The first prize giving of Royal College has been held in the year 1836. From the inception, the head of the state has graced this occasion as chief guest. During colonial rule, the British governors had taken a paternal interest in the school and it gradually became a tradition for the ruler of the country to be chief guest for the occasion. Today, the event is held under the patronage of the President of Sri Lanka.
There are one hundred and sixty five prizes and awards handed out each year and the College Main Hall carries the names of those students who have won the Panel Prizes. The Turnour prize is the oldest of the panel prizes, awarded continually from the year 1846 itself. The most coveted prize at this event is the Dornhorst Memorial Prize, awarded since 1930 to the most popular student each year, in the memory of Frederick Dornhorst, KC, followed by the Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Prize for the most outstanding Royalist of the year.