The origin of the Honourable Company may be traced to the Annual Shipmasters’ Dinner held in Liverpool on 2nd March 1921. Sir Burton-Chadwick suggested that the profession was entitled to form, and was capable of forming, a Guild or Company very much on the lines of the old City of London Livery Companies. His vision was realised on 25th June 1926 with the formation of the Company of Master Mariners.
In March 1928 Edward, Prince of Wales, assumed the office of Master. In June of that year His Majesty King George V bestowed the title of Honourable on the Company – a rare and signal honour. The title of Honourable had only ever previously been bestowed on two other companies; the Honourable East India Company and the Honourable Artillery Company. The Honourable Artillery Company continues today as a territorial regiment in the British Army, whereas the Honourable East India Company was stripped of its administrative powers over India in 1858 before being dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1874. Recently the Guild of Airline Pilots also took the title on obtaining their Royal Charter.
The City of London welcomed the new Company with great warmth and in 1932 the Court of Aldermen conferred on the Company the status of Livery. It was the first time in over 200 years that the ancient doors of the Guildry of London had been opened to a new Company. The Company became 78th in order of precedence in the Livery and is noted as the first “modern” Company. This order of precedence was first set up in 1515 after considerable debate between the existing companies.
Her Majesty the Queen became the Honourable Company’s Patron in 1952. His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was Master from 1954 to 1957, and then became Admiral of the Company – a post he holds to this day. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was Master from 1988 to 1990 and The Honourable Company’s connection with the Royal family continued with the installation of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal as Master of the Company from 2005 until April 2007. During this time, HRH was assisted by Deputy Masters Captain AJ Speed and Captain K Hart.
For the future the Honourable Company is looking to expand its membership in order to consolidate its position as a body of first reference within the maritime industry.