Everything Royal

Those Who Serve the Royal Family

(1992) re-print from The Independent -London


(Heads of Department)

LORD CHAMBERLAIN: Head of the Queen's Household and chairman of the board that co- ordinates the work of other departments. When on display he holds a white staff (which he will break over Her Majesty's grave when she dies) and carries a gold key in his pocket.

In theory, the Lord Chamberlain's duties are onerous. No jewel is cleaned, no flag flown, and no trumpet blown that is not his responsibility. His department includes Lords-in-Waiting (qv) and Gentlemen Ushers (qv), who circulate among the guests at garden parties; the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, Vice-Admiral Sir James Weatherall KBE, who fetches incoming ambassadors for Her Majesty; the Royal Bargemaster, who accompanies the Queen (on land) to functions associated with the River Thames; and Mr F J Turk, MVO, Keeper of the Queen's Swans.

In practice, the Lord Chamberlain's is a part-time job with many duties delegated to his Comptroller, Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Ross OBE. If he came in more than two or three days a week, some courtiers fear he would get in the way.

Skills required: An ability to walk backwards at State Banquets. At Buckingham Palace, he can follow a seam on the carpet. At Windsor Castle, he may take directions from Her Majesty, who follows him.

Incumbent: Since 1984 The Earl of Airlie KT, GCVO, PC (aged 66). His grandmother, Mabell, Countess of Airlie, was a Lady-in- Waiting to Queen Mary; his father was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother; his younger brother, Sir Angus Ogilvy, is married to Princess Alexandra; and his American wife, The Countess of Airlie, is a Lady of the Bedchamber (qv).

His credentials, like his connections, are impeccable: Eton and the Scots Guards, followed by the City, where he became chairman of the merchant bank, Schroder.

PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: The Queen's closest official adviser, he liaises with the Government, drafts her speeches, organises her public engagements, supervises the press office and deals with her official correspondence. But, said Sir Michael Adeane (Private Secretary 1953- 72), 'it's no use thinking you're a mandarin. One moment you may be writing to the Prime Minister. The next you're carrying a small boy's mac.'

Compared with other palace positions, the pay is very good - about pounds 60,000 a year. Perks include a grace-and-favour residence, a chauffeur for business in London (but no company car), first-class rail travel, five-star hotel accommodation abroad, and a peerage on retirement.

Skills required: A sense of humour. Her Majesty got fed up with Sir Philip Moore (Private Secretary 1977-84, now Lord Moore of Wolvercote), who never told jokes. But she loved Sir Martin Charteris (Private Secretary 1972-77, now Lord Charteris of Amisfield), who put jokes in her speeches and laughed at them.

Incumbent: Since 1990, Sir Robert Fellowes KCB, KCVO (51). His father was the land agent at Sandringham, and he grew up on the estate. In 1978 he married Lady Jane Spencer, one of Diana's two sisters. He, too, was at Eton and joined the Scots Guards, then took a City job.

What he thinks of his sister-in- law is anyone's guess. Unlike the family he serves, he has never allowed the courtly mask to slip.

KEEPER OF THE PRIVY PURSE: There is a Privy Purse, made of tapestry; but the Keeper's real tasks are to look after the Queen's private bank account, held at Coutts in the Strand, supervise the finances of her private estates and control payments from the Civil List for official expenditure.

Other duties include authorising flowers to be named after Her Majesty (such as the Queen Elizabeth II rhododendron). He is also responsible for the Queen's stamps, the best private collection in the world, begun by George V. When Prince of Wales, George was once told by a courtier of a 'damned fool' who had spent pounds 1,400 on a 2 1/2 d Bahamian stamp. 'I was the damned fool,' he replied.

Skills required: A winning manner with the Inland Revenue.

Incumbent: Since 1988, Major Sir Shane Blewitt KCVO (57), formerly with the Irish Guards. A year's experience in the City was enough to get him head-hunted by the Palace.

MASTER OF THE HOUSEHOLD: Otherwise known as the Queen's Head Butler, he supervises the Household's domestic affairs, from cleaning the lavatories to buying the flowers. The lowest housemaid is answerable to him. Domestic servants are expected to remain invisible to royalty, and to leap into a cupboard if they hear Her Majesty coming.

In its modern form, the Master's office dates from the 1840s, when Prince Albert gave him sole responsibility for lighting fires at Windsor Castle; previously, three departments had been involved in the complex arrangements. He is also Chairman of the Board of Green Cloth, still the licensing authority for pubs within the Liberty of the Verge of the Palaces: Buckingham Palace Gardens, Green Park, St James's Park and east of Whitehall to the Thames.

Skills required: Experience as a seat allocator. On the Queen's Flight, the Royal Chef must have a superior seat to his own staff, and the Palace Steward must never be placed next to a housemaid.

Incumbent: Since September, Major-General Sir Simon Cooper KCVO, the servicing of the royal establishment being regarded as a military operation. Sir Simon is a former Silver Stick-in-Waiting (qv) to the Queen.

CROWN EQUERRY: He looks after the Queen's terrestrial transport by car, carriage and horse. He can call on 30 horses, five Rolls-Royces, the Duke of Edinburgh's electrically powered van, and State coaches of varying reliability. Little used these days is the Gold State Coach, built in 1762, with a top speed of three miles per hour. The Irish State Coach is faster, travelling from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster in just 12 minutes.

The Crown Equerry's main perk is a three-storey house just inside the gates to the Royal Mews.

Skills required: Patience with humans. In 1981 the Crown Equerry - mindful of his schedule - had to discourage Lady Diana Spencer from exercising her bride's prerogative of arriving at the church several minutes late.

Incumbent: Since 1987, Lieutenant-Colonel Seymour Gilbart- Denham, a former commander of the Household Cavalry regiment.

The sixth department head is the Director of the Royal Collection, Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue KCVO, FSA. His department, set up in 1988, is financially independent of the Household.


(Equerries and Ladies-in-Waiting)

MISTRESS OF THE ROBES: The senior female member of the Household, usually a Duchess. Once a political appointment, carrying great power when there was a reigning Queen, the post is now largely honorary.

Her most important function is at the State Opening of Parliament, when she supervises the Robing of the Queen, and leads the other Ladies-in-Waiting in the Royal Procession.

Skills required: Marriage to a Duke.

Incumbent: Since 1967 the Duchess of Grafton GCVO, born Fortune Smith. She is a sister of Sir John Smith, a former Conservative MP.

LADIES OF THE BEDCHAMBER: They are always peeresses who attend the Queen on major public occasions; but daily waiting is left to the Women (qv).

The Ladies were the subject of a dispute between Sir Robert Peel and Queen Victoria. Peel, the incoming Tory prime minister, complained they were all Whigs; Victoria insisted that replacing them would be 'repugnant to her feelings'. Faced with her intransigence, Sir Robert gave up trying to form a government.

Today the Ladies are personal appointments and many - Sir Robert would be pleased to know - have Tory connections, as do the Women. Almost certainly, courtiers insist, the Queen has never even noticed this coincidence.

There are also two Extra Ladies of the Bedchamber. One of them, The Marchioness of Abergavenny, explains: 'I'm there if I'm wanted, if someone is ill for instance, or if Her Majesty wants me. Recently I was called in to help answer thousands of letters people sent in after the fire at Windsor.' Is this tedious work? 'On the contrary, it's very agreeable.'

Skills required: An elegant hand.

Incumbents: The Countess of Airlie CVO (59), born Fortune Ryan in Newport, Rhode Island. She is the granddaughter of the financier Otto Kahn. Lady Airlie is assisted by Lady Farnham (51). She comes from a family of courtiers and is married to the 12th Baron Farnham, an Irish peer and merchant banker.

WOMEN OF THE BEDCHAMBER: They work two weeks on, four weeks off. When on duty they can live at Buckingham Palace. The Women attend the Queen on all public occasions, reply to children's letters, do Her Majesty's 'personal' shopping and inquire after retainers who are ill. Mrs Jean Woodroffe, an Extra Woman of the Bedchamber, says: 'You could hardly call it a salaried position, but you get a dress allowance.'

Traditionally, the position has been a closed shop for the daughters of peeresses. There are signs that the Queen wishes to end this restrictive practice.

Skills required: Her Majesty's shopping experience is necessarily limited. Up-to-date knowledge of bargains is therefore a must.

Incumbents: The Hon Mary Morrison DCVO (55), sister of Sir Charles Morrison, Conservative MP for Devizes. Lady Susan Hussey DCVO (53), sister of the Cabinet minister, William Waldegrave, and wife of Marmaduke Hussey, chairman of the BBC. Lady Elton, wife of the 2nd Baron Elton, former Tory Minister of State. Dame Kathryn Dugdale DCVO (59), daughter of the late Oliver Stanley, a Conservative MP.

EQUERRIES AND AIDES-DE-CAMP: 'Equerry' is supposed to come from ecurie, the French word for stable, and court pronunciation still emphasises the second syllable.

Once Equerries were required to tether their master's horse with a piece of rope carried on the shoulder. These were the original aiguillettes, still worn on their uniforms. Today, their duties are similar to a Woman of the Bedchamber's, with the personal shopping left out.

Equerries are always serving or retired officers from the armed forces. They are well-placed to marry princesses and will be called 'dashing' if they get near to doing so. Peter Townsend (divorced) failed with Princess Margaret while, nearly 30 years later, Timothy Laurence succeeded with Princess Anne (divorced).

There are also Extra Equerries. Sir Edward Ford, Assistant Private Secretary to the Queen (1952-67) and an Extra Equerry since 1955, explains what they do: 'Absolutely nothing. It carries no duties, there are no emoluments, it's just given to certain courtiers when they retire.' Does the position entitle him to wear anything? 'Nothing at all - just a pair of trousers.'

Aides-de-Camp, however, do have substantial duties, similar to those performed by Equerries.

Skills required: For Equerries, until recently, following court protocol when waking up. Every morning, the footman would enter the Equerry's bedroom at Buckingham Palace with the 'calling tray' of tea or coffee and biscuits. The tray could only be placed on the bedside table after the curtains were opened and Radio 4's Today switched on. Only then, if the Equerry still slept, could the footman speak. These days the Equerry lives across the road at St James's Palace and may listen to Radio 1.

Incumbents: The Senior Equerry is Lieutenant-Colonel Blair Stewart-Wilson CVO, formerly Defence, Military and Air Attache at the British Embassy in Vienna. The Aides-de-Camp include two admirals, three generals, and two air chief marshals.

GENTLEMAN USHER: Since Tudor times they have been required to 'keep' the door of the King's chamber, and 'usher' visitors into the Royal presence. 'We genuinely do ush,' says Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Julian Paget CVO. 'You can see us at garden parties introducing people to the Queen, and sometimes a few of us attend State banquets.'

There are 10 Gentlemen Ushers and, according to Sir Julian, 'You have to have a pretty good service record to be asked.'

On reaching the age of 70, they become Extra Gentlemen Ushers. Their duties remain the same.

Skills required: Traffic sense.

Incumbents: Nine retired officers and a businessman, Carron Greig CVO. His father Sir Louis Greig was Wimbledon tennis partner (1926) of the future George VI (they were knocked out in the first round).

GENTLEMAN USHER TO THE SWORD OF STATE: At the State opening of Parliament he delivers the Sword of State to the Lord Great Chamberlain (qv), who deposits it in St Edward's Chapel. The sword was made in 1678, weighs just over 7lbs, and is 47 1/2 inches long.

Skills required: Swordsmanship.

Incumbent: Military experience is essential for this job, which is held in turn by a retired admiral, general and air chief marshal. Since 1988, the sword has been carried by General Sir Edward Burgess KCB OBE.

GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD: He carries a black rod and has to knock three times on the Commons' door at the State Opening of Parliament before he is admitted. After MPs have demonstrated their independence, Black Rod leads them off to the Lords for the Queen's Speech. Black Rod is also responsible for services and security in the House of Lords, and can be ordered to evict troublemakers.

Skills required: Good rod technique. The present rod, 3 1/2 feet long, was made in 1883, with 'later modifications'.

Incumbent: A 'Gentleman of Name and Arms, and a native subject of the Sovereign': at present, Admiral Sir Richard Thomas KCB OBE.

GOLD STICK: There are two Gold Sticks, and a third when the Queen is in Scotland. Gold Stick first emerges from the mists of history during the Popish Plot scare of 1678. As a protective measure he was required to attend the King, carrying an ebony truncheon with a gold head.

If Popish plotters overcame Gold Stick, the King could turn to Silver Stick, who was required to wait close by, holding a silver- headed truncheon for use in an emergency. In 1889 the Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher, confirmed Silver Stick's senior position on the right of the Sovereign's carriage, against the claims of Silver Stick's counterpart in the Foot Guards, the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting.

Today, Gold Stick is an ex officio appointment held by the Colonels of the Life Guards and of the Blues and Royals. Silver Stick-in-Waiting is always the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Household Cavalry. Military technology has advanced since the 17th century, but they still hold their sticks at the State Opening of Parliament.

Skills required: Firm and speedy action with sticks.

Incumbents: The Gold Sticks are Major-General Lord Michael Fitzalan Howard GCVO CB CBE MC and General Sir Desmond Fitzpatrick GCB DSO MBE MC. Since July 1990, Silver Stick has been Colonel J D Smith-Bingham. His predecessor was Colonel Andrew Parker-Bowles, husband of Camilla.


(Honorary Positions)

LORD GREAT CHAMBERLAIN OF ENGLAND: Not to be confused with the Lord Chamberlain, who was once his deputy. Formerly head of the Household, his duties today are less onerous; at the Coronation, he fastens the clasp of the Imperial Mantle.

One weekend in the mid-Sixties, Marcia Williams, Harold Wilson's secretary, discovered that, as Keeper of the Palace of Westminster, he had another vestigial power: preventing her getting to Mr Wilson's office. An enraged Prime Minister, with the reluctant approval of the Queen, confiscated his keys and handed them to the Minister of Public Works.

Skills required: Since 1901, membership of the Cholmondeley family every alternate reign, and the Ancaster and Carrington families every fourth reign: as in, Cholmondeley, Ancaster, Cholmondeley, Carrington . . . .

Incumbent: The 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (32), a film producer.

LORD STEWARD: Fairly demanding for an Honorary appointment. He is titular head of the Master of the Household's Department, and still presides at the Board of Green Cloth. He also attends State Banquets where he presents guests to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the visiting Head of State.

Skills required: Like the Lord Chamberlain, an ability to walk backwards in a straight line.

Incumbent: Since 1989 Viscount Ridley, elder brother of Lord Ridley of Liddesdale.

MASTER OF THE HORSE: His duties are delegated to the Crown Equerry. The most famous Master this century was the 10th Duke of Beaufort (1936-78), known simply as 'Master'.

Skills required: Possession of a horse.

Incumbent: Since 1992 Lord Somerleyton, a Suffolk landowner with a maze in his garden, and a director of the East Anglian Water Company.

EARL MARSHAL: Also Hereditary Marshal and Chief Butler of England. He supervises all arrangements for the Queen's Coronation, wedding and funeral, but not for lesser royal events. The present Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, explains: 'We used to do the whole lot, but my ancestors were decapitated rather too often, and we lost a lot of jobs. The Lord Chamberlain has sort of bagged the other ones.'

The Duke was unsure what his duties were as Chief Butler of England, but thought they had something to do with the Queen's wedding breakfast.

Skills required: Membership of the Howard family who, as Dukes of Norfolk, have held this post since 1672, despite being Catholics.

Incumbent: The 17th Duke of Norfolk.

PERMANENT LORDS-IN- WAITING: Not to be confused with the Lords-in-Waiting (qv), they are personal appointments of the Queen from the most senior retired members of the Household. They are always peers, and do not speak or vote against the Government.

Skills required: Her Majesty's gratitude.

Incumbents: Two former Private Secretaries, Lord Charteris of Amisfield GCB GCVO OBE QSO PC and Lord Moore of Wolvercote GCB GCVO CMG QSO, and the Earl of Westmorland GCVO, recently retired as Master of the Horse.


Ever since George IV appeared at Holyroodhouse in 1822, resplendent in a Stuart kilt and flesh-coloured tights, the Royal Family's affection for Scotland has known no bounds. Scotland, as George IV noticed, is another kingdom and the Queen retains a second Household north of the border. These are only the most important positions.

HEREDITARY LORD HIGH CONSTABLE: He is responsible for the Queen's safety in Scotland. He carries a gold-tipped baton to deter assassins.

Skills required: Since 12 November 1314, membership of the Hay family.

Incumbent: The 24th Earl of Erroll, a computer consultant.

HEREDITARY MASTER OF THE HOUSEHOLD: Another baton holder: his is long, red and velvet, with gold decorations. Traditionally responsible for the Sovereign's domestic affairs, he now attends Her Majesty at State occasions.

Skills required: Since 1494, membership of the Argyll family.

Incumbent: The 12th Duke of Argyll, a director of Visual Sound Programmes.

LORD LYON KING OF ARMS: He is responsible for all State, royal and public ceremonial in Scotland and grants armorial bearings. As a mark of his importance, it was once deemed essential to place the crown of Scotland momentarily on his head; these days he makes do with a baton.

Skills required: Only qualified lawyers can aspire to this office.

Incumbent: Since 1981, Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight KCVO WS, who presides at the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.

HEREDITARY BANNER-BEARER FOR SCOTLAND: In May he bears the royal banner at the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Other opportunities for banner-bearing can occur during the year.

Skills required: Since the reign of Alexander III (1249-86), membership of the Scrymgeour-Wedderburn family.

Incumbent: The 12th Earl of Dundee, a former Conservative whip in the House of Lords.

HEREDITARY BEARER OF THE NATIONAL FLAG OF SCOTLAND: To avoid confusion with the Banner-Bearer, he wears a special uniform cut in the style of the 1830s.

Skills required: Since 1901, when the Scrymgeour-Wedderburns stopped trying to carry this flag as well, membership of the Maitland family.

Incumbent: Since 1990, Viscount Maitland, brother of Lady Olga.

NOTE: North of the border, if the Scottish police fail in their duty, Her Majesty is protected by the Royal Company of Archers: more than 400 men, armed to the teeth with bows and arrows. To hone their combat skills, they have 'perpetual access to all public butts, plains and pasturages legally allotted for shooting arrows'.

Senior officers include Lord Home of the Hirsel KT, who holds the rank of captain. Wounds are tended by the Company's surgeon, Dr P A P Mackenzie TD.


(Political appointments)

TREASURER, COMPTROLLER AND VICE-CHAMBERLAIN OF THE HOUSEHOLD: Known collectively as White Staves, after their wand of office, they are government whips in the Commons.

Before dinner, the Vice- Chamberlain has to write a report of the day's proceedings for the Queen. He remains at Buckingham Palace at the State opening as a hostage for her safe return.

Skills required: Since 1979, a safe Conservative seat.

Incumbents: David Heathcoat- Amory MP (Treasurer); David Lightbown MP (Comptroller); Sydney Chapman MP (Vice- Chamberlain).

LORDS-IN-WAITING AND CAPTAINS: Two of the Lords-in- Waiting are personal appointments of the Queen and sit on the cross-benches in the House of Lords. The other five are Government whips in the Lords.

The Captain, Gentlemen at Arms, is another gold stick-carrier, otherwise engaged as Government Chief Whip in the House of Lords. The Captain, Yeomen of the Guard, is the Deputy Chief Whip.

Skills required: A state secret. The Lords-in-Waiting and Captains felt their duties at court were too confidential to reveal.

Incumbents: The Queen's appointees are Viscount Boyne, a former director of National Westminster Bank, and Lord Camoys, deputy chairman of Barclays de Zoete Wedd. The political appointees are the Viscounts Long, Astor, St Davids and Goschen, and Baroness Trumpington. Lord Hesketh is Captain, Gentlemen at Arms, while the 18th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (great-aunt: the Queen Mother) has charge of the Yeomen.

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