Royal Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship


The League provides subsidised accommodation in London and raises money for charitable causes in the Commonwealth

Close up Front of Building Cropped

The Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship was founded in 1901 to promote a closer union between different parts of the then British Empire and to foster hospitality, understanding and good fellowship. The name was chosen in memory of the late Queen Victoria who had died earlier that year.

Since its early formation, hospitality, fundraising, friendship and education have been important for the Victoria League. In the Boer War, assistance was given in tending war graves and helping British refugees, while education was provided in the form of libraries, books and magazines. During World War II, the League provided Commonwealth Servicemen in the UK with 1.25 million beds and four million meals.

Over the years, the League has adapted to its ever-changing world and environments. Today, it has branches in England, Australia and New Zealand and affiliated organisations in Scotland and Canada, with membership open to citizens of all Commonwealth countries. In London, the League organises a calendar of events for members and welcomes members from overseas branches.

The League’s main charitable work now is running Student House in Bayswater, which provides subsidised accommodation for about 60 students from various Commonwealth countries. It is open to full-time students aged 18-30. The current chairman of the League, Lyn Hopkins, was himself a resident of Student House 40 years ago.

In the last academic year, there were students from more than a dozen Commonwealth countries staying at Student House. For many of the students, this was the first time they had been to England – the League aims to provide a clean and well-maintained ‘home away from home’ for the students.

With affordable rates, it is a safe place for young people to stay, meet new friends and attend a calendar of special student events. Lifelong friendships are formed – and even the occasional marriage. Many former students now hold senior posts in their country’s government or in international companies.

Student House is fortunate in having two grand pianos and there has been a long tradition of music students staying at the house, many of whom have gone on to highly successful international careers. Royal patronage has been a huge part of the history of the League since 1906 when the future Queen Mary, then Princess of Wales, became Patron. Currently, Her Majesty the Queen is the League’s patron.

The League is a registered charity and receives no financial support from any government, with its funds having been raised by members over the decades. The League is an active member of the Council of Commonwealth Societies and is one of the four Loyal Societies of the Commonwealth along with the Royal Over-Seas League, Royal Commonwealth Society and the English Speaking Union.

Building a school in Sierra Leone

In 2011, the trustees considered how to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the League’s patron, Her Majesty the Queen. After some discussion of various possibilities, they concluded that the best permanent way of celebrating the Jubilee was to construct a school in Pujehun District in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the Commonwealth.

Most young people in Sierra Leone, even in isolated rural village communities, have access to a very basic level of primary education, but children often have to walk many miles to reach the nearest available school. There was no permanent secondary school in the Pujehun District’s Pejeh Chiefdom, so pupils had to make an hour and a half journey each way to attend the nearest school.

The construction of the League’s school was crucial to ensure that children in the area did not drop out of school after primary education. Funds were raised by the members of the Victoria League and a contribution was made by the League itself. The permanent secondary school, with three classrooms, was successfully constructed and opened in 2012, the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee. The League is now fundraising for the construction of another school in Sierra Leone. Due to the Ebola crisis, government finances are even further reduced and the need for outside help is greater than ever. It is hoped that the Victoria League School will be opened in 2016.



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