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The League of Mercy is a British foundation established in 1899 by Royal Charter of Queen Victoria. The goal of the organisation was to recruit a large number of volunteers to aid the sick and suffering at charity hospitals. It was disbanded on to the establishment of the National Health Service in 1947.[1] The organisation was re-established in 1999, and today exists to recognise and reward volunteers.

League of Mercy
League of Mercy - logo.jpg
Formation30 March 1899; 120 years ago (1899-03-30)
FounderEdward, Prince of Wales
Founded atLondon
PurposeTo recruit volunteers for hospitals (initial)
To reward distinguished voluntary service (today)
Robert Balchin, Baron Lingfield



The League was founded by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), who served as its first president.[2]

In 1898, Sir Everard Hambro chaired a committee established to consider several submitted plans and proposals on devising a badly needed organisation.[3]

On 1 March 1899, the Prince of Wales chaired a meeting at Marlborough House to establish the charity and announce directives. A league president would be appointed for each Parliamentary division, and many were in attendance at the meeting, including the Duke of Westminster, the Marquess of Lorne, the Marquess of Camden, Earl Carrington, Earl of Clarendon, Earl of Dartmouth, Sir W. Hart Dyke, Sir Whittaker Ellis, Sir Arthur Hayter, Sir Fitzroy D. Maclean, Weetman Pearson and Edmund Boulnois.[3]

The prince stated:[3]

After being active for nearly half a century, the League ceased its work in 1947 on the creation of the National Health Service.[1]


The League of Mercy was re-established as a charity on 30 March 1999, exactly 100 years after the founding of the original League.[4] Its role is to recognise an encourage those who undertake voluntary work in the care of people who are sick, vulnerable or homeless.[5]

Order of MercyEdit

Badge of the Order of the League of Mercy, version awarded 1899-1946. The bow was for ladies' awards
Badge of the Order awarded since 1999

The original badge of the order, awarded from 1899, was a red enamelled silver or silver gilt cross surmounted by the plumes of the Prince of Wales and with a central roundel bearing the crest of the League. The reverse is plain, save for the inscription “League of Mercy 1898” on the central roundel. It was awarded for at least five years distinguished and unpaid personal service to the League in support of charity hospitals, or in the relief of suffering, poverty or distress. A bar for a second award was introduced in 1917.[6] The Order ceased to be awarded after 1946, and the League itself closed in 1947.[1]

When the League was re-founded in 1999, it re-established the Order of Mercy with a similar design, but in silver gilt and without enamel or the Prince of Wales’s plumes. The reverse follows the earlier version, but now shows the year “1999”.[1] A special Companion's Badge was also created to reward wider humanitarian work. This has red enamel, similar to the original badge, and is worn around the neck.[7] The restored League established an annual award ceremony in which approximately 50 people are awarded the Order of Mercy, "as a reward for personal services gratuitously rendered in connection with the purposes for which the League was established." The Medal of the Order of the League of Mercy (OLM) and Companion's Badge of the Order of the League of Mercy are still awarded each year at the Mansion House in London with awards appearing in the London Gazette.[8] The Badge of the Order of the League of Mercy is part of the official Order of Wear of the United Kingdom, but this only applies to awards made prior to June 1947 when the League’s Royal Charter was surrendered.[9]

Recipients tend to be drawn from the ranks of long-serving community volunteers in the UK, but have also included representatives of former ruling houses, including those of Georgia[10] and the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies,[7] who have received the higher grade of Companion of the Order of Mercy and, in return, have bestowed dynastic orders upon the League's President.[11]

Professor Alan Roberts, OBE, TD, a former pro-chancellor of Leeds University and cadet-commandant of Yorkshire Army Cadet Force, was appointed a Companion of the Order of Mercy in 2002,[12] having previously received an honorary doctorate from Brunel University, whose pro-chancellor is Lord Lingfield.[13] Professor Roberts also serves as gentleman usher of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor, whose Knight Principal is Lord Lingfield.[14]

Other recipients include Thomas Balchin, Lord Lingfield's son,[15] who also serves as secretary to the council of the League of Mercy,[16] and Anthony Bailey, OBE, who is closely involved in the Constantinian Order of St George, a Catholic order headed by the head of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.[17]


The presidents of the League from 1899 to 1947 were:

Since being re-established in 1999:

Distinguished MembersEdit


  1. ^ a b c d John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. p. 302. Published by Token Publishing Ltd. Honiton, Devon.
  2. ^ a b "The History of the League of Mercy". League of Mercy. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "The League of Mercy". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 2 March 1899. p. 12.
  4. ^ "The League of Mercy Today". League of Mercy Foundation. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  5. ^ League of Mercy Foundation. Areas of care.
  6. ^ Captain H. Taprell Dorling. Ribbons and Medals. p. 129. Published A.H.Baldwin & Sons, London. 1956.
  7. ^ a b c Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies. Duke of Castro receives the Companion’s Badge of the League of Mercy.
  8. ^ "No. 60171". The London Gazette. 13 June 2012. p. 11312.
  9. ^ "No. 56878". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3354.
  10. ^ a b The Royal House of Georgia. Prince David receives the Grand Companion's Badge of the Order of Mercy.
  11. ^ Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Constantinian Order & Royal Order of Francis I in Great Britain.
  12. ^ League of Mercy Foundation. Awards 2002.
  13. ^ Brunel University. Honorary Graduates.
  14. ^ Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor. Knights Principal.
  15. ^ League of Mercy Foundation. Awards 2015.
  16. ^ Books by Tom Balchin.
  17. ^ Anthony Bailey Consulting. Anthony Bailey awarded Order of Mercy at Mansion House ceremony.

External linksEdit