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Swan wrangling and ‘steamy trysts’: the weird lives and jobs of the king’s entourage | Monarchy

Modern monarchy can really feel a bit pointless. If there’s no pomp, there’s no level, certainly? Duchy Authentic oaten biscuits and broad bean coronation quiche are tragically poor within the shock, awe and fabulousness division in contrast with George IV’s 100-course banquets on a 4,000-piece silver gilt eating set, with actual fish swimming in a channel working by the centre of his desk. However there’s nonetheless a contact of the previous autocratic mystique. An investigation by the US media firm Insider in January 2022 revealed 1,133 royal workers, together with a “carpet planner” and “deputy yeoman of the plate pantry”. The palace dismissed Insider’s database of employees as “a collection of ill-informed and baseless claims”. Nevertheless, King Charles appears dedicated to maintaining his find yourself by way of flunkeys: the 2022 annual assessment of Clarence Home (Charles’s residence since 2003) alone revealed it employed the equal of 101 full-time employees, together with “4 cooks, 5 home managers, three valets and dressers and a few butlers”.

Though the royal family considerably slimmed down within the nineteenth century, a proliferation of secretive sinecures, archaic titles, brocaded uniforms and feathered headgear stay. It’s described by former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker in his 2019 e-book about royal excesses, … And What Do You Do?, as a “medieval mountain of absurdity”: equerries, pages, aides-de-camp, ushers and “sufficient chaplains to organise a soccer knockout competitors”. “They’re there to ease the monarch’s passage by life,” says Adrian Tinniswood, writer of Behind the Throne: a Home Historical past of the Royal Family. “However there’s one other facet to it – surrounding the sovereign in an aura of mystique, of magic nearly. These traditions remind us that regardless that we want to suppose the royals are similar to us, after all they’re not. As a result of in the event that they had been, what’s the purpose of them?”

What certainly? As we gird our loins for a weekend of golden coaches, swords and spurs, right here’s a information to a number of the extra esoteric job titles among the many Windsors’ entourage, and what – if something – the roles really contain.

Piper to the sovereign

Pipe major Paul Burns, who wakes the monarch every morning with a tune.
Pipe main Paul Burns, who wakes the monarch each morning with a tune. {Photograph}: Reuters/Alamy

The worst alarm clock ever, that is the royal job everybody is aware of about. Since acceding to the throne, the sovereign’s day begins at 9am, with the royal piper offering quarter-hour of bagpipe bangers exterior his window (that’s two classes of seven minutes, with a short retuning break). The function of piper to the sovereign was established in 1843 by Queen Victoria, as a result of she favored bagpipes, and it’s, the BBC claims, “one of the crucial coveted [roles] within the piping world”. The fortunate present seventeenth incumbent is pipe main Paul Burns. Burns travels with the monarch – there’s no escape from the pipes, even on tour – and is the one non-royal allowed to put on Balmoral tartan, which is kind of the perk.

Horological conservator

It can take Fjodor van den Broek a whole weekend to deal with every seasonal clock change.
Clocking on … it will possibly take Fjodor van den Broek a complete weekend to cope with each seasonal clock change. {Photograph}: ED/Royal Assortment/Digital camera Press/JL/Royal Accumulate

A fantastic title for “clock man”, of whom the royals have a complete crew. In a 2020 video posted on the royal household’s Twitter account, horological conservator Fjodor van den Broek defined that there are 400 clocks on the Windsor Fortress property and he winds them weekly; it takes a full weekend to cope with each seasonal clock change. No marvel one of many crew was reported to have suffered a clock-induced repetitive pressure harm in 2014.

Lord nice chamberlain

It is a job there isn’t any level in dusting off your CV for – it’s hereditary. However don’t fear, it’s additionally unpaid. Relationship again to the twelfth century, the title rotates in a somewhat complicated trend (in line with a 2019 freedom of data request) between three noble households. What are you lacking? The present lord nice chamberlain will likely be placing the crown jewels on the King on the coronation, for a begin. To not be confused with …

… Lord chamberlain of the family

Lord Andrew Parker prepares to break his wand over Queen Elizabeth’s coffin in September.
A mic drop of a resignation … Lord Andrew Parker prepares to interrupt his wand over Queen Elizabeth’s coffin in September. {Photograph}: Ben Birchall/AFP/Getty Photographs

A dull-sounding part-time function, “overseeing the conduct and common enterprise of the royal family”. It was in all probability extra enjoyable from 1737 till 1968, when, improbably, the lord chamberlain additionally had the facility to censor theatre productions. Baker highlights in his e-book one staging instruction issued to a 1959 Lionel Bart musical manufacturing: “The builder’s labourer is to not carry the plank of wooden within the erotic place and on the erotic angle that he does and the lord chamberlain needs to be told of the way during which the plank is sooner or later to be carried.”

Disadvantaged of erotic plank-monitoring duties, the lord chamberlain nonetheless takes half in some ceremonial stuff: in September, we watched the Queen’s lord chamberlain, Lord Andrew Parker, ceremonially break his wand (traditionally used for poking rowdy individuals at courtroom) over her coffin, which is kind of the mic drop of a resignation.


It feels like a 90s indie band, however the royal fendersmith cleans and maintains palace fireplaces, lighting and fires. In 2019, fendersmith Gary Jones hit the information for what the Solar referred to as “steamy trysts” with a royal chambermaid. Jones succeeded his father, Robert, in 1984, as a result of apparently fendersmithing runs in households. Enjoyable fendersmith reality: the tune performed by a piper on the Queen’s funeral was referred to as Salute to Willie, the Royal Fendersmith and commemorates fendersmith Willie Banks, who died in 1993. It was written by his brother James, a pipe main.

The warden and marker of the swans

Marker of the swans David Barber, right, prepares a swan for its release back into the river during the annual swan upping census in 2021.
Feather in his cap … marker of the swans David Barber, proper, prepares a swan for its launch again into the river through the annual swan upping census in 2021. {Photograph}: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

First, let’s make clear the swan scenario: the king doesn’t personal all British swans however since 1482 the crown can declare all swans that aren’t marked (that’s interpreted as ringed now). Understanding whose are whose is a part of the annual “swan upping” census, which additionally doubles as a welfare test. This 12 months’s begins on 17 July at Sunbury Lock; you will discover out extra on, an especially superior area title.

By 1993, swan wrangling had apparently develop into so advanced, the previous keeper of the swans’ gig (a Thirteenth-century creation) was break up into two jobs. Now, there’s a warden of the swans, Christopher Perrins, an Oxford biologist, but additionally a marker of the swans, David Barber. Barber presides over the swan upping in a pleasant purple jacket and a hat with a swan’s feather in, however his isn’t a purely honorific function: “All 12 months spherical I’m coping with totally different points with Pure England, giving permission to individuals to maneuver swans, or coping with issues with injured swans,” he stated in an interview final 12 months, which regrettably omitted to ask him whether or not a swan can in actual fact break a person’s arm.

Garter principal king of arms

David White pronouncing the new monarch in September.
Blingy … David White announcing the brand new monarch in September. {Photograph}: WPA/Getty Photographs

The GPKA, as nobody calls him, is the highest official of the School of Arms, the physique accountable for overseeing British heraldry (coats of arms and the like). He receives a regal £49.07 each year but additionally “provides heraldic and different recommendation to the Crown and authorities departments and receives an honorarium to cowl his time and bills”: phew. Among the many GPKA’s duties is announcing the brand new monarch; David White, who now holds the workplace, did this in September 2022. Should you like a blingy uniform, that is very a lot the job for you. White’s outfit, which he additionally wears on the state opening of parliament, is glittering with gold brocade.

Astronomer royal

The primary astronomer royal for England, John Flamsteed, was appointed in 1675 when King Charles II based the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (an equal Scottish place was created in 1834). Flamsteed was tasked with drawing an correct map of the night time sky, which he did on the Tower of London, with some issue. “In response to legend, his astronomical duties had been usually disrupted by the ravens on the Tower, who would perch on and foul his telescopes,” the Observatory web site says. Astronomer Martin Rees, the present incumbent, faces no such challenges: it’s an honorary place rewarding astronomical eminence now. Nevertheless, Rees solely will get £100 a 12 months, with no price of dwelling uplift.

Grand carver of England

Carving meat is a tough enterprise (one sixteenth century carving guide devoted 4,000 phrases to chopping six plates of peacock), so it’s no shock that traditionally the royals had a chap to do it for them. The function of grand carver nonetheless exists: it’s a hereditary place, at the moment held by the twelfth Earl of Denbigh, eleventh Earl of Desmond, Alexander Feilding. Nevertheless, on condition that Charles at the moment has 4 cooks, it appears unlikely that Feilding is commonly revving up his electrical carving knife to sort out the king’s Sunday roast (Charles by no means eats lunch anyway, in line with his US biographer Christopher Andersen).

Royal watermen and the king’s bargemaster

The royal watermen on board the Spirit of Chartwell during the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant on the River Thames in 2012.
‘Purely ceremonial’ … the royal watermen on board the Spirit of Chartwell through the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant on the River Thames in 2012. {Photograph}: AFP/Getty Photographs

In a match of parsimony nearly equalling Queen Victoria changing palace bathroom roll with newspaper squares, Edward VII slashed the variety of royal watermen, who traditionally assisted the royal household travelling alongside the Thames, from 48 to 24. This occurred roughly half a century after the royal household stopped travelling by water and thus requiring any watermen in any respect.

The remaining 24 are “purely ceremonial” in line with the royal household web site and paid “a small honorary sum per 12 months” (sources counsel it’s £3.50). They’re below the command of the king’s bargemaster. Refreshingly, on this aristocratic lineup, the present bargemaster is Chris Livett, a seventh-generation Thames waterman, who nonetheless remembers “the scent of coal and trade on the river after I would tag together with my grandfather, towing ships and barges”.

Grasp of the horse

Created in 1340, the grasp of the horse was once a major political appointment in line with Tinniswood, however now it’s – you guessed it – purely ceremonial. The crown equerry offers with day-to-day horsey enterprise and the grasp solely seems at events demanding a completely spectacular hat. That’s not strictly correct, however the grasp’s outfit at trooping the color in 2012 has the look of one thing a Drag Race contestant, with loads of inspiration and a mastery of the recent glue gun, would possibly dream up if the class had been “equestrian eleganza”.

Gold and silver stick

They sound like what you’ll chuck for the corgis, however these are ceremonial bodyguards, not precise sticks. After they’re on obligation, they get a further “in ready” appended to their title. “Gold stick-in-waiting as soon as attended the king from rising to going to mattress,” in line with the Family Cavalry Museum; now it’s only for present. Princess Anne is the present gold stick; don’t even dream about chucking her, it’s in all probability treason.

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