Incorporation by Royal Charter: more classy than a conventional company

IP Draughts’ attention has recently been brought to a fascinating document: a complete list of the bodies incorporated by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom, as set out on the Privy Council website.  Thanks to Sean Cummings of Keltie and Tom Sharman of Reddie and Grose for pointing out this list.

Sir Anthony Denny, Henry VIII's Groom of the Stool and member of his Privy Council: he was pleased to take c*** from his boss!

To his shame, IP Draughts was surprised to discover that the Privy Council has a website, and even more surprised to find that it provides commercially-useful information in a convenient, spreadsheet format.  In IP Draughts’ mind, the Privy Council is associated with the court of Henry VIII or Elizabeth I.  It jars to think of such an august and ceremonial body making use of modern technology

The information is not as arcane as it may seem. Most, if not all, of our UK university clients are incorporated by Royal Charter.  When entering into a contract, it is important to identify the parties and their legal status.  In recent years, Companies House has included charter bodies in their free, searchable index of companies.  As Companies House is not responsible for the incorporation of charter bodies, they have presumably used information from the Privy Council in their index.  There is a nice legal point as to whether one can rely on either the public Companies House list or the Privy Council list when identifying a party in a contract, or should one consult the Royal Charter of the body concerned?  IP Draughts would be interested to hear readers’ views.

The list is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, with the charter bodies listed in order of incorporation.  A second list (or is it the same list?) claims to show all bodies that have received a Royal Charter since the thirteenth century, whether or not still active.

William Hogarth: South Sea Bubble

After the University of Cambridge in 1231, and the University of Oxford in 1248, come a variety of guilds, livery companies, colleges and schools, including Giggleswick School in 1553.  Other notable entries include the Royal Society in 1662, the South Sea Company in 1711 (remember the South Sea Bubble?), Royal Bank of Scotland Limited in 1727 (but probably don’t use this RBS company if you want to contract with them!), and McGill University in 1821.  Surprisingly, IP Draughts was not able to find King’s College, which subsequently became Columbia University, despite the Columbia University website claiming that it obtained a Royal Charter in 1754.

Among the most recent entries is the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, in 2011.

On a different topic, IP Draughts is intrigued to see, on the Privy Council website, the oath that must be made by new Privy Councillors:

You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto The Queen’s Majesty as one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council.  You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done or spoken against Her Majesty’s Person, Honour, Crown or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same.  You will in all things to be moved, treated and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience;  and will keep secret all matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council.  And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors you will not reveal it unto him but will keep the same until such time as, by the consent of Her Majesty or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof.  You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance to the Queen’s Majesty; and will assist and defend all civil and temporal Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates.   And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty


Should this be redrafted in plain English, or is it in a similar category to the letters patent for a Duke, ie largely ceremonial?  IP Draughts does not know whether the above confidentiality and fidelity obligations are intended to be legally enforceable.  Perhaps a Privy Councillor who breaches them is handed a loaded revolver and told to go into the next room…?

1 Comment

Filed under Legal practice

One response to “Incorporation by Royal Charter: more classy than a conventional company

  1. Reblogged this on IP Draughts and commented:

    This week’s golden oldie is about bodies incorporated by Royal Charter. A practical tip for these, is that when they execute deeds, they need to apply their seal, unlike Companies Act companies and individuals. This is sometimes overlooked when IP Draughts receives draft deeds of assignment from City law firms.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.