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The Royal Hospital Chelsea


The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded by King Charles ll in 1682 as a retreat for veterans of the regular army who had become unfit for duty, either after 20 years service or as a result of wounds.

The provision of a hostel, rather than a system of pensions, was most likely to have been inspired by the Hotel Des Invalides in Paris , founded by Louis XlV in 1670, about which Charles had received glowing reports from his son, the Duke of Monmouth.

Because the royal revenue was inadequate for the needs of the country, Charles received no help from the Treasury for this ambitious project. Responsibility for the future hospital was taken up by Sir Stephen Fox, who had been Paymaster General for many years, and he purchased the land for the hospital. Together with a contribution of £7000 donated by the King and Fox's own surrender of his commission, the Hospital was built. Deductions from army pay and pensions continued to be the Hospitals main source of income until 1847. Since that date it has been supported by Parliamentary votes and a small income from the Hospitals' own property and bequests.

There are approximately 300 In-Pensioners who are drawn from Out-Pensioners of good character and who are at least sixty-five years of age. Younger men and women may be admitted if it is certified that they are unable to earn their living as the result of a disability caused by service. Women were first admitted to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on the 12th March 2009.

On entering the Hospital an old soldier surrenders his army pension in return for board, lodging, clothing and medical care.

The military organisation of the Hospital has been preserved, and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are assisted by an Adjutant, three Medical Officers, a Chaplain, a Quartermaster and six Captains of Invalids who command the six Companies of In-Pensioners.

The scarlet coats and ceremonial tricorn hats are a modernised version of the service dress of Marlboroughs ' time. Parades are now generally limited to those before Matins on Sundays and Founders Day

The Royal Hospital website is www.chelsea-pensioners.org.uk

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