Swim England

A nation swimming

Swim England celebrates its history with the Royal Family

Throughout its 154-year history, Swim England has been proud of its long-standing relationship with the Royal Family.

On the weekend of the Coronation of King Charles III, the national governing body has delved into the archives to explore the connection between the Royal Family and Swim England. 

Established in 1869, Swim England was the only governing body of swimming in the world at the time.

Originally known as the London Swimming Association and then the Metropolitan Swimming Association, the company quickly evolved into a national association as clubs from across England joined the association.

As the organisation grew, the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) was born in 1886 and Queen Victoria consented to become the first Royal patron of the organisation in 1887.

The traditional ASA logo has a deep connection with the Royal Family. The original crest is the only national governing body logo that was given permission to incorporate the Royal Standard, which it wore proudly for many years before its rebrand to Swim England.

Lord Charles Beresford, who was President of the ASA from 1887-1890, got permission from the Royal Family to use the standard as a part of the emblem.

Although never being Swim England patron, King Charles III is known to have always been a keen swimmer. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II and her father King George VI, wanted to ensure that all of her children learnt to swim.

The new King has met a number of our top athletes in recent times, including Paralympian Tom Hamer who he awarded a gold medal to at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Hamer set a new world record on that day to win the S14 200m Freestyle title and was congratulated by the then Prince of Wales as he gave out his medal.

More recently, he presented triple Paralympic champion Hannah Russell with her OBE after she received the honour and visited Windsor Castle in June 2022. The King also visited the athlete village at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where he met Maisie Summers-Newton, along with a number of Team England’s swimmers.

His son, Prince William – Swim England’s current patron – revealed in 2019 that the Royals are ‘a family of swimmers’ after he presented Eileen Fenton with her MBE for services to swimming.

And it has been reported in magazines such as Town and Country and Harper’s Bazaar that Buckingham Palace has its own swimming pool where numerous members of the family have learnt to swim.

Eileen spoke of how His Royal Highness shared his love for swimming when they met.

“He said that he and his wife make sure the children can swim and they all go and they swim quite well.

“I can remember seeing when the Queen was young and her sister Princess Margaret – we used to see them swimming in pictures. He said the whole family have done it.”

Champions of swimming and water safety

Queen Elizabeth II, who became the organisation’s patron on 6 March 1953, was always a great champion of swimming and water safety.

The late Queen, alongside Princess Margaret, spent time in their early years swimming at the Bath Club in Westminster where a then Princess Elizabeth became the first young person to achieve the Commonwealth Junior Respiration Award, which is based on the lifeguarding courses we see today.

In 2013, the Amateur Swimming Association celebrated 60 years of the Queen’s Patronage with a commemorative display of photographs and film footage, which is now housed in its archives.

This included details of the ASA’s 1953 announcement of the start of Her Majesty’s patronage, and details of Her Majesty’s attendance at the ASA Centenary Gala in 1969 at Crystal Palace.

The Centenary Gala invited a number of the nation’s top swimmers and featured both an artistic swimming and water polo display that was enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip.

The Queen regularly attended the Commonwealth Games where she was in attendance for a number of swimming sessions and was knowledgeable on members of the nation’s squad.

Volunteers also joined other organisations at The Patron’s Lunch in 2016 to celebrate the late Queen’s 90th Birthday.

In 2017, she passed on the Swim England Patron duty to Prince William, who was a promising water polo player in his youth.

The Prince of Wales competed in a number of English School Swimming Association competitions, most notably the Water Polo Championships whilst he was at Eton College.

Whilst he was at Eton, he was also an impressive sprint swimmer, with his favourite stroke being the 50m Freestyle.

He continued in the sport during his university days in Scotland, representing and captaining St Andrews University Water Polo team.

And he jumped at the opportunity to attend Great Britain’s water polo match with Serbia at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Since becoming Swim England patron, Prince William has been a key supporter of the national governing body’s work.

His Royal Highness recorded a special message to mark Swim England’s 150-year anniversary in 2015, and sent a letter to Swim England staff and members to thank them for their support of the swimming community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Swim England is proud of its connection with the Royal Family and is looking forward to continuing this relationship for many years to come.

You can find out more about the history of Swim England here.