Coronation Roles

Coronation Roles

Many of the key roles associated with historic coronations, and the duties and rewards associated with them, have now become obsolete, although certain historic positions have persisted , despite attempts to modernise.
Chapter 1

Active Roles

Equerries

The Chief or Crown Equerry was formerly always styled Gentleman of the Horse, as the first Gentleman of the Bedchamber was entitled Groom of the Stole. He is the next officer to the Master of the Horse, and in his absence presides over all affairs relating to the Royal Stables. His salary is now fixed at £800 per annum; that of the remaining Equerries, who on horseback accompany the Sovereign’s carriage on State occasions, £500 to £600.

Women of the Bedchamber

These were ladies of ‘high standing’, whose only duties were to attend at State ceremonies and at Court receptions. In the time of George II they personally attended the Queen at her toilet.

Also known as Ladies in Waiting, they are now also known as Queen’s Companions.

The Grand and Lord High Almoner

The Hereditary Grand Almoner of England attends the coronation to be the distributor in alms of certain money collected in a silver dish. After the ceremony he can claim the silver dish and the towel that covers it, as his fee. He was also allowed a tun of good wine and all the blue cloth upon which the Sovereign walked from the throne in Westminster Hall to the door of the Abbey Church.

The officer of Grand Almoner is attached to the barony of Bedford.

The office of Lord High Almoner is a hereditary role held by the Marquess of Exeter. He is responsible for organising the Maundy Service.

Chapter 2

OBSOLETE ROLES

Chief Cup Bearer

The lord of the manor of Great Wimondley, in Hertfordshire, could claim to receive a gilt cup and take the title of Chief Cup Bearer, for serving the King with the first cup he will drink from at the Coronation feast held in Westminster Hall.

Chief Larderer

His duties were to provide all meats for the Royal Banquet in Westminster Hall. For his trouble the Chief Larderer used to receive, as his perquisites, all that remained of them after the Banquet.

A post held by the Barons Abergavenny (then Bergavenny) on four occasions, at the coronation of Henry VIII in 1509, that of Anne Boleyn in 1533, his daughter Mary’s 1553 and the coronation of James II in 1685.

In 1902, a claim for this post was put forward by Mr G T J Sotheron-Estcourt (later 1st and last Baron Estcourt), by reason of his owning the Manor of Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire. It was received by the Court of Claims but not entertained, as it related to the ceremony in Westminster Hall.

The Champion of England

An office which is the most perfect relic of feudalism. Established in England by William the Conqueror immediately after the Battle of Hastings. It was first conferred upon Robert de Marmion, Lord of Fontenoy in Normandy. The championship was annexed to the manor of Scrivelhays or Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire. The last Lord Marmion died in 1292, leaving four daughters. Scrivelsby was inherited by Joan, the youngest daughter, who married Sir Thomas Ludlow, whose daughter Margaret married Sir John Dymoke, of Gloucestershire; he became invested with the Championship of England, which has remained in this family since.

The Champion was entitled to claim, on the coronation, day, one of the King’s great courses, with a saddle, harness and trappings of cloth of gold, and one of the best suits of armour (all of which he claims as fees, along with the gold cup from which the King drank to him). Thus mounted and furnished and accompanied by the High Constable and Marshal of England and the Royal Herald, he rode into the hall to the place where the King sat at dinner and there, after three proclamations of the trumpet, said words to the effect that anyone who denied that the King was lawfully entitled to the throne ‘lies like a false traitor’ and threw down his gauntlet.

The last person to apply to be the Champion was Mr Frank Dymoke, then owner of the manor of Scrivelsby, but his claim was denied and this part of the coronation ceremony was dispensed with at Queen Victoria’s coronation. Mr Dymoke was made a baronet in compensation.

The Chief Butler

A very ancient dignity. Of the many reasons for this post was the liability of the Sovereign to be poisoned; it was the Chief Butler’s responsibility to make sure this did not happen. In the reign of William the Conqueror, the post was held by William D’Albini and it is now a hereditary right of the Duke of Norfolk, as Earl of Arundel (the Arundels being descended from a sister of the last male Albini). The fees are now commuted to a gold basin and ewer. They used to include all the vessels and wine below the bar on the day of the coronation, but this practice was stopped in 1399 and was disallowed at the coronation of Henry IV.

The Lord Mayor and Citizens of London can claim under an ancient charter to assist the Chief Butler. The Lord Mayor serves the king with wine in a gold cup during the banquet (he receives the cup with its cover as his fee).

The role of Chief Butler has not been part of the ceremony since the coronation of Queen Victoria.

Grand Pannetier

The office of the Grand Pannetier, which is now extinct, is of very ancient origin and belonged formerly to the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick.

The duty was ‘to beare the salt and the kerving knives from the pantre to the Kinge’s dyning table’, and to provide the bread. The fees were the saltcellars, knives and spoons laid before the King at the Coronation Banquet.

The Herb Strewer

The Coronation office depends on the pleasure of the Sovereign and no petition for the privilege was made to the Court of Claims for this position from the time of George IV, until the Coronation of Queen Victoria, when Miss Beatrice Fellows, as the senior unmarried female of her family, petitioned the court. The claim was declined on that occasion and has not been revived since.

The dress of the Herb Strewer at the coronation of George IV is described as of white satin, with a scarlet robe, and a wreath of flowers on the head. Her assistants also wore white and had wreaths on their heads as well as garlands of flowers across their bodies, passing from their left shoulder and under their right arm.

Maids of Honour

The Maids were ‘attendants upon the Queen’ who were entitled to the prefix of Hon for life and (at the turn of the last century) a salary of £300 per annum. In the 19th century, they received £1,000 upon marriage.

In a letter quoted in the Old Court Customs in 1724, the life of the maid was described as: ‘To eat Westphalia ham in a morning; ride over hedges and ditches on borrowed hacks; come home in the heat of the day in a fever and (what is worse a hundred times) with a red mark on the forehead from an uneasy hat; they must simper an hour and catch cold in the Princesses’ apartments; from thence to dinner; and after that, till midnight, walk, work, or think, as they please.’

The Napier

The holder of this post had charge of the napery, or table linen, at the banquet. In the reign of Henry VII, Humfrey Tyrell claimed this office on account of holding some lands in Essex.

Chapter 3

REWARDS FOR SERVICES

Many extraordinary fees claimed at ceremonies connected with coronations are now obsolete or extinct or commuted to a fixed sum. They include:

The Grand Almoner – the silver dish used for collecting alms and towel covering it
Chief Butler – the gold basin and ewer
Corporation of Oxford – for their assistance in the butler, three maple cups and a gilt cup to the Mayor
Chief Cup Bearer – a gilt cup
Grand Pannetier – the saltcellars, knives and spoons laid before the King
Chief Larderer – to certain provisions left over from the banquet
Champion of England – courser with harness and trappings, suit of armour and gold cup
Earl Marshal – for attending the Sovereign at the coronation, he used to claim the King and Queen’s palfreys and harness, the King’s table cloth, as well as cloth spread behind the King during dinner, and the chines (backbones) of all cranes and swans served
Lord Great Chamberlain – for dressing and preparing the Sovereign for a coronation, he received forty yards of crimson velvet, the King’s apparel, and the bed, bedding and furniture of the room slept in by the Sovereign on the night prior to the coronation
Barons of the Cinque Ports – the canopies, bells and stave borne by them
Archbishop of Canterbury – the purple velvet chair he uses during the coronation ceremony

Featured on this page are details from the illustration State Procession prior to the Coronation of James II and Mary of Modena at Westminster, 23 April 1685

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