Catalogue description Records of the Lord Chamberlain and other officers of the Royal Household

Details of LC
Reference: LC
Title: Records of the Lord Chamberlain and other officers of the Royal Household
Description:

Records of the Lord Chamberlain and, from 1782, his department relating to the administration of the Royal Household, ceremonials and social events as well as the licensing of theatres and plays.

Correspondence of the department is in LC 1, and registers, including those to this correspondence, in LC 3. Accounts are in LC 9, LC 10 and LC 11.

Records relating to special royal events are mainly in LC 2, and some others are included with other miscellaneous records in LC 5. Those relating to levees, drawing rooms, etc are in LC 6.

Records of the Office of Robes are in LC 12 and LC 13.

Records relating to the licensing of theatres and plays are in LC 7 and LC 8.

Records of the Office of the Clerk of the Recognizances relating to the recovery of debt under the Recognizances for Debt Act of 1532 are in LC 4.

For series created for regularly archived websites, please see the separate Websites Division.

Date: 1483-2000
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Creator:

Great Wardrobe, 1782

Lord Chamberlain

Lord Chamberlain's Department, 1782-

Physical description: 14 series
Unpublished finding aids:

See also

Administrative / biographical background:

Origins and History

The office of Lord Chamberlain to the King's Household has its origin in the early Middle Ages. Always a member of the Council and at times a peer of the realm, the King's Chamberlain was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries a person of considerable importance. He was one of the five great officers of state and he often acted as the King's spokesman in Council and in Parliament.

Closely associated with the Chamberlain was the Great Wardrobe, which was often treated as part of the Lord Chamberlain's administration even though it was separately financed. Closely allied also was the of the Office of Robes.

The political importance of the Lord Chamberlain declined during the sixteenth century and the duties became confined to the administration of the Royal Household, though the post retained Cabinet rank until 1782. By an act of that year the Great Wardrobe was abolished and part of its duties merged in the Lord Chamberlain's Department, where they were performed by the Office of Robes.

At the same time the Office of Works was placed under the department's control, where it remained until 1815. In 1924 the first Labour government decided that the office of Lord Chamberlain should be non-political and that the holder should be appointed by agreement between the Sovereign and the Prime Minister.

Functions

At one time the Lord Chamberlain discharged important political duties, but now these are mainly confined to presenting addresses from the House of Lords to the Sovereign and conveying the replies. His main function today is as the executive head of the Royal Household. As such he is responsible for court ceremonials such as royal christenings, marriages, funerals, and shares such responsibility for coronations with the Earl Marshal. He initiates royal social occasions such as garden and other parties.

To this he adds general supervision of the royal palaces, the royal collection of works of art, and the regalia. He has the appointment and inspection of the Sovereign's chaplains, physicians and surgeons, as well as of tradesmen and messengers in the royal service. He has an office in St James's Palace where he is assisted by a staff under a Comptroller and Assistant Comptroller.

By virtue originally of an act of 1737, supplanted by another of 1843, the Lord Chamberlain was formerly licenser of all stage plays, and of theatres in and about the centre of London and at Windsor. The records show his activities in this sphere to date back at least to 1660, and there is evidence that they originated in the sixteenth century when the Lord Chamberlain was in charge of all Court entertainments and took the players under his personal protection. His powers of censorship over the theatre were abolished by the Theatres Act 1968.

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