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The 20th century

The University of London

In 1900, both Bedford College and Royal Holloway were admitted as Schools of the University of London, when it was constituted as a teaching university. Today, the University of London is made up of 19 institutions and offers the widest range of higher education opportunities in Great Britain. 

During the 20th century, Royal Holloway was home to some notable women including the novelist Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett DBE, Professor Helen Cam CBE (the first female professor at Harvard) and Countess Frances Lloyd-George CBE, the wife and private secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George. 

In 1912, the College appointed Margaret Benson as Professor of Botany ( the first female professor in Great Britain), while its students included Richmal Crompton and Ethel Williams.

The Second World War

During the Second World War, Bedford College was evacuated to Cambridge while Royal Holloway remained in Egham. In 1944, the latter appointed Sir William Hunter McCrea FRS head of Mathematics. His discovery that the sun is mainly composed of hydrogen led to the development of the Big Bang Theory.

The 1950s and 1960s

Between 1954 and 1960, our notable graduates included Jean Rook, Baroness Janet Fookes DBE and Professor David Bellamy CBE. 

Both establishments admitted male undergraduates for the first time in 1965 becoming fully co-educational. Their commitment to women’s education remained. In 1982, the partnership agreement between Bedford and Royal Holloway was signed as a result of severe cuts in government spending on higher education. This paved the way for the merger in 1985.

Coats of arms, and the motto


The current coat of arms was created following the merger between Bedford and Royal Holloway Colleges in 1985. It comprises three crescents on a shield. One crescent is taken from Thomas Holloway's own coat of arms, while the field of black and gold in a chequered design derives from Bedford's and the additional ermine spots come from the Royal Holloway coat of arms. Placed between two black lozenges, there is a lamp of learning. 

Below the shield, the motto, which is taken from the arms of Bedford College, is displayed. The motto Esse quam videri means to be rather than to seem (to be). 

The newly merged Royal Holloway and Bedford New College was inaugurated in 1986 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in the College Chapel. The merger provided more academic diversity and strength as well as greater financial security. It also preserved the pursuit of innovation and excellence, which characterised the founders of the two establishments.

Notable students of the merged Colleges included Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU’s first foreign minister, Emma Freud OBE, director of Red Nose Day and Simon Thurley CBE, chief executive officer of English Heritage.

The 1990s

In 1992, the College Council, on the recommendation of a group established to look at the College identity, endorsed a proposal that the College should present itself under the shorter name Royal Holloway, University of London.

The full name was retained as the registered title. The adoption of Royal Holloway, University of London as the College’s everyday title does not mean we have lost sight of the unique contribution made to education by Bedford College. The Bedford heritage is still commemorated in many ways, including the Bedford Library.

After this, the Brit award-winning singer and songwriter KT Tunstall graduated in Music and Drama in 1996 and the Information Security Group won the Queen’s Prize for Industry in 1998.


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