Great Officers of the State

The Great Lord Chamberlain

He is responsible for the conduct of royal affairs in the Palace of Westminster. On ceremonial occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament, he wears the gold key of his office. The office is an hereditary one, currently held by the Marquess of Cholmondeley.

After an exhaustive hearing at the time of the Coronation of King Edward VII (1902) it was decided that the hereditary office was jointly vested in the families of the Marquess of Cholmondeley, the Earl of Ancaster and the Earl of Carrington (later Marquess of Lincolnshire). By a Deed of Covenant drawn up between them dated 15th April 1912, it was decided that the office should be held by the Earl of Ancaster (or his heir or deputy) once in every four reigns, and by the Marquess of Lincolnshire (or his heir or deputy) once in every four reigns, and by the Marquess of Cholmondeley (or his heir or deputy) in each alternate reign.

The Earldom of Ancaster became extinct in 1983, and the head of the family is the late earl's daughter, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. The Marquessate of Lincolnshire became extinct in 1928, the representation of the family being shared by the many descendants of the last peer's five sisters.

The office of Lord Great Chamberlain is held for the duration of the reign. The House of Lords Act 1999, which expelled the great majority of hereditary peers, retained the seats of the hereditary offices of Lord Great Chamberlain and Earl Marshal.

The Earl Marshal

He has precedence after the Lord Great Chamberlain and before all peers of his own degree other than royal dukes. He is responsible for coronations, State funerals and the State Opening of Parliament.

The Norman kings of England appointed a Marshal and a Lord High Constable as their chief military officers, and in the 14th century the Marshal became one of the two judges of the Court of Chivalry.

Although most of the early Marshals were related to each other, the office was not originally hereditary. In 1386 the then Marshal, Thomas Mowbray, Earl (and later Duke) of Norfolk was given the title of 'Earl Marshal', and all his successors have since been so styled; but it was not until the succession of the 11th Duke of Norfolk in 1677 that a special remainder appointed him hereditary Earl Marshal, a position his descendant the present Duke of Norfolk holds today.

The House of Lords Act 1999, which expelled the great majority of hereditary peers, retained the seats of the hereditary offices of Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain.

Of the remaining Great Officers of State, The Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council and the Lord Privy Seal have all become government officers. The Lord High Constable and the Lord High Steward are temporary appointments for coronations, and the Lord High Admiral was The Queen from 1964 till 2011 - in 2011 she gave the appointment to the Duke of Edinburgh in recognition of his 90th birthday.

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