Since the inception of The Victoria League at the beginning of the last Century, its history has been one of constant adaptation to changing conditions and has come a long way since its inception in 1901. 

  • A group of women decided, following a meeting at 10 Downing Street on 2nd April 1901, to form an independent, non-political organisation to promote ‘a closer union between the different parts of what is now the Commonwealth of Nations, by the interchange of information and hospitality and by co-operation in any practical scheme tending to foster friendly understanding and good fellowship’.
  • An Executive Committee was appointed and the name “The Victoria League” chosen in memory of the late Queen who had died on 22nd January 1901.  
  • Margaret, Countess of Jersey, was appointed as President and re-elected annually for 26 years. Membership was open to men and women but the first Committee was composed solely of women who framed a Constitution and enrolled the first General Council.  
  • The objectives were defined as hospitality, friendship and education.
  • Some of the earliest projects included tending to war graves and raising funds to alleviate distress. Special Committees were set up and funds raised to finance education work, essay competitions, libraries, magic lantern lectures and the supply of English books and magazines.
  • In 1906, the future Queen Mary, then Princess of Wales, became Patron of The Victoria League which expanded rapidly with 27 branches by 1909 - in England, Scotland and overseas, though these were independent, nevertheless they received Royal Patronage provided they remained non-political with membership open to both men and women. The League has been honoured by Royal Patronage ever since.
  • Famous past members include Alice Balfour, Millicent Fawcett, Violet Cecil, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Noel Coward and Ivor Novello.
  • During World War 1, the League focused on hospitality for Commonwealth servicemen. Clubs and hostels were opened in London and Edinburgh and 282,000 beds provided for servicemen on leave. The League became a receiving centre for overseas gifts for distribution to soldiers and relief organisations. 
  • In World War II, it provided Commonwealth servicemen in the United Kingdom with 1.25 million beds and 4 million meals.
  • The Victoria League has been involved with student hospitality and welfare since 1927 and the present Hostel in Bayswater, London, was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, The League’s President at the time, on 22nd October 1953. Student House, where the Headquarters of The Victoria League is located, has become the focal point of The League’s charitable activities   It is extremely popular with students from all parts of the Commonwealth.
  • For members: The Victoria League maintains a Diary of Events and occasions such as Trooping The Colour, The Queen’s Birthday Parade, Beating Retreat, Commonwealth Day Observance, ANZAC Day, the Garter Procession at Windsor Castle and visits to The House of Lords, Parliament and many other places of interest, are well supported by members. Click here to become a member of the Victoria League.

Overseas projects

  • To honour our patron, Her Majesty the Queen in the year of her Jubilee 2012. The League funded an overseas projects in Sierra Leone. This was the financing of the building of a secondary school.
  • We have subsequently funded another senior secondary school on the same site. 
  • The League has also assisted in the funding of two community nursery buildings in Borneo, which students staying at Student House were involved in the planning and construction of.
  • For the last two years the League has worked with a school in Rwanda part-funding a science lab, a literacy scheme and an education recovery project for the pupils, following the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship is a member of The Joint Commonwealth Societies’ Council and is proud of its record of service and achievement over more than 115 years and continues to perpetrate the original ideals of friendly understanding, good fellowship, hospitality and alleviating distress where possible within the Commonwealth.

Over the years, the League has always adapted to our ever changing world and environment. Today we remain strong and endeavour to keep fulfilling these important founding ideas of hospitality, friendship and education across the Commonwealth of Nations, even if we need to at the moment, do this virtually during this world-wide pandemic.