Thomas Holloway was a self-made multi-millionaire whose fortune had been made in patent medicines. He founded Royal Holloway College in 1879 after initiating a public debate inviting suggestions as to 'How best to spend a quarter of a million pounds or more'. It was his wife Jane who suggested a college for women as the means by which Holloway's money might effect 'the greatest public good'. Holloway's first great philanthropic enterprise, the Sanatorium at Virginia Water opened in 1885. The second, Royal Holloway College, largely inspired by the Chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886. Built around two quadrangles, today it continues to impress as much by its size as by the exuberance of the roofline with its many towers and turrets. As solid as it is extravagant, it epitomises the wealth, optimism and spirit of philanthropy so characteristic of the Victorian age. It continues to provide a home for the the Royal Holloway Collection - a Picture Gallery of Victorian paintings by Millais, Frith and Landseer among others - that was the final touch to Holloway's generous endowment.
In 1900 Royal Holloway was admitted as a School 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 Britain.
Royal Holloway admitted male undergraduates for the first time in 1965, but the commitment to women's education remained.
In 1982 partnership Agreement between Royal Holloway and Bedford College, signed as a result of severe cuts in government spending on higher education, paved the way for the merger in 1985. The newly merged Royal Holloway and Bedford New College was inaugurated in 1986 by Her Majesty The Queen as 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 parent colleges.