The Royal Over-Seas League is dedicated to championing international friendship and understanding throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. A not-for-profit private members’ club, we’ve been bringing like-minded people together since our launch in 1910.
Today, we offer our members a warm welcome centred on our beautiful clubhouse in central London, and the chance to get involved in all kinds of social and cultural activities around the world. ROSL is a self-funded organisation which operates under a Royal Charter and 'aims at promoting an enduring multi-racial fellowship pledged to the support of the Commonwealth and to the service of others and humanity at large.'
Patron The late HM The Queen
Vice-Patron HRH Princess Alexandra KG GCVO
President The Rt Hon The Lord Geidt GCB GCVO OBE QSO
We are proud to put our members at the heart of our decision-making. Through Central Council, which is the equivalent to a board of directors and a number of sub-committees, the running of ROSL now and in the future is led by members from all walks of life alongside the D-G and senior leadership team.
Helen Prince (ROSL Chairman) started her career as an advertising copywriter and soon developed a specialism in marketing and fundraising for charities. Since 2009, she has held various senior management positions in charities and cultural organisations, most recently as Head of Development at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. As a member of ROSL for more than 25 years, she is particularly focused on working with the ROSL team to develop fundraising to help the organisation grow and thrive into the future.
Mark Rose (ROSL Deputy Chairman) Mark held the role of CEO of Fauna and Flora for over 25 years. During that time he has been instrumental in transforming Fauna & Flora International from an organisation with a handful of active projects into a multifaceted global conservation charity with a work programme comprising more than 100 projects in over 40 countries. He has spearheaded the establishment of innovative corporate partnerships that encourage big business to put biodiversity at the heart of the strategic planning process and developed numerous successful sustainable business initiatives in support of species and landscape conservation. Mark has been a driving force behind the establishment of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and leading, internationally focused biodiversity conservation organisations based in and around the city. Mark is a zoologist with extensive field experience, gained predominantly in remote parts of Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Hamish Kean (ROSL Honorary Treasurer) spent his whole working life in the finance industry, starting off with Chase Manhattan Bank and National Westminster Bank in Birmingham and London in the 1970s before moving to Jersey in 1979 when he joined Kleinwort Benson. During a 40 year career with Kleinwort Benson (now Kleinwort Hambros), he was a board member of the Channel Islands bank for nearly 20 years and, at various times, Head of Banking and Chief Credit Risk Officer as well as chair and member of various internal committees. Since retiring in June 2020, he has been a regular volunteer with the Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust in Jersey.
Paul Arkwright CMG was until recently the UK government’s COP26 Regional Ambassador for Sub-Saharan Africa. Having left the FCDO, he has set up his own business consultancy focusing on Africa. He was previously CEO for the UK-Africa Investment Summit, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, and UK Ambassador to the Netherlands, and has served in senior posts at the FCDO in London, including as Director for the Commonwealth. He has extensive ties throughout Africa as well as in London.
Ruth Bala is a successful rising star at the Bar, ranked tier two for Banking and Finance by the Legal 500. Practising from 4 Pump Court Chambers, she can assist in promoting ROSL throughout the extensive London and international legal community as well as applying a forensic approach and exercising commercial judgment to strategy and risk. Ruth is also a Director of the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Ltd, the professional indemnity insurer for the Bar.
Nabeel Goheer, Chief of Asia, Middle East, and Europe (AMEE) at PATH - a Seattle-based INGO in the area of public health - has a wide global network both throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, in addition to a background in consultancy involving re-structuring of organisations, and PhD in Management from Judge Business School of the University of Cambridge.
Alistair Harrison CMG CVO, is a former British High Commissioner to Zambia and Governor of Anguilla, currently part of the Royal Household as the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, the liaison between HM The Queen and all the overseas High Commissioners and Ambassadors in London.
Rt Hon Jim Murphy Arden’s founder and Managing Director as well as one of the UK’s most experienced government Ministers. He was a Labour MP for almost two decades and has held multiple ministerial portfolios including as a cabinet minister. He was leader of the Scottish Labour Party and was a senior member of Labour’s election winning teams. His roles included Minister for Technology and Public Service Reform at the Cabinet Office, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, Minister for Europe, Russia and Public Diplomacy as well as Secretary of State for Scotland. In opposition, he served as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, for Defence, for International Development. Jim is also a member of His Majesty’s Privy Council.
Atholl Swainston-Harrison studied music (violin) in South Africa before completing his army service and managing the Pro Music Orchestra and Opera Company, becoming Assistant Director of the Roodepoort City Theatre and Opera (Johannesburg) thereafter. He took on the role of Chief Executive of IAMA from 2000 after further study in London. In his spare time, he serves as a trustee on the West London Hospital Trust, Alex Simpson Smith Memorial Trust (Great Ormond Street, London) and Howard Davis Farm Trust (Jersey). He is also a council member of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Mark J Tousey is a private investor with over 30 years of experience in running a family office. Mark began his career on Wall Street later moving to London in the late 1980s where he co-founded a venture capital business. He has devoted the past 20 years to supporting the arts in the UK, first as a trustee of The Guildhall School Trust, and now as co-chair of the American Friends of English National Opera and as a Liveryman of the Musicians’ Company. He currently serves on several corporate, educational, and charity boards in the UK, US and Europe.
Susan E. Walton is a senior finance and digital media executive with over 25 years of experience running the global institutional investment research franchises of top tier investment banks in London, New York and Hong Kong. Susan also is an investor and entrepreneur founding a number of start-ups in the technology and digital media space. She serves as a board member and senior advisor to leading think thanks, universities, cultural institutes, social enterprises and charities including the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Charles University in Prague.
The Royal Over-Seas League has a rich history, shaped by the political and social developments of the UK, the Commonwealth and the world. In 2010, ROSL celebrated its 100th anniversary.
|1904||Empire Day on 24 May instituted in the UK|
|1906||Evelyn Wrench visits Canada and first sets out his vision for an 'Empire Brotherhood'|
|1910||Over-Seas Club founded on 27 August by Evelyn Wrench - admitting women as of right before suffrage|
|1911||First public meeting of 300 members of the Club at Memorial Hall, Farringdon, London|
|1912-13||Evelyn Wrench embarks on a 64,000 mile tour of the Empire promoting the club|
|1913||Viscount Northcliffe elected President|
|1914||First Premises rented in Aldwych. Outbreak of WWI on 4 August and Over-Seas Club begins fundraising activity|
|1915||Funds established for aircraft, comforts for the troops, Red Cross hospitals. Overseas Journal launched in December|
|1916||King George V becomes first royal patron|
|1918||WWI ends in November. Over-Seas Club amalgamates with the Patriotic League of Britons Overseas to become the Over-Seas League|
|1922||Vernon House, London purchased as a permanent war memorial to Empire troops and opened by the Duke of York. The League is incorporated by a Royal Charter|
|1927||First Edinburgh premises opened in North Charlotte Street|
|1930||Scottish Headquarters at 100 Princes Street opened by the Duke of York|
|1932||Evelyn Wrench made a Knight Bachelor|
|1933||Purchase of Rutland House from the Dowager Duchess of Rutland|
|1937||Westminister Wing, London completed|
|1939||Outbreak of WWII|
|1940||Allies Welcome Committee provides hospitality and support to all allied troops and continues to 1950|
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret visit Over-Seas House London
|1947||The Music Circle established a recital series under the banner 'Festival of Commonwealth Music'|
|1952||Empire Day renamed Commonwealth Day, held on the second Monday in March and marked by an observance in Westminster Abbey|
|1959||Earl Mountbatten of Burma, President of the League since 1942 becomes the first Grand President|
|1960||The League celebrates its 50th anniversary and the Royal title is conferred by HM The Queen. Sir Evelyn Wrench is appointed KMCG|
|1966||Death of Sir Evelyn Wrench. ARTS scholarship fund established in his memory|
|1971||First biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Singapore|
|1972||Final concert of Festival of Commonwealth Youth moved to London's Wigmore Hall and subsequently to The Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1975|
|1975||New wing of Over-Seas House Edinburgh opened by the Duke of Gloucester|
|1981||Under Director-General Captain John Rumble RN and General Manager Robert Newell Project 81 launched to upgrade Over-Seas House, London|
|1982||Inauguration of Book Event series at Over-Seas House, London|
|1984||Inaugural ROSL Annual Exhibition for young Commonwealth artists|
|1985||Festival of Commonwealth Music renamed ROSL Annual Music Competition|
|1987||Fifth floor of bedrooms added to the Westminster Wing, London, opened by Countess Mountbatten of Burma|
|1992||Concert of Music and Musicians of the Commonwealth held at Lancaster House, London for HM The Queen to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession|
|1993||ROSL secured official recognition as a Commonwealth non-governmental organisation (NGO) and was represented at CHOGM|
|1995||Namibia Welfare and Educational iniatative established|
|1998||ROSL affiliated membership extended to non-Commonwealth citizens|
|1999||Friends of ROSL ARTS established|
|2000||ROSL ARTS commonwealth visual arts scholarships (up to 5 per annum) established|
|2003||Sixth floor of bedrooms added to the Westminster Wing, London opened by the Countess Mountbatten of Burma|
|2006||Extensive refurbishment of St Andrew's Hall, London to create a concert room. Re-opened by ROSL Vice-Patron HRH Princess Alexandra and renamed in her honour|
|2009||History of ROSL written by Adele Smith, published by IB Tauris|
|2010||ROSL celebrates centenary|
|2013||Extensive repairs to the Edinburgh Clubhouse roof and facade|
|2014||ROSL marks the centenary of WWI|
|2015||ROSL celebrates centenary of Overseas Journal|
|2017||Diana Owen joins as ROSL's first female Director-General|
|2020||The 60th anniversary of the ROSL Foundation is celebrated|
|2022||100 years of our Royal Charter and 70 years of the ROSL Annual Music Competition|
Our Founder: Sir Evelyn Wrench
Sir John Evelyn Leslie Wrench was born in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in 1882. His father was the Rt. Hon. Frederick Stringer Wrench and his mother, Charlotte Mary Bellingham, sister of Sir Henry Bellingham, 4th Baronet.
Wrench’s interest in the British Empire and global affairs began at a young age. From the age of five, he was an avid reader of Army and Navy Store catalogues. He later attended Eton College, before travelling the continent to learn languages. Inspired by the picture postcards he’d seen in Germany, he returned and set up a postcard publishing business. It soon became the largest of its kind in England.
Wrench’s enterprising spirit was much admired, especially by British newspaper pioneer Lord Northcliffe. In 1904, Wrench accepted an offer from Northcliffe to become editor of The Overseas Daily Mail. However, Wrench was more interested in the development of the Commonwealth than his journalistic success. In his book “Uphill” (1910) Wrench says how, in a moment of epiphany: “I vowed I would devote my life to great causes – to the Empire, to my fellows.”
Fueled by his determination to encourage international understanding, Wrench formed The Royal Over-Seas League as The Overseas Club in 1910. In 1918, it amalgamated with the Patriotic League of Britons Overseas. A later role within the Ministry of Information inspired Wrench to demonstrate his commitment to improving international relations once again. In 1918, he launched the English Speaking Union of the Commonwealth which serves to cement the ties of comradeship between the British Commonwealth and the United States. He died in 1966.