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Lord Great Chamberlain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lord Great Chamberlain of England
The 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley[a]

since 13 March 1990
Joint hereditary officeholders
StyleThe Most Honourable[b]
TypeGreat Officer of State
AppointerThe Monarch
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's Pleasure
Formationc. 1126
First holderRobert Malet
Superseded byLord High Treasurer (in monetary affairs)
  1. ^ The 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley exercises the office for ceremonial purposes and sits in the House of Lords.
  2. ^ The current holder is a Marquess.

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).

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 stave as the insignia of his office.


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
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 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 younger sister later married the first Marquess of Cholmondeley. 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.

Twentieth century

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. It is expected that on the next Carrington turn (at the next succession), the heirs will name to act as Lord Great Chamberlain the current Baron Carrington, who being descended from the Earl's younger brother will have no share of the office.[9][10]

Lord Great Chamberlains, 1130–1779

Portrait Name Term of office Monarch
No image.svg
Robert Malet 1130 1133 Henry I
No image.svg
Aubrey de Vere II 1133 1141
No image.svg
Aubrey de Vere
1st Earl of Oxford
1141 1194
Henry II
Richard I
No image.svg
Aubrey de Vere
2nd Earl of Oxford
1194 1214
No image.svg
Robert de Vere
3rd Earl of Oxford
1214 1221
Henry III
Coat of Arms of England (-1340).svg

No image.svg
Hugh de Vere
4th Earl of Oxford
1221 1263
No image.svg
Robert de Vere
5th Earl of Oxford
1263 1265
No image.svg
unclear, perhaps vacant 1265 1267
No image.svg
unclear, perhaps again
Robert de Vere
5th Earl of Oxford
1267 1296
Edward I
No image.svg
Robert de Vere
6th Earl of Oxford
1296 1331
Edward II
Edward III
Coat of Arms of Edward III of England (1327-1377).svg

No image.svg
John de Vere
7th Earl of Oxford
1331 1360
No image.svg
Thomas de Vere
8th Earl of Oxford
1360 1371
Coat of Arms of Sir Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford, KG.png
Robert de Vere
Duke of Ireland

1371 1388
Richard II
Coat of Arms of Richard II of England (1377-1399).svg

Arms of John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter.svg
John Holland
1st Duke of Exeter
1398 1399
No image.svg
Aubrey de Vere
10th Earl of Oxford
1399 1400 Henry IV
Coat of arms of Sir Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, KG.png
Richard de Vere
11th Earl of Oxford
1400 1417
Henry V
No image.svg
John de Vere
12th Earl of Oxford
1417 1462
Henry VI
Edward IV
Coat of arms of Sir John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.png
John de Vere
13th Earl of Oxford

1462 1464
Richard Neville.jpg
Richard Neville
16th Earl of Warwick

1464[11] 1471
Henry VI
No image.svg
unclear 1471 1475 Edward IV
Coat of Arms of Edward IV of England (1461-1483).svg

Coat of arms of Sir Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, KG.png
Henry Percy
4th Earl of Northumberland
1475 1485
Edward V
Richard III
Coat of arms of Sir John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.png
John de Vere
13th Earl of Oxford

1485[12] 1513 Henry VII
Henry VIII
Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg

No image.svg
John de Vere
14th Earl of Oxford
1513 1526
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford cropped.jpg
John de Vere
15th Earl of Oxford

1526 1540
Thomas Cromwell
1st Earl of Essex

1540 1540
Coat of arms of Sir Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, KG.png
Robert Radcliffe
1st Earl of Sussex

1540[13] 1542
Edward Seymour.jpg
Edward Seymour
1st Duke of Somerset

1543[14] 1547
John Dudley (Knole, Kent).jpg
John Dudley
1st Duke of Northumberland

1547[15] 1549 Edward VI
Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg

The Marquess of Northampton by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
William Parr
1st Marquess of Northampton

1549[16] 1553
No image.svg
John de Vere
16th Earl of Oxford
1553 1562 Mary I
Elizabeth I
Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford
1562 1604
James I
Coat of Arms of England (1603-1649).svg

Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford from NPG.jpg
Henry de Vere
18th Earl of Oxford
1604 1625
Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey, by circle of Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt.jpg
Robert Bertie
1st Earl of Lindsay
1625 1642 Charles I
Coat of Arms of England (1603-1649).svg

Montagu Bertie
2nd Earl of Lindsay

1642 1666
Charles II
No image.svg
Robert Bertie
3rd Earl of Lindsay

1666 1701
James II
Mary II
William III
Robert Bertie
1st Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

1701 1723
George I
No image.svg
Peregrine Bertie
2nd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

1723 1742
George II
Peregrine Bertie 3rd Duke of Ancaster (1714-1778).png
Peregrine Bertie
3rd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

1742 1778
George III
Coat of Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg

Robert Bertie
4th Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven

1778 1779

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 2020) 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, Viscount Malpas
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 AlbemarleLady 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–
The Hon. Tatiana Dent
180 1998–
The Hon. Ines Garton
180 1998–
The Hon. Ysabel Williams
180 1998–
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

Portrait Name Term of office Monarch
No image.svg
Peter Burrell
1st Baron Gwydyr
1780 1820 George III
George IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg

No image.svg
Peter Drummond-Burrell
22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby

1821 1830
George, 2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley.jpg
George Cholmondeley
2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley

1830 1837 William IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg

No image.svg
Peter Drummond-Burrell
22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby

1837 1865 Victoria
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg

No image.svg
Albyric Drummond-Willoughby
23rd Baron Willoughby de Eresby
1865 1870
Gilbert Henry Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, Vanity Fair, 1881-07-30.jpg
Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
1st Earl of Ancaster

1871 1901
George Henry Hugh Cholmondeley, 4th Marquess.jpg
George Cholmondeley
4th Marquess of Cholmondeley

1901 1910 Edward VII
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg

Charles Wynn-Carington
1st Marquess of Lincolnshire

1910 1928 George V
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg

Earl of Dartmouth COA.svg
William Legge
7th Earl of Dartmouth

1928 1936
Lord Rocksavage 4037482780 cc54c1b81e o (cropped).jpg
George Cholmondeley
5th Marquess of Cholmondeley

1936 Edward VIII
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg

Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 2nd Earl of Ancaster.png
Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
2nd Earl of Ancaster

1936 1951 George VI
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg

James Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 3rd Earl of Ancaster - The illustrated London news. v. 138 pt.1 scan page 8 (cropped).png
James Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby
3rd Earl of Ancaster

1951 1952
Lord Rocksavage 4037482780 cc54c1b81e o (cropped).jpg
George Cholmondeley
5th Marquess of Cholmondeley

1952 1966 Elizabeth II
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg

Hugh Cholmondeley
6th Marquess of Cholmondeley

1966 1990
7th Marquis of Colmondeley 2.jpg
David Cholmondeley
7th Marquess of Cholmondeley

1990 Incumbent


  1. ^ "No. 52335". The London Gazette. 14 November 1990. p. 17651. THE QUEEN has been pleased by Warrant under Her Majesty's Royal Sign Manual, bearing date th November 1990, to approve the selection of David George Philip, Marquess of Cholmondeley to perform and execute the office of Lord Great Chamberlain of England.
  2. ^ Round, J. Horace (June 1902). "The Lord Great Chamberlain". Monthly Review. 7 (21): 42–58. 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. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Office Of Lord Great Chamberlain". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. May 6, 1902.
  5. ^ Thomas Mortimer, ed. (1776). The British Plutarch. p. 115.
  6. ^ Loades, D. (2004) Intrigue and Treason: the Tudor Court, 1547–1558 Harlow: Pearson, p.309
  7. ^ "Office Of Lord Great Chamberlain". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. May 6, 1902.
  8. ^ Great Officers of State: The Lord Great Chamberlain and The Earl Marshal Archived 6 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. The Royal Family. Debrett's Limited. Accessed 17 September 2013.
  9. ^ "Position of the Lord Great Chamberlain following the demise of the monarch (Freedom of Information request)" (PDF).
  10. ^ HL Deb, 15 March 2019 vol 796 c1213
  11. ^ 'Rymer's Foedera with Syllabus: January–June 1464', in Rymer's Foedera Volume 11, ed. Thomas Rymer (London, 1739-1745), pp. 512-531. British History Online [accessed 3 September 2020].
  12. ^ 'Rymer's Foedera with Syllabus: 1487', in Rymer's Foedera Volume 12, ed. Thomas Rymer (London, 1739-1745), pp. 320-331. British History Online [accessed 5 September 2020].
  13. ^ 'Henry VIII: August 1540, 1-10', in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 481-488. British History Online [accessed 20 August 2020].
  14. ^ 'Henry VIII: January 1543, 6-10', in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 18 Part 1, January–July 1543, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1901), pp. 7-21. British History Online [accessed 20 August 2020].
  15. ^ 'Officers of State during the period covered', in The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, 1550-1563, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1848), pp. xiv-xix. British History Online [accessed 5 September 2020].
  16. ^ 'Officers of State during the period covered', in The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, 1550-1563, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1848), pp. xiv-xix. British History Online [accessed 5 September 2020].

External links

This page was last edited on 25 May 2022, at 14:53
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