The Info List - Lord Chamberlain

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The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
or Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
of the Household is the most senior officer of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom, supervising the departments which support and provide advice to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom while also acting as the main channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords. For over 230 years, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
position had the power to decide which plays would be granted a license for performance, from 1737 to 1968, which meant that the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
had the capacity to censor theatre at his pleasure.[1] The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
is always sworn of the Privy Council, is usually a peer and before 1782 the post was of Cabinet rank. The position was a political one until 1924. The office dates from the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
when the King's Chamberlain often acted as the King's spokesman in Council and Parliament.[2] The current Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
is The Earl Peel, who has been in office since 16 October 2006.[3]


1 Historic role

1.1 Theatre censorship

1.1.1 The Licensing Act 1737 1.1.2 Theatres Act 1843 1.1.3 Theatres Act 1968 1.1.4 The Aftermath

2 Duties of the Office 3 List of Lords Chamberlain of the Household from 1399 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links

Historic role[edit] During the early modern period, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
was one of the three principal officers of the Royal Household, the others being the Lord Steward
Lord Steward
and the Master of the Horse. The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
was responsible for the "chamber" or the household "above stairs": that is, the series of rooms used by the Sovereign to receive increasingly select visitors, terminating in the royal bedchamber (although the bedchamber itself came to operate semi-autonomously under the Groom of the Stool/Stole). His department not only furnished the servants and other personnel (such as physicians and bodyguards, the Yeomen of the Guard and Gentlemen Pensioners) in intimate attendance on the Sovereign but arranged and staffed ceremonies and entertainments for the court. He had (secular) authority over the Chapel Royal, and through the reabsorption of the Wardrobe into the Chamber, was also responsible for the Office of Works, the Jewel House, and other functions more removed from the Sovereign's person, many of which were reorganized and removed from the Chamberlain's purview in 1782.[4] As other responsibilities of government were devolved to ministers, the ordering of the Royal Household was largely left to the personal taste of the Sovereign. To ensure that the chamber reflected the royal tastes, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
received commands directly from the sovereign to be transmitted to the heads of subordinate departments.[4] In 1594, the Lord Chamberlain, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, founded the Lord Chamberlain's Men, for which William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
was a part (and later a shareholder in the company) and whom he wrote most of his plays during his career. Henry Carey served under Elizabeth I of England at the time and was in charge of all court entertainment, a duty traditionally given to the Master of the Revels, a deputy of the Lord Chamberlain. Later, in 1603, James I of England, elevated the Chamberlain's Men to royal patronage and changed the name to the King's Men.[5] Theatre censorship[edit]

Sir Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister who gave the Lord Chamberlain official censorship duties

The Licensing Act 1737[edit] In 1737, Sir Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole
officially introduced statutory censorship with the Licensing Act of 1737 by appointing the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
to act as the theatrical censor. The Licensing Act 1737 gave the Lord Chamberlain the statutory authority to veto the performance of any new plays: he could prevent any new play, or any modification to an existing play, from being performed for any reason, and theatre owners could be prosecuted for staging a play (or part of a play) that had not received prior approval. Historically though, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
had been exercising a commanding authority on London’s theatre companies under the Royal Prerogative for many decades already. But by the 1730s the theatre was not controlled by royal patronage anymore. Instead it had become more of a commercial business. Therefore, the fact the Lord Chamberlain still retained censorship authority for the next 200 years gave him uniquely repressive authority during a period where Britain was experiencing “growing political enfranchisement and liberalization”.[6] Even further confusion rested in the fact that Members of Parliament could not present changes to the censorship laws because although the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
exercised his authority under state law, he was still an official whose authority was derived from the Royal Prerogative.[6] Theatres Act 1843[edit] By the 1830s, it started to become clear that the theatre licensing system in England needed an upgrade. Playwrights, instead of representatives of minor theaters, actually initiated the final push for reform as they felt that their livelihoods were being negatively affected by the monopoly the larger theaters had on the industry, backed by the laws in the 1737 Act.[6] A Select Committee was formed in 1832 with the purpose of examining the laws that affected dramatic literature. Their main complaints were the lack of copyright protection for their work and more importantly that only two patent theatres in London could legitimately perform new plays. After more pressure from playwrights and theatre managers, the findings of the committee were finally presented to Parliament.[6] It was the proposals of this committee that Parliament implemented in the Theatres Act of 1843. The Act still confirmed the absolute powers of censorship enjoyed by the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
but still slightly restricted his powers so that he could only prohibit the performance of plays where he was of the opinion that "it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do". However, the Act did abolish the monopoly that the patent houses had in London providing a minor win for playwrights and theatre managers wishing to produce new work.[6][1] Theatres Act 1968[edit] In 1909, a Joint Select Committee on Stage Plays (Censorship) was established and recommended that the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
should continue to act as censor but that it could be lawful to perform plays without a license from the Lord Chamberlain.[1] Unfortunately, King Edward VII refused to accept these recommendations. The outbreak of both World Wars put an end to any parliamentary initiatives to change the laws regarding theatre censorship for many years. In 1948, The first British Theatre Conference recommended the termination of theatre censorship with the plan to pursue parliamentary action to ratify this.[1][6] In the 1960s the debate to abolish theatre censorship rose again as a new generation of young playwrights came on the scene. They gained popularity with their new plays in local establishments, but since many were refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain, they could not transfer to the West End. In the case of John Osborne’s play A Patriot for Me, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
at the time, Lord Cobbold, was irritated that the play was so widely publicized even though he had banned it and therefore pursued legal action. In the end, the play was allowed to continue as it was. At this point, several widely regarded authors had all been censored by the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
at one time or another, including playwrights Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
and George Bernard Shaw. Another Joint Select Committee was founded to further debate on the issue and present a solution. This time the argument largely centered around this issue on the portrayal of living and recently dead individuals, particularly in reference to the monarchy as well as politicians.[1][6] After much debate, the Theatres Act of 1968 was finally passed; it officially abolished the censorship of the stage and repealed the Lord Chamberlain’s power to refuse a license to a play of any kind.[1] The first London performance of the musical Hair was actually delayed until the Act was passed after a licence had been refused.[7] The Aftermath[edit] The battle regarding the abolition of censorship was largely a political one, fought on principle. Those who opposed the termination of this particular duty of the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
were mostly concerned about how to protect the reputation of the royal family and the political elite instead of controlling obscenity and blasphemy on stage. However, this concern has largely been unfounded. Since the termination of censorship, British Drama has flourished and produced several prominent playwrights and new works since. The abolishment of censorship opened a floodgate of theatrical creativity.[6] Duties of the Office[edit]

The Earl of Dorset, Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
from 1689 to 1697, holding the white staff of office. (Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt; c. 1697.)

The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
is the most senior official of the Royal Household and oversees its business, including liaising with the other senior officers of the Household, chairing Heads of Department meetings, and advising in the appointment of senior Household officials.[2][8] The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
also undertakes ceremonial duties and serves as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords.[2] The Lord Chamberlain's Office
Lord Chamberlain's Office
is a department of the Royal Household and its day-to-day work is headed by the Comptroller. It is responsible for organizing ceremonial activities including state visits, investitures, garden parties, the State Opening of Parliament, weddings and funerals.[2] During ceremonial activities, the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
carries specific symbols that represent his office. These symbols include a white staff and a key which must be worn at the hip pocket. During a royal funeral, the white staff has been symbolically broken over the grave of the deceased monarch. The last Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
to do this was The Earl of Clarendon
Earl of Clarendon
who broke his staff over the grave of the King George VI
George VI
in 1952.[2][8] The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
also regulates the design and the wearing of court uniform and dress and how insignia are worn. List of Lords Chamberlain of the Household from 1399[edit]

Name Entered office Left office Notes Reference

Thomas Erpingham, from 1400 Sir Thomas 1399 1404


The Lord Grey of Codnor 1404 1413


The Lord FitzHugh 1413 1425


The Lord Cromwell c. 1425 1432 First period in office [9]

The Lord Bardolf 1432 1441


Sir Ralph Boteler, from 1441 The Lord Sudeley 1441 1447


The Lord Saye and Sele 1447 1450


The Lord Cromwell 1450 1455 Second period in office [9]

Thomas Stanley, from 1456 The Lord Stanley 1455 1459


The Earl of Salisbury 1460 1460


The Lord Hastings 1461 1470 First period in office [9]

Unknown 1470 1471 Second reign of Henry VI

The Lord Hastings 1471 1483 Second period in office [9]

The Viscount Lovell 1483 1485


Sir William Stanley 1485 1494


Lord Daubeney 1494 1508


The Lord Herbert, from 1514 The Earl of Worcester 1509 1526


The Earl of Arundel 1526 1530

The Lord Sandys 1530 1540


Vacant 1540 1543


The Lord St John 1543 1545 Created The Earl of Wiltshire in 1550 and The Marquess of Winchester in 1551 [9]

Unknown 1545 1546

The Earl of Arundel 1546 1550


The Lord Wentworth 1550 1551


The Lord Darcy of Chiche 1551 1553


Sir John Gage 1553 1556


Unknown 1556 1557

Sir Edward Hastings from 1558 The Lord Hastings of Loughborough 1557 1558


The Lord Howard of Effingham 1558 1572


The Earl of Sussex 1572 1583


Unknown 1583 1585

The Lord Hunsdon 1585 1596 Founded the famous Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
for whom Shakespeare wrote for most of his career.


The Lord Cobham 1596 1597


The Lord Hunsdon 1597 1603


Lord Thomas Howard, from 1603 The Earl of Suffolk 1603 1614


The Earl of Somerset 1614 1615


The Earl of Pembroke 1615 1626


The Earl of Montgomery, from 1630 The Earl of Pembroke 1626 1641


The Earl of Essex 1641 1642


Unknown 1642 1644

The Earl of Dorset 1644 1649


Vacant 1649 1655 Position became vacant at the start of the Interregnum and the Commonwealth

Sir Gilbert Pickering, Bt 1655 1659 Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
during The Protectorate [9]

The Earl of Manchester 1660 1671


The Earl of St Albans 1672 1674


The Earl of Arlington 1674 1685


The Earl of Elgin and Earl of Ailesbury 1685 1685


The Earl of Mulgrave 1685 1688 Created The Marquess of Normanby in 1694 and The Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1703 [9]

The Earl of Dorset 1689 1697


The Earl of Sunderland 1697 1697


Vacant 1697 1699 The King did not accept the resignation of the Earl of Sunderland

The Duke of Shrewsbury 1699 1700


The Earl of Jersey 1700 1704


The Earl of Kent, from 1706 The Marquess of Kent 1704 1710 Created The Duke of Kent in 1710 and The Marquess Grey in 1740 [9]

The Duke of Shrewsbury 1710 1715


The Duke of Bolton 1715 1717


The Duke of Newcastle 1717 1724


The Duke of Grafton 1724 1757

Portrait of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton


The Duke of Devonshire 1757 1762


The Duke of Marlborough 1762 1763


The Earl Gower 1763 1765 Created The Marquess of Stafford in 1786 [9]

The Duke of Portland 1765 1766


The Earl of Hertford 1766 1782 First period in office; created The Marquess of Hertford in 1793 [9]

The Duke of Manchester 1782 1783


The Earl of Hertford 1783 1783 Second period in office; created The Marquess of Hertford in 1793 [9][10]

The Earl of Salisbury, from 1789 The Marquess of Salisbury 1783 1804

The Earl of Dartmouth 1804 1810


Vacant 1810 1812

The Marquess of Hertford 1812 1821


The Duke of Montrose 1821 1827 First period in office [9][12]

The Duke of Devonshire 1827 1828 First period in office [9]

The Duke of Montrose 1828 1830 Second period in office [9]

The Earl of Jersey 1830 1830 First period in office [9]

The Duke of Devonshire 1830 1834 Second period in office [9]

The Earl of Jersey 1834 1835 Second period in office [9][13]

The Marquess Wellesley 1835 1835


The Marquess Conyngham 1835 1839

Earl of Uxbridge 1839 1841 Succeeded as The Marquess of Anglesey in 1854

The Earl De La Warr 1841 1846 First period in office [9]

The Earl Spencer 1846 1848


The Marquess of Breadalbane 1848 1852 First period in office [9][15]

The Marquess of Exeter 1852 1852


The Marquess of Breadalbane 1853 1858 Second period in office [9][17]

The Earl De La Warr 1858 1859 Second period in office [9][18]

The Viscount Sydney 1859 1866 First period in office [19]

The Earl of Bradford 1866 1868


The Viscount Sydney 1868 1874 Second period in office; created The Earl Sydney in 1874 [21]

The Marquess of Hertford 1874 1879


The Earl of Mount Edgcumbe 1879 1880


The Earl of Kenmare 1880 1885 First period in office [24]

The Earl of Lathom 1885 1886 First period in office [25]

The Earl of Kenmare 1886 1886 Second period in office [26]

The Earl of Lathom 1886 1892 Second period in office [27]

The Lord Carrington 1892 1895 Created The Earl Carrington in 1895 and The Marquess of Lincolnshire in 1912 [9]

The Earl of Lathom 1895 1898 Third period in office [28]

The Earl of Hopetoun 1898 1900 Created The Marquess of Linlithgow in 1902 [9]

The Earl of Clarendon 1900 1905


The Viscount Althorp, from 1910 The Earl Spencer 1905 1912


The Lord Sandhurst, from 1917 The Viscount Sandhurst 1912 1921


The Duke of Atholl 1921 1922


The Earl of Cromer 1922 1938


The Earl of Clarendon 1938 1952


The Earl of Scarbrough 1952 1963


The Lord Cobbold 29 January 1963 30 November 1971


The Lord Cobbold in 1970

The Lord Maclean 1 December 1971 30 November 1984


The Earl of Airlie 1 December 1984 31 December 1997


The Lord Camoys 1 January 1998 31 May 2000

The Lord Luce 1 October 2000 15 October 2006

The Earl Peel 16 October 2006 present


See also[edit]

List of Lords Chamberlain to British royal consorts


^ a b c d e f Handley, Miriam (2004). The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
Regrets…: A History of British Theatre Censorship. London, England: British Library. pp. 3–17, 86–87, 140, 149, 162, 169. ISBN 0712348654.  ^ a b c d e "The Lord Chamberlain". Monarchy of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 30 May 2011.  ^ a b Appointment of Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
at the Royal Household official website, 2006 Archived 19 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine. ^ a b Bucholz, Robert O., ed. (2006). "Introduction: Administrative structure and work". Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837. London: University of London.  ^ a b Zarrilli, Phillip B. (2006). Theatre Histories, An Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 157–158, 188. ISBN 0-415-22727-5.  ^ a b c d e f g h Thomas, David (2007). Theatre Censorship: From Walpole to Wilson. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. iix – xiii, 2, 4, 36, 53–57, 182–188, 205, 216–225. ISBN 978-0-19-926028-7.  ^ Lewis, Anthony (September 29, 1968). "Londoners Cool To Hair's Nudity Four Letter Words Shock Few At Musical's Debut". New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2017.  ^ a b "Great Officers of the Household". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2011.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca "Lord chamberlains of the royal household in the Oxford DNB". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 February 2011.  (subscription or UK public library membership required) ^ "No. 12430". The London Gazette. 8 April 1783. p. 1.  ^ "No. 16581". The London Gazette. 7 March 1812. p. 450.  ^ "No. 17772". The London Gazette. 11 December 1821. p. 2405.  ^ "No. 19221". The London Gazette. 16 December 1834. p. 2266.  ^ "No. 20621". The London Gazette. 10 July 1846. p. 2533.  ^ "No. 20894". The London Gazette. 5 September 1848. p. 3275.  ^ "No. 21297". The London Gazette. 2 March 1852. p. 670.  ^ "No. 21403". The London Gazette. 18 January 1853. p. 137.  ^ "No. 22106". The London Gazette. 2 March 1858. p. 1207.  ^ "No. 22279". The London Gazette. 24 June 1859. p. 2471.  ^ "No. 23137". The London Gazette. 13 July 1866. p. 3984.  ^ "No. 23450". The London Gazette. 15 December 1868. p. 6654.  ^ "No. 24071". The London Gazette. 3 March 1874. p. 1452.  ^ "No. 24721". The London Gazette. 13 May 1879. p. 3311.  ^ "No. 24841". The London Gazette. 4 May 1880. p. 2836.  ^ "No. 25485". The London Gazette. 30 June 1885. p. 3000.  ^ "No. 25558". The London Gazette. 12 February 1886. p. 677.  ^ "No. 25615". The London Gazette. 10 August 1886. p. 3853.  ^ "No. 26644". The London Gazette. 16 July 1895. p. 4022.  ^ "No. 27232". The London Gazette. 25 September 1900. p. 5891.  ^ "No. 27866". The London Gazette. 22 December 1905. p. 9171.  ^ "No. 28581". The London Gazette. 16 February 1912. p. 1169.  ^ "No. 32525". The London Gazette. 22 November 1921. p. 9245.  ^ "No. 42909". The London Gazette. 1 February 1963. p. 979.  ^ "No. 45536". The London Gazette. 3 December 1971. p. 13243.  ^ "No. 49948". The London Gazette. 4 December 1984. p. 16413. 

Further reading[edit]

Stephens, J.R. (1981). The Censorship
of English Drama 1824–1901. Cambridge University Press.  Johnston, John (1990). The Lord Chamberlain's Blue Pencil. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-52529-0.  de Jongh, Nicholas (2000). Politics, Prudery and Perversions: The Censoring of the English Stage 1901–1968. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-70620-6. [permanent dead link] Shellard, Dominic; Nicholson, Steve; Handley, Miriam (2004). The Lord Chamberlain Regrets ... A History of British Theatre Censorship. British Library. ISBN 0-7123-4865-4. 

External links[edit]

has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Lord Chamberlain.

The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
- Royal Household official website Chamber Administration: Lord Chamberlain, 1660–1837 The Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
and censorship at The Theatre Archive Project

v t e

English Royal Household

Justiciar, 1102–1261 Mareschal Knight Marshal Senechal Keeper of the Privy Seal Lord Chancellor Keeper of the Wardrobe, c. 1200–1775 Keeper of the Great Wardrobe Controller of the Wardrobe Master of the Jewel Office Clerk of the Green Cloth Comptroller of the Household Cofferer of the Household Treasurer of the Household Treasurer of the Chamber Keeper of the Privy Purse Master of the Household Lord Chamberlain Lord Steward Master of the Horse Master of the Buckhounds Master of the Staghounds, 1738–1782 Lord of the Bedchamber Gentleman of the Bedchamber Lady of the Bedchamber Page of Honour Master of the Robes Groom of the Stool, 1509–1901 Gold Stick-in-Waiting Silver Stick-in-Waiting Dean of the Chapel Royal Clerk of the Closet Deputy Clerk of the Closet Lord High Almoner Warden of the Mint, 1216–1829 Master of the Revels Master of the Hawks Master of the Ceremonies Master of the King's Musick Surveyor of the King's Pictures Queen's Bargemas