Private Secretary to the Sovereign

Last updated
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Tudor crown).svg
Clive Alderton.jpg
Sir Clive Alderton
since 8 September 2022
Royal Households of the United Kingdom
Style The Right Honourable
(UK and the Commonwealth)
Member of Privy Council
Reports to The King
Seat Buckingham Palace
Appointer The King
Term length At His Majesty's pleasure
First holder Herbert Taylor
DeputyDeputy Private Secretary to the Sovereign

The Private Secretary to the Sovereign is the senior operational member of the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom (as distinct from the Great Officers of the Household, whose duties are largely ceremonial). The Private Secretary is the principal channel of communication between the monarch and the governments in most of the Commonwealth realms. [note 1] They also have responsibility for the official programme and correspondence of the Sovereign. Through these roles the position wields considerable influence. This is one of the most senior positions within the Royal Household.


The office of Private Secretary was first established in 1805. As of 2023 the position has been held exclusively by men. One woman has served as both Deputy and Assistant Private Secretary and an additional two women have served as Assistant Private Secretaries. The current Private Secretary position is held by Sir Clive Alderton.


Colonel Herbert Taylor, who was appointed in 1805, is acknowledged as the first Private Secretary to the Sovereign. However, the office was not formally established until 1867. Constitutionally there was some opposition on the part of Ministers to the creation of an office which might grow to have considerable influence upon the Sovereign. However, it was soon realised that the Sovereign was in need of secretarial support, since his or her Ministers had ceased to provide daily advice and support with the growth of ministerial government. Queen Victoria did not have a Private Secretary until she appointed General Charles Grey to the office in 1861; her husband Prince Albert had effectively been her secretary until his death.


The principal functions of the office are:

The position of Private Secretary is regarded as equivalent to that of the permanent secretary of a government department. The incumbent is always made a Privy Counsellor on appointment, and has customarily received a peerage upon retirement (a life peerage since 1972, although a small number have been given hereditary titles). Until 1965, peerages granted to Private Secretaries were hereditary baronies, with the exception of Lord Knollys, who was created a viscount in 1911. All Private Secretaries since the time of Lord Stamfordham have been created peers, with the exceptions of Sir Alexander Hardinge (inherited his father's barony in 1944), Sir Alan Lascelles (declined as he felt titles to be a show of self-importance) and Sir William Heseltine (who is an Australian).

Private Secretaries to the Sovereign are always appointed Knights Bachelor, or knights of one of the orders of chivalry, typically the Order of The Bath or The Royal Victorian Order. The same is true for Principal Private Secretaries to other members of the Royal Household, such as The Prince of Wales.

The Private Secretary is head of only one of the several operational divisions of the Royal Household. However, he or she is involved in co-ordination between various parts of the Household, and has direct control over the Press Office, the Royal Archives, and the office of the Defence Services Secretary.

Liaison with the government

The Private Secretary is responsible for liaising with the Cabinet Secretary, the Privy Council Office (PCO), and the Ministry of Justice's Crown Office in relation to:


Reporting to the Private Secretary is the role of Director for Security Liaison which was established following a recommendation of the Security Commission in 2004. [1] The post was first held by Brigadier Jeffrey Cook, OBE MC, who was in office 2004-2008. The Private Secretary has general oversight of security policy, though the Master of the Household is also involved, and the Keeper of the Privy Purse has responsibility for the ceremonial bodyguards, such as the Gentlemen at Arms and the Yeomen of the Guard.

List of Private Secretaries to the Sovereign since 1805

Private SecretaryTerm of officePeerageMonarch
Sir Herbert Taylor GCB GCH.jpg Colonel
Herbert Taylor
18051811 George III
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1801-1816).svg
Sir John McMahon, Bt.jpg Colonel
Sir John McMahon
Lord Benjamin Bloomfield.jpg Lieutenant-General
Sir Benjamin Bloomfield
18171820Baron Bloomfield
18201822 George IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
William Knighton.jpg Sir William Knighton
Bt , GCH
Sir Herbert Taylor GCB GCH.jpg Lieutenant-General
Sir Herbert Taylor
18301837 William IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.jpg The Viscount Melbourne
(informally, while Prime Minister)
18371840 Victoria
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
Prince Albert, bust length, by John Jabez Edwin Mayal, 1860 (retouched).jpg Prince Albert
SirCharlesBeaumontPhipps.jpg Colonel
Sir Charles Phipps
GeneralSirCharlesGrey.jpg General
Charles Grey
Henry Ponsonby Vanity Fair 1883-03-17.jpg Major-General
Sir Henry Ponsonby
Arthur John Bigge, Vanity Fair, 1900-09-06.jpg Lieutenant-Colonel
Sir Arthur Bigge
18951901 Baron Stamfordham
Lord Knollys LCCN2014691688.jpg The Lord Knollys
19011910 Viscount Knollys Edward VII
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
19101913 George V
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
Arthur John Bigge, Vanity Fair, 1900-09-06.jpg Lieutenant-Colonel
The Lord Stamfordham
No image.svg Colonel
The Lord Wigram
Alexander Henry Louis Hardinge, 2nd Baron Hardinge of Penshurst.jpg Major
Sir Alec Hardinge


Baron Hardinge of Penshurst Edward VIII
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg


George VI
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
Sir Alan Lascelles

6 February
6 February

Elizabeth II
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1952-2022).svg
Sir Michael Adeane
1 January
1 April
Baron Adeane
Sir Martin Charteris
1 April
12 November
Baron Charteris of Amisfield
Sir Philip Moore
12 November
1 April
Baron Moore of Wolvercote
No image.svg Sir William Heseltine
1 April
19 October
No image.svg Sir Robert Fellowes
19 October
4 February
Baron Fellowes
Official portrait of Lord Janvrin crop 2.jpg Lieutenant
Sir Robin Janvrin
4 February
8 September
Baron Janvrin
Official portrait of Lord Geidt crop 2.jpg Sir Christopher Geidt
8 September
17 October
Baron Geidt
No image.svg Sir Edward Young
17 October
8 September
Baron Young
8 September
15 May
Charles III
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Tudor crown).svg
Clive Alderton.jpg Sir Clive Alderton

Deputy Private Secretaries to the Sovereign since 1972

Deputy Private SecretaryFromTo
Sir Philip Moore, KCVO , CB , CMG 19721977
Sir William Heseltine, KCVO , CB 19771986
Sir Robert Fellowes, KCVO , CB 19861990
Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO , CMG 19901996
Sir Robin Janvrin, KCVO , CB 19961999
Mary Francis, CBE , LVO February 1999June 1999
Christopher Geidt, CVO , OBE 20052007
Edward Young, CVO 20072017
John Sorabji2022Present
David Hogan-Hern2022Present
Matthew Magee2022Present

Assistant Private Secretaries to the Sovereign since 1878

Assistant Private SecretaryFromTo
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Fleetwood Edwards, KCB 18781895
Colonel Sir Arthur Bigge, KCB 18801895
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frederick Ponsonby, KCB , KCVO 18951914
Colonel Sir Arthur Davidson, KCB , KCVO 19011910
Colonel Sir Clive Wigram, KCVO , CB , CSI 19101931
The Earl of Cromer 19161920
Major Sir Alexander Hardinge, CB , CVO , MC 19201936
Sir Frank Mitchell, KCVO , CBE 19311937
Sir Alan Lascelles, KCVO , CB , CMG 19351943
Sir Godfrey Thomas, Bt , KCVO , CSI 19361936
Major Sir Michael Adeane, KCVO , CB 19361953
Sir Eric Mieville, KCIE KCVO , CSI , CMG 19371945
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edward Ford, GCVO , KCB , ERD , DL 19461967
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Martin Charteris, KCVO , CB , OBE 19521972
Philip Moore, CMG 19661972
William Heseltine, CVO 19721977
Robert Fellowes, LVO 19771985
Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO , CMG 19851990
Robin Janvrin, CVO 19901995
Mary Francis19961999
Tim Hitchens, LVO 19992002
Kay Brock, LVO 19992002
Stuart Shilson, LVO 20012004
Christopher Geidt, OBE 20022005
Edward Young 20042007
Douglas King20072012
Samantha Cohen20102018
Tom Laing-Baker20182022
Matthew Magee20182022

See also


  1. The principal channel of communication between the monarch and the governments in Canada is the Canadian Secretary to the King.

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  1. "Report of the Security Commission - May 2004" (PDF).