Royal Society of Literature

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Royal Society of Literature
Type Learned society
Headquarters Somerset House, London, England, United Kingdom
Dame Marina Warner DBE
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) is a learned society founded in 1820, by King George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The society is a cultural tenant at London's Somerset House.



The society's first president was Thomas Burgess, Bishop of St David's (who was later translated as Bishop of Salisbury). The society maintains its current level of about 500 Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature: generally 14 new fellows are elected annually, who are accorded the privilege of using the post-nominal letters FRSL.

Past fellows include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, J. R. R. Tolkien, W. B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Koestler, Chinua Achebe, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Robert Ardrey, Sybille Bedford, Muriel Spark, P. J. Kavanagh, and Sir Roger Scruton. Present Fellows include Margaret Atwood, David Hare, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Paul Muldoon, Zadie Smith, Nadeem Aslam, Sarah Waters, Geoffrey Ashe and J. K. Rowling. A newly created fellow inscribes his or her name on the society's official roll using either Byron's pen, T. S. Eliot's fountain pen, which replaced Dickens's quill in 2013, [1] or (as of 2018) George Eliot's pen. [2]

The society publishes an annual magazine, The Royal Society of Literature Review, [3] and administers a number of literary prizes and awards, including the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction, the RSL Encore Award for best second novel of the year and the V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for short stories. From time to time it confers the honour and title of Companion of Literature to writers of particular note. Additionally the RSL can bestow its award of the Benson Medal for lifetime service in the field of literature.


The RSL runs a membership scheme [4] and offers a varied programme of events to members and the general public. Membership of the RSL is open to all.

The RSL also runs a schools outreach programme in collaboration with the literacy charity First Story.

Awards and prizes

The RSL administers two annual prizes, two awards, and two honours. Through its prize programmes, the RSL supports new and established contemporary writers.

Council and presidents

The Council of the Royal Society of Literature is central to the election of new fellows, and directs the RSL's activities through its monthly meetings.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Dame Marina Warner DBE
Presidents Emeritus
Sir Michael Holroyd CBE FRHistS C Lit
Colin Thubron CBE
Chair of Council
Lisa Appignanesi OBE
Anne Chisholm OBE
Maureen Duffy
Maggie Gee OBE
The Hon. Victoria Glendinning CBE
Sir Ronald Harwood CBE
Dame Hilary Mantel DBE
Philip Pullman CBE
Claire Tomalin
Jenny Uglow OBE, Benson Medallist
Bernardine Evaristo MBE, Vice-Chair
Blake Morrison, Vice-Chair
Simon Armitage CBE
Colin Chisholm, Hon. Treasurer
Jonathan Coe
Imtiaz Dharker
Sir Richard Eyre CH CBE
Abdulrazak Gurnah
Tessa Hadley
Derek Johns
Jonathan Keates FSA
Dame Hermione Lee FBA
Daljit Nagra
Michèle Roberts

List of Presidents


The Royal Society of Literature comprises over 600 Fellows who are entitled to use the post-nominal letters FRSL.

New fellows of the Royal Society of Literature are elected by its current fellows. To be nominated for fellowship, a writer must have published two works of literary merit, and nominations must be seconded by an RSL fellow. All nominations are presented to members of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature, who vote biannually to elect new fellows. Nominated candidates who have not been successful are reconsidered at every election for three years from the year in which they were proposed. Newly elected fellows are introduced at the Society's AGM and summer party. While the President reads a citation for each, they are invited to sign their names in the roll book which dates back to 1820, using either T. S. Eliot's fountain pen or Byron's pen. In 2013, Charles Dickens's quill was retired and replaced with Eliot's fountain pen, [1] and in 2018 George Eliot's pen was offered as a choice, the first time in the RSL's history that a pen that belonged to a woman writer was an option. [2] In 2018 the RSL honoured the achievements of Britain's younger writers through the initiative "40 Under 40", which saw the election of 40 new fellows aged under 40. [5]

Current fellows

FellowYear of
*Julia Abel Smith DL2008
Peter Ackroyd CBE1984
Donald Adamson JP FSA FRHistS1983
Fleur Adcock CNZM OBE1984
Diran Adebayo 2006
John Agard 2007
Bola Agbaje 2018
Patience Agbabi 2017
Hanan al-Shaykh 2019
Monica Ali 2019
Keith Alldritt 1978
Fergus Allen CB2000
*Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE2019
David Almond 2011
*David Altaras1996
Martin Amis 1983
Mark Amory 1996
Tahmima Anam 2017
Carole Angier 2002
Kwame Anthony Appiah 2017
Lisa Appignanesi OBE2015
Simon Armitage CBE2004
Karen Armstrong 2005
Bruce Arnold OBE1994
Geoffrey Ashe 1963
Michael Asher 1996
Rosemary Ashton OBE FBA1999
Jenn Ashworth 2018
Nadeem Aslam 2010
*Syima Aslam 2019
Diana Athill OBE2001
Kate Atkinson MBE2010
Margaret Atwood CC FRSC C Lit2010
Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE1991
*Pete Ayrton2019
David Baddiel 2019
Paul Bailey 1999
*Bibi Bakare-Yusuf 2019
Sarah Bakewell 2012
John Banville 2007
Richard Barber FSA FRHistS1971
Juliet Barker 2001
Pat Barker CBE1995
Correlli Barnett CBE1964
Sebastian Barry 2009
Susan Bassnett 2007
Sir Jonathan Bate CBE FBA2004
Laura Bates 2018
Martin Bax 2002
Dame Mary Beard 2019
Dame Gillian Beer DBE FBA2006
Antony Beevor 1999
*Sharmilla Beezmohun2019
Rosalind Belben 1999
Anne Olivier Bell MBE1984
Anthea Bell OBE2013
Jay Bernard 2018
Emily Berry 2018
*Xandra Bingley2019
*Robert Binyon2000
Dea Birkett 2000
Julia Blackburn 2002
Terence Blacker 2017
Malorie Blackman OBE2009
Sir Quentin Blake CBE RDI2013
Ronald Blythe, Benson Medallist1970
Elleke Boehmer 2019
William Boyd CBE1982
Melvyn Bragg (The Lord Bragg DL)1971
Piers Brendon 2010
Howard Brenton 2017
Simon Brett OBE2015
Raymond Briggs CBE1993
Robin Briggs FBA FRHistS1999
Hugh Brogan 1987
Alan Brownjohn 1999
James Buchan 2001
Moira Buffini 2014
John Burnside 1999
*Margaret Busby OBE, Benson Medallist2017
Jez Butterworth 2019 A. S. Byatt (Dame Antonia Byatt DBE)1983
David Cairns CBE2001
Lucy Caldwell 2018
Dame Carmen Callil DBE, Benson Medallist2010
Sir David Cannadine FBA FSA FRHistS1999
Vahni Capildeo 2019 John Carey FBA1982
Peter Carey AO1989
Ciaran Carson 2014
Miranda Carter 2011
Justin Cartwright 2002
Helen Castor 2017
David Caute JP FRHistS1998
Glen Cavaliero 1986
Hugh Cecil 1997
Aidan Chambers 2009
Debjani Chatterjee 2019
Amit Chaudhuri 2009
Tracy Chevalier 2008
Anne Chisholm OBE1989
Rupert Christiansen 1997
Kate Clanchy 2010
Susannah Clapp 2013
Brian Clark 1985
Gillian Clarke 2000
John Clay 1998
*Michael Codron CBE2019
Jonathan Coe 2012
J. M. Coetzee 1988
Richard Cohen2017
Isabel Colegate 1981
Linda Colley (Lady Cannadine CBE FBA FRHistS)2004
Sophie Collins 2018
Tony Connor 1972
P. J. Conrad 1974
Peter Conradi 2010
David Constantine 2007
Artemis Cooper 2016
Wendy Cope OBE1992
John Cornwell 1985
Frank Cottrell Boyce 2012
Jim Crace 1999
Kevin Crossley-Holland 1998
Tony Curtis 2000
Rachel Cusk 2012
David Dabydeen 2000
William Dalrymple FRGS FRAS1995
Richard Davenport-Hines FRHistS2003
Andrew Davies 1996
Norman Davies CMG FBA FRHistS2013
Paul Davies 1999
Stevie Davies 1998
Dick Davis 1981
Richard Dawkins FRS1997
Louis de Bernières 2006
Alain de Botton 2011
*Tim Dee2017
Anita Desai, Benson Medallist1978
Imtiaz Dharker 2010
David Dilks FRHistS1986
Maura Dooley 2006
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst [6] 2015
Roddy Doyle 2003
Dame Margaret Drabble DBE1973
Dame Carol Ann Duffy DBE1999
Maureen Duffy FKC, Benson Medallist, Vice-President1985
Ian Duhig 2006
Katherine Duncan-Jones 1991
Douglas Dunn OBE1981
Jane Dunn 1999
Nell Dunn 2004
Geoff Dyer 2005
David Edgar 1985
Helen Edmundson 2015
Max Egremont (The Lord Egremont DL FSA)2001
Menna Elfyn 2015
Inua Ellams 2018
Anne Enright 2010
Sir Richard Evans FBA FRHistS FLSW1999
Bernardine Evaristo MBE2004
Sir Richard Eyre CBE2011
Ruth Fainlight 2007
Duncan Fallowell 2015
Moris Farhi MBE2001
Paul Farley 2012
Sebastian Faulks CBE1994
Lara Feigel 2018
Elaine Feinstein 1981
James Fenton FSA1983
Adam Fergusson MEP2009
Maggie Fergusson MBE2007
The Hon. William Fiennes 2009
Orlando Figes 2003
Anne Fine OBE2003
Tibor Fischer 2003
Richard Ford 2012
Aminatta Forna OBE2012
Richard Fortey FRS2009
Roy Foster FBA FRHistS1992
Adam Foulds 2009
*Dan Franklin2019
Lady Antonia Fraser DBE2003
Robert Fraser 2007
Michael Frayn C Lit1969
Maureen Freely 2011
Esther Freud 2019
Stephen Fry 2019
Athol Fugard 1986
John Fuller 1980
Neil Gaiman 2018
Jane Gardam OBE2005
*Anthony Gardner 2004
Philip Gardner 1986
Alan Garner OBE2011
Timothy Garton Ash CMG FRHistS2005
Bamber Gascoigne 1976
Jamila Gavin 2015
Maggie Gee OBE, Vice-President1994
Adèle Geras 2013
Amitav Ghosh 2009
Peter Gill 2019
Sir David Gilmour Bt1990
Paul Gilroy 2016
Mark Girouard FSA Hon FRIBA1994
Lesley Glaister 1994
The Hon. Victoria Glendinning CBE, Vice-President1982
Julian Gloag 1970
Edmund Gordon 2018
Lyndall Gordon 2002
Warwick Gould 1997
Grey Gowrie (The Earl of Gowrie PC)2003
James Graham 2018
Linda Grant 2013
A. C. Grayling 2006
Peter Green 1956
Lavinia Greenlaw 2004
Germaine Greer 2016
John Gribbin 1999
Romesh Gunesekera 2004
Tanika Gupta 2016
Abdulrazak Gurnah 2006
Tessa Hadley 2009
John Haffenden FBA1986
The Lord Hague PC2009
Sarah Hall 2016
John Halperin 1985
Georgina Hammick 2001
Christopher Hampton CBE1976
Sir David Hare 1985
Claire Harman 2006
Richard Harries (The Rt Rev The Lord Harries of Pentregarth)1996
Alexandra Harris 2013
Robert Harris 1996
Sir Wilson Harris 2007
Tony Harrison 1984
David Harsent 1999
Rosalind Harvey 2018
Sir Ronald Harwood CBE, Vice-President1974
Sir Max Hastings FRHistS1996
Lady Selina Hastings 1994
Roy Hattersley (The Lord Hattersley PC)2003
Daisy Hay 2018
Cameron Hazlehurst FRHistS1973
*Drue Heinz Hon DBE2002
John Hemming CMG2013
Philip Hensher 1998
W. N. Herbert 2015
Rachel Hewitt 2018
Ella Hickson 2018
Rosemary Hill 2010
Tobias Hill 2011
Bevis Hillier 1997
Tim Hilton 1993
Henry Hitchings 2015
Peter Hobbs 2014
Eva Hoffman 2007
Ursula Holden 2010
Tom Holland 2016
Alan Hollinghurst 1995
*Richard Hollis 2019
Richard Holmes OBE FBA1975
Sir Michael Holroyd CBE FRHistS C Lit, President Emeritus1968
Christopher Hope 1990
Nick Hornby 1996
Sarah Howe 2018
Kathryn Hughes FRHistS2006
Shirley Hughes OBE2000
Lucy Hughes-Hallett 2010
Emyr Humphreys 1995
Roland Huntford 2001
Aamer Hussein 2004
Angela Huth 1978
Samuel Hynes 1978
*Sir Nicholas Hytner 2019
Armando Iannucci 2019
Robert Icke 2018
Robert Irwin 2001
Kazuo Ishiguro OBE1989
Ian Jack 2009
Howard Jacobson 2012
Clive James CBE AM2010
Kathleen Jamie 2009
Deborah Jay 2005
Alan Jenkins 2002
Sir Simon Jenkins FSA2003
Liz Jensen 2005
Catherine Johnson 2019
Linton Kwesi Johnson 2013
*Paula Johnson2008
Jennifer Johnston 2009
Cynan Jones 2019
Steve Jones FRS2011
Gabriel Josipovici FBA1997
Alan Judd 1990
Margaret Jull Costa OBE2013
Jackie Kay MBE2002
Jonathan Keates FSA1992
Laurence Kelly 2003
Linda Kelly 2010
Peter Kemp [7] 2015
Thomas Keneally AO1973
A. L. Kennedy 1999
*The Duke of Kent KG1978
Mimi Khalvati 2009
Thomas Kilroy 1972
Lucy Kirkwood 2018
Matthew Kneale 2003
Hari Kunzru CBE2014
Hanif Kureishi CBE2008
Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE2014
David Kynaston 2010
Olivia Laing 2019
Nick Laird 2013
John Lanchester 2002
Robin Lane Fox 1974
Lee Langley 1996
James Lasdun 2009
Bryony Lavery 2002
Mark Lawson 2015
Zachary Leader 2007
Dame Hermione Lee DBE FBA1992
Brendan Lehane 1999
Mike Leigh OBE2008
Rebecca Lenkiewicz 2017
Andrea Levy 2005
Deborah Levy 2017
Paul Levy 1980
Gwyneth Lewis 1999
Dame Penelope Lively DBE1985
Samuel Lock 2001
David Lodge CBE1976
Michael Longley CBE1988
Roger Lonsdale FBA1989
Edward Lucie-Smith 1964
Andrew Lycett 2010
Richard Mabey 2011
Alexander McCall Smith 2014
Fiona MacCarthy OBE1997
Geraldine McCaughrean 2009
Val McDermid 2016
Ian McDonald AA1970
Ian McEwan CBE1983
Robert Macfarlane 2011
Patrick McGuinness 2019
Roger McGough CBE2004
Patrick McGrath 2002
Jamie McKendrick 2014
Ben Macintyre 2014
Shena Mackay 1999
Rory MacLean 2007
Margaret MacMillan 2003
Candia McWilliam 1994
Brenda Maddox 1999
Sabrina Mahfouz 2018
Sir Noel Malcolm FBA1997
David Malouf 2008
Norman Manea 2011
Alberto Manguel 2010
Philip Mansel 2010
Dame Hilary Mantel DBE, Vice-President1990
Patrick Marber 2002
Patrick Marnham 1988
Philip Marsden 1996
Rosalind Marshall 1974
Adam Mars-Jones 2007
Yann Martel 2014
Allan Massie CBE1982
Hisham Matar 2012
Douglas Matthews MBE FCLIP, Benson Medallist1998
Glyn Maxwell 1999
Derwent May 1996
Jonathan Meades 2019
Ved Mehta 2009
Pauline Melville 2018
Edward Mendelson 2003
Jeffrey Meyers 1983
Mary Midgley 2007
China Miéville 2015
Andrew Miller 2012
Kei Miller 2018
Michael Millgate FRSC1983
Pankaj Mishra 2008
Rohinton Mistry 2009
David Mitchell 2013
Julian Mitchell FSA1985
Deborah Moggach 1999
Nadifa Mohamed 2018
Ray Monk 2015
Caroline Moorehead OBE1993
Michael Morpurgo OBE2004
Jan Morris CBE1961
Sinéad Morrissey 2019
Blake Morrison 1988
Helen Mort 2018
Sarah Moss 2019
Sir Andrew Motion 1984
Sir Ferdinand Mount Bt1991
Paul Muldoon 1981
Alice Munro C Lit2002
Dervla Murphy 2013
Richard Murphy 1968
Daljit Nagra 2017
V. S. Naipaul (Sir Vidia Naipaul C Lit)1962
*Susheila Nasta MBE, Benson Medallist2019
Charles Nicholl 2005
Grace Nichols 2007
Peter Nichols 1983
Virginia Nicholson 2019
William Nicholson 1999
Adam Nicolson (The Lord Carnock FSA)2005
The Hon. Gerard Noel 1999
Barney Norris 2018
John Julius Norwich (The Viscount Norwich CVO FSA)1970
Edna O'Brien 2011
Sean O'Brien 2007
Bernard O'Donoghue 1999
Julia O'Faolain 1998
Andrew O'Hagan 2010
Redmond O'Hanlon 1993
Irenosen Okojie 2018
Ben Okri OBE1997
David Olusoga 2019
*Sir Christopher Ondaatje OC CBE2003
Michael Ondaatje OC2012
Chibundu Onuzo 2018
Susie Orbach 2019
Charles Osborne 1996
Helen Oyeyemi 2012
Ruth Padel 1998
*Stephen Page2019
Alan Palmer 1980
Peter Parker 1997
Vinay Patel 2018
Don Paterson OBE2004
Jill Paton Walsh CBE1996
Brian Patten 2003
Tim Pears 2012
Sarah Perry 2018
Pascale Petit 2018
Adam Phillips 2012
Caryl Phillips 2000
Mike Phillips OBE2000
David Plante 2002
Piers Plowright 1998
Stephen Poliakoff CBE1985
David Pownall 1976
Lucy Prebble 2018
*Alexandra Pringle 2017
*Stuart Profitt2019
(Baron) David Profumo 1995
David Pryce-Jones 1980
Philip Pullman CBE, Vice-President2001
Isabel Quigly 1989
Craig Raine 1984
Nina Raine 2019
Ross Raisin 2018
Ian Rankin OBE, DL, FRSE2016
Nicholas Rankin 2009
Frederic Raphael 1964
Piers Paul Read 1972
Anne Redmon 1980
Christopher Reid 1999
Sir Christopher Ricks FBA1970
Professor The Hon. Jane Ridley 2007
The Viscount Ridley DL FMedSci1999
Denise Riley 2019
Gwendoline Riley 2018
William Rivière 2000
Graham Robb 1999
Andrew Roberts FRSA2001
Michèle Roberts 1999
Robin Robertson 2010
Jane Rogers 1994
Stephen Romer 2011
Michael Rosen 2006
Meg Rosoff 2013
Jacob Ross 2006
J. K. Rowling OBE2002
Anthony Rudolf FEA2005
Carol Rumens 1984
Sir Salman Rushdie 1983
Amy Sackville 2018
Sunjeev Sahota 2018
Lawrence Sail 1998
Edward St Aubyn 2011
William St Clair FBA1973
Fiona Sampson MBE2010
Sathnam Sanghera 2016
J. J. Scarisbrick MBE FRHistS1969
Simon Schama 2016
Ann Schlee 1997
Michael Schmidt OBE1993
*Patricia Schute 1991
Lawrence Scott 2019
The Rev Professor M.A. Screech FBA1989
Roger Scruton FBA2003
Peter Scupham 1990
Ruth Scurr 2015
Simon Sebag-Montefiore 2003
Elisa Segrave 2001
Richard Sennett 1999
Vikram Seth CBE1994
Miranda Seymour FRSA1996
Elif Shafak 2019
Nicholas Shakespeare 1999
Kamila Shamsie 2011
Jo Shapcott 1999
Warsan Shire 2018
Elaine Showalter 2011
Nikesh Shukla 2019
*William Sieghart 2019
Posy Simmonds MBE2004
Helen Simpson 1996
Andrew Sinclair FRSA1972
Iain Sinclair 2009
Adam Sisman 2015
Robert Skidelsky (The Lord Skidelsky of Tilton FBA FRHistS)1978
Gillian Slovo 2013
Dorothea Smartt 2019
Ali Smith CBE2007
Deborah Smith 2018
Godfrey Smith 1995
*John Saumarez Smith, Benson Medallist1996
Zadie Smith 2002
*Nicola Solomon2019
Stephen Sondheim 2012
Ahdaf Soueif 2002
*Wole Soyinka, Benson Medallist1983
Frances Spalding CBE1984
*Nicholas Spice2019
Francis Spufford 2007
Hilary Spurling CBE2005
John Spurling 2010
Tom Stacey 1977
Martin Stannard 1999
C. K. Stead ONZ CBE1995
George Steiner FBA1962
Polly Stenham 2018
Rory Stewart OBE MP2009
Stanley Stewart 2001
Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE C Lit1972
Sir Roy Strong FSA1999
Andrea Stuart 2014
Kate Summerscale 2010
John Sutherland 1990
*David Sutton, Benson Medallist2012
Graham Swift 1984
Meera Syal CBE2017
Michael Symmons Roberts 2014
George Szirtes 1982
Bryan Talbot 2018
D. J. Taylor 1997
Sara Taylor 2018
Kate Tempest 2015
Adam Thirlwell 2018
Ian Thomson 2003
Rupert Thomson 2015
Colin Thubron CBE, President1969
Ann Thwaite 1987
Anthony Thwaite OBE FSA1978
Stella Tillyard 2019
Gillian Tindall 1983
Colm Tóibín 2007
(Count) Nikolai Tolstoy 1979
Claire Tomalin, Vice-President1976
Barbara Trapido 2011
Jeremy Treglown 1989
Rose Tremain CBE1983
Lynne Truss 2004
Jenny Uglow CBE FSA, Benson Medallist1998
*The Prince of Wales KG OM2002
James Walvin OBE2006
Alan Warner 2013
Dame Marina Warner FBA1984
Val Warner 1998
Sarah Waters 2009
Fay Weldon CBE1986
Robert Wells 1994
Stanley Wells CBE2013
Timberlake Wertenbaker 1999
Sara Wheeler 1999
Hugh Whitemore 1998
Helen Wilcox FRSA FEA1999
Eley Williams 2018
Hugo Williams 1988
Nigel Williams 1994
The Rt Revd The Lord Williams of Oystermouth PC FBA FLSW2003
*Mary-Kay Wilmers, Benson Medallist2017
A. N. Wilson 1982
Frances Wilson 2008
Dame Jacqueline Wilson DBE2005
Jeanette Winterson CBE2016
Lewis Wolpert CBE FRS FMEdSci1999
Charles Wood 1985
James Wood 2011
Michael Wood 1992
Gerard Woodward 2005
Pamela Woof 1999
Kit Wright 1997
Ann Wroe FRHistS2007
Evie Wyld 2018
Adam Zamoyski FSA2006
Theodore Zeldin CBE FBA FRHistS1999
Philip Ziegler CVO FRHistS1972

The * before the name denotes an Honorary Fellow. The list is online at the RSL website. [8]

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  1. 1 2 "Royal Society of Literature » History". Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  2. 1 2 "The RSL elects 40 new Fellows under the age of 40", The Royal Society of Literature press release, June 2018.
  3. "Royal Society of Literature » Magazine selections".
  4. "Royal Society of Literature » Membership".
  5. Alison Flood, "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases", The Guardian, 28 June 2018.
  6. Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst Archived 11 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine .
  7. "Peter Kemp".
  8. "Current RSL Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 26 April 2018.