The Royal Households of the United Kingdom are the collective departments that 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 that supports the sovereign to the household of the Prince and Princess of Wales, with fewer members.
|Royal Households of the United Kingdom|
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.
The royal household has roots in the comitatus that provided military support to early Anglo-Saxon kings. In addition to military personnel and the royal family, the household included domestic servants, priests, clerks, and royal favourites. By the 10th century, a class of nobles called the king's thegns led the household. While all thegns were nobles, king's thegns had higher status as royal household members. Great magnates (such as earls, bishops, and abbots) would have also been regularly present.
Even though it traveled constantly with the king as an itinerant court, the royal household was the center of the Anglo-Saxon government. Initially, household officers performed domestic tasks (such as overseeing food, clothing, royal stables, or travel). As the king's administrative and judicial responsibilities expanded, public duties were delegated to household officers, making them state officers as well. Typically, each office had two or three holders who most likely served on a rotating basis:
The Merovingian and Carolingian royal households had similar offices, and there is evidence that it influenced its English counterpart. However, there was no English equivalent to the powerful office of major domus (Latin for "mayor of the palace"), and English kings maintained ultimate authority over their households.
|Henry III||1236–37||£4,000||£4,546,800 today|
|Edward I||N/A||£7,000–£14,000 per year||£6,585,021–£13,170,041 today|
|Edward II||1324–25||£4,500||£3,372,626 today|
|Edward III||N/A||£10,000–£12,000 per year||£9,674,043–£11,608,851 today|
|Edward III||after 1340||£20,000 per year||£15,500,455 today|
According to the Liber Niger Domus Regis Angliae (the Black Book of the household of Edward IV) written between 1467 and 1477, the household was divided into the Domus Providencie (the Hall) and the Domus Regie Magnificencie (the Chamber). The Domus Providencie was led by the lord steward. The Domus Regie Magnificencie was led by the lord chamberlain.
|Lord Steward||Lord Chamberlain|
|Board of Green Cloth||Royal apartments|
(kitchens, bakehouse, buttery, laundry, woodyard, etc)
|Great hall (where most of the household officers ate)|
Sometime in the 15th century, the chamber divided into two sub-departments: the great chamber and the privy chamber. The privy chamber was overseen by grooms of the chamber, led by the groom of the stool. The groom of the stool was one of the most powerful officials in the household until the office was abolished in 1837. He or she (when the monarch was female) acted as a royal gatekeeper, allowing or denying other household officials access to the monarch.
Over time, the offices of Lord High Steward and Lord Great Chamberlain lost both their political functions, which were taken over by the Chief Justiciar and Lord High Treasurer, and their domestic functions, which were taken over by the lord steward and lord chamberlain. The marshalship and the constableship became hereditary, and, although the Lord High Constable and Earl Marshal retained their military authority until a comparatively late period, their original duties were 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 court except on occasions of extraordinary ceremony, and their representatives either by inheritance or by special appointment continued to appear at coronations and some other public solemnities, such as the State Opening of Parliament or trials by the House of Lords.
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.
Under a king and a queen consort, a separate establishment "above stairs" and "out of doors" works 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 considerably reduced. On the accession of Edward VII, the civil list was again reconstituted; while the household of the king and his consort became larger than during the previous reign, redundant or unnecessary offices were merged or abolished.
Appointing a new monarch's household can take some time; in 1952 the full list of appointments to the new Queen's household was not published until almost six months after her accession to the throne.
In 2022, walking in the state procession for the state funeral of Elizabeth II, the new King was followed by his Private Secretary, Principal Private Secretary, Master of the Household and two Equerries; however, since the King's new household had yet to be appointed they were gazetted, not as 'His Majesty's Household', but as the 'Household of the former Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall'.
On 13 September, five days after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, 100 staff who had been working for King Charles III while he was Prince of Wales were notified of potential redundancies. This reflects the uncertain situation of members of the Royal Households at the start of each new reign: in the days following the death of King James I in 1625, the Countess of Bedford remarked 'What the King's resolution is yet for his own and his father's servants, he hath not declared (farther than the white staves, which are to remain as they were); but for the green cloth and other inferior officers both of the household and chamber, it is thought that he will employ his own and dismiss his father's, because he hath caused the latter all to be removed to Denmark House to attend the body, and lodged the former about himself at Whitehall'.
As consort of the British sovereign, Queen Camilla will receive a household of her own. Traditionally, queens consort have appointed their own Lord Chamberlain and various ladies-in-waiting as part of their household. This tradition was scrapped in accordance with the King's view of having a slimmed-down monarchy, and instead of ladies-in-waiting, Queen Camilla will be served by "Queen's companions", a group of six ladies that will occupy the new occasional and informal position and will not be involved in tasks such as replying to letters or developing schedules. The Queen's companions are the Marchioness of Lansdowne, Jane von Westenholz, Lady Brooke, Sarah Troughton, Lady Sarah Keswick and Baroness Chisholm. Major Ollie Plunket will serve as the Queen's equerry. Queen Elizabeth II's ladies-in-waiting will be given new roles as "ladies of the household".
The Household is for the time being configured as follows (according to the arrangements inherited from Elizabeth II):
The Great Officers of the Household are, in order of seniority, the Lord Steward, the Lord Chamberlain and the Master of the Horse. Only the Lord Chamberlain fulfils an executive function; while the other two continue to have a ceremonial role, and are to be seen particularly on State occasions.
The Private Secretary to the Sovereign (Rt Hon. Sir Clive Alderton since 2022), manages the Private Secretary's Office, and controls the Press Office, the Royal Archives, and the Defence Services Secretary's Office, serves as principal advisor to the Sovereign and serves as 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 King oversight of the civil list. The two positions are held together and, since 2018, they have both been held by Sir Michael Stevens .
The Royal Almonry, Ecclesiastical Household, and Medical Household are functionally separate. For accounting purposes they are the responsibility of the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the King.
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 different role: attending and assisting the King in his official duties from day to day. (Historically, they too were part of the mews, but today they are entirely separate.)
The College of Arms has been a branch of the Royal Household since its incorporation in 1484 by King Richard III it was directly appointed by the Sovereign on the recommendation of Earl Marshal. 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.
Certain independent and honorific posts include Master of the King's Music, Piper to the Sovereign, Poet Laureate, and Astronomer Royal. The King'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 King.
If the monarch is female she has ladies-in-waiting (formally styled either ladies of the bedchamber or women of the bedchamber), some of whom are in personal attendance on a daily basis. They are overseen by the Mistress of the Robes, who traditionally was head of the female household. If the monarch is male these roles are instead attached to the Household of the Queen consort.
The Household includes a number of honorary military appointments: the aides-de-camp to the King (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 Lady Usher of the Black Rod is an important official in the Houses of Parliament; but technically she too is a member of the Royal Household (and acts as the King'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.
The Royal Household in Scotland includes offices of personal, honorary and state appointments. Many appointments are vacant having fallen into abeyance; been abolished or returned to The Crown; merged with other positions both before and after the Union of the Crown with England; or due to lack of a clear office holder.
The Great Officers of the Royal Household (not to be confused with the Great Officers of State of Scotland which are political and judicial appointments, or the Great Officers of the Crown of Scotland though some officers are shared) are:
Ecclesiastical officers of the Ecclesiastical Household of Scotland:
Officers of Administration and Legal Officers:
Governors, Captains and Keepers of Palaces and Castles:
Heraldic Officers and Keepers of the Regalia:
Officers of the Order of the Thistle:
The Household Division, Sovereign's Body Guard, King's Guard, and ceremonial military posts and bodies:
Other hereditary and non-hereditary offices and Court appointments:
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 Princess of Wales 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 their marriages, the Household also additionally served their wives. The Household's offices are currently based in Kensington Palace, having formerly been based in St James's Palace. The Household, as of 2011, had the equivalent of 7.8 full-time staff.
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 an RAF search and rescue pilot. The couple previously shared an apartment at Clarence House with Prince Harry, which he retained. On 6 November 2011, it was announced that the Duke, Duchess and Prince Harry, along with Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales (later King Charles) 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 then moved his official residence from Clarence House to the apartment vacated by the Cambridges. In addition, once the move was complete, their official household was also moved to Kensington Palace from St James's Palace, although the household remained shared. Until the moves were complete, their Household remained based at St James's Palace and continued to be shared.
It was later announced in early May 2013 that the royal couple's private secretary, James Lowther-Pinkerton, intended to leave his post as private secretary for the private sector, and his position was 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 assumed the role of Private Secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge. 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.
The Household of the Princess Royal provides the administrative support to Anne, Princess Royal, the only sister of the King. While the Princess Royal's private residence is Gatcombe Park; her office, headed by the Private Secretary, is based at Buckingham Palace while her official London residence is located at St James's Palace.
The Household of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh provides administrative support to the Duke of Edinburgh, youngest brother of the King, and to his wife, the Duchess of Edinburgh. While their private residence is Bagshot Park, their office, headed by the private secretary, is based at Buckingham Palace.
In 1980 of Sqn Ldr Adam Wise was appointed to assist the Prince with his work – although he still shared staff with the Queen and Prince Andrew. In 1983, Wise was promoted to wing commander and appointed Private Secretary to Princes Edward and Andrew, severing his link with The Royal Household. He left in 1987, when Lt Col. Sean O'Dwyer was appointed – also jointly with Prince Andrew.
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.
Prince George (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.
This is an incomplete list of those who served Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
The Household of the Duke of Edinburgh provided administrative support to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It was based at Buckingham Palace, and was headed by his Private Secretary—the Treasurer (part-time 1970–1976) was formerly the senior officer. An equerry (a major or equivalent from any of the three armed services), and three temporary equerries (usually a captain from the Royal Marines, a captain from the Grenadier Guards, and a captain from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) were part of the household.
The Household of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall was the organised office and support system for Charles, Prince of Wales, and his consort Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. At the time of their 2009 annual review the Office of the Prince of Wales had the full-time equivalent of 121 staff. The head of the Household was the Principal Private Secretary, Clive Alderton. Senior officials included the Deputy Private Secretary, a senior diplomat seconded from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to advise The Prince on Foreign and Commonwealth affairs, Scott Furssedonn-Wood; Master of the Household, Earl of Rosslyn; the Treasurer, Andrew Wright; Communications Secretary, Julian Payne; and the Equerry, Commander Iain Kearsley RN.
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 was principally based at Clarence House, London, but also occupied rooms in the rest of St James's Palace. There were also offices for official staff at Highgrove House and Birkhall House, the Prince's private residences.
Most of the expenses incurred in operating the office came from the Prince's private appanage, the Duchy of Cornwall. The only significant costs met by grant-in-aid provided by the Government was 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 were available in his office's annual reports. 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".
In March 2019, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would establish a new household for themselves, following the birth of their child in spring as well as the move of their official residence to Frogmore Cottage, with their office set to be located at Buckingham Palace. Following the decision to step back from royal duties, it was announced in February 2020 that they would close their office at Buckingham Palace.
The Household of the Duke of York provided administrative support for the royal duties of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, along with his immediate family. From 1971, Prince Andrew (then 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 was assisted by a private secretary, deputy private secretary, assistant private secretary and equerry. There were an office assistant, and a handful of personal staff including cook and butler. The Duke of York's office was 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.
In December 2022, it was reported that as a non-working member of the royal family he would no longer have an office at Buckingham Palace.
The Prime Minister has appointed Simon Case as the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. Simon is currently the Permanent Secretary in Number 10.