The Royal Household of the United Kingdom is made up of different departments to collaboratively support members of the royal family. One of the five departments is The Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which is responsible for organizing events and ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, state visits, and parties, just to name a few. The lord chamberlain is considered a senior member of the Royal Household and maintains open communication between the House of Lords and the monarch (per Royal UK).
In the past, the prime minister was the person responsible for appointing a lord chamberlain, who held a position in the government. That changed in 1924 when it was determined that the role shouldn’t have political ties. Today, as noted by Britannica, both the prime minister and the monarch must be in agreeance in appointing a lord chamberlain. The first lord chamberlain was Sir Thomas Erpingham, who was appointed in 1399. Back then, the lord chamberlain was the monarch’s representative in parliament.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Staff And Key
The lord chamberlain carries two items during ceremonies to symbolize his office. The first is a white staff, which, as Atlas Obscura notes, is part of an old tradition. British monarchs have been known to bestow staff in different colors (purple, red, blue, green, white, and black) to officials, each representing an administrative duty. The second item is a golden or jeweled key typically kept in the hip pocket. The key symbolizes the lord chamberlain’s role as an overseer of the Royal Household.
There are many people that serve under the lord chamberlain as well. According to Theodora, the vice-chamberlain serves as the lord chamberlain’s assistant, and there are masters of ceremonies, marshals, and officers to ensure that ceremonies and events take place flawlessly. Some of their tasks include ushering guests during ceremonies and parties, transporting ambassadors, and ensuring proper etiquette is followed by everyone. As noted by The Independent, being a lord chamberlain is a part-time job, but it comes with great responsibilities.
Breaking Of The Staff
According to The Independent, the lord chamberlain is similar to a private secretary to the monarch. Apart from organizing parties and ceremonies, the lord chamberlain also helps with the monarch’s public speeches, oversees press releases, and takes care of correspondences.
There are several traditional practices that are followed during royal occasions, one of which has something to do with the participation of the lord chamberlain. When a monarch dies, it is customary for the lord chamberlain to break his white staff over the grave of the monarch before the body is put into the royal vault. The act symbolizes the end of the lord chamberlain’s services, as reported by the Evening Standard. As of writing, the lord chamberlain is Andrew David Parker (pictured above), also known as Baron Parker of Minsmere, who worked for the MI5 until 2020 and was appointed as lord chamberlain in 2021.