Reference numberDC/1/1
TitleFirst Charter of the Royal Society
Date15 July 1662
DescriptionDrawn up by Sir Robert Sawyer, the Attorney-General, and remarkable for its clearness and legal terseness. It begins with the Incorporation of the Society, consisting of a President, Council and Fellows, and gives its corporate name 'The Royal Society'.
' The said President, Council and Fellows are authorized to acquire property and to dispose of it, to sue and be sued, and to have a Common Seal
The Council is to consist of 21 persons, including the President, and all those admitted by the President and Council in the first month shall be Fellows: after that period all those who are admitted by the President, Council and Fellows shall be Fellows of the Society.
Viscount Brouncker is to be the first President until St Andrew's Day next. Then follows the oath to be taken by the President. The 20 members of the first Council are named and are to hold office until St Andrew's Day next, when the President and Council for the coming year are to be elected by the President, Council and Fellows of the Society, as prescribed in the next paragraph of the Charter.
The procedure to be followed in the event of the deaath of the President during his term of office, or of a member of Council, is also laid down.
On every St Andrew's Day, ten, and no more, of the Council are to be changed.
The President is given authority to appoint a member of the Council to act as Deputy during his absence; and the President, Council and Fellows may have one Treasurer, two Secretaries, a Clerk, and two Sergeants-at-Mace. The first Treasurer, William Balle, also the two first Secretaries, John Wilkins and Henry Oldenburg, are named in the Charter.
On every St Andrew's Day, the President, Council and Fellows are to elect others to the offices of Treasurer, Secretaries, Clerk and Sergeants-at-Mace to hold office until the following St Andrew's Day. Should any one of these die or be removed during the twelvemonth following, others may be elected in the same manner.
The President and Council are authorized to meet in London or within ten miles of it, and to make Laws, Statutes and Ordinances, and to do all other things relating to the affairs of the Society.
The Society is authorized to build a College or Colleges in, or within ten miles of London.
The Charter authorizes the President and Council to appoint a Printer and Engraver, and to print such matter as the President and Council shall approve.
The Society is given the right to have the bodies of executed criminals for anatomical study.
The Society is empowered to correspond with foreigners on matters or things philosophical, mathematical, or mechanical, by letter sealed with the Common Seal of the Society and signed by the President in Council.
Abuses or differences that may arise to harm the Society may be referred to the Archibishop of Canterbury, the Keeper of the Great Seal, the Treasurer of England, the Bishop of London, the Keeper of the Privy Seal and the two Principal Secretries of State for the time being, or any four of them, for decision. '
Extent4 skins stored in a box 94cm x 94cm
Physical descriptionEngrossed on four skins of vellum. The first skin contains some remarkably handsome ornamental capitals and flowers, with a finely executed portrait of King Charles II in Indian Ink within the initial letter C. The Great Seal of the Kingdom in green wax is appended to the Charter.
Access statusOpen
Related materialTranscript and translation of the Charter can be found in 'The Record of the Royal Society' (London, 1940)
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