'Broken by Age or War'

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. 

What the Future Holds

Chelsea Pensioners in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea

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:

  • An ongoing programme of modernisation of our facilities, to ensure disabled access for the increasing number of veterans who have lost limbs during active service.
  • A general upgrading of accommodation, in keeping with the expectations of current members of the Armed Forces.
  • Development of our nursing home facilities to accommodate the increasing number of veterans with dementia and other age-related illnesses.
  • An outreach programme to support soup kitchens run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for London's homeless.
  • A volunteer project which helps Battersea Dogs and Cats Home look after their four-legged friends.

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.

Download our brochure to find out more about the Royal Hospital Chelsea today and how you can help us.

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View the archive

Royal Hospital Chelsea pays tribute to Chelsea Pensioner, Bill Speakman VC

First soldier to receive VC from Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully on 20th June at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, surrounded by his family.

Live at Chelsea 2018 Highlights

The Chelsea Pensioners and Royal Hospital staff enjoyed another fantastic year of Live at Chelsea including headline performances by Kaiser Chiefs & James Blunt.


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