The Most Beautiful President’s Badge in London

The RCOG Library and Heritage Service extends a big thank you to everyone who visited our blog and reading room during Explore Your Archive 2016! As we reach the end of this year’s campaign, our blog is taking an artistic turn. Today we look at Blair-Bell’s designs for the College’s presidential badge.

In 1932, William Blair-Bell commissioned a ceremonial badge, to be worn by the College’s president on special occasions. He designed it alongside Omar Ramsden (1873–1939), one of the country’s leading designers and makers of silverware.  Blair-Bell presented the badge to the College at the end of his presidency in memory of his late wife Florence.

The badge was much more stylised and intricate than many of the presidential badges made by societies and colleges at the time. The original badge was based on the College’s coat of arms and consisted of the Natal Star of Bethlehem on which rested the College’s signature black and blue crest. Part of the College’s moto ‘super ardua’, meaning ‘let us overcome our difficulties’ and adapted from Blair-Bell’s own family coat of arms. The badge was worn by RCOG presidents Blair-Bell, John Fairbairn, Ewen Maclean and William Fletcher Shaw.

This wasn’t the only design considered, however. Below is a selection of some of our favourite presidential badge designs, which are stored in the RCOG Archive. Notice how they include the College’s shield, the natal star and images of doctors and of mothers, highlighting the College’s mission to improve maternal health care:

William Fletcher Shaw wrote, in his history of the RCOG, that the final presidential badge was ‘generally recognised as the most beautiful President’s badge in London.’

But this most beautiful badge met a tragic end. Soon after the end of Fletcher Shaw’s term as president, the badge was stolen from the College’s safe. Luckily the badge was insured and a new one was commissioned to be as close as possible to the original design.

This badge is on display now at the RCOG Library along with a selection of other mementos and letters from the archives of our College founders.

Free Exhibit at the RCOG Library

Many Charming Letters

A selection of charming, amusing and illuminating letters exchanged between RCOG co-founders William Blair-Bell and William Fletcher Shaw during the early years of the College will be on display in the RCOG Library Reading Room from Monday 21st November.

The “Many Charming Letters” exhibit at the RCOG Library.

Joining these letters will be artefacts from the College’s heritage collections including William Fletcher Shaw’s obstetric instruments, William Blair-Bell’s original designs for the College’s official seal, and the badge worn by the College’s Presidents at official ceremonies.

Entry is free and commemorative postcards will be on sale in the Library and at the College reception desk.

Visit us:
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist
27 Sussex Place
Regent’s Park
London NW1 4RG

Explore Your Archive
Explore Your Archive is a campaign designed for archives of all kinds throughout the UK and Ireland. It is run by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. This year the main launch week will run from 19 to 27 November 2016. 

Find out more at

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