There are in excess of 900 Chartered bodies. A Royal Charter is a way of incorporating a body, that is turning it from a collection of individuals into a single legal entity. A body incorporated by Royal Charter has all the powers of a natural person, including the power to sue and be sued in its own right. Royal Charters were at one time the only means of incorporating a body, but there are now other means (becoming a registered company, for example), so the grant of new Charters is comparatively rare. New grants of Royal Charters are these days reserved for eminent professional bodies or charities which have a solid record of achievement and are financially sound. In the case of professional bodies they should represent a field of activity which is unique and not covered by other professional bodies.
At least 75% of the corporate members should be qualified to first degree level standard. Finally, both in the case of charities and professional bodies, incorporation by Charter should be in the public interest.
This last consideration is important, since once incorporated by Royal Charter a body surrenders significant aspects of the control of its internal affairs to the Privy Council. Amendments to Charters can be made only with the agreement of The Queen in Council, and amendments to the body's by-laws require the approval of the Council (though not normally of Her Majesty). This effectively means a significant degree of Government regulation of the affairs of the body, and the Privy Council will therefore wish to be satisfied that such regulation accords with public policy.
Please click here for information on petitioning for a Royal Charter.
Please click here for a list of all Charters granted since the 13th Century. Many are now defunct, and many now fall outside the Privy Council's jurisdiction. About 400 are still actively within the purview of the Privy Council.