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Lord Chamberlain

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Lord Chamberlain
Member of  Royal Household of the United Kingdom
Appointer  Sovereign of the United Kingdom

The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is the senior officer of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom, overseeing the departments which support and provide advice to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.

Contents

The 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 when the King's Chamberlain often acted as the King's spokesman in Council and Parliament.

The current Lord Chamberlain is The Earl Peel, who has been in office since 16 October 2006.

Historic role

During the early modern period, the Lord Chamberlain was one of the three principal officers of the Royal Household, the others being the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse. The 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.

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 received commands directly from the sovereign to be transmitted to the heads of subordinate departments.

Theatre censorship

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. This act was replaced by the Theatres Act 1843, which restricted the powers of the Lord Chamberlain 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". This duty was abolished under the Theatres Act 1968; the first London performance of the musical Hair was delayed until the act was passed after a licence had been refused.

Current duties

The Lord Chamberlain is the 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. The Lord Chamberlain also undertakes ceremonial duties and serves as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords.

The Lord Chamberlain's Office is a department of the Royal Household and is headed by the Comptroller. It is responsible for organising ceremonial activities including state visits, investitures, garden parties, the State Opening of Parliament, weddings and funerals.

He also regulates the design and the wearing of court uniform and dress and how insignia are worn.

List of Lords Chamberlain of the Household

Lords Chamberlain since 1399 to the present:

References

Lord Chamberlain Wikipedia


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