A club certainly on the up. Great clubhouse just on Green Park. A good bar, splendid sitting rooms, and a pretty decent brasserie. Only criticism would be that the staff can be less professional than at some of the top clubs (where they often stay on for decades) – and the main restaurant is lacking in atmosphere. But it is all made up for when you sit in the splendid garden overlooking the park, with a glass of champagne in your hand.
- Full name: Royal Overseas League
- Location: Royal Overseas House, 5 Park Pl, St. James’s, London SW1
- Type: Cultural club (commonwealth). Exclusive, non-commercial private members’ club
- Formed: 1910
- Membership requirements: Commonwealth nationals. Proposed and seconded by at least two current members, or a single proposer in some cases.
As the main Commonwealth Club in St James’s, the Royal Overseas League has had its share of royal and celebrity members. Lord Mountbatten, The Marchioness of Willingdon, Lady Wrench and Lady Brabourne, just to mention the ones who were famous enough for the club to name some rooms after them. Today, if the main restaurant is too formal, you can dine in style in the Brabourbe Room (the club’s elegant brasserie), you can socialize in the Mountbatten Room or you can simply sit and relax with a newspaper in the gloriously newly renovated Wrench Room. If none of that takes your fancy, you can have a drink in the Duke of York Bar. After all, it used to be his sitting room (in fact he died there, the spot marked with a brass plaque).
The Royal Overseas League, or ROSL if you’re a member, is a glorious place. It is not the most exclusive of the traditional London clubs – having nearly as many members as the Royal Automobile Club just a few hundred yards down the street. And a decade or so back, it was reputed to be more of a exclusive hotel than a club. Not so anymore! Under the leadership of Major General Roddy Porter, whose title before becoming Director General of the club was Chief of Staff of the Joint Warfare Development, the club is truly starting to find its former Imperial glory.
The London clubhouse is a fantastic building in a splendid location. The garden overlooks Green Park, and members can use a secure gate to enter and exit the club straight into the park. The club has spent huge amounts of money on renovating the clubhouse over the last few years. Today most of the common rooms has been renovated; the club opting for a style combining old and new. It has worked really well. The latest room to be completed is the Wrench Room – a small but exceptionally elegant members sitting room adjacent to the much larger Drawing Room.
ROSL has many active member circles, and there are a broad range of activities available throughout the year. Most famous is the annual members’ afternoon tea at the House of Lords – this apparently is pretty normal when your patron is Her Majesty the Queen and the President is The Rt Hon the Lord Luce.
ROSL also boasts an additional clubhouse in Edinburgh – should any members be travelling north for the winter. Even this clubhouse has a restaurant, a bar, elegant sitting rooms and members’ bedrooms. [2019 UPDATE: The Edinburgh club house has been sold and a deal has been reached with the Royal Scots Club for the use of their clubhouse]
Membership is open to Commonwealth nationals – with an associate membership available to other nationals approved by the committee. A member must normally be proposed and seconded by two current members, but some members of selected clubs and professional bodies (including IoD) may be eligible for membership with a single member proposer and a non-member seconder. The same applies to overseas members.
The Edinburgh clubhouse closed about 2020.