of Habsburg The House of Habsburg (; ; alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English; german: Haus Habsburg, es, Casa de ...
; the
University of Caen The University of Caen Normandy (UNICAEN; French language, French: ''Université de Caen Normandie'') is a Public university in Caen, France. History The institution was founded in 1432 by John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, the first rector ...
(1432; Papal confirmation 1437) by
Henry VI of England Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and English claims to the French throne#Kings of France (1422), disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The only child of Henry V ...

Henry VI of England
; the University of Girona (1446; no confirmation) and the
University of Barcelona The University of Barcelona ( ca, Universitat de Barcelona, UB; ; es, link=no, Universidad de Barcelona) is a public university located in the city of Barcelona, Catalonia in Spain. With 63,000 students, it is one of the biggest universities in ...

University of Barcelona
(1450; papal confirmation the same year), both by
Alfonso V of Aragon Alfonso the Magnanimous (also Alphonso; ca, Alfons; 1396 – 27 June 1458) was the King of Aragon (as Alfonso V), Valencia Valencia (), officially València ( ), is the capital of the Autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous communi ...
; the
University of Valence The University of Valence was founded 26 July 1452, by letters patent from the Dauphin Louis, afterwards Louis XI of France, in a move to develop the city of Valence, Drôme, Valence, then part of his domain of Dauphiné. It existed until the French ...
(1452; papal confirmation 1459) by the Dauphin Louis (later
Louis XI of France Louis XI (3 July 1423 – 30 August 1483), called "Louis the Prudent" (french: le Prudent), was King of France The monarchs of the Kingdom of France ruled from the establishment of the West Francia, Kingdom of the West Franks in 843 until ...

Louis XI of France
); and the University of Palma (1483; no confirmation) by
Ferdinand II of Aragon Ferdinand II of Aragon ( an, Ferrando; ca, Ferran; eu, Errando; es, Fernando; 10 March 1452 – 23 January 1516), also called ''Ferdinand the Catholic'', was King of Aragon from 1479, King of Sicily (as Ferdinand II) from 1469, List of monar ...
.


British Isles

The University of Cambridge was confirmed by a papal bull in 1317 or 1318, but despite repeated attempts, the University of Oxford never received such confirmation. The three pre-Reformation Scottish universities were all established by papal bulls:
St Andrews St Andrews ( la, S. Andrea(s); sco, Saunt Aundraes; gd, Cill Rìmhinn) is a town on the east coast of Fife Fife (, ; gd, Fìobha, ; sco, Fife) is a council area{{Unreferenced, date=May 2019, bot=noref (GreenC bot) A council area is o ...
in 1413;
Glasgow Glasgow ( ; sco, Glesga; gd, Glaschu) is the most populous city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia'' ...

Glasgow
in 1451; and
King's College, Aberdeen King's College in Old Aberdeen, Scotland, the full title of which is The University and King's College of Aberdeen (''Collegium Regium Abredonense''), is a formerly independent university founded in 1495 and now an integral part of the Universi ...
(which later became the
University of Aberdeen The University of Aberdeen ( sco, University o' 'Aiberdeen; abbreviated as ''Aberd.'' in List of post-nominal letters (United Kingdom), post-nominals; gd, Oilthigh Obar Dheathain) is a public university, public research university in Aberdeen, Sc ...
) in 1494. Following the Reformation, establishment of universities and colleges by royal charter became the norm. The
University of Edinburgh The University of Edinburgh ( sco, University o Edinburgh, gd, Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann; abbreviated as ''Edin.'' in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply ...
was founded under the authority of a royal charter granted to the Edinburgh town council in 1582 by
James VI James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name James James or James City may also refer to: People * King James (disambiguati ...

James VI
as the "town's college".
Trinity College Dublin , name_Latin = Collegium Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis Reginae Elizabethae juxta Dublin , motto = ''Perpetuis futuris temporibus duraturam'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Ital ...

Trinity College Dublin
was established by a royal charter of
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_an ...

Elizabeth I
(as Queen of Ireland) in 1593. Both of these charters were given in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
. The Edinburgh charter gave permission for the town council "to build and to repair sufficient houses and places for the reception, habitation and teaching of professors of the schools of grammar, the humanities and languages, philosophy, theology, medicine and law, or whichever liberal arts which we declare detract in no way from the aforesaid mortification" and granted them the right to appoint and remove professors. But, as concluded by Edinburgh's principal, Sir Alexander Grant, in his tercentenary history of the university, "Obviously this is no charter founding a university". Instead, he proposed, citing multiple pieces of evidence, that the surviving charter was original granted alongside a second charter founding the college, which was subsequently lost (possibly deliberately). This would also explain the source of Edinburgh's degree awarding powers, which were used from the foundation of the college. The royal charter of Trinity College Dublin, while being straightforward in incorporating the college, also named it as "mother of a University", and rather than granting the college degree-awarding powers stated that "the students on this College … shall have liberty and power to obtain degrees of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor, at a suitable time, in all arts and faculties". Thus the
University of Dublin The University of Dublin ( ga, Ollscoil Átha Cliath), corporately designated the Chancellor, Doctors and Masters of the University of Dublin, is a university located in Dublin Dublin (; , or ) is the capital and largest city of Irela ...
was also brought into existence by this charter, as the body that awards the degrees earned by students at Trinity College. Following this, no surviving universities were created in the British Isles until the 19th century. The 1820s saw two colleges receive royal charters:
St David's College, Lampeter University of Wales, Lampeter ( cy, Prifysgol Cymru, Llanbedr Pont Steffan) was a university in Lampeter, Wales. Founded in 1822, and incorporated by royal charter in 1828, it was the oldest Academic degree, degree awarding institution in Wales, ...
in 1828 and
King's College London King's College London (informally King's or KCL) is a public university, public research university located in London, United Kingdom, and a founding college and Member institutions of the University of London, member institution of the f ...
in 1829. Neither of these were granted degree-awarding powers or university status. The 1830s saw an attempt by
University College London University College London, which Trade name, operates as UCL, is a major public university , public research university located in London, United Kingdom. UCL is a Member institutions of the University of London, member institution of the Federa ...
to gain a charter as a university and the creation by Act of Parliament of
Durham University , mottoeng = Her foundations are upon the holy hills ( Psalm 87:1) , established = (university status) , type = Public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the ...

Durham University
, but without incorporating it or granting any specific powers. These led to debate about the powers of royal charters and what was implicit to a university. The essence of the debate was firstly whether the power to award degrees was incidental to the creation of a university or needed to be explicitly granted and secondly whether a royal charter could, if the power to award degrees was incidental, limit that power – UCL wishing to be granted a royal charter as "London University" but excluding the power to award degrees in theology due to the secular nature of the institute. Sir
Charles Wetherell Sir Charles Wetherell (1770 – 17 August 1846) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Eng ...
, arguing against the grant of a royal charter to UCL before the Privy Council in 1835, argued for degree-awarding powers being an essential part of a university that could not be limited by charter. However, Sir William Hamilton, wrote a response to Wetherell in the
Edinburgh Review The ''Edinburgh Review'' is the title of four distinct intellectual and cultural magazine A magazine is a periodical literature, periodical publication which is printing, printed in Coated paper, gloss-coated and Paint sheen, matte paper. Mag ...
, drawing in Durham University and arguing that the power to award specific degrees had been explicitly granted historically, thus creating a university did not implicitly grant degree-awarding powers. UCL was incorporated by royal charter in 1836, but without university status or degree-awarding powers, which went instead to the
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a p ...
, created by royal charter with the explicit power to grant degrees in Arts, Law and Medicine. Durham University was incorporated by royal charter in 1837, but although this confirmed that it had "all the property, rights, and privileges which ... are incident to a University established by our Royal Charter" it contained no explicit grant of degree-awarding powers. This was considered sufficient for it to award "degrees in all the faculties", but all future university royal charters explicitly stated that they were creating a university and explicitly granted degree-awarding power. Both London (1878) and Durham (1895) later received supplemental charters allowing the granting of degrees to women, which was considered to require explicit authorisation. After going through four charters and a number of supplemental charters, London was reconstituted by Act of Parliament in 1898. The Queen's Colleges in Ireland, at
Belfast Belfast ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a popul ...

Belfast
,
Cork Cork or CORK may refer to: Materials * Cork (material), an impermeable buoyant plant product ** Cork (plug), a cylindrical or conical object used to seal a container ***Wine cork Places Ireland * Cork (city) ** Metropolitan Cork, also known as G ...

Cork
, and
Galway Galway ( ; ga, Gaillimh, ) is a in the , in the of . It is the of , which is named after it. It lies on the between and , and is the on the island of Ireland and the , with a population at the 2016 Census of 79,934. Located near an ...
, were established by royal charter in 1845, as colleges without degree awarding powers. The Queens University of Ireland received its royal charter in 1850, stating "We do will, order, constitute, ordain and found an University ... and the same shall possess and exercise the full powers of granting all such Degrees as are granted by other Universities or Colleges in the faculties of Arts, Medicine and Law". This served as the degree awarding body for the Queen's Colleges until it was replaced by the
Royal University of Ireland The Royal University of Ireland was founded in accordance with the ''University Education (Ireland) Act 1879'' as an examining and degree-awarding university based on the model of the University of London. A Royal Charter was issued on 27 April ...
. The royal charter of the Victoria University in 1880 started explicitly that "There shall be and is hereby constituted and founded a University" and granted an explicit power of awarding degrees (except in medicine, added by supplemental charter in 1883). From then until 1992, all universities in the United Kingdom were created by royal charter except for
Newcastle University Newcastle University (legally the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) is a UK public research university A research university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher ...
, which was separated from Durham via an Act of Parliament. Following the independence of the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective id ...

Republic of Ireland
, new universities there have been created by Acts of the
Oireachtas The Oireachtas ( , ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, count ...
(Irish Parliament). Since 1992, most new universities in the UK have been created by Orders of Council as secondary legislation under the
Further and Higher Education Act 1992 The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 made changes in the funding and administration of further education and higher education within England and Wales, with consequential effects on associated matters in Scotland which had previously been go ...
, although granting degree-awarding powers and university status to colleges incorporated by royal charter is done via an amendment to their charter.


United States

Several of the
colonial colleges The colonial colleges are nine institutions of higher education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an o ...
that predate the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colo ...
are described as having been established by royal charter. Except for
The College of William & Mary The College of William & Mary (also known as William & Mary, W&M, and officially The College of William and Mary in Virginia) is a public university, public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia. Founded in 1693 by letters patent issued ...
, which received its charter from
King William III William III (William Henry; nl, Willem Hendrik; 4 November 16508 March 1702), also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Principality of Orange, Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of County of Holland, Holland, County of Zeeland ...

King William III
and
Queen Mary II Mary II (30 April 166228 December 1694) was Queen of England, List of Scottish monarchs, Scotland, and List of Irish monarchs, Ireland, co-reigning with her husband, William III of England, King William III & II, from 1689 until her death from ...

Queen Mary II
in 1693 following a mission to London by college representatives, these were either provincial charters granted by local governors (acting in the name of the king) or charters granted by legislative acts from local assemblies. The first charters to be issued by a colonial governor on the consent of their council (rather than by an act of legislation) were those granted to
Princeton University Princeton University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...

Princeton University
(as the College of New Jersey) in 1746 (from acting governor
John Hamilton John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works *Johannine literature ** Gospel of John, a title often shortened to ...
) and 1748 (from Governor Jonathan Belcher). There was concern as to whether a royal charter given by a governor in the King's name was valid without royal approval. An attempt to resolve this in London in 1754 ended inconclusively when Henry Pelham, the prime minister, died. However, Princeton's charter was never challenged in court prior to its ratification by the state legislature in 1780, following the US Declaration of Independence. Columbia University received its royal charter (as King's College) in 1754 from Lieutenant Governor James DeLancey of New York, who bypassed the assembly rather than risking it rejecting the charter. Rutgers University received its (as Queen's College) in 1766 (and a second charter in 1770) from Governor William Franklin of New Jersey, and Dartmouth College received its in 1769 from Governor Sir John Wentworth, 1st Baronet, John Wentworth of New Hampshire. The case of ''Dartmouth College v. Woodward'', heard before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1818, centred on the status of the college's royal charter. The court found in 1819 that the charter was a contract under the Contract Clause of the US Constitution, meaning that it could not be impaired by state legislation, and that it had not been dissolved by the revolution. The charter for the College of William and Mary specified it to be a "place of universal study, or perpetual college, for divinity, philosophy, languages and other good arts and sciences", but made no mention of the right to award degrees. The Princeton charter, however, specified that the college could "give and grant any such degree and degrees ... as are usually granted in either of our universities or any other college in our realm of Great Britain". Columbia's charter used very similar language a few years later, as did Dartmouth's charter. The charter of Rutger uses quite different words, specifying that it may "confer all such honorary degrees as usually are granted and conferred in any of our colleges in any of our colonies in America". Of the other colleges founded prior to the American Revolution, Harvard College was established in 1636 by Act of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and incorporated in 1650 by a charter from the same body, Yale University was established in 1701 by Act of the General Assembly of Connecticut, the University of Pennsylvania received a charter from the proprietors of the colony in 1753, Brown University was established in 1764 (as the College of Rhode Island) by an Act of the Governor and General Assembly of Rhode Island, and Hampden-Sydney College was established privately in 1775 but not incorporated until 1783.


Canada

Eight Canadian universities and colleges were founded or reconstituted under royal charter in the 19th century, prior to Canadian Confederation, confederation in 1867. Most Canadian universities originally established by royal charter were subsequently reincorporated by acts of legislature. The University of King's College was founded in 1789 and received a royal charter in 1802 naming it, like Trinity College Dublin, "the Mother of an University" and granting it the power to award degrees. The charter remains in force. McGill University was established under the name of McGill College in 1821 by a provincial royal charter issued by George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of British North America, which stated that the "College shall be deemed and taken to be an University" and should have the power to grant degrees. It was reconstituted by a Royal Charter issued in 1852 by Victoria of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria, which remains in force. The University of New Brunswick was founded in 1785 as the Academy of Liberal Arts and Sciences and received a provincial charter as the College of New Brunswick in 1800. In the 1820s it began giving university-level instruction and received a Royal Charter under the name "King's College" as a "College, with the style and privileges of an University" in 1827. The college was reconstituted as the University of New Brunswick by an act of legislature in 1859. The University of Toronto was founded by royal charter in 1827 under the name of King's College as a "College, with the style and privileges of an University", but did not open until 1843. The charter was subsequently revoked and the institution replaced by the University of Toronto in 1849 under provincial legislation. Victoria University, Toronto, Victoria University, a college of the University of Toronto, opened in 1832 under the name of the Upper Canada Academy giving "pre-university" classes and received a royal charter in 1836. In 1841 a provincial act replaced the charter, reconstituted the academy as Victoria College, and granted it degree-awarding powers. Another college of Toronto, Trinity College, Toronto, Trinity College, was incorporated by an act of legislature in 1851 and received a royal charter in 1852 stating that it "shall be a University and shall have and enjoy all such and the like privileges as are enjoyed by our Universities of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". Queen's University at Kingston, Queen's University was established by royal charter in 1841. This remains in force as the university's primary constitutional document and was last amended, through the Canadian federal parliament, in 2011. Laval University was founded by royal charter in 1852, which granted it degree awarding powers and started that it would "have, possess and enjoy all such and the like privileges as are enjoyed by our Universities of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". This was replaced by a new charter from the National Assembly of Quebec in 1971. Bishop's University was founded, as Bishop's College, by an Act of Canadian Parliament in 1843 and received a royal charter in 1853 granting it the power to award degrees and stating that "said College shall be deemed and taken to be a University, and shall have and enjoy all such and the like privileges as are enjoyed by our Universities of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". The University of Ottawa was established in 1848 as the College of Bytown. It received a royal charter under the name College of Ottawa raising it to university status in 1866.


Australia

The older Australian universities of University of Sydney, Sydney (1850) and University of Melbourne, Melbourne (1853) were founded by acts of the legislatures of the colonies. This gave rise to doubts about whether their degrees would be recognised outside of those colonies, leading to them seeking royal charters from London, which would grant legitimacy across the British Empire. The University of Sydney obtained a royal charter in 1858. This stated that (emphasis in the original): The charter went on to (emphasis in the original): The University of Melbourne's charter, issued the following year, similarly granted its degrees equivalence with those from British universities. The act that established the University of Adelaide in 1874 included women undergraduates, causing a delay in the granting of its charter as the authorities in London did not wish to allow this. A further petition for the power to award degrees to women was rejected in 1878 – the same year that London was granted that authority. A charter was finally granted – admitting women to degrees – in 1881. The last of Australia's 19th century universities, the University of Tasmania, was established in 1890 and obtained a royal charter in 1915.


Guilds, learned societies and professional bodies

Guilds and livery companies are among the earliest organisations recorded as receiving royal charters. The Privy Council list has the Saddlers Company in 1272 as the earliest, followed by the Merchant Taylors Company in 1326 and the Skinners Company in 1327. The earliest charter to the Saddlers Company gave them authority over the saddlers trade; it was not until 1395 that they received a charter of incorporation. The Merchant Taylors were similarly incorporated by a subsequent charter in 1408. Royal charters gave the first regulation of medicine in Great Britain and Ireland. The Barbers Company of London in 1462, received the earliest recorded charters concerning medicine or surgery, charging them with the superintendence, scrutiny, correction and governance of surgery. A further charter in 1540 to the London Guild – renamed the Company of Barber-Surgeons – specified separate classes of surgeons, barber-surgeons, and barbers. The London Company of Surgeons separated from the barbers in 1745, eventually leading to the establishment of the Royal College of Surgeons by royal charter in 1800. The Royal College of Physicians of London was established by royal charter in 1518 and charged with regulating the practice of medicine in the City of London and within seven miles of the city. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Barbers Guild (the ''Gild of St Mary Magdalen'') in Dublin is said to have received a charter in 1446, although this was not recorded in the rolls of chancery and was lost in the 18th century. A later charter united the barbers with the (previously unincorporated) surgeons in 1577. The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland was established by royal charter in 1667 and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which evolved from the Barbers' Guild in Dublin, in 1784. The Royal Society was established in 1660 as Britain's first learned society and received its first royal charter in 1662. It was reincorporated by a second royal charter in 1663, which was then amended by a third royal charter in 1669. These were all in Latin, but a supplemental charter in 2012 gave an English translation to take precedence over the Latin text. The Royal Society of Edinburgh was established by royal charter in 1783 and the Royal Irish Academy was established in 1785 and received its royal charter in 1786. New professional bodies were formed in Britain in the early 19th century representing new professions that arose after the industrial revolution and the rise of ''laissez-faire'' capitalism. These new bodies sought recognition by gaining royal charters, laying out their constitutions and defining the profession in question, often based on occupational activity or particular expertise. To their various corporate objectives, these bodies added the concept of working in the public interest that was not found in earlier professional bodies. This established a pattern for British professional bodies, and the 'public interest' has become a key test for a body seeking a royal charter.


Australia

Royal charters have been used in Australia to incorporate non-profit organisations. However, since at least 2004 this has not been a recommended mechanism.


Belgium

The royal decree is the equivalent in Belgium of a royal charter. In the period before 1958, 32 higher education institutes had been created 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, such as the ''Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique'' (National Fund for Scientific Research) in 1928 and the ''Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten'' in 1938. Since State reform in Belgium#1988-1989: The third state reform, the Belgian state reform of 1988–1989, competency over education was transferred to the federated entities of Belgium. Royal decrees can therefore no longer grant higher education institution status or university status.


Canada

In Canada, there are a number of organisations that have received royal charters. However, the term is often applied incorrectly to organisations, such as the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, that have been granted the use of a royal title rather than a royal charter.


Companies and societies

Companies, corporations, and societies in Canada founded under or augmented by a royal charter include: * The Canada Company, incorporated by Act of Parliament in June 1825. A royal charter was issued in August 1826 to purchase and develop lands. Purchased the Crown Reserve of 1,384,413 acres and a special grant of 1,100,000 acres in the Huron County area. * The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, founded in 1824 as the first learned society in Canada, received its royal charter in 1831. * The Royal Society of Canada, founded by Act of Parliament and granted a royal charter in 1883. * The Royal Life Saving Society of Canada, founded 1891 and received royal patronage and style 1904. A royal charter was granted in 1924 by King George V. British royal chartered corporations operating in Canada: * The East India Company; granted a royal charter in 1600 by Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth I (tea sales in North America) * The
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; founded by a royal charter issued in 1670 by Charles II of England, King Charles II (administration of parts of current Quebec, Northern Ontario and North West Territories, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and judicial connections with Upper Canada) * The Bank of British North America capital raised in Britain, founded by royal charter issued in 1836 (amalgamated with Bank of Montreal 1918). * The Royal Commonwealth Society; founded by a Royal Charter issued in 1882 by Victoria of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria * The Royal Academy of Dance; founded in 1920 as the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing; reconstituted by a royal charter issued in 1936 by King George V * The Scout Association, The Boy Scouts Association founded in 1910; incorporated by royal charter in 1912; Canadian General Council, now called Scouts Canada, formed in 1914 and incorporated by Act of the Canadian Parliament in 1914.


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. * St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's; claimed as England's first oversea colony by royal charter issued in 1583 by Elizabeth I of England, Queen Elizabeth I * Nova Scotia; founded by a Royal Charter issued in 1621 by King James I of England, James I * Saint John, New Brunswick, Saint John; founded by a royal charter issued in 1785 by King George III of the United Kingdom, George III * Vancouver * Winnipeg * Montreal


India

The Institution of Engineers (India), Institution of Engineers was incorporated by royal charter in 1935.


Ireland

A number of Irish institutions were established by or received royal charters prior to Irish independence. These are no longer under the jurisdiction of the British Privy Council and their charters can thus only be altered by a Charter or Act of the
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(Irish Parliament).


South Africa

The University of South Africa received a Royal Charter in 1877. The Royal Society of South Africa received a Royal Charter in 1908.


United Kingdom

Royal charters continue to be used in the United Kingdom to incorporate charities and British professional bodies, professional bodies, to raise Non-metropolitan districts, districts to Borough status in the United Kingdom, borough status, and to grant university status and degree awarding powers to colleges previously incorporated by royal charter. Most new grants of royal charters are reserved for eminent professional bodies, learned societies or charities "which can demonstrate pre-eminence, stability and permanence in their particular field". The body in question has to demonstrate not just pre-eminence and financial stability but also that bringing it under public regulation in this manner is in the public interest. In 2016, the decision to grant a royal charter to the (British) Association for Project Management (APM) was challenged in the court by the (American) Project Management Institute (PMI), who feared it would give a competitive advantage to APM and claimed the criteria had not been correctly applied; the courts ruled that while the possibility of suffering a competitive disadvantage did give PMI standing to challenge the decision, the Privy Council was permitted to take the public interest (in having a chartered body promoting the profession of project management) into account as outweighing any failure to meet the criteria in full. A list of UK chartered professional associations is at . Individual Chartered (professional), chartered designations, such as chartered accountant or chartered engineer, are granted by some chartered professional bodies to individual members that meet certain criteria. The Privy Council's policy is that all chartered designations should be broadly similar, and most require Master's level qualifications (or similar experience). In January 2007, the UK Trade Marks Registry refused to grant protection to the American Chartered Financial Analyst trademark, as the word "chartered" in the UK is associated with royal charters, thus its use would be misleading. "Charter" and "chartered" continue to be "sensitive words" in company names, requiring evidence of a royal charter or (for "chartered") permission from a professional body operating under royal charter. The use of "chartered" in a collective trade mark similarly requires the association applying for the mark to have a royal charter as otherwise "the mark would mislead the public into believing that the association and its members have chartered status". Unlike other royal charters, a charter to raise a district to borough status is issued using statutory powers under the Local Government Act 1972 rather than by the royal prerogative. The Companies House, company registration number of a corporation with a royal charter is prefixed by "RC" for companies registered in England and Wales, "SR" for companies registered in Scotland, and "NR" for companies registered in Northern Ireland. However, many chartered corporations from outside England have an RC prefix from when this was used universally. The BBC operates under a royal charter which lasts for a period of ten years, after which it is renewed.


United States

Royal charters have not been issued in the US since independence. Those that existed prior to that have the same force as other charters of incorporation issued by state or colonial legislatures. Following ''Dartmouth College v. Woodward'', they are "in the nature of a contract between the state, the corporation representing the founder, and the objects of the charity". Case law indicates that they cannot be changed by legislative action in a way that impairs the original intent of the founder, even if the corporation consents.


See also

* Congressional charter, equivalent document in the United States


References


External links


Royal charters page on the Privy Council website

Research briefing from the House of Lords library on Royal Charters and Parliamentary Scrutiny
{{authority control British monarchy Monarchy in Canada Monarchy in Australia Monarchy in New Zealand Political charters, * Medieval charters and cartularies