Royal Charters, which have been issued regularly by Monarchs since the first one in England, that granted, in 1231, to the University of Cambridge, are legal instruments, delivered by the Sovereign, through which powers, rights and privileges are conferred on a body of persons who are protected for a special object.
MCC’s Royal Charter, therefore, binds together Members of MCC into one legal entity pursuant to its articles.
The Royal Charter of MCC, like many others before it, is made of calfskin. From it hangs the Great Seal representing the signature of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is attached to the Charter by plaited cords of red and yellow.
Just as Royal Charters are exclusive in their wording, so are they inclusive in the various symbols that adorn them.
MCC’s Royal Charter is thus illuminated and decorated by symbols in gold leaf, powdered gold, or inks of rich colour, and illustrates pictorially, and with considerable beauty, the history of MCC since its Foundation in 1787.
The Sovereign’s unquestionable authority is demonstrated by the Royal Coat of Arms at the head of the Royal Charter which Her Majesty has been pleased to grant to MCC’s Members.
The initial letter “E” of the Sovereign’s name at the beginning of the Charter is basically formed by the Coronation regalia since the Charter was granted during the year of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and comes into effect today soon after the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.
MCC's Royal Charter
In the top-left corner of the Charter is the Royal Cipher of The Queen, and in the opposite corner appears the Cipher of The Duke of Edinburgh, the only Member of MCC since the 19th Century to have been appointed the Club’s President twice over – in both 1949 and 1975.
Either side of the Royal Arms are the emblems of the four countries which together comprise the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: to the left of the lion are the Rose of England and the Leek of Wales, signifying that MCC is a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board; to the right of the unicorn are the Thistle of Scotland and the Shamrock of Ireland, countries against whom MCC has played since 1865 and 1858 respectively.
To the left of the English and Welsh emblems is that of St. George and the Dragon, adopted as the Club’s touring badge by the MCC Committee on 27th July 1903, and worn by all MCC and England overseas touring teams between that year and 1997.
To its left is the Ashes Urn, the symbol of the “friendly” rivalry between England and Australia. It was presented to the Honourable Ivo Bligh, later the Sixth Earl of Darnley, the England Captain at the time, by Lady Clarke, wife of Sir William Clarke, Baronet, at his seat at Rupertswood, near Melbourne, on Christmas Eve, 1882.
It was given to MCC in 1928 by his widow, the Dowager Countess of Darnley. To the left of the Urn is the Wattle of Australia, and to the right the Rose of England, the three images symbolising Anglo-Australian cricket.
To the right of the Scottish and Irish flowers is the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a silver robe and blue mantle, holding in her arms the Holy Child, clad in gold and standing in between two white lilies, with green stems and leaves.
The symbol derives from the arms, perhaps surprisingly, of Barking Abbey, and the entire image represents St. Marylebone herself. To her right is an English Rose, on top of which is the insect Gryllus assimilis – the Latin name of the much loved Cicada, or, more appropriately for our purpose, the much-loved Cricket.
Reference has already been made to the flowers of England and Australia, the first two countries to have played Test cricket. These teams are symbolised along the top of the Charter, together with, in the right-hand section, South Africa, who first played Test cricket in 1876, and is depicted by the Protea. This completes the top line of emblems.
The other seven teams who have since played Test Matches are similarly represented at various places in the border of the Charter and the ten together allude to the governing body of world cricket: the Imperial Cricket Conference, founded on 15th June 1909, which became the International Cricket Conference on 15th July 1965, and which, since 13th July 1989, has been the International Cricket Council.
From the formation of I.C.C. in 1909, and during the 85 years which followed, MCC administered the international organisation. I.C.C. was based at Lord’s until 29th July 2005.
The islands and territories playing in combination as West Indies, whose first Test Match took place in 1928, are represented by a Palm Tree, placed immediately below the Royal Cipher of The Queen in the left margin.
Below this is Father Time, the weather vane presented, in 1926, to MCC as an unexpected gift by Sir Herbert Baker, the architect responsible for the Grand Stand. Father Time, a mythical and curious figure who watches over the passage of the years, represents the beginning and the end of a day’s cricket, its having, to date, not been established whether he is placing the bails onto the stumps at the start of play, or removing them at its close.
Beneath Father Time is a silver Fern, the emblem of New Zealand, who joined the Test-playing countries in 1930.
Pakistan first played Test Matches in 1952, and that country’s emblem on the Charter, placed immediately below the monogram of MCC in the left margin, is the Jasmine.
The Club has the inalienable responsibility for the Laws of Cricket, emblematically represented by a pair of scales, on which is depicted a bat on one pan and a ball on the other, the two balanced equally.
This equilibrium relates to an intention in the Laws to show no favour between batsman and bowler, to treat the two disciplines with equal weight, and thus to preserve the essential balance between bat and ball.
Under the scales is the Flame Lily of Zimbabwe, who, in 1992, became the ninth team to play Test Matches.
Two clubs whose association with MCC are long and widely cherished are Middlesex County Cricket Club, formed in 1864, whose badge comprises three seaxes, and Cross Arrows Cricket Club, founded in 1880, whose insignia is two crossed arrows, points downwards, with the letters “CC” superimposed.
These two clubs are represented at the foot of the Charter by their badges between two cricket bats in saltire.
On the opposite side of the Charter, immediately below the Cipher of The Duke of Edinburgh, is a pineapple. This marks the three-and-a-half acre site at the east end of the Ground, Henderson’s Nursery, which Members of MCC decided to acquire, from the Clergy Orphan Corporation, in celebration of the Club’s centenary in 1887.
That land had become famous for the production of pineapples, a Victorian delicacy, grown under glass frames across what has since become the Nursery Ground.
Underneath the pineapple is Thomas Lord himself, after whom MCC’s three successive grounds have been named. The first one, in Dorset Square, was used between May, 1787 and the end of the season 1810.
The second one, on the Eyre estate, was MCC’s until 1814, when the unforeseen building of the Regent’s Park Canal forced Lord to lift his turf northwards for the second time.
Thus, Lord’s third and current ground celebrates its Bicentenary in 2014. Thomas Lord is portrayed in profile and encircled by an unbroken chain, the agricultural measurement which is the distance between the wickets.
Appropriately, the chain comprises 22 links, corresponding in number first to the length of a cricket pitch in yards, and secondly to the number of players in two teams of a cricket match, both numerical requirements being laid down in the Laws of Cricket.
Underneath Thomas Lord is the Lotus Flower of India, who joined the other countries in 1932 as the sixth to play Test cricket. Below the Club’s monogram is the Blue Water Lily, representing Sri Lanka, the seventh Test-playing country, who played their first Test Match in 1982.
The Club’s Collection of fine paintings, memorabilia and literary treasures is illustrated by an open book, symbolising education, appropriate to a Club concerned with the coaching and encouragement of the young.
The olive wreath was considered by Greeks to be a gift from Athena, their goddess of wisdom, and by many others to be a gift of the Holy Ghost.
The olive is a common symbol in the Bible for health and vigour, and, more widely, for victory and defeat in contests of every kind – and for “the peace” longed for in their aftermath.
The final flower depicted is a White Water Lily, indicating Bangladesh, who, in 2000, became the tenth country to play Test cricket.
At the foot of the Charter, in the right margin, are two racquets in saltire, representing tennis in its original form – Real, or Royal, tennis, the game played at Lord’s since 1838.
All the symbols and emblems are linked by a continuous chain of willow branches, the wood from which cricket bats are made; with the stumps and bails of the game being indicated at the foot, on each side, by sprigs of ash.
The Members of MCC are symbolised by the monogram of MCC – the two letters “C” in scarlet being intertwined amongst the uprights of the letter “M” in gold, and the former being uppermost, to create the insignia in the official colours of the Club.
Thus, this Royal Charter – exclusive, as was suggested at the start, in its words and inclusive in its symbols – reflects both the generosity of Her Majesty, happily represented to-day by the Princess Royal, and the immense good fortune of our renowned and respected Club.