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). The Private Secretary is the principal channel of communication between the monarch and the governments in each of the Commonwealth realms. He or she also has responsibility for the official programme and correspondence of the Sovereign. Through these roles the position wields considerable influence.
The office of Private Secretary was first established in 1805. The current Private Secretary is Sir Christopher Geidt who succeeded Sir Robin Janvrin (now Lord Janvrin) in September 2007.
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 the Honourable Sir 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:
- to act as a channel of communication between the Sovereign and his or her governments, and to advise the Sovereign on constitutional, political or governmental questions;
- to organise the official programme of the Sovereign, and to ensure its acceptability to both the Sovereign and the Government; these duties including drafting speeches, maintaining liaison with other Households, the Royal Train, The Queen's Helicopter, No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF, and the armed forces — the latter through the Defence Services Secretary; and
- to deal with the Sovereign's official correspondence (including congratulatory messages), from members of the public, the Press Office, and the Court Circular; and also to deal with the Sovereign's private papers, the Royal Archives, and the monarchy's official website.
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). 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).
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 Queen's 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:
- appointments that are formally made by the Sovereign;
- the scheduling of the meetings of the Privy Council; and
- the transmission of official documents that need to be signed by the Sovereign.
A recent addition to the Private Secretary's Office is the post of Director for Security Liaison, first held by Brigadier Jeffrey Cook, OBE MC, who was in office 2004-2008. The Private Secretary has general oversight of security, 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
|George III||Colonel Herbert Taylor||1805||1811|
|The Prince Regent
(George IV from 1820)
|Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir John McMahon, Bt||1811||1817|
|Lieutenant-General Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, GCB||1817||1822|
|Sir William Knighton, Bt||1822||1830|
|William IV||Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Taylor, GCB GCH||1830||1837|
|The Rt Hon. the Viscount Melbourne (informally, while Prime Minister)||1837||1840|
|HRH The Prince Consort (informally)||1840||1861|
|Colonel the Hon. Sir Charles Phipps||1861||1866|
|General the Hon. Sir Charles Grey||1861||1870|
|Major-General the Rt Hon. Sir Henry Ponsonby, GCB||1870||1895|
|Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir Arthur Bigge, KCB CMG (later Lord Stamfordham)||1895||1901|
|Edward VII||The Rt Hon. the Lord Knollys, GCB GCVO KCMG ISO (later Viscount Knollys)||1901||1910|
|Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon. Lord Stamfordham, GCB GCVO GCIE KCSI KCMG ISO||1910||1931|
|Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir Clive Wigram, GCB GCVO CSI (later Lord Wigram)||1931||1936|
|Edward VIII||Major the Rt Hon. Sir Alexander Hardinge, GCVO KCB MC (later Lord Hardinge of Penshurst)||1936||1936|
|Captain the Rt Hon Sir Alan Lascelles, GCB GCVO CMG MC||1943||1952|
|Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir Michael Adeane, GCB GCVO (later Lord Adeane)||1953||1972|
|Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir Martin Charteris, GCB GCVO OBE (later Lord Charteris of Amisfield)||1972||1977|
|The Rt Hon. Sir Philip Moore, GCB GCVO CMG (later Lord Moore of Wolvercote)||1977||1986|
|The Rt Hon. Sir William Heseltine, GCB GCVO AC||1986||1990|
|The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Fellowes, GCB GCVO (later Lord Fellowes)||1990||1999|
|The Rt Hon. Sir Robin Janvrin, GCB GCVO (later Lord Janvrin)||1999||2007|
|The Rt Hon Sir Christopher Geidt, KCB KCVO OBE||2007|
Deputy Private Secretaries to the Sovereign since 1972
|Deputy Private Secretary||From||To|
|Sir Philip Moore, KCVO CB CMG||1972||1977|
|Sir William Heseltine, KCVO CB||1977||1986|
|Sir Robert Fellowes, KCVO CB||1986||1990|
|Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO CMG||1990||1996|
|Sir Robin Janvrin, KCVO CB||1996||1999|
|Mary Francis, CBE, LVO||February 1999||June 1999|
|Christopher Geidt, CVO, OBE||2005||2007|
|Edward Young, CVO||2007|
Assistant Private Secretaries to the Sovereign since 1878
|Assistant Private Secretary||From||To|
|Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon. Sir Fleetwood Edwards, KCB||1878||1895|
|Colonel Sir Arthur Bigge, KCB||1880||1895|
|Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frederick Ponsonby, KCB KCVO||1895||1914|
|Colonel Sir Arthur Davidson, KCB KCVO||1901||1910|
|Colonel Sir Clive Wigram, KCVO CB CSI||1910||1931|
|The Earl of Cromer||1916||1920|
|Major the Hon. Sir Alexander Hardinge, CB CVO MC||1920||1936|
|Sir Frank Mitchell, KCVO CBE||1931||1937|
|Sir Alan Lascelles, KCVO CB CMG||1935||1943|
|Sir Godfrey Thomas, Bt KCVO CSI||1936||1936|
|Major Sir Michael Adeane, KCVO CB||1936||1953|
|Sir Eric Mieville, KCIE KCVO CSI CMG||1937||1945|
|Sir Edward Ford, GCVO KCB ERD DL||1946||1967|
|Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Martin Charteris, KCVO CB OBE||1952||1972|
|Philip Moore, CMG||1966||1972|
|William Heseltine, CVO||1972||1977|
|Robert Fellowes, LVO||1977||1985|
|Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO CMG||1985||1990|
|Robin Janvrin, CVO||1990||1995|
|Tim Hitchens, LVO||1999||2002|
|Kay Brock, LVO||1999||2002|
|Stuart Shilson, LVO||2001||2004|
|Christopher Geidt, OBE||2002||2005|
- ↑ "Announcement of the retirement of Sir Robin Janvrin" (Press release). Buckingham Palace. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2007-01-01.
- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Chris Cook and Brendan Keith, British Historical Facts 1830-1800, Macmillan 1975, p. 107.