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The Hon. Giles Rowan St Aubyn. Image: courtesy of RSL

Bequest secures future of non-fiction awards

19 June 2017

The Royal Society of Literature is establishing annual awards for first-time writers of non-fiction – in perpetuity – because of a significant bequest from author and RSL Fellow Giles St Aubyn.

The new awards build on the RSL’s experience of a previous form of non-fiction awards, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation from 2004 to 2016. The success of these awards has been invaluable in shaping the Giles St Aubyn Awards. Both Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the RSL are delighted that Giles St Aubyn’s legacy secures the future of this unique literary opportunity, and the two organisations are committed to continuing their close relationship. Afua Hirsch, one of the first Giles St Aubyn judges, won an RSL Jerwood Award in 2016.

Giles St Aubyn, who died in 2015 aged 89, wrote 14 non-fiction books and taught history for nearly 40 years at Eton College. A nephew of Vita Sackville-West, he counted John Betjeman, John le Carré and The Queen Mother among his friends.

Entries are now open for the first year of The RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non- Fiction until 2 October. Two awards – one of £10,000, one of £5,000 – are offered to support writers to complete their first commissioned works of non-fiction. This year’s judges are:

• Richard Holmes – biographer and RSL Fellow (chair),
• Afua Hirsch – journalist whose first book Brit(ish) will be published in 2018,
• Fiona St Aubyn – author and niece of Giles St Aubyn.

Lisa Appignanesi, Chair of the RSL, comments:
“In these straitened times, it is good to be able to announce a permanent award for that bold and various form of writing that non-fiction is. To see an act of such exceptional literary philanthropy from an author and RSL Fellow marks an important moment. We applaud Giles St Aubyn’s generosity and foresight, and trust that the new awards in his name will become a highly regarded fixture in the literary calendar.”

Fiona St Aubyn, awards judge and niece of the late Giles St Aubyn, comments:
“As a teacher Giles sought to find potential and bring it out in others, and as a writer he fully understood the importance of research and having time to write. The RSLGiles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction encompass these three things: they encourage exceptionally gifted authors, give them the wherewithal to research and, importantly, they can buy them time to write. Giles’s family is so pleased and proud that his memory lives on in the RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction.”

In leaving his bequest to the RSL, Giles St Aubyn wrote:
“I wish to help aspiring authors to get their works published, particularly authors of works of non-fiction which require a good deal of preliminary research. The sort of authors I have in mind would be those who have not already been published and who are struggling to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder.”

The RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction are for writers engaged in writing their first non-fiction book for a mainstream audience. They must already have a publisher’s contract. The award will then buy them time or resources for writing or research, as well as raising the profile of the book when published. Full details can be found at

www.rsliterature.org