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One of the main duties a working member of the British royal family must take on is patronages, but what exactly are they? Between Queen Elizabeth and the late Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, the two held over 1,000 patronages, though lower-ranking members of the family tend to hold far fewer. So how are the patronages split up and what happens when a Patron is no longer able to fulfill their duties?

What Is A Royal Patronage?

In essence, royal patronage is when a member of the royal family becomes the official patron, or in other words sponsor, of an organization. There are currently 3,000 organizations that fall under this category, with thousands of requests pouring in each year to be added to the list. That being said, the selection process is very strict, and obviously, not all organizations can make the cut. Out of all the members of the royal family, Queen Elizabeth receives the most requests to become the patron of a new organization as her sponsorship carries the most weight. 

There’s quite a bit of variety among these organizations, with the list ranging from charities to public services to military associations. By having a member of the royal family as a patron, the organizations get the publicity they need to continue their important work. 

How Many Patronages Do Royals Have?

Most working members of the royal family, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles), or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton), limit themselves to a manageable number of patronages. After all, they have to split their attention between the variety of organizations they represent and make sure each gets the vital publicity they need in order to continue their operations. 

The exceptions to this rule are Queen Elizabeth herself and her late husband Prince Philip. Between the two of them, they held over 1,000 patronages. Most of those were inherited from the previous monarch, the queen’s father King George VI, as well as his predecessors. 

How Are Patronages Chosen?

Personal interests drive much of the reason why royals choose the patronages they do. For instance, Prince Charles has a number of environmental patronages as he’s become a champion of the environment. His wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, became President of the National Osteoporosis Society because both her mother and grandmother died of brittle bone disease. 

Location-based organizations are also standard, with titles sometimes dictating patronages. Take the Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward’s wife Sophie, for instance. She is the patron of the regional charity Wessex Heartbeat. 

Can You Lose A Patronage?

Just like there are many reasons to choose a patron, patronages can be lost for a number of reasons. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had to give up their patronages after stepping down as working members of the royal family and moving to California. In this case, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s patronages were redistributed to other members of the royal family. 

Most recently, Camilla Parker Bowles took over the patronage of the National Theater, a position previously held by Markle. A few weeks before that announcement was made official, Kate Middleton also took over one of Harry’s patronages, the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League. 

Patronages can also be taken away for scandalous behavior, as evidenced by Prince Andrew’s recent woes. The disgraced Duke of York lost a number of patronages in 2019 after his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of a sexual assault came to light. At that time, many organizations cut ties with him, though he was still listed as a patron of 100 other charities and organizations.

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