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How much do you know about the IoD’s Royal Charter?

Rachael Taylor 15 Aug 2019

IoD Royal Charter

Many of you in the East of England already know about the IoD and our services, but do you know where it all stems from? 

In 1906, the IoD was granted its Royal Charter by King Edward VII, and since then we have used it as a point of reference in everything we do as an organisation.

Perhaps you have heard about it, but you may be wondering what it all means and why we continue to refer to it today. Well a good place to start would be explaining what a Royal Charter actually is. 

A royal charter is a formal document, typically produced as a fancy work of calligraphy on vellum (animal skin). It is issued by a monarch, and grants a right or power to a corporate body or individual.

Historically, charters were used for creating and defining the purpose and privileges of public or private corporations, such as towns or cities. Nowadays, Charters are usually given to bodies such as charities or professional institutions that work in the public interest. They are supposed to demonstrate financial stability, permanence and pre-eminence in their field. 

The Royal Charter tradition in Britain dates all the way back to 1066, when a charter was conferred on the Scottish burgh of Tain. Then funnily enough, the first royal charter in England was issued by the King of England in 1231 just around the corner from our IoD East regional hub- to the University of Cambridge!

Since then, around 900 charters have been granted by the reigning monarch, of which around 750 still exist-that is not really many when you think about the length of time. We were cherry-picked! 

Royal Charters continue to be issued by the British Crown, with recent examples being that awarded to the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity in 2011 and The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors in 2014.

The BBC, the Bank of England, the British Red Cross and the British Council are among the best-known organisations established by royal charter.

Now that you have the history, you are probably wondering why something presented to us over 100 years ago is still significant today-and more specifically, to the East of England region. 

Well, leaving out the animal skin, let us take a look in greater detail at what our Royal Charter says: 

According to our Royal Charter, the IoD’s mission and responsibility has four elements: 

1) Better Directors- Professionalism

To promote for the public benefit high levels of skill, knowledge, professional competence and integrity on the part of directors and equivalent office holders of companies and other organisations.

The East of England is a prosperous region - a diverse area featuring many knowledge-intensive industries. This is shown by the numerous science, business and research parks situated in cities such as Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich. 

However, in order for companies to compete against those which are closely located in our administrative and financial capital (London), they need to demonstrate professionalism in the form of skilled workers and strong leadership.

Professionalism is represented in every aspect of IoD membership – starting from IoD Student, offering the perfect introduction to the world of business for aspiring entrepreneurs, through to IoD Advance, providing top quality training in strategy, leadership and best practice.

Influential figures have continuously recommended IoD Training to executive and non-executive directors, being the only institute in the world to offer qualifications for directors under Royal Charter.

In a fast-paced world with an ever-changing economy, it is important to prepare for change by keeping your knowledge and skills relevant and up to date. All business leaders can enhance their knowledge and skills with our Professional Training and Development Programmes. 

The IoD East of England has recently launched the IoD Professional Director | CPD Series, allowing directors to further develop their leadership skills and future-proof their board and organisation. 

Up-coming business leaders in the East will also soon be able to benefit from our Future Director Course, designed to prepare non-executives to take on future exec roles through carefully designed step-by-step succession planning.

2) Better Economy- Lobbying

To represent the interests of IoD members and the business community, to government and all opinion formers. To encourage and foster a climate favourable to entrepreneurial activity and wealth creation.

With a 50 per cent increase in tech start-ups in 2018, the East of England region prides itself in being the “Enterprising East”. However our challenge is growing those start-ups and making them attractive to our typically London-loving Millennials. 

With current Brexit negotiations causing political and economic instability, local businesses must be able and encouraged to communicate with government to make themselves known nationally and internationally. This will help them to attract workers and ensure that their business growth needs are met. 

Fulfilling this responsibility through our Royal Charter, the IoD uses Policy Voice, which seeks IoD members’ opinions on all significant issues for business leaders including Brexit priorities, regulation, skills and the economy.

The data collected is then developed into IoD policy reports, imbedded into every government consultation we respond to and shared in conversations with policy makers and the media.

This ensures that your voices are heard and considered when government makes decisions which might affect business in the region and the UK economy in general.

3) Better Business- Corporate Governance

To promote the study, research and development of the law and practice of corporate governance, and to share findings.

Effecting this Royal Charter obligation, the IoD has a Good Governance Hub where we publish annual reports, debates, articles and useful information on corporate governance. 

In addition, our inspirational IoD Chair, corporate governance expert and ‘champion’ of board diversity, Charlotte Valeur provides business leaders with regular updates and advice through her engaging blog posts. -Keep an eye out on our events page for the chance to meet the Chair as she visits the IoD East in December 2019! 

4) Better Services- Support

To advance the interests of members of the institute, and to provide facilities, services and benefits for them.

-Our fourth and final responsibility. 

Sometimes leading a business can be lonely. Even the most experienced leaders need external help and a strong support network in order to succeed. 

This is where all of the other IoD member services come in. Most of them you may already know about, such as our amazing events programme, courses and meeting spaces.

However, did you know that a large chunk of the support which the IoD offers is through our Information & Advice Service (IAS), and Legal and Tax Helplines?

Members can access our research team, contact our experts, explore our factsheets, and get top quality legal and tax advice. 

You can also visit our extensive business library and study at the IoD Academy based in Pall Mall. 

As you can see, our Royal Charter may be old, but its contents and significance are certainly NOT old- fashioned. 

Until this day, our Royal Charter has been our mandate, and remains a clear, structured acknowledgement of the continuing work we do to promote professionalism in business. 

It is our promise to continue supporting, representing and setting standards for business leaders nationwide.

So now if anybody asks you about our Royal Charter, you will be sure to hold court! 



Further Information:

King Edward VII was monarch when the Royal Charter was awarded in 1906. As the charter is decreed by the grace of the monarch, this is then up-held by their successors. Therefore the charter is technically currently being upheld by the grace of Elizabeth II, and under her authority. 

Subsequent changes at the IoD meant that its Royal Charter was amended in 2004, with the signed approval of the Privy Council in 2015.


Useful Links:

For more information about the business support that the IoD can offer, visit our Member Services Page.

To find out more about events taking place across the East of England, visit our IoD East events page.

If you are an IoD member and have not already done so, please sign up to Policy Voice here.

For further information and advice on Business Planning for Brexit, visit our Brexit Hub. 

Contact IoD East of England

For more information, please contact.

020 3006 2729

East of England

Branch and staff contacts can be found on the main Contacts tab


IoD East of England
The Bradfield Centre,
Cambridge Science Park,
CB4 0GA