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Queen Elizabeth II on the final day of her nine-day Canadian tour in 2010

A life of duty: Queen Elizabeth II's charity work

Image Credit: Zoran Karapancev / | Above: Queen Elizabeth II on the final day of her nine-day Canadian tour in 2010

There has previously been much commentary about the Queen’s life of dutiful service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations. But it’s perhaps less well known that she played an active role in raising money for many hundreds of good causes.

In fact, the Charities Aid Foundation once described the Queen as “one of the world’s greatest supporters of charities”, noting in 2012 that her patronage of various organisations had helped them to raise over £1.4 billion.

Here are just a few examples of the causes that Her Majesty championed during her record-breaking reign.

British Red Cross

Ever since its formation back in the Victorian era, the British Red Cross has supported those in crisis: providing medical aid, disaster relief and other vital services. The Queen became its patron in 1949 and went on to visit many people who were helped by the British Red Cross.

One of her earliest visits was to a Red Cross hut where nurses and doctors were treating tuberculosis patients in 1951. Almost seven decades later, in May 2017, she visited the hospitalised victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. As the chief executive of the British Red Cross said, “I will always be grateful for Her Majesty’s visit to meet victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. I was deeply moved by her compassion.”

Leonard Cheshire

Leonard Cheshire is a charity that helps disabled people to live their most independent lives in the UK and beyond. Its founder, Leonard Cheshire himself, was one of the RAF’s most highly decorated pilots, whose service in World War II earned him the Victoria Cross.

From 1969 the Queen donated funds to the charity every year. She became patron in 1980 and during her reign she visited Leonard Cheshire projects throughout the Commonwealth. Following his death in 1992, the Queen made a point of mentioning Cheshire in her Christmas message, and called him a “shining example of what a human being can achieve in a lifetime of dedication”.

Great Ormond Street Hospital

Possibly the best-known children’s hospital in the world, Great Ormond Street Hospital held a special place in the Queen’s heart. In 1952 she visited Great Ormond Street Hospital to mark its centenary, following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria by becoming its patron in 1965.

Queen Elizabeth II attended fundraising events for the hospital, including a performance of Peter Pan held at the Barbican in 1982. She also actively supported a major fundraising appeal in 2015, sending letters of thanks to those who helped raise over £3 million for one of the nation’s most cherished institutions.

Cancer Research UK

One of the Queen’s most significant charitable connections was with Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research organisation. Her patronage extended back to 1953, when she became patron of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, which was a precursor to the current charity.

She played a personal role at various events supporting the organisation, including the opening of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute in 2007 and the Francis Crick Institute in 2016.

In the words of the chair of Cancer Research UK, the Queen “kindly supported us over the years, opening our laboratories and institutes which are an integral part of the charity’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.”

Dogs Trust

The Queen’s deep affection for dogs was known across the globe. From the age of 18, when she was gifted her first corgi, Susan, her beloved pets were featured in numerous photos, both casual and official, and became synonymous with the monarch.

So, it stands to reason that the Queen was also the patron of Dogs Trust, which provides long-term care for dogs and finds permanent homes for as many of them as possible. Speaking after the Queen’s passing, the charity’s chief executive said that “as a world-famous dog lover, her backing was a great help in highlighting the rescue dogs in our care. We will always be grateful for her support.”

Friends of the Elderly

The Queen became patron of Friends of the Elderly in 1953, the year of her coronation. The charity runs care homes and day-care services, as well as providing specialist care to those living with dementia. Through its charitable work, the organisation also provides grants for older people on low incomes.

Over the years, the Queen took a keen interest in the charity’s activities, hosting receptions at Buckingham Palace, meeting some of the older people who benefitted from the charity’s work and supporting appeals. As Friends of the Elderly has stated, “Her Majesty has helped us support thousands of people throughout the decades of her reign.”


The oldest animal welfare organisation in the world, the RSPCA was granted royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840. The relationship between the Royal Family and the RSPCA was further emphasised when Queen Elizabeth became its patron upon her accession in 1952.

As one of Britain’s best-known charities, the RSPCA took part in the Silver Jubilee parade in 1977. It also played a role in the Patron’s Lunch of 2016, when the Mall in London became the venue for a huge street party for over 10,000 people.

The street party was held to celebrate the Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities – an incredible achievement that improved the lives of more people and animals than might ever be counted.