The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the
Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inherit their positions or are appointed to exercise certain largely ceremonial functions or to operate as members of the government. This cite ...
, ranking beneath the
Lord Privy Seal The Lord Privy Seal (or, more formally, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) is the fifth of the Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inherit their posit ...
and above the Lord High Constable. The Lord Great Chamberlain has charge over the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

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. 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 Gross may mean coarse, unrefined, or the total amount. Gross may also refer to: *Disgust *wikt:yuck, Yuck Finance *Gross Cash Registers, a defunct UK company with a high profile in the 1970s *Gross (economics), is the total income before ded ...
. 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''. 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 The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is the most senior officer of the Royal Households of the United Kingdom, Royal Household of the United Kingdom, supervising the departments which support and provide advice to the Monarc ...
, 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 The House of Lords Act 1999 (c. 34) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was given Royal Assent on 11 November 1999. The Act Lords Reform, reformed the House of Lords, one of the chambers of Parliament. For ...
removed the automatic right of
hereditary peer The hereditary peers form part of the peerage in the United Kingdom. As of November 2021, there are 809 hereditary peers: 30 dukes (including six royal dukes), 34 marquesses, 191 earls, 111 viscounts, and 443 barons (disregarding subsidiary ...
s 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 Earl Marshal (alternatively Marschal or Marischal) is a hereditary Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduct ...
) be exempt from such a rule, in order to perform ceremonial functions.

History of the office

The office was originally held by
Robert MaletRobert Malet (c. 1050 – by 1130) was a Normans, Norman-English people, English baron and a close advisor of Henry I of England, Henry I. Early life Malet was the son of William Malet (Norman conquest), William Malet, and inherited his father' ...
, a son of one of the leading companions of
William the Conqueror William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs, monarch of Engl ...

William the Conqueror
. In 1133, however,
King Henry I
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 Earl of Oxford is a dormant title in the Peerage of England, first created for Aubrey de Vere, 1st Earl of Oxford, Aubrey de Vere by the Empress Matilda in 1141. De Vere family, His family was to hold the title for more than five and a half centu ...
. 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
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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 Thomas Cromwell, (; 1485 – 28 July 1540) was an English lawyer and statesman who served as List of English chief ministers, chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, when he was beheaded on orders of the king. Cromwell was one o ...

Thomas Cromwell
, the King's chief adviser, was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain. After Cromwell's
attainder In English criminal law, attainder or attinctura was the metaphorical "stain" or "corruption of blood" which arose from being condemned for a serious capital crime (felony or treason). It entailed losing not only one's life, property and hereditary ...
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. Later,
Queen Mary I Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its fol ...

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 In inheritance Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property, titles A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a profession ...
, but a closer one as a female heir. The
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

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 Image:4thDukeOfAncaster.jpg, 200px, Robert Bertie The 4th Duke of Ancaster. Earl of Lindsey is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1626 for the Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey, 14th Baron Willoughby de Eresby (see Baron Willo ...
. 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 Abeyance (from the Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulga ...
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 Image:21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby coa.png, Arms of Baroness Willoughby de Eresby Priscilla Barbara Elizabeth Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby (16 February 1761 – 29 December 1828), known before 1780 as Lady Priscilla Bertie, ...
. The younger sister later married the first
Marquess of Cholmondeley Marquess of Cholmondeley ( ) is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1815 for George Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley, George Cholmondeley, 4th Earl of Cholmondeley. History The Cholmondeley family desce ...

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 current 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. Otherwise the Sovereign should appoint a deputy until an agreement is reached. 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.Great Officers of State: The Lord Great Chamberlain and The Earl Marshal
. The Royal Family
Debrett's Limited. Accessed 17 September 2013.
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 Image:1stMarquessOfLincolnshire.jpg, 200px, Charles Wynn-Carington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire, The 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire Baron Carrington is a title that has been created three times, once in the Peerage of England, once in the Peerage o ...
, who being descended from the Earl's younger brother will have no share of the office.

Lord Great Chamberlains, 1130–1779

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 () holders of the office are shown in bold face.

Persons exercising the office of Lord Great Chamberlain, 1780–present



External links


1965 decisions regarding the Lord Great Chamberlain's responsibilities in the Palace of Westminster

Planning Act 2008, s. 227(5)(h,i)

Principal Office Holders in the House of Lords
House of Lords Library Note (LLN 2015/007), includes a very brief overview of the Lord Great Chamberlain

UK Parliamentary Archives, Records of the Lord Great Chamberlain
{{Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom Constitution of the United Kingdom Ceremonial officers in the United Kingdom