Royal Households of the United Kingdom

The Royal Households of the United Kingdom are the collective departments which support members of the British Royal Family. Many members of the Royal Family who undertake public duties have separate households. They vary considerably in size, from the large Royal Household which supports the Sovereign to the household of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, with fewer than ten members. The lesser households are funded from the Civil List annuities, paid to their respective royal employers for their public duties, and all reimbursed to HM Treasury by the Queen.

In addition to the royal officials and support staff, the Sovereign's own household incorporates representatives of other estates of the Realm, including the Government, the Military, and the Church. Government whips, defence chiefs, several clerics, scientists, musicians, poets, and artists hold honorary positions within the Royal Household. In this way, the Royal Household may be seen as having a symbolic, as well as a practical, function: exemplifying the Monarchy's close relationship with other parts of the Constitution and of national life.

Historical overview

The sovereign's domestics were his officers of state, and the leading dignitaries of the palace were the principal administrators of the kingdom. The royal household itself had, in its turn, grown out of an earlier and more primitive "thegnhood", and among the most eminent and powerful of the king's thegns were his "dishthegn," his "bowerthegn," and his horsethegn or staller. In Normandy at the time of the Conquest a similar arrangement, imitated from the French court, had long been established, and the Norman dukes, like their overlords the kings of France, had their seneschal or steward, their chamberlain and their constable. After the Norman Conquest, the ducal household of Normandy was reproduced in the royal household of England; and since, in obedience to the spirit of feudalism, the great offices of the first had been made hereditary, the great offices of the second were made hereditary also, and were thenceforth held by the grantees and their descendants as holder of tenure in grand serjeanty of the crown.[1]

The consequence was that they passed out of immediate relation to the practical conduct of affairs either in both state and court or in the one or the other of them. The steward and Lord High Chamberlain of England were superseded in their political functions by the Justiciar and Treasurer of England, and in their domestic functions by the Lord Steward and Lord Chamberlain of the household. The marshal of England took the place of the constable of England in the royal palace, and was associated with him in the command of the royal armies.[1]

The marshalship and the constableship became hereditary, and, although the Lord High Constable and Earl Marshal of England retained their military authority until a comparatively late period, the duties they had performed about the palace had been long before transferred to the master of the horse. In these circumstances the holders of the original great offices of state and the household ceased to attend the court except on occasions of extraordinary ceremony, and their representatives either by inheritance or by special appointment have ever since continued to appear at coronations and some other public solemnities, such as the State Opening of Parliament or trials by the House of Lords.[1]

The earliest record relating to the English royal household is of the reign of Henry II and is contained in the Black Book of the Exchequer. It enumerates the various inmates of the king's palace and the daily allowances made to them at the period at which it was compiled. It affords evidence of the antiquity and relative importance of the court offices to which it refers, though it is silent as to the functions and formal subordination of the persons who filled them.[1] In addition to this record, there are more recent but (for the most part) equally meagre, documents bearing on the constitution of the royal household, and extending, with long intervals, from the reign of Edward III to the reign of William and Mary.[2] Among them, however, are what are known as the Black Book of the Household and the Statutes of Eltham, the first compiled in the reign of Edward IV and the second in the reign of Henry VIII from which a good deal of detailed information is available concerning the arrangements of the court in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Statutes of Eltham were meant for the practical guidance of those who were responsible for the good order and the sufficient supply of the sovereign's household at the time they were issued. The great officers of state and the household specifically mentioned are not all of them. We have named those only whose representatives are still dignitaries of the court and functionaries of the palace. If the reader consults Hallam (Middle Ages, i. 181 seq.), Freeman (Norman Conquest, i. 91 seq., and v. 426 seq.) and Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 343, seq.), he will be able himself to fill in the details of the outline we have given above.

But the Black Book of the Household, besides being a sort of treatise on princely magnificence generally, professes to be based on the regulations established for the governance of the court by Edward III, who, it affirms, was "the first setter of certeynties among his domesticall meyne, upon a grounded rule" and whose palace it describes as "the house of very policie and flowre of England"; and it may therefore possibly, and even probably, take us back to a period much more remote than that at which it was actually put together.

Various orders, returns and accounts of the reigns of Elizabeth, James I, Charles I, Charles II, and William and Mary throw considerable light on the organisation of particular sections of the royal household in times nearer to our own. Moreover, there were several parliamentary inquiries into the expenses of the royal household in connection with the settlement or reform of the civil list during the reigns of George III, George IV and William IV. But they add little or nothing to our knowledge of the subject in what was then its historical as distinguished from its contemporary aspects. So much, indeed, is this the case that, on the accession of Queen Victoria, Chamberlayne's Present State of England, which contains a catalogue of the officials at the court of Queen Anne, was described by Lord Melbourne the prime minister as the "only authority" which the advisers of the crown could find for their assistance in determining the appropriate constitution and dimensions of the domestic establishment of a queen regnant.

In its main outlines the existing organisation of the royal household is essentially the same as it was under the Tudors or the Plantagenets. It is divided into three principal departments, at the head of which are the lord steward, the lord chamberlain and the master of the horse, and the respective provinces of which may be generally described as "below stairs," "above stairs" and "out of doors." The duties of these officials, and the various officers under their charge are dealt with in the articles under those headings. When the reigning sovereign is a queen, the royal household is in some other respects rather differently arranged from that of a king and a queen consort.

When there is a king and a queen consort there is a separate establishment "above stairs" and "out of doors" for the queen consort. She has a Lord Chamberlain's department of her own, and all the ladies of the court from the Mistress of the Robes to the Maids of Honour are in her service. At the commencement of the reign of Queen Victoria the two establishments were combined, and on the whole considerably reduced. On the accession of Edward VII the civil list was again reconstituted; and while the household of the king and his consort became larger than during the previous reign, there was a tendency towards increased efficiency by abolishing certain offices which were either redundant or unnecessary.

The Royal Household today

The three Great Officers of the Household

The Great Officers of the Household are the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse. Nowadays only the first of these fulfils an executive function; but the other two continue to have a ceremonial role, and are to be seen particularly on State occasions.

The Lord Chamberlain

As presently arranged, the Royal Household is coordinated by the part-time Lord Chamberlain (The Earl Peel GCVO PC DL since 12 October 2006), and organised into a number of functionally separate units.

Heads of departments

The Private Secretary to the Sovereign (Sir Christopher Geidt KCB KCVO OBE since 8 September 2007), under whom works the Private Secretary's Office, but who also has control of the Press Office, the Queen's Archives, and the Defence Services Secretary's Office, serves as principal advisor to the Sovereign and the principal channel of communication between the Sovereign and his or her Governments. Besides these, he also manages the Sovereign's official programme and correspondence

The Keeper of the Privy Purse has responsibility for the Sovereign's personal finances and those to do with semi-private concerns, along with, as Treasurer to the Queen oversight of the civil list. The two positions are held together and, since 2002, they have both been held by Sir Alan Reid GCVO.

The Master of the Household, since 2013, has been Vice Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt CB OBE who has overall responsibility for the domestic workings of the Household.

The Lord Chamberlain's Office, led by its Comptroller (since 2006 Sir Andrew Ford KCVO), is responsible for official royal occasions.

The Royal Collection is overseen by its Director (since May 2010, Jonathan Marsden LVO).

Each of these Heads of Department reports to the Lord Chamberlain, and is a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Committee.

Other units

The Royal Almonry, Ecclesiastical Household, and Medical Household are functionally separate but for accounting purposes are the responsibility of the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen.

The Crown Equerry has day-to-day operation of the Royal Mews, and is part of the Lord Chamberlain's Office. The other Equerries have a very different role: attending and assisting the Queen in her official duties from day to day. (Historically, they too were part of the Mews, but today they are entirely separate.)

The Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood is also under the Lord Chamberlain's Office, as is the office of the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps.

The College of Arms has been a branch of the Royal Household since its incorporation in 1484 by King Richard III. The College is a corporation of thirteen royal heralds, overseen by the Earl Marshal, a hereditary office held by the Duke of Norfolk. The College is self-supporting and receives no funds from the Crown. The College holds jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to heraldry, genealogy and pedigrees in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and in some Commonwealth realms.[3] The officers of the College accompany the Queen on two State occasions per year: the State Opening of Parliament and the Garter Service. They also assist in the organisation of royal ceremonial occasions such as coronations and state funerals.

Certain independent and honorific posts include Master of the Queen's Music, Piper to the Sovereign, Poet Laureate, and Astronomer Royal. The Queen's Bargemaster, the Keeper of the Jewel House, the Serjeants-at-Arms and the Warden and Marker of the Swans, perform less celebrated functions.

The offices of Treasurer of the Household, Comptroller of the Household and Vice-Chamberlain of the Household are held by senior government whips in the House of Commons. In the House of Lords, the Government Chief Whip is usually appointed Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and the Deputy Chief Whip as Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, with junior whips appointed as Lords-in-Waiting and Baronesses-in-Waiting. Occasionally these officers are called upon to undertake Household duties, especially the Vice-Chamberlain, who is responsible for writing regular parliamentary reports for the Queen.

The ladies-in-waiting, who are in personal attendance on the Queen on a daily basis, are formally styled either Ladies of the Bedchamber or Women of the Bedchamber. They are notionally overseen by the Mistress of the Robes – historically the senior female member of the Royal Household, but today a ceremonial position.

The Household includes a number of honorary military appointments: the Aides-de-Camp to the Queen (who are usually very high-ranking officers of the three armed services), the two Gold Sticks and the Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom. In addition, the two corps of royal bodyguards (the Gentlemen at Arms and the Yeomen of the Guard) are part of the Household.

Gentlemen Ushers are unpaid members of the Royal Household, often retired military officers, who provide occasional assistance as marshals at royal events. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is an important official in the Houses of Parliament; but technically he too is a member of the Royal Household (and acts as the Queen's messenger at the State Opening).

The royal residences (see list of British Royal Residences) in current use are cared for and maintained by the Royal Household Property Section directly from the grant-in-aid provided by Parliament, whereas Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House are privately owned and maintained. The unoccupied royal residences (including the Tower of London) are run by the Historic Royal Palaces Agency, which is self-funding.

Royal Household in Scotland

The Royal Household in Scotland includes offices of personal, honorary and state appointments.

The Great Officers of the Royal Household are:[4]

  1. Lord Steward
  2. Lord Chamberlain
  3. Master of the Household
  4. Master of the Horse
  5. Comptroller, joined with the Lord High Treasurer
  6. King's Usher
  7. Lord Lyon King of Arms

The Royal Household in Scotland also includes a number of other hereditary and non-hereditary offices:

The Keeper of Dumbarton Castle and the Governor of Edinburgh Castle are non-hereditary offices.

Household of Queen Elizabeth II

Household of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The Household of the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh provides the administrative support to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It is based at Buckingham Palace, and is headed by his Private Secretary — the Treasurer (part-time 1970–1976) was formerly the senior officer, but this post is now vacant. There are also an Equerry (a major or equivalent from any of the three armed services), and two temporary equerries (usually a Captain from the Royal Marines, and a Captain from the Grenadier Guards).

Treasurers to the Duke of Edinburgh

Private Secretaries to the Duke of Edinburgh

Household of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Household of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is the organised office and support system for Charles, Prince of Wales, and his consort the Duchess of Cornwall. At the time of their 2009 Annual Review[7] the Office of the Prince of Wales had the full-time equivalent of 121 staff.[8] The head of the Household is the Principal Private Secretary, William Nye. Senior officials include the Private Secretary, Mark Leishman; the Master of the Household, Earl of Rosslyn; the Treasurer, Leslie Ferrar; Communications Secretary, Patrick Harverson and Press Secretary, Patrick Harrison; the Director of The Prince's Charities, Sir Tom Shebbeare KCVO; and the Equerry, Major Will Mackinlay.

In 2000, the Prince revived a tradition of having an official harpist, a role last seen under Queen Victoria. The first holder of the office was Catrin Finch, followed in 2004 by Jemima Phillips, and in 2007 by Claire Jones.

The Prince of Wales' Office is principally based at Clarence House, London, but also occupies rooms in the rest of St James's Palace. There are also offices for official staff at Highgrove House and Birkhall House, The Prince of Wales's private residences.

Most of the expenses incurred in operating the office comes from The Prince of Wales's private appanage, the Duchy of Cornwall. The only significant costs met by grant-in-aid provided by the Government is for the upkeep of Clarence House, and for official travel by air and rail, and for communications support.

Details of The Prince's Senior Staff are available in his Office's Annual Reports.[9] The following titles all have "to/of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall" suffixed when written in full. Prior to the Prince's 2005 marriage, they were instead suffixed "to/of The Prince of Wales".

Principal Private Secretaries

Private Secretaries

Masters of the Household

Deputy Masters of the Household


Deputy Private Secretaries

Assistant Private Secretaries


Assistant Masters of the Household

Assistant Press Secretary


Household of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry

A part-time Private Secretary to Prince William and Prince Harry (James Lowther-Pinkerton MVO MBE Irish Guards (Rtd.)) was appointed in the Household of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in May 2005. In January 2009, a separate Household of Prince William and Prince Harry was established (formally "The Household of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales"), headed by Lowther-Pinkerton. Following Prince William's marriage, the Household also additionally serves his wife. The Household's offices are in St James's Palace; it shares funding and much of its staff with Clarence House. The Household is now formally "The Household of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales" and, as of 2011, had the equivalent of 7.8 full-time staff.[11]

Private Secretary to Duke of Cambridge: Miguel Head; Private Secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge: Rebecca Deacon, Private Secretary to Prince Harry :Edward Lane Fox.[13]

It was announced in June 2011 that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would temporarily move their official London residence to an apartment in Kensington Palace, a move that was completed in August of that year. The Duke and Duchess' primary residence continued to be the island of Anglesey in Wales, where the Duke served as a RAF search and rescue pilot. The couple previously shared an apartment at Clarence House with Prince Harry, which Prince Harry will retain.[15] On 6 November 2011, it was announced that the Duke, Duchess and Prince Harry, along with the Queen and the Prince of Wales, had approved a plan that would have the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge permanently move to a larger apartment in Kensington Palace in 2013, after it is renovated. This apartment was previously occupied by the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon after their marriage in 1960. The apartment was retained by Princess Margaret after her divorce in 1978 and was her London residence until her death in 2002. Prince Harry will then move his official residence from Clarence House to the apartment vacated by the Duke and Duchess. In addition, once the move is complete, it is expected that their official household will also move to Kensington Palace from St James's Palace, although it is not known if the household will be split or remain shared.[16] Until the moves were complete, their Household remained based at St James's Palace and continued to be shared.[15]

In 2013 it was announced that Prince Harry had appointed former Household Cavalry captain Edward Lane Fox as his Private Secretary effective from July 2013.[17] It was later announced in early May 2013 that the royal couple's private secretary, James Lowther-Pinkerton, intends to leave his post as Private Secretary for the private sector, and his position will be split with each member of the household receiving a Private Secretary.

In September 2013 Miguel Head became Private Secretary to the Duke of Cambridge and Rebecca Deacon assumeed the role of Private Secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge.[13]

Ed Perkins left his post as Communication Secretary at the household in 2014. On 21 November 2014, the palace announced his replacement as Jason Knauf.[14]

Household of the Duke of York

The Household of The Duke of York provides the administrative support for the Duke of York in his royal duties, along with his immediate family. From 1971 the Duke of York, then Prince Andrew (aged 11 years), had the assistance of one of The Queen's Equerries when required. The first was Sqn Ldr Peter Beer, who served until he was replaced by Maj George Broke Royal Artillery in 1974, and Lt Cdr Robert Guy RN in 1977.

It was only with the appointment in 1980 of Sqn Ldr Adam Wise, that the Prince could be said to have acquired the assistance of his own staff – although he was still shared with the Queen and Prince Edward. In 1983, Wise was promoted to Wing Commander and appointed Private Secretary to Princes Andrew and Edward, severing his link with The Royal Household. He left the Duke of York's service in 1987, when Lt Col Sean O'Dwyer was appointed – also jointly with Prince Edward.

The Duke of York is now assisted by a Private Secretary, Deputy Private Secretary, Assistant Private Secretary and Equerry. There are also an Office Assistant, and a handful of personal staff including cook and butler. The Duke of York's Office is currently based at Buckingham Palace, and the Duke has a residence at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, into which he moved during 2004, from Sunninghill Park, Ascot.

Private Secretaries to the Duke of York

Assistant Private Secretaries to the Duke of York

Household of the Earl and Countess of Wessex

The Household of the Earl and Countess of Wessex provides the administrative support to the Earl of Wessex, youngest son of the Queen, and to his wife, the Countess of Wessex. While their private residence is Bagshot Park, their office, headed by the private secretary, is based at Buckingham Palace.

Private Secretaries to the Earl of Wessex

Household of the Princess Royal

The Household of the Princess Royal provides the administrative support to Anne, Princess Royal, second child and only daughter of The Queen. While the Princess Royal's private residence is Gatcombe Park; her official London residence and office, headed by the Private Secretary, is based at St James's Palace.

Private Secretaries to the Princess Royal

Lesser households

Household of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester

Household of the Duke and Duchess of Kent

Household of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent

Household of Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy

Former households

Household of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra

King Edward VII (1841-1910) was created Prince of Wales shortly after his birth, and his household was known as the Household of the Prince of Wales from 1841. Upon his marriage in 1863, he and his wife shared the Household of the Prince and Princess of Wales until their accession as King and Queen in January 1901, but several appointments were to either the Prince or the Princess (e.g.. they each had separate Lords Chamberlain and private Secretaries). When he became King, his household was known as the Household of the Sovereign 1901-1910.

Queen Alexandra (1844-1925) received a separate household upon her husband´s accession, the Household of the Queen. From 1910, it was known as the Household of Queen Alexandra.

Main article Household of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra

Household of King George V and Queen Mary

King George V (1865-1936) was created Duke of York in 1892, and received a separate household together with his brother. Courtiers appointed to assist the Prince George of Wales until that year had been part of his parents´ household. After his marriage to Princess Mary of Teck in 1893 they shared the Household of the Duke and Duchess of York.

On the accession of his father, King Edward VII in January 1901, George automatically inherited the dukedom of Cornwall and was known as the Duke of Cornwall and York until the following November, when he was appointed Prince of Wales. From 1901 until his accession in 1910 he and his wife shared the Household of the Prince and Princess of Wales, but several appointments were to either the Prince or the Princess.

When he became King, his household was known as the Household of the Sovereign 1910-1936.

Queen Mary (1867-1953) received a separate household upon her husband´s accession, the Household of the Queen. From 1936, it was known as the Household of Queen Mary.

Main article Household of King George V and Queen Mary

Household of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

This is an incomplete list of those who served in Queen Elizabeth's Household



Extra Equerries
Temporary Equerries


Extra Ladies-in-Waiting

Ladies of the Bedchamber

Lord Chamberlain

Mistress of the Robes

Pages of Honour

Press secretary

Private secretaries

Assistant private secretaries


Women of the Bedchamber

Extra Women of the Bedchamber
Temporary Women of the Bedchamber






Honorific positions

See also

Notes and sources

  1. 1 2 3 4  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Household, Royal". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Access on 29 March 2012.
    • Society of Antiquaries of London (1790): A collection of ordinances and regulations for the government of the royal household, made in divers reigns : from King Edward III to King William and Queen Mary, also receipts in ancient cookery, accessed 11 October 2013. This contains a collection of primary sources, including the Liber Nigra of Edward IV and the Statutes of Eltham.
  2. "How the College of Arms works". College of Arms. Retrieved 2011-03-20.
  3. Chamberlayne, Edward and John Chamberlayne. Chapter V. Page 400-401. Magnae Britanniae notitia, or, The present state of Great-Britain: with divers remarks upon the ancient state thereof. Edition 25. Godwin, 1718.
  4. (see Appendix to the Court Circular of 2 November 2010)
  5. The London Gazette, 21 December 2010
  6. Office of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Annual Review 2009
  7. Not including the young Princes' staff. Including their staff, there are 125.3, as listed at: The Prince of Wales – Frequently Asked Questions
  8. The Prince of Wales – Document Downloads
  9. 1 2 William Nye appointed as Principal Private Secretary to Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall The Prince of Wales, 30 June 2011
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 PoW Annual Review 2011
  11. 1 2 3 The Prince of Wales – A new household...
  12. 1 2 3 Blow for William and Kate as their most senior courtier Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton announces his departure, Telegraph online
  13. 1 2 An American at the Palace: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hire RBS spin doctor Jason Knauf, Telegraph Online, ref name="CS"/>
  14. 1 2 BBC News – Royal wedding dress to go on show...
  15. BBC News – William and Kate opt for Kensington Palace home
  16. Prince Harry appoints a right-hand man, Telegraph Online
  17. "Princess Beatrice Birthday Reply". 6 October 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  18. Supplement to the London Gazette (1952) accessed 20 July 2011
  19. "Society of Apothecaries' Awards", British Medical Journal (July 31, 1954), p. 298 accessed 20 July 2011
  20. Barrier Miner, "Palace Duties"(Broken Hill, New South Wales, 2 August 1954, p.9 accessed 20 July 2012

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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