The story of today’s Royal Hospital Chelsea begins over 300 years ago in the reign of King Charles II.
Aware that the army was supporting a growing number of soldiers who were no longer fit for active service, and inspired by Les Invalides in Paris, the king committed to create a welcoming and safe home for veterans who had fought for their country and who were now “broken by age or war”.
His vision for such a home was brought to life by Sir Christopher Wren, whose elegant buildings still stand majestically on the banks of the River Thames in the heart of 21st century London.
But it’s not just the buildings that have survived into modern times. Charles II’s understanding that the country owes a debt of gratitude to its old soldiers informs the spirit of the Royal Hospital today. The residents of the Hospital, known the world over as Chelsea Pensioners, have all served as ordinary soldiers in the Armed Forces at some point in their lives, and now, in their later years, find a warm welcome amidst the camaraderie and banter of their fellow veterans.
The past is important to all of us here at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and we are proud of our history, both in terms of the architectural heritage of the buildings themselves, and the personal stories of the Chelsea Pensioners who live here.
However, in order to be able to write the next chapter in Hospital's extraordinary narrative, we are constantly reviewing and improving the services we offer to veterans and to the wider community.
Current projects include:
For over three hundred years, the Royal Hospital Chelsea has provided a welcoming home and a way of life for thousands of soldiers in their old age. We have also preserved for the nation the architectural legacy left to us by Charles II and Sir Christopher Wren. Today, our commitment to the Chelsea Pensioners and their beautiful home remains undiminished.
With your help, we are looking forward to the next three hundred years.
The Chelsea Pensioners have paraded at the Royal Hospital Chelsea's Founder's Day on 8 June, reviewed by His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex.
Every year the Chelsea Pensioners are welcome guests on the Channel Islands, for a celebration of history, Liberation and reconciliation.