By Anne Locker
From Royal patronage to serving Presidents, and from Honorary Fellowship to engagement with engineering and technology, the history of the IET and the engineering profession is intertwined with that of the Royal Family. As we celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, here some highlights of that history from the IET’s Archive collections.
A version of this blog appeared on the IET’s website in May 2023.
In 1921, the Institution of Electrical Engineers (later the IET) was awarded its first Charter. It was granted by George V on 15 August 1921, and the King also agreed to act as the Institution’s first royal patron. Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II also acted as patrons.
The Institution of Electronics and Radio Engineers, which merged with the IEE in 1988, had two serving Presidents who were members of the royal family. Earl Mountbatten of Burma had trained as a radio engineer in the Royal Navy and was a strong supporter of the early IERE, helping it to lobby for its own Royal Charter in 1961. He served as President in 1947-8 and 1961-2 and was made an Honorary Fellow of both the IERE and IEE. In 1976, HRH the Duke of Kent was elected as President, and was also elected an Honorary Fellow of both institutions. King Charles and the Princess Royal are also Honorary Fellows of the IET.
Members of the royal family have taken an active interest in the development of engineering and technology in the UK. In 1926, HRH the Duchess of York (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, opened the first International Conference of Women in Science, Industry and Commerce in London. She continued her interest in women and engineering, and was shown how to change a fuse by the Electrical Association for Women in 1943 (featured image).
HRH the Princess Royal has served as patron of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) for over twenty years, and as President of the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI), the Duke of Edinburgh was instrumental in founding the Royal Academy of Engineering.
For more information on royal connections in the Archives, search our online catalogue.
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