A chamberlain (Medieval Latin: cambellanus or cambrerius, with charge of treasury camerarius) is a senior royal official in charge of managing a royal household. Historically, the chamberlain superintends the arrangement of domestic affairs and was often also charged with receiving and paying out money kept in the royal chamber. The position was usually honoured upon a high-ranking member of the nobility (nobleman) or the clergy, often a royal favourite. Roman emperors appointed this officer under the title of cubicularius. The papal chamberlain of the Pope enjoys very extensive powers, having the revenues of the papal household under his charge. As a sign of their dignity, they bore a key, which in the seventeenth century was often silvered, and actually fitted the door-locks of chamber rooms. Since the eighteenth century, it has turned into a merely symbolic, albeit splendid, rank-insignia of gilded bronze. In many countries there are ceremonial posts associated with the household of the sovereign.
Historically, many institutions and governments – monasteries, cathedrals and cities – also had the post of chamberlain, who usually had charge of finances. The Finance Director of the City of London is still called the Chamberlain, while New York City had such a chamberlain, who managed city accounts, until the early 20th century.
From the Old French chamberlain, chamberlenc, Modern French chambellan, from Old High German Chamarling, Chamarlinc, whence also the Medieval Latin cambellanus, camerlingus, camerlengus; Italian camerlingo; Spanish camerlengo, compounded of Old High German Chamara, Kamara [Latin camera, “chamber”], and the German suffix -ling.
Some of the principal posts known by this name:
Around the year of 2012, The Grand Chamberlain of The Council, Alauddin bin Abu Bakar, on emergency broadcast had announced the divorce between the Sultan and his third wife.
June 7, 2015. The Grand Chamberlain of Brunei announced the newborn prince of Deputy Sultan, Crown Prince of Brunei.
Ober-Kammerherr or Kammerherr (Russian: Обер-камергер or Камергер}. Historically, Postelnichiy (Постельничий) was the ceremonial post at the court of a Grand Duke. Later, in 1772, at the court of the Tsar the German term Kammerherr was introduced. The Ober-Kammerherr was responsible for the audiences granted to members of the Royal Family. Since the beginning of the 18th century, the Ober-Kammerherr was the most senior appointed official of the Russian Imperial Court associated with the household of the sovereign. The most notable figures were:
In Sweden there are eight serving chamberlains (Swedish: kammarherrar) and four serving cabinet chamberlains (kabinettskammarherrar) at the royal court. The chamberlains are not employed by the court but serve during ceremonial occasions such as state visits, audiences, and official dinners.
In Thailand the head of the Bureau of the Royal Household is titled the Lord Chamberlain (เลขาธิการพระราชวัง). He has several Grand Chamberlains as his deputy, usually in charge of a specific portfolio.