Our history

The history of Royal London

The story of Royal London all began over a cup of coffee...

Our story began in Victorian Britain, a time where people who couldn’t afford a proper burial would receive what was known as a pauper’s funeral – a basic affair organised by the local parish.

Back then, society placed a strong emphasis on respectability and a burial like this was seen to be the ultimate disgrace. So, even the poorest people would contribute a halfpenny a week to a local burial club to avoid a pauper’s funeral at all costs.

Burial clubs eventually became Friendly Societies, and in February 1861, two men named Joseph Degge and Henry Ridge met in London (tradition has it) in a coffee house on City Road, to discuss the formation of a new one. By the end of that meeting, they’d agreed to form a business that they imagined calling the Royal London Life Insurance and Benefit Society, which was ultimately registered in April 1861 as The Royal London Friendly Society.

As the business grew, the decision was made in 1908 to convert from a Friendly Society to a mutual, and we’ve remained that way ever since. Today, Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with assets under management of £153 billion, 8.6 million policies in force and over 4,100 employees. (Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2023).

Royal London Founders outing

Our Committee of Management, including our founders, out and about in the 1860s.

Interior of the Royal London Office Paul St office

Our early chief offices in Finsbury, 1904.

Proud to be mutual

Mutual companies like Royal London are customer-owned.

This means that a share of our profits goes to eligible customers, not shareholders, and it influences the decisions we make every day.

Find out more about how we support our customers and society on our Mutuality page.

Royal London Friendly society policy

Early policy documents displayed our impressive coat of arms...

Royal London Torquay office

...while agents in our district offices were on hand to provide personal service.