You may have seen them on parade, on TV, at the Cenotaph or around the the streets of Chelsea, but who are - and why are they known as - the Chelsea Pensioners?

From 1692 until 1955, all Army pensions were administered by and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is why all Army pensioners were often referred to as Chelsea Pensioners.

Those who lived 'Out', in the UK or abroad and received their pension in cash from agents around the country were known as Out-Pensioners. All records for Out-Pensioners are held by the National Archives at Kew.

Over time, the term Out-Pensioner fell out of common usage and, in more recent times, it's only those Pensioners who retire to and live within the Royal Hospital who are now offically known as Chelsea Pensioners. These eligible veterans of the British Army surrendered their Army Pension and were admitted as residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

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Grinling Gibbons statue of Charles II
The story behind the statue

On 3 August 2021 it will be 300 years since Grinling Gibbons’ death. Gibbons is celebrated as arguably the greatest decorative wood carver in British history. However, at the Royal Hospital we know him as the artist responsible for the striking gilded statue of our founder that stands in Figure Court – named in its honour. 

HRH Duke of Gloucester meeting Pensioner Tony Judge
Hope and happiness as Chelsea Pensioners celebrate the return of Founder’s Day

Founder’s Day is the highlight of the Royal Hospital’s calendar. Ever since 1692, it has been held on or close to 29 May – the birth of King Charles II and the date of his restoration to the throne. 

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