Lord Great Chamberlain


Lord Great Chamberlain

The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable. The Lord Great Chamberlain has charge over the Palace of Westminster, and especially of the House of Lords, and technically bears the Sword of State at state openings and closings of Parliament, though this duty is usually delegated to a Lord of Parliament who is also a Field Marshal. 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.

The position is a hereditary one, held in gross. 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", and the right to exercise the office for a given reign rotates proportionately 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. (A "Deputy Lord Great Chamberlain" is a person exercising the office who is "not" personally a co-heir to the office; historically these have been sons or husbands of co-heirs as the office has never been exercised by a female, females having been forbidden to sit in the Lords until the present reign).

The office of Lord Great Chamberlain is distinct from the non-hereditary office of Lord Chamberlain of the Household, a position in the monarch's household. This office arose, in fact, 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 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers 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) be exempt from such a rule, so that they may continue to carry out their ceremonial functions.

History of the office

The office was originally held by Robert Malet, a son of one of the leading companions of William the Conqueror. In 1133, however, 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. 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 female heirs. The earldom was inherited by a more distant heir-male, his second cousin. The Sovereign then declared that the office belonged to the Crown, and was not transmitted along with the earldom. The Sovereign appointed the fifteenth and sixteenth Earls to the office, but the appointments were deemed for life and were uninheritable. Then, 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 a male heir, but a closer one as a female heir. The House of Lords eventually ruled that the office belonged to the male heir, Robert Bertie, 14th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, who later became Earl of Lindsey. The office remained vested in the Earls of Lindsey, who later became the Duke 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 a male heir.

The uncle became fifth Duke, but the House of Lords ruled that the two sisters were jointly Lord Great Chamberlain, and could appoint a deputy to fulfil its functions. The barony of Willoughby de Eresby went into abeyance between the two sisters, but the Sovereign terminated the abeyance and granted the title to the elder sister Priscilla. The younger sister later married the first 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.

Lords Great Chamberlain, 1485-present

"See Earl of Oxford for earlier Earls of Oxford who have served as Lord Great Chamberlain."

"The list is presently incomplete."

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

Current rotation

The rotation switches to the next person in line at the death of each monarch.

# Lorraine Wilson
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Nicholas Palmer (or his representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Jonathan Findlay (or his representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Earl of Albemarle
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# William Legge-Bourke (or his representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Tatiana Dent (or her lineal representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Nicholas Palmer
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Bryan Ronald Basset (or his representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Earl of Albemarle
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# William Legge-Bourke
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Ines Garton (or her representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Nicholas Palmer
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# James Hamilton-Russell
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Earl of Albemarle
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# William Legge-Bourke
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Ysabel Wilson (or her representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Nicholas Palmer
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Lady Barbara Kwiatkowski (or her representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Earl of Albemarle
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# William Legge-Bourke
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Lorraine Wilson (or her representative)
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# Nicholas Palmer
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Marquess of Donegall
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Earl of Albemarle
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# William Legge-Bourke
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley
# The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
# The Marquess of Cholmondeley


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