Leslie's Guiding History Site


Royal Guides


For over 100 years, members of royal families have been involved in Guiding, especially in the UK.  On this page I will start to look at what members of the Royal Family contributed to Guiding - and what Guiding contributed to members of them too.  

In Guiding's early days, royal patronage was valuable in many ways.  The first of these was that of respectability.  In an era where Guiding was originally seen as a pursuit for the rebelious and tomboyish, support from members of the royal family reassured nervous parents that it was not an inappropriate pastime for their daighters.  The second way was of a practical and financial nature.  Members of the royal family provided support by not just formally opening Guiding premises, but in some cases by helping to fund them too.  So although from the start, Guides have included the monarchy as part of their Promise in many countries, and committed themselves to support of the monarchy, so too have the monarchy supported Guiding.  On this page I will list some of the members of various Royal Families who had connections with Guiding, and hope to give some indication of their contribution.

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll

Princess Louise was the 6th child of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert.  After marrying the Marquess of Lorne, heir to the Duke of Argyll, she lived in Scotland, often at Roseneath Castle..She was widowed in 1914, and was appointed as the first Royal Patrol of Girl Guides in 1916.  In 1920 she asked that the Dunbartonshire Girl Guides be called "Princess Louise's Own", a royal accolade which the Guiding County have borne ever since.  As such, Dunbartonshire Guide County are permitted to use a Royal Cypher on their County Banner and badges.

Princess Louise died at Kensington Palace on 3 December 1939, aged 91, and members of the Dunbartonshire Guide Companies attended a commemorative service at St Modan's Parish Church, Roseneath, held simultaneously with her funeral service at Windsor in England.

Princess Mary

Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, became Norfolk County Commissioner in 1917, and shortly after, became the President of the Girl Guides Association, a role she continued in until her death in 1965.  

In it's early years, Guiding has had a number of different training centres, but it was becoming clear that a more permanent arrangement was necessary - the dream was a residential training centre, ideally with grounds where woodcraft skills could be taught.  In 1921 an experimental Training Week was held in an empty house, as it's owner, Mrs Saunderson was now living in the USA.  Following this succesful event, and a visit by Sir Robert and Lady Baden-Powell, it was agreed that the estate was not only very suitable, but beautiful.  Following this the owner of the house offered to gift it to the Girl Guides.  The gift was generous and welcome, but raised the question of the funding which would be needed to convert it to it's new purpose and maintain it thereafter.  Princess Mary came to the rescue - she was getting married, and had received a present from all the girls named 'Mary' in the empire - she donated £6000 of it, along with £4000 raised by the showing of her wedding presents, thus making the adaptation and maintenance possible.  Due to this, the house was named "Princess Mary House, Foxlease", and the Princess Royal frequently visited, 

Princess Mary continued to be an active President, attending gatherings, rallies and meetings, for the rest of her life, through to her passing in 1965.

Princess Alice

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth, then Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Prior to her marriage to Prince Albert George, later King George VI, Lady Elizabeth served in Guiding as a District Commissioner. 

Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Elizabeth first joined as a Guide in 1937, in the specially-formed 1st Buckingham Palace Company.  The other members were carefully chosen daughters of friends or relatives, and there meetings were originally held in a summer house, and in the grounds, at Buckingham Palace - and later at Windsor Castle.

Following the abdication of King Edward VIII, and the resulting coronation of King George VI, the young Princess's life had altered considerably, as she suddenly moved from being a Princess, to being the Heir to the Throne.  The new Queen and the Princess's Governess were keen to give the Princess as ordinary a childhood as they could, for as long as they could, until such time as she had to take up royal duties, hence the desire for her to get to be a Girl Guide.  

Appointed as Patrol Second of the Kingfishers, Princess Elizabeth was a keen participant in cricket, drill, folk dancing and wide games - not so much so with needlework!  Following wartime evacuation the Company was temporarily broken up.  On it reforming at Windsor many of the members were evacuees.  Princess Elizabeth was now a Patrol Leader and working for her First Class Badge.  

When Princess Elizabeth turned 16, she moved to Sea Rangers, SRS President II was set up, and the Sea Rangers were able to experience boating and rowing.  Later, the time came for the Queen to end her time as a Ranger, and she was appointed to a new role - that of Chief Ranger.  On becoming Queen, she gave up the role of Chief Ranger, and became Patron of the Girl Guide Association, a role which she continued in for the rest of her life.

Princess Margaret

At the same time in 1937 that a Guide Company was set up for Princess Elizabeth to join, it was the royal family's wish that her younger sister, too, should get to experience the fun of Guiding.  As she was significantly underage to be a Guide, it was decided that she and another girl should become Brownies, and be attached to the 1st Buckingham Palace Company.  So Princess Margaret became a member of the Leprechaun Six, and started working for her Golden Bar badge.  The Brownies often joined in with the Guide activities, and in time Princess Margaret moved up to become a Guide, earning her First Class and her All-Round Cords.  

She became a Ranger, and later became Chief Ranger.  Following the death of Princess Mary, she took over as President of the Girl Guides Association, and was actively involved, presiding at annual meetings and hosting receptions for Queen's Guides, until her death.

Princess Anne

Just as her mother had been a Guide, so when Princess Anne was old enough, the 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack, which had been in abeyance, was reopened.  She enjoyed many activities first as a Brownie, and later as a keen Guide.  

Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones

Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (later Lady Sarah Chatto) joined the 7th Kensington Brownie Pack, and made her Promise at a meeting held in St Mary Abbot's Church Hall, in London, in 1971.  

Catherine, Princess of Wales

Kate Middleton, as she then was, joined the 1st St Andrew's Brownie Pack, in Pangbourne, Berkshire, when she was 8 years old.  

Countess of Wessex

Following the death of Princess Margaret in February 2002, HRH The Countess of Wessex became the new President of Girlguiding UK.  The role includes presenting members with the Queen's Guide Award, and where possible, attending Guiding events.  

Lady Louise Windsor

Lady Louse Windsor was a Brownie and a Girl Guide

Princess Benedikte of Denmark

Queen Azizah of Malaysia