History of the Trust
In 1837, at the age of eighteen, Queen Victoria ascended the British throne. Fifty years later she had established the monarchy and her own presence at the heart of the nation's identity.
She was not merely Queen of the United Kingdom but Empress of India and titular head of the greatest empire the world had ever seen.
Edward, Prince of Wales, resolved that this fiftieth anniversary should be celebrated in a way which would unite all the peoples of the Empire. He decided upon the foundation of an Imperial Institute to undertake research, education and related activities which would promote the prosperity and development of that Empire. Supported by the Lord Mayor of London he set about raising the money, writing personally to friends and communities across the globe to promote the idea. A central organising committee was formed and local campaigns sprang up in towns and villages across the Empire. The Jubilee became a major Empire-wide public event with donations, however small, going to help fund the Institute and local civil facilities. Overwhelmingly the money came from individuals; the top-up from overseas publicly held funds was minor.
The Prince, as President of the campaign, remained closely involved in the project from its inception in late 1886 until his own accession to the throne 15 years later. The campaign raised £426,000 in cash and received a grant from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 of six and three-quarter acres of land valued at £250,000. The culmination of this endeavour was the Imperial Institute building designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt and opened by Queen Victoria on 10 May 1893. The Queen, greatly affected by this manifestation of popular generosity and affection, became very attached to what she termed informally "my institute".
In the 125 years since the launch of the appeal the world has changed beyond recognition. The Empire has given way to a Commonwealth of 54 countries, a voluntary association of equal members united by a framework of common values. The Institute is now the Commonwealth Education Trust - entrusted with the funds originating in the great public subscription. The great-great- granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrated her sixtieth anniversary as Head of the Commonwealth in 2012.
A River of Stories
In celebration of its 125th Anniversary the Trust published an anthology of poems and stories from across the Commonwealth on the theme of water. The anthology, a River of Stories, is intended to be read by children both for pleasure and as a teaching aid and to increase awareness of the need for sustainable development and natural resource management.A River of Stories