Early Years

Sir Christopher Wren's design for the Royal Hospital is based on the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.

The original building was intended to house 412 veteran soldiers and their officers and comprised a single quadrangle, known as Figure Court. However, before work had begun it was realised that the buildings would be insufficient and Wren added two further quadrangles to his design. In 1686, construction was approved and building commenced.

In 1692, the Royal Hospital was able to open its doors for the first time. On February 4th, the first group of 99 Chelsea Pensioners were installed and on March 28th the full complement of 476 was made up when they were joined by a further 377 residents. 

The early funding of the Royal Hospital was made from deductions from army pay, with occasional funding from other sources. This continued to be the Royal Hospital's main source of revenue until 1847. Since then the Royal Hospital has been supported by 'Grant-in-Aid' from the Ministry of Defence and a small income from the Army Prize Money and Legacy Fund.

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Pensioners holding a Christmas wreath outside
Festive thoughts from the Chelsea Pensioners

Christmas is almost here and although life is still far from normal the Chelsea Pensioners are enjoying being part of our community at this special time. We are celebrating in many of the traditional ways at the Royal Hospital – while ensuring guidelines are followed and the Chelsea Pensioners stay as safe as possible. 

Stirring of the Christmas Pudding Ceremony 2021
Festive fun at the stirring of the Christmas Pudding ceremony

Chelsea Pensioners and staff gathered together in the Great Hall on the last day of November to usher in the start of Advent with the first of the Royal Hospital’s annual Christmas traditions. 

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