Marlborough College’s Royal Charter

Royal Charters, granted by the Sovereign on the advice of the Privy Council, have a history dating back to the thirteenth century, and until the nineteenth century, the grant of a ‘Charter of Incorporation’ was the principal method of creating separate legal personalities. By this means, universities, colleges, schools, municipalities, guilds and livery companies, a wide range of benevolent institutions and, with the development of trade, a growing number of joint stock companies were incorporated over this period.

When new legislation was introduced in the nineteenth century facilitating the incorporation of commercial enterprises, and with the advent of charities legislation, the occasion for incorporation by the grant of a Charter became much reduced, and the grant of a Charter came to be seen more as a special token of Royal favour or as a mark of distinction.

Marlborough School for the Sons of the Clergy and Others, as it was known then, was granted its Royal Charter on 21st August, 1845 by Queen Victoria. The petitioners who applied to the Privy Council for the Charter on behalf of the School were identified as William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, John Scott, 2nd Earl of Eldon and Edward Denison, the elder, Bishop of Salisbury. The Charter gave authority for the School to change its name to Marlborough College and explained the structure of Governance of the College.

The Charter stated that the petitioners believed that the success of the school would be

sooner attained if they were protected by our Royal sanction by means of a Royal Charter of Incorporation for the purpose of reconstituting them for Incorporation for more effectually carrying on and conducting the said undertaking under such regulations as to Us might seem right and expedient.

Now know ye that we, taking the promises into our Royal Consideration of our especial grace, certain knowledge and more motions ….. do grant reconstitute and appoint as follows, that is to say for the purpose of establishing, carrying on and maintaining a College to be called ‘Marlborough College’ a corporation consisting of Perpetual Governors and Life Governors shall be and is hereby founded and reconstituted.

There were seven other Royal Charters awarded that year including to the Law Society, Queen’s University Belfast, the Trust and Loan Company of Upper Canada and the Agricultural College at Cirencester.

The rest of the Charter document covered matters such as purchasing of land and buildings for the College; rules about the proportion of pupils being sons of clergymen and the fee structure; the management and role of the governing body; and accountability and rules relating to the governing body. As bye laws relating to some of these areas changed, supplementary Royal Charters were issued to the College under Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 and 1975.