Lord Great Chamberlain

Last updated
Lord Great Chamberlain of England
Official portrait of Lord Carrington crop 2.jpg
Incumbent
Rupert Carington, 7th Baron Carrington

since 8 September 2022
Joint hereditary officeholders
Style The Right Honourable
Type Great Officer of State
AppointerThe Monarch
Term length At His Majesty's pleasure
Formationc.1126
First holder Robert Malet
Superseded by Lord High Treasurer (in monetary affairs)
SuccessionHereditary
SalaryUnpaid

    The Lord Great Chamberlain of England [1] is the sixth of the Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable. The Lord Great Chamberlain has charge over the Palace of Westminster (though since the 1960s his personal authority has been limited to the royal apartments and Westminster Hall).

    Contents

    The Lord Great Chamberlain also has a major part to play in royal coronations, having the right to dress the monarch on coronation day and to serve the monarch water before and after the coronation banquet, and also being involved in investing the monarch with the insignia of rule. [2]

    On formal state occasions, he wears a distinctive scarlet court uniform and bears a gold key and a white staff as the insignia of his office.

    Officeholders

    The position is a hereditary one, held since 1780 in gross. At any one time, a single person actually exercises the office of Lord Great Chamberlain. The various individuals who hold fractions of the Lord Great Chamberlainship are technically each Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain. The Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlains choose one individual of the rank of a knight or higher to be the Deputy Lord Great Chamberlain. [3] [4] Due to an agreement from 1912, the right to exercise the office for a given reign rotates proportionately between three families (of the then three joint office holders) to the fraction of the office held. For instance, the Marquesses of Cholmondeley hold one-half of the office, and may therefore exercise the office or appoint a deputy every alternate reign. Whenever one of the three shares of the 1912 agreement is split further, the joint heirs of this share have to agree among each other, who should be their deputy or any mechanism to determine who of them has the right to choose a deputy.

    The office of Lord Great Chamberlain is distinct from the non-hereditary office of Lord Chamberlain of the Household, a position in the monarch's household. This office arose in the 14th century as a deputy of the Lord Great Chamberlain to fulfil the latter's duties in the Royal Household, but now they are quite distinct.

    The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, but the Act provided that a hereditary peer exercising the office of Lord Great Chamberlain (as well as the Earl Marshal) be exempt from such a rule, in order to perform ceremonial functions.

    History of the office

    The Lord Great Chamberlain, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (left), holding his white staff of office; the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman; and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, showing US President Barack Obama around Members' Lobby during a tour of the Palace in May 2011. Barack Obama in the Members' Lobby of the Palace of Westminster, 2011.jpg
    The Lord Great Chamberlain, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (left), holding his white staff of office; the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman; and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, showing US President Barack Obama around Members' Lobby during a tour of the Palace in May 2011.

    The office was originally held by Robert Malet, a son of one of the leading companions of William the Conqueror. In 1133, however, King Henry I declared Malet's estates and titles forfeit, and awarded the office of Lord Great Chamberlain to Aubrey de Vere, whose son was created Earl of Oxford. Thereafter, the Earls of Oxford held the title almost continuously until 1526, with a few intermissions due to the forfeiture of some Earls for treason. In 1526, however, the fourteenth Earl of Oxford died, leaving his aunts as his heirs. The earldom was inherited by a more distant heir-male, his second cousin. The Sovereign (at that time Henry VIII) then decreed that the office belonged to the Crown, and was not transmitted along with the earldom. The Sovereign appointed the fifteenth Earl to the office, but the appointment was deemed for life and was not hereditary. The family's association with the office was interrupted in 1540, when the fifteenth earl died and Thomas Cromwell, the King's chief adviser, was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain. [5] After Cromwell's attainder and execution later the same year, the office passed through a few more court figures, until 1553, when it was passed back to the De Vere family, the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, again as an uninheritable life appointment. [6] Later, Queen Mary I ruled that the Earls of Oxford were indeed entitled to the office of Lord Great Chamberlain on an hereditary basis.

    Thus, the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth Earls of Oxford held the position on a hereditary basis until 1626, when the eighteenth Earl died, again leaving a distant relative as heir male, but a closer one as a female heir. The House of Lords eventually ruled that the office belonged to the heir general, Robert Bertie, 14th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, who later became Earl of Lindsey. The office remained vested in the Earls of Lindsey, who later became Dukes of Ancaster and Kesteven.

    In 1779, however, the fourth Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven died, leaving two sisters as female heirs, and an uncle as an heir male. The uncle became the fifth and last Duke, but the House of Lords ruled that the two sisters were jointly Lord Great Chamberlain and could appoint a Deputy to fulfil the functions of the office. The barony of Willoughby de Eresby went into abeyance between the two sisters, but the Sovereign terminated the abeyance and granted the title to the elder sister, Priscilla Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. The office of Lord Great Chamberlain, however, was divided between Priscilla and her younger sister Georgiana. Priscilla's share was eventually split between two of her granddaughters, and has been split several more times since then. By contrast, Georgiana's share has been inherited by a single male heir each time; that individual has in each case been the Marquess of Cholmondeley, a title created for Georgiana's husband.

    20th and 21st centuries

    In 1902 it was ruled by the House of Lords that the then joint office holders (the 1st Earl of Ancaster, the 4th Marquess of Cholmondeley, and the Earl Carrington, later Marquess of Lincolnshire) had to agree on a deputy to exercise the office, subject to the approval of the Sovereign. Should there be no such agreement, the Sovereign should appoint a deputy until an agreement is reached. [7]

    In 1912 an agreement was reached. The office, or right to appoint the person to exercise the office, would thereafter rotate among the three joint office holders and their heirs after them, changing at the start of each successive reign. Cholmondeley and his heirs would serve in every other reign; Ancaster and Carrington would each serve once in four reigns. [8]

    As the Cholmondeley share and the Ancaster share (held since 1983 by the Baroness Willoughby de Eresby) are not further split, each of these holders decides in his or her turn to act as Lord Great Chamberlain or to name a person who will act as Lord Great Chamberlain. The Carrington share was divided at his death among his five daughters and their heirs, and has since been further divided, with 13 people holding shares as of 2021. At accession of Charles III the turn fell to the Carrington heirs who named their cousin Rupert Carington, 7th Baron Carrington to act as Lord Great Chamberlain. [9] [10] [11] (Being descended from the Earl's younger brother he himself has no share of the office.)

    Lord Great Chamberlains, 1130–1779

    PortraitNameTerm of officeMonarch
    (reign)
    No image.svg Robert Malet 11301133 Henry I
    (1100–1135)
    No image.svg Aubrey de Vere II 11331141
    Stephen
    (1135–1154)
    No image.svg Aubrey de Vere
    1st Earl of Oxford
    11411194
    Henry II
    (1154–1189)
    Richard I
    (1189–1199)
    No image.svg Aubrey de Vere
    2nd Earl of Oxford
    11941214
    John
    (1199–1216)
    No image.svg Robert de Vere
    3rd Earl of Oxford
    12141221
    Henry III
    Coat of Arms of England (-1340).svg
    (1216–1272)
    No image.svg Hugh de Vere
    4th Earl of Oxford
    12211263
    No image.svg Robert de Vere
    5th Earl of Oxford
    12631265
    No image.svg unclear, perhaps vacant12651267
    No image.svg unclear, perhaps again
    Robert de Vere
    5th Earl of Oxford
    12671296
    Edward I
    (1272–1307)
    No image.svg Robert de Vere
    6th Earl of Oxford
    12961331
    Edward II
    (1307–1327)
    Edward III
    Coat of Arms of Edward III of England (1327-1377).svg
    (1327–1377)
    No image.svg John de Vere
    7th Earl of Oxford
    13311360
    No image.svg Thomas de Vere
    8th Earl of Oxford
    13601371
    Coat of Arms of Sir Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford, KG.png Robert de Vere
    Duke of Ireland

    KG
    13711388
    Richard II
    Coat of Arms of Richard II of England (1377-1399).svg
    (1377–1399)
    Arms of John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter.svg John Holland
    1st Duke of Exeter
    13981399
    No image.svg Aubrey de Vere
    10th Earl of Oxford
    13991400 Henry IV
    (1399–1413)
    Coat of arms of Sir Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, KG.png Richard de Vere
    11th Earl of Oxford
    14001417
    Henry V
    (1413–1422)
    No image.svg John de Vere
    12th Earl of Oxford
    14171462
    Henry VI
    (1422–1461)
    Edward IV
    (1461–1470)
    Coat of arms of Sir John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.png John de Vere
    13th Earl of Oxford

    KG KB
    14621464
    Richard Neville.jpg Richard Neville
    16th Earl of Warwick

    KG
    1464 [12] 1471
    Henry VI
    (1470–1471)
    No image.svg unclear14711475 Edward IV
    Coat of Arms of Edward IV of England (1461-1483).svg
    (1471–1483)
    Coat of arms of Sir Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, KG.png Henry Percy
    4th Earl of Northumberland
    14751485
    Edward V
    (1483)
    Richard III
    (1483–1485)
    Coat of arms of Sir John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.png John de Vere
    13th Earl of Oxford

    KG KB
    1485 [13] 1513 Henry VII
    (1485–1509)
    Henry VIII
    Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg
    (1509–1547)
    No image.svg John de Vere
    14th Earl of Oxford
    15131526
    John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford cropped.jpg John de Vere
    15th Earl of Oxford

    KG PC
    15261540
    Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01.jpg Thomas Cromwell
    1st Earl of Essex

    KG PC
    15401540
    Coat of arms of Sir Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, KG.png Robert Radcliffe
    1st Earl of Sussex

    KG KB PC
    1540 [14] 1542
    Edward Seymour.jpg Edward Seymour
    1st Duke of Somerset

    KG
    1543 [15] 1547
    John Dudley (Knole, Kent).jpg John Dudley
    1st Duke of Northumberland

    KG
    1547 [16] 1549 Edward VI
    Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg
    (1547–1553)
    The Marquess of Northampton by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg William Parr
    1st Marquess of Northampton

    KG
    1549 [17] 1553
    No image.svg John de Vere
    16th Earl of Oxford
    15531562 Mary I
    (1553–1558)
    Elizabeth I
    (1558–1603)
    Edward-de-Vere-1575.jpg Edward de Vere
    17th Earl of Oxford
    15621604
    James I
    Coat of Arms of England (1603-1649).svg
    (1603–1625)
    Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford from NPG.jpg Henry de Vere
    18th Earl of Oxford
    16041625
    Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey, by circle of Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt.jpg Robert Bertie
    1st Earl of Lindsay
    16251642 Charles I
    Coat of Arms of England (1603-1649).svg
    (1625–1649)
    Montty.png Montagu Bertie
    2nd Earl of Lindsay

    KG PC
    16421666
    Interregnum
    (1649–1660)
    Charles II
    (1660–1685)
    No image.svg Robert Bertie
    3rd Earl of Lindsay

    PC FRS
    16661701
    James II
    (1685–1688)
    Mary II
    (1689–1694)
    William III
    (1689–1702)
    Dukeancaster.jpg Robert Bertie
    1st Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

    PC
    17011723
    Anne
    (1702–1714)
    George I
    (1714–1727)
    No image.svg Peregrine Bertie
    2nd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

    PC
    17231742
    George II
    (1727–1760)
    Peregrine Bertie 3rd Duke of Ancaster (1714-1778).png Peregrine Bertie
    3rd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

    PC
    17421778
    George III
    Coat of Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg
    (1760–1820)
    4thDukeOfAncaster.jpg Robert Bertie
    4th Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

    PC
    17781779

    Joint hereditary Lord Great Chamberlains, 1780–present

    The fractions show the holder's share in the office, and the date they held it. The current (as of 2022) holders of the office are shown in bold face.

    Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven
    Priscilla Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
    12 1780–1828
    Georgiana Cholmondeley, Marchioness of Cholmondeley
    12 1780–1838
    Peter Drummond-Burrell, 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby
    12 1828–1865
    George Cholmondeley, 2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1838–1870
    William Cholmondeley, 3rd Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1870–1884
    Albyric Drummond-Willoughby, 23rd Baron Willoughby de Eresby
    12 1865–1870
    Clementina Drummond-Willoughby, 24th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
    14 1870–1888
    Charlotte Augusta Carrington, Lady Carrington
    14 1870–1879
    Charles George Cholmondeley
    Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 1st Earl of Ancaster
    14 1888–1910
    Charles Wynn-Carington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire
    14 1879–1928
    George Cholmondeley, 4th Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1884–1923
    Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 2nd Earl of Ancaster
    14 1910–1951
    Marjorie Wilson, Baroness Nunburnholme
    120 1928–1968
    Lady Alexandra Llewellen Palmer
    120 1928–1955
    Ruperta Legge, Countess of Dartmouth
    120 1928–1963
    Judith Keppel, Countess of Albemarle Lady Victoria Weld-Forester
    120 1928–1966
    George Cholmondeley, 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1923–1968
    James Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 3rd Earl of Ancaster
    14 1951–1983
    Charles Wilson, 3rd Baron Nunburnholme
    120 1968–1974
    Brig. Anthony Llewellen Palmer
    120 1955–1990
    Col. Charles Timothy Llewellen PalmerLady Mary Findlay
    1100 1963–2003
    Lady Elizabeth Basset
    1100 1963–2000
    Lady Diana Matthews
    1100 1963–1970
    Lady Barbara Kwiatkowska
    1100 1963–2013
    Josceline Chichester, Marchioness of Donegall
    1100 1963–1995
    Derek Keppel, Viscount Bury
    120 1928–1968
    Sir Henry Legge-Bourke
    120 1966–1973
    Hugh Cholmondeley, 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1968–1990
    Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 28th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
    14 1983–
    Ben Wilson, 4th Baron Nunburnholme
    120 1974–1998
    Julian Llewellen Palmer
    120 1990–2002
    Cdr Jonathan Findlay
    1100 2003–2015
    Bryan Basset
    1100 2000–2010
    Col James Hamilton-Russell
    1100 1970–
    Jan Witold Kwiatkowski
    1100 2013–
    Patrick Chichester, 8th Marquess of Donegall
    1100 1995–
    Rufus Keppel, 10th Earl of Albemarle
    120 1968–
    William Legge-Bourke
    120 1973–2009
    David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley
    12 1990–
    The Hon. Lorraine Wilson
    180 1998–2022
    160 2022–
    The Hon. Tatiana Dent
    180 1998–2022
    160 2022–
    The Hon. Ines Garton
    180 1998–2022
    160 2022–
    The Hon. Ysabel Williams
    180 1998–2022
    Nicholas Llewellen Palmer
    120 2002–
    Christopher Findlay
    1100 2015–
    David Basset
    1100 2010
    Michael James Basset
    1100 2010–
    Capt. Harry Legge-Bourke
    120 2009–

    Persons exercising the office of Lord Great Chamberlain, 1780–present

    PortraitNameTerm of officeMonarch
    (reign)
    No image.svg Peter Burrell
    1st Baron Gwydyr
    17801820 George III
    (1760–1820)
    George IV
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
    (1820–1830)
    No image.svg Peter Drummond-Burrell
    22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby

    PC
    18211830
    George, 2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley.jpg George Cholmondeley
    2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley

    PC
    18301837 William IV
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
    (1830–1837)
    No image.svg Peter Drummond-Burrell
    22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby

    PC
    18371865 Victoria
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
    (1837–1901)
    No image.svg Albyric Drummond-Willoughby
    23rd Baron Willoughby de Eresby
    18651870
    Gilbert Henry Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, Vanity Fair, 1881-07-30.jpg Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
    25th Baron Willoughby de Eresby

    PC
    18711901
    George Henry Hugh Cholmondeley, 4th Marquess.jpg George Cholmondeley
    4th Marquess of Cholmondeley

    PC DL
    19011910 Edward VII
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
    (1901–1910)
    1stMarquessOfLincolnshire.jpg Charles Wynn-Carington
    1st Marquess of Lincolnshire

    KG GCMG PC JP DL
    19101928 George V
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
    (1910–1936)
    Earl of Dartmouth COA.svg William Legge
    Viscount Lewisham

    GCVO TD
    19281936
    Lord Rocksavage 4037482780 cc54c1b81e o (cropped).jpg George Cholmondeley
    5th Marquess of Cholmondeley

    GCVO
    1936 Edward VIII
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
    (1936)
    Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 2nd Earl of Ancaster.png Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
    2nd Earl of Ancaster

    GCVO JP DL
    19361951 George VI
    Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
    (1936–1952)
    James Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
    3rd Earl of Ancaster

    TD
    19511952
    Lord Rocksavage 4037482780 cc54c1b81e o (cropped).jpg George Cholmondeley
    5th Marquess of Cholmondeley

    GCVO
    19521966 Elizabeth II
    Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
    (1952–2022)
    Hugh Cholmondeley
    6th Marquess of Cholmondeley

    GCVO MC DL
    19661990
    7th Marquis of Colmondeley 2.jpg David Cholmondeley
    7th Marquess of Cholmondeley

    KCVO DL
    19902022
    Official portrait of Lord Carrington crop 2.jpg Rupert Carington
    7th Baron Carrington

    DL
    2022present Charles III
    Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
    (2022–present)

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    References

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    2. Round, J. Horace (June 1902). "The Lord Great Chamberlain". Monthly Review. 7 (21): 42–58. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
    3. "House of Lords Journal Volume 36: May 1781 21-30". Journal of the House of Lords Volume 36, 1779-1783. London: British History Online. 1767–1830. pp. 296–309. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
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