The Podcast in the Tower

Princes in the Tower Podcast Series

Shortly after mentioning them in a post about someone else, I came across a podcast by History Extra concerning the mystery of the “Princes in the Tower”, meaning Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury in the Tower of London awaiting what should have been the former’s coronation. As well as the boys themselves, the podcast also investigates the historical reputation of their supposed killer Richard III, formerly Duke of Gloucester.

As the boys simply disappeared without trace in the summer of 1483, nobody can be sure exactly what happened to them. Bones were discovered in 1674 that might have been them, but there were discrepancies between historical accounts and some of the bones were not even human. Our present sovereign has not allowed DNA testing to determine their exact identity. The reason for her reticence is itself unknown, the most plausible explanation being that she fears setting a precedent for historians to tamper with her own remains in centuries to come. Perhaps “the Princess in the Tunnel” will still be an obsession for the nuttier tabloids?

Richard III himself is also hotly contested. Having been painted by the Tudors (and then Shakespeare as a deformed, leering hunchback, he has benefited from later attempts to rehabilitate his reputation, at least relative to the standards of the time. As said in the podcast, the Ricardian phenomenon is at least as intriguing as the life of Richard himself, or indeed his royal nephews.


The Curious Case of Barron Trump

There are many strange phenomena associated with Donald Trump and his immediate family, who spent many years in business and reality TV before acceding to the heart of government. The one that I will discuss today is the fandom that has developed in the last few years around his youngest son.

Donald Junior (1977) and Eric have been both executives in The Trump Organization and judges on The Apprentice. They are active in their father’s election campaigns and engaged in international business dealings. Ivanka (1981) was a board member of the Donald J. Trump Foundation now serving as Advisor to the President. She participated alongside her father at international conferences and diplomatic meetings. Her husband Jared (1981) was appointed Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of American Innovation, among other things. 2006-born Barron, of course, is too young to be involved in such matters, and his mother has made efforts to maintain for him an appropriate level of distance from public scrutiny. He is rarely heard to speak, and reportedly is not allowed a social media presence, so little can be known about him outside of what few snippets are uttered to the press by his parents and what can be spotted when he is brought to public events.

His relative anonymity gives Barron a fascinating quality – he becomes a sort of blank state onto which others can project their own imagination. Above all, his fans feel a pity for him having to grow up in the shadow of his dysfunctional elders, and a hope that he can be “saved” from their fates as an adult. As is to be expected, there are rumours of autism, with some even suggesting that this could have influenced his father’s credulity to anti-vaccination ideas. It is at least faintly plausible given that the president was fifty-nine years old when he conceived his last son (advanced paternal age being a known risk factor), but I would be more inclined to believe it were this not a trendy claim to make about seemingly everyone in the public eye nowadays. Of course, the common perceptions of those on the spectrum (some true, some false) often overlap with those of the people in these kinds of online communities, which could go some way to explaining why they feel a natural affinity with Barron – or at any rate more of an affinity than feel for the rest of the entourage.

Prior to Barron in 2017, the last minor son of an incumbent POTUS was John F. Kennedy Junior, who was frequently under the spotlight during his years at the White House and is immortalised in the photograph of him saluting his father’s coffin. Generally speaking most presidents’ children in the last century or so reached their majority some time before their fathers’ election, so a dependent First Son is a rarity, which of course adds to the excitement whenever it does occur.

As with much about the Trump family, certain precedents can be found in royal dynasties of centuries ago: Edward of Middleham, lone son of Richard III & Anne Neville, lived so brief and so ill-recorded a life that there is even an uncertainty of four years as to when he was born, and of about forty miles as to where he was buried. Had he not died so young then the course of British history would have been very different – the House of York might have been secured on the throne for many more decades and the Tudor coup of 1485 averted. He is important in that sense, and obviously would have been well-documented had he survived to become king, but as it is he serves as little more than a placeholder. The only contemporary likeness is a crude cartoon on the Rous Roll, and the only personal characteristic recorded was his sickliness. Two other namesake Princes of Wales fare little better: He of Lancaster was active military (and indeed was England’s only heir apparent to die in battle) so we can at least record his movements, but what we know of his personality is limited to a few sensationalist excerpts and is almost certainly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. He of Warwick survived into adulthood, but spent most of his life hidden away in the Tower of London. Again he was important as a placeholder, for Yorkist forces rallied around him as a potential replacement for Henry VII, but almost nothing is known about the man himself except that he had a mental illness, and even that is based on a one-off line written years after his death. He of the Sanctuary fares a little better in this regard, perhaps because he actually made it to the throne if (of only for eleven weeks) and spent nearly all of his life before that as heir apparent. Details were therefore recorded of his upbringing and his education, and we even have a few snippets describing his character. Even so, he is more remembered for his death than for his life. His brother Richard is a case in point – except for his child marriages and peerage there is very little in his biography that would not also apply to Edward V, and it is suggested that so many more pretenders posed as Richard than Edward precisely because the younger son was less well-documented and so granted wider latitude for invention.

For a modern example, one possible candidate is Prince John, youngest son of George V & Mary of Teck. Like Edward of Middleham his health was poor and, like Barron Trump, many suspect autism. In 1916 he was removed from public life and sent to live at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate (where the Duke of Edinburgh has lived since retiring in 2017) due to his increasingly-frequent epileptic seizures. He died in 1919. He has been the subject of some intrigue since his death, styled as The Lost Prince or The Windsors’ Tragic Secret. Unlike the earlier examples there was plenty of contemporary documentation of his life, but it was made public for a long time after his death. The void encouraged fiction, and some writers liked to exaggerate John’s seclusion so as to paint the family in a negative light, but later revelations indicate that he was treated as well as could be expected for the time, especially given that the First World War was in full swing.

If I had to single out one example of a historical antecedent for Barron my choice would fall upon Gioffre Borgia, youngest son (if he was his son at all) of Pope Alexander VI, who lacked his relatives’ political ambition. He is generally regarded as the innocent one in a dynasty renowned for its depravity. This is best illustrated in the Horrible Histories song about the family from 2012, in which Gioffre sits in mute confusion while his father and siblings go on about their various crimes, scandals and machinations. Gioffre lived into his thirties, playing a modest role in the Second Italian War and ruling indirectly over the city principality of Squillace.

Barron, at this point, has already most of the people to whom I have referred, and his encounter with SARS-CoV-2 appears not to have caused any harm. Nor, for that matter, has there been any sign of an assassination attempt. Only time will tell which path he ultimately takes, and whether his fans’ hopes will be fulfilled or betrayed. All we can say for certain at this point is that he’ll be extremely tall, which might be an omen for the Cambridge and Sussex children, too.

A Princely Gift

I suppose there are worse things he could be wearing.

A few days ago I discovered the YouTube channel Documentary Base, whose content is what you’d expect. What particularly caught my interest was the series Crown and Country. The Prince Edward writes and presents a historical tour of England’s royal landmarks, one of many documentaries put out by his ill-fated Ardent Productions. This programme is about the same age as I, and now so obscure that its IMDB page looks to be mostly guesswork.

As far as I can decipher there were three series (in the years 1996, 1998 and 2000 – the former typed in the credits as such while the latter two are rendered as MCMXCVIII and MM). The YouTube playlist does not have them in broadcast order – and I think it may even mislabel a few of them, which makes it a little confusing. Series 1 and 2 are differentiated by swapping some of the clips in the opening title sequence montage. Series 3 switches from 4:3 to 16:9, and the title sequence is crudely cropped. The first two series credit the presenter as “Edward Windsor”, the third as “Edward Wessex”.

Technical details aside, the programme is pervaded by an otherworldly quaintness. As with so many films of this type it seems to be designed for international syndication rather than domestic broadcast, and while many specific events and locations are discussed the production itself is curiously timeless. It bulges with luxuriant panning shots of rolling countryside, weathered stone and ornately carved wood panels. The overall tone puts me in mind of Mitchell & Webb’s Sunday afternoon relaxation DVD. There are other curiosities, too, such as the title music which occasionally sounds like the middle eight of the Doctor Who theme.

The parts most interesting to me, as a blogger on heraldry, were the visits to the College of Arms and St George’s Chapel, neither of which get as much screen time as I would like.

In more recent news, the Prince of Wales has launched RE:TV, a channel (or platform, it’s not entirely clear) centered around his environmental projects. I also found this virtual interior tour of Buckingham Palace by interior design blogger Ashley Hicks.

By Her Majesty’s Commission

A bit quicker there, Norman!

Keen scholars of British politics will know that Parliament has three fundamental components – the monarch, the Lords and the Commons. Most of the time MPs and peers debate in separate chambers, while the monarch merely signs off the the papers which are brought to her. There are, however, special occasions on which it is necessary for all three components to come together. These are done in the chamber of the House of Lords – normally described as the upper house, but in this context more like the middle – with the monarch enthroned at the south end of the room, MPs standing behind the bar at the north, and peers themselves on their usual red benches in between.

The most famous of these is the state opening, which commences a new parliamentary session. The others are prorogation (the end of a session), granting royal assent to new acts (often combined with prorogation), the opening of a new parliament (in which the first state opening is delayed until MPs and peers are sworn) and the approbation of the lower house’s speaker (done on the second day of a new parliament, and/or after the old speaker departs). The state opening gets more attention than the others partly because it unveils the government’s main legislative agenda – and is thus the main battleground for the presence or absence of parliamentary confidence in the ministry – and partly because in modern practice it is the only event which the monarch attends in person.

The Lords and Commons have three-figure memberships with respective quora of just 30 and 40, so the absence of even large numbers of members – especially backbenchers – does not threaten to invalidate such events as these. The Queen is only one person, and thus physically invisible. Fortunately, methods have been devised which allow Her Most Excellent Majesty to be projected into the legislature while her most singular body remains elsewhere. Enter the Lords Commissioners.

The Queen, by letters patent under the Great Seal of the Realm, appoints a team of three to seven privy counsellors (who are nearly always peers) to carry out these parliamentary functions on her behalf.

There are variations depending on the specific type of ceremony, but certain details are common to all: The Leader of the House of Lords announces that, it not being convenient for Her Majesty to be personally present there that day, a commission has been passed appointing several Lords therein named to do whatever is needed on her behalf. The Lord Speaker rises from the woolsack and vacates the chamber along with several other peers. The commissioners, robed and hatted, then file in and sit adjacent on a temporary bench before the steps of the throne. Black Rod is sent to summon the Commons, and then MPs come to the bar of the house, exchanging bows with their lordships (at which point the male commissioners doff their hats with varying levels of synchronisation). A parliamentary clerk reads out the letters patent to verify that the commissioners have the required authority, each one bowing (and doffing) invididually as his name is mentioned. At the end bows are exchanged again while MPs back out.

In one of the most pointless projects ever undertaken, I have gone through the online Hansard archives noting down all the named members of various commissions in the last two hundred years, and put them into a colour-coded spreadsheet. A few explanatory notes first:

  1. Hansard, and thus the spreadsheet, only lists those who physically attended. Archbishops and Lord Chancellors are named in the patent ex officio but do not actually take part are omitted.
  2. On some occasions the record only says that there was a commission, rather than specifying who was in it. For these I obviously have no information to include. Annoyingly there is a huge stretch from 1905 to 1916 about which I can only guess.
  3. I have listed New Parliaments, Approbations, Sessions Opened and Prorogations. Unless combined with the latter I have not listed Royal Assents, for these are not intuitive to locate in the timeline and, when I have found them, they have uniformly declined to mention commissioners by name.

From what information I have managed to gather, a curious tale can be told:

In the nineteenth century it was the norm for all Lords Temporal involved in the commission to be from the governing party, and even for most or all of them to be government ministers, though the leader of the house (perhaps not yet a well-defined office) was not normally among them. In the first half of the century it was reasonably common for the Archbishop of Canterbury to personally attend, but in the second half this tailed off. Very occasionally the Bishop of London appears. There is even one instance, when setting up the fifth UK parliament in 1812, of the Prince Regent’s younger brothers taking part. Their formal political affiliation is unclear.

The World Wars, and the interbellum period, saw an abnormal frequency of complex and confusing multi-party governments, whether confidence-and-supply or full coalition. This is reflected in the composition of the royal commissions, which frequently include peers from more than one party and even a few whom I took to be Crossbenchers. The approbation of Captain Edward Fitzroy as Commons Speaker in 1928 is the first instance I can find of a Labour peer taking part – Kenneth Muir Mackenzie, between terms as a junior government whip. The general election of 1929 saw the Labour Party win a plurality of seats in the Commons for the first time (though the Conservatives won the popular vote), and Ramsay MacDonald formed a minority government which lasted just over two years (Ramsay had earlier governed for nine months in 1924, but in that instance the transition of power occured after the session had already started). The two commissions at the start of that parliament feature Labour’s John Sankey as Lord Chancellor, but flanked by two Conservatives and two Crossbenchers. The absence of other Labour peers may be explained by their small presence in the upper house at the time, but the preference of opposition Conservatives over allied Liberals is not so clear.

By the time of the 1931 general election a three-way coalition had been formed, with senior Conservative and Liberal figures included. This coalition fought the election together and won by an overwhelming landslide. The specifics of this would be too great a digression from the purpose of this article, but the main Labour Party expelled MacDonald and others who remained in his government. They formed a splinter group called the National Labour Organisation. For convenience I have kept Sankey in red here although the party actually fought in green. The commissions for 3rd and 4th November that year both featured Sankey as Lord Chancellor, but that for the new parliament straddled him with three Conservatives plus the Crossbench Sumner, then that for the Speaker’s approbation involved another three Conservatives plus the Liberal Islington. Stanley Baldwin replaced MacDonald as Prime Minister before the 1935 election, and the two commissions beginning that parliament were mostly Conservative, with one Liberal each and once a crossbencher but no Labour peers.

The commission for Douglas Clifton-Brown’s approbation in 1943 (by which time another wartime grand coalition had been formed) involved Lords Crewe and Addison, leaders of the Liberal and Labour parties in the upper house. Curiously, then-Conservative leader Cranborne was left out in favour of his father and predecessor Salisbury.

Attlee’s 1945 landslide saw the beginning of the modern two-party system. The commission opening that parliament was led by Lord Chancellor Jowitt, accompanied by house leader Addison. Salisbury and Cranborne represented the Conservatives (Yes, father and son together!) while Samuel took part as Liberal leader. Oddly the approbation commission the next day had only Jowitt in common, the others being Air Secretary Stansgate (Tony Benn’s father) and one Conservative and two Liberals. The two commissions at the beginning of Attlee’s second term in 1950 approach what would eventually become the norm, with one member each from the Conservative, Liberal and Crossbench factions.

From the 1955 general election until Wilson’s accession in 1964, the commissioners tended to be three Conservative and two Labour. After that a fairly consistent pattern emerged – albeit with occasional substitutions – a royal commission comprised the Lord Chancellor, the Leader of the House, the leaders of the two main opposition parties, and a third peer from the government side chosen seemingly at random. This convention lasted until 1993. In the prorogation commission that year the Chancellor and three leaders attended as before, but instead of the rotating government peer Lord Weatherill was appointed to complete the group. Speaker of the Commons until the year before, he became Convenor of the Crossbenchers. From then on it became the norm to have a crossbencher in the commissions – usually the Convenor, but if (s)he was not a privy counsellor then someone else might act in his stead.

The next change occured followed the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and the establishment in the following year of the elected office of Lord Speaker, separated from the Chancellorship. Lady Hayman took office in July and the next commission took place in November. On that occassion the Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) still led the commission as before and Hayman effectively replaced the crossbench representative. A reshuffle in 2007 saw Falconer replaced by Jack Straw, the first MP to hold that office for centuries. As with the Archbishop of Canterbury the Lord Chancellor continued to be named in the letters patent, but a technicality of the Standing Orders of the House of Lords meant he could not perform prorogations in person. From then on nearly all commissions (exceptions to be specified) were led by the Leader of the House – for which there were precedents in earlier ceremonies when the Chancellor could not attend, or even where the office was vacant for a while – accompanied by the Lord Speaker, the opposition leaders and the convenor – all members thus having different affiliations.

The restriction did not apply to approbations, so Straw was able to lead the commission for John Bercow in 2009, with the Lord Speaker waiting outside the chamber. The other commissions in 2009-10 followed the new pattern. There was no commission in 2011 due to the session being extended. The prorogation ceremony in 2012 saw Lord Shutt of Greetland, on his last day as Deputy Chief Whip, substitute for Lord McNally as Liberal Democrat leader. That of 2013 saw Labour leader Lady Royall of Blaisdon absent, though she was still named in the patent. The commissions of 2014-17 were unremarkable. In 2018 there was again no new session, nor did Bercow resign his speakership as originally promised. The bicorn hats were thus not seen at all that year. In the latter third of 2019, however, the commissioners would be very busy.

Boris Johnson’s attempted five-week prorogation was so controversial that the opposition peers all boycotted the ceremony, including those who would have been commissioners. The procedure was thus performed to a nearly-empty chamber in the small hours of the morning by the minimal quorum of three – Evans of Bowes Park (Leader), Fowler (Speaker) and Hope of Craighead (Convenor). That prorogation was annulled by the Supreme Court, but Johnson was eventually permitted to try again – although only for the usual few days this time. The second attempt went normally with Smith and Newby attending as normal (though Lord Judge had replaced Hope as Convenor).

On the penultimate day of that parliament Bercow finally retired and his deputy Sir Lindsay Hoyle was elected to replace him as Speaker. Following Straw’s precedent a decade earlier, Robert Buckland performed the approbation, though his hat had to be precariously perched upon his wig rather than fitting around it. Lord Dholakia subsituted for Newby, and doffed a few times more than necessary.

Following the snap December general election, the 58th Parliament had to be set up in something of a hurry. For what appears to be the first time in at least two hundred years, both of the normal commissions were performed on the same day – presumably to allow MPs to start swearing in earlier. Both commissions involved the standard lineup, though there was an awkward moment when Evans forgot to turn over the page in her script.

This session is due to run until May 2021, and thus we seem to be in for another doff-free year, which the commissioners themselves may find a relief, though for some viewers at home it is no doubt a disappointment.

* Lord Chancellor
^ Leader of the House of Lords
~ Lord Speaker
  Tory, Conservative, Unionist, National
  Whig, Liberal, Liberal Democrat
  Affiliation unclear
  Social Democratic
-1 The Baroness Royall of Blaison was named in the patent but did not appear in the ceremony and was not mentioned in Hansard.


Date Type 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
12/07/05 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^    
15/12/06 New Parliament Canterbury Erskine* Aylesford Walsingham    
16/12/06 Approbation Erskine* Aylesford Spencer Walsingham    
27/04/07 Prorogation Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^      
22/06/07 Approbation Canterbury Eldon* Aylesford Hawkesbury^    
14/08/07 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^    
21/01/08 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Aylesford Dartmouth  
04/07/08 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Westmorland Montrose  
19/01/09 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Montrose    
21/06/09 Prorogation Eldon* Canterbury Camden Dartmouth Westmorland  
23/01/10 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Aylesford Dartmouth  
24/07/11 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Westmorland Aylesford  
07/01/12 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Wellesley Camden Westmorland  
24/11/12 New Parliament York & Albany Cumberland & Teviotdale Eldon* Liverpool^ Westmorland  
02/06/17 Approbation Eldon* Cholmondeley Shaftesbury Bathurst Liverpool^  
14/01/19 New Parliament Harrowby Westmorland Wellington Shaftesbury Liverpool^  
21/04/20 New Parliament Eldon* Canterbury Wellington Westmorland Shaftesbury  
14/11/26 New Parliament Eldon* Wellington Westmorland Liverpool^ Harrowby  
04/02/30 Session Opened Lyndhurst* Bathurst Rosslyn Wellington^ Aberdeen  
26/10/30 New Parliament Lyndhurst* Canterbury Buckingham Rosslyn Bathurst  
27/10/30 Approbation Lyndhurst* Rosslyn Bathurst Ellenborough Melville  
14/06/31 New Parliament Canterbury Brougham & Vaux* Wellesley Grey^ Durham  
15/06/31 Approbation Brougham & Vaux* Richmond Lansdowne Durham    
29/01/33 New Parliament Brougham & Vaux* Grey^ Richmond Lansdowne Auckland  
31/01/33 Approbation Brougham & Vaux* Richmond Lansdowne Albermarle Auckland  
19/02/35 Session Opened Canterbury Lyndhurst* Rosslyn Wharncliffe Jersey  
31/01/37 Session Opened Canterbury Cottenham* Lansdowne Duncannon Melbourne^  
15/11/37 New Parliament Cottenham* Lansdowne Conygham Mulgrave Duncannon  
28/05/39 Approbation Cottenham* Lansdowne Duncannon Shaftesbury Falkland  
07/10/41 Prorogation Lyndhurst* Wellington^ Buckingham & Chandos Shaftesbury Wharncliffe  
02/02/43 Session Opened Lyndhurst* Canterbury Wharncliffe Buccleugh Shaftesbury  
05/09/44 Prorogation Lyndhurst* Wharncliffe Buccleugh Wellington^ Del La Warr Dalhousie
18/11/47 New Parliament Canterbury Cottenham* Lansdowne^ Spencer Auckland  
19/11/47 Approbation Lansdowne^ Langdale Grey Auckland Campbell  
01/08/49 Prorogation Lansdowne^ Minto Clanricarde Saint Germans Campbell  
31/01/50 Session Opened Cottenham* Lansdowne Minto Breadalbane London  
04/11/52 New Parliament St Leonards* Lonsdale Salisbury Montrose Northumberland  
05/11/52 Approbation St Leonards* Salisbury Montrose Eglinton Colchester  
20/08/53 Prorogation Cranworth* Granville Argyll Breadalbane Newcastle  
14/08/55 Prorogation Cranworth* Granville Argyll Stanley of Alderley Harrowby  
29/07/56 Prorogation Cranworth* Harrowby Stanley of Alderley Willoughby D’Eresby Monteagle of Brandon  
30/04/57 New Parliament Cranworth* Harrowby Spencer Stanley of Alderley Argyll  
01/05/57 Approbation Cranworth* Granville^ Harrowby Spencer Argyll  
28/08/57 Prorogation Canterbury Cranworth* Granville^ Harrowby Panmure  
02/08/58 Prorogation Chelmsford* Salisbury Hardwicke De La Warr Beaufort  
13/08/59 Prorogation Campbell* Granville^ Somerset Saint Germans Sydney  
28/08/60 Prorogation Campbell* Somerset Sydney Stanley of Alderley Monteagle of Brandon  
06/08/61 Prorogation Westbury* Granville^ Saint Germans Sydney Monteagle of Brandon  
06/02/62 Session Opened Westbury* Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley    
07/08/62 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans Russell Kingsdown    
05/02/63 Session Opened Westbury* Argyll Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
28/07/63 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans Newcastle Stanley of Alderley Wensleydale  
04/02/64 Session Opened Westbury* Argyll Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
29/07/64 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans De Grey Sydney Wensleydale  
07/02/65 Session Opened Westbury* Somerset Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
06/07/65 Prorogation Granville^ Saint Germans Sydney Eversley Wensleydale  
01/02/66 New Parliament Cranworth* Argyll Sydney Bessborough Stanley of Alderley  
02/02/66 Approbation Cranworth* Argyll Sydney Bessborough Dalhousie  
10/08/66 Prorogation Chelmsford* Buckingham & Chandos Malmesbury Bradford Cadogan  
21/08/67 Prorogation Chelmsford* Richmond Bradford Beaufort Devon  
19/11/67 Session Opened Chelmsford* Marlborough Malmesbury Buckingham Cadogan  
31/07/68 Prorogation Cairns* Malmesbury Beaufort Buckingham Devon  
10/12/68 New Parliament Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Ailesbury  
11/12/68 Approbation Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Argyll  
16/02/69 Session Opened Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Ailesbury  
11/08/69 Prorogation Hatherley* Kimberley Granville Sydney Foley  
08/02/70 Session Opened Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Bessborough Sydney  
10/08/70 Prorogation Hatherley* Halifax Kimberley Normanby Sydney  
21/08/71 Prorogation Hatherley* Halifax Saint Albans Cowper Cork  
06/02/72 Session Opened Hatherley* Ripon Halifax Sydney Bessborough  
12/02/72 Approbation Hatherley* Halifax Bessborough Cork Eversley  
10/08/72 Prorogation Hatherley* Ailesbury Granville^ Kimberley London  
06/02/73 Session Opened Selborne* Ripon Halifax Kimberley Cork  
05/08/73 Prorogation Selborne* Granville^ Cowper Sydney Bessborough  
05/03/74 New Parliament Cairns* Richmond^ Hertford Beauchamp Bradford  
06/03/74 Approbation Cairns* Richmond^ Beauchamp Skelmersdale    
07/08/74 Prorogation Cairns* Beauchamp Derby Bradford Skelmersdale  
05/02/75 Session Opened Cairns* Malmesbury Hertford Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
13/08/75 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond^ Beauchamp Shrewsbury Hardwicke  
15/08/76 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond^ Hardwicke Hertford Bradford  
14/08/77 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond Salisbury Harrowby Skelmersdale  
17/01/78 Session Opened Cairns* Richmond Hertford Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
16/08/78 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond Northumberland Hertford Skelmersdale  
05/12/78 Session Opened Cairns* Richmond Northumberland Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
15/08/79 Prorogation Cairns* Northumberland Beauchamp Hardwicke Skelmersdale  
07/09/80 Prorogation Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Kimberley Cork  
27/08/81 Prorogation Selborne* Spencer Cork Kenmare Monson  
07/02/82 Session Opened Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Cork Monson  
02/12/82 Prorogation Selborne* Granville^ Kimberley Carrington Monson  
15/02/83 Session Opened Selborne* Carlingford Sydney Cork Monson  
25/08/83 Prorogation Selborne* Derby Sydney Kenmare Monson  
05/02/84 Session Opened Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Monson Carrington  
14/08/84 Prorogation Selborne* Sydney Derby Kenmare Monson  
23/10/84 Session Opened Selborne* Carlingford Kimberley Kenmare Monson  
14/08/85 Prorogation Halsbury* Lathom Waterford Coventry Hardwicke  
12/01/86 New Parliament Halsbury* Cranbrook Iddesleigh Coventry Barrington  
13/01/86 Approbation Halsbury* Cranbrook Iddesleigh Coventry Barrington  
25/09/86 Prorogation Halsbury* Iddesleigh Stanley of Preston Kintore Barrington  
27/01/87 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Cross Kintore Coventry  
16/09/87 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Stanley of Preston Brownlow Lothian  
09/02/88 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Cross Kintore Rosslyn  
24/12/88 Prorogation Halsbury* Coventry Kintore Colville of Culross Esher  
21/02/89 Session Opened Halsbury* Cranbrook Kintore Lathom Cross  
11/02/90 Session Opened Halsbury* Mount Edgcumbe Limerick Cross Knutsford  
25/11/90 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Coventry Brownlow Knutsford  
09/02/92 Session Opened Halsbury* Portland Coventry Mount Edgcumbe Cross  
04/08/92 New Parliament Halsbury* Rutland Cross Knutsford Lathom  
05/08/92 Approbation Halsbury* Rutland Cross Knutsford Balfour of Burleigh  
18/08/92 Prorogation Herschell* Kimberley Spencer Ripon Oxenbridge  
31/01/93 Session Opened Herschell* Spencer Kimberley Breadalbane Carrington  
25/08/94 Prorogation Herschell* Kimberley Breadalbane Carrington Chesterfield  
05/02/95 Session Opened Herschell* Spencer Tweedmouth Breadalbane Carrington  
22/04/95 Approbation Herschell* Kimberley Spencer Carrington Kensington  
05/09/95 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Norfolk Limerick Belper  
11/02/96 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Lathom Ashbourne Kintore  
14/08/96 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Coventry Balfour of Burleigh James of Hereford  
19/01/97 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Pembroke Balfour of Burleigh Kintore  
06/08/97 Prorogation Halsbury* Norfolk Cross Ashbourne    
12/08/98 Prorogation Halsbury* Norfolk Coventry Waldegrave Rathmore  
07/02/99 Session Opened Halsbury* Hopetoun Coventry Balfour of Burleigh James of Hereford  
17/10/99 Session Opened Halsbury* Pembroke Marlborough Coventry Balfour of Burleigh  
30/01/00 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Hopetoun Kintore Belper  
03/12/00 New Parliament Halsbury* Clarendon Kintore Pembroke Belper  
20/06/05 Approbation Halsbury* Waldegrave Kintore      
15/02/16 Session Opened Buckmaster* Devonshire Lincolnshire Sandhurst Farquhar  
04/02/19 New Parliament Birkenhead* Crawford Donoughmore Farquhar Sandhurst  
05/02/19 Approbation Birkenhead* Crawford Donoughmore Ribblesdale Newton  
28/04/21 Approbation Birkenhead* Lincolnshire Kintore Sandhurst Balfour of Burleigh  
08/01/24 New Parliament Cave* Cromer Shaftesbury Desart Somerleyton  
09/01/24 Approbation Cave* Cromer Desart Fitzalan of Derwent Huntly  
02/12/24 New Parliament Cave* Shaftesbury Kintore Donoughmoure Newton  
03/12/24 Approbation Cave* Donoughmore Kintore Fitzalan of Derwent Finlay  
21/06/28 Approbation Hailsham* Kintore Strachie Muir Mackenzie Darling  
25/06/29 New Parliament Sankey* Stanhope Kintore Atkin Southborough  
26/06/29 Approbation Sankey* Stanhope Kintore Atkin Southborough  
03/11/31 New Parliament Sankey* Sumner Somerleyton Darling Stonehaven  
04/11/31 Approbation Sankey* Londonderry Onslow Stanhope Islington  
26/11/35 New Parliament Hailsham* Stanmore Thankerton Russell of Killowen Rennell  
27/11/35 Approbation Hailsham* Crawford Goschen Stonehaven Rhayader  
09/03/43 Approbation Simon* Salisbury Crewe Fitzalan of Derwent Addison  
01/08/45 New Parliament Jowitt* Salisbury Samuel Addison Cranborne  
02/08/45 Approbation Jowitt* Fitzalan of Derwent Stansgate Stanmore Mottistone  
01/03/50 New Parliament Jowitt* Addison^ Mersey Hardinge of Penthurst Llewellin  
02/03/50 Approbation Jowitt* Addison^ Mersey Swinton Hardinge of Penthurst  
31/10/51 New Parliament Simonds* Mersey Swinton Hall Ismay  
01/11/51 Approbation Simonds* Mersey Swinton Hall Llewellin  
07/06/55 New Parliament Kilmuir* Home Hall Woolton Ogmore  
08/06/55 Approbation Kilmuir* Home Hall Woolton Ogmore  
20/10/59 New Parliament Kilmuir* Hailsham Saint Aldwyn Stansgate Silkin  
21/10/59 Approbation Kilmuir* Hailsham Saint Aldwyn Stansgate Silkin  
27/10/64 New Parliament Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Listowel Rea  
28/10/64 Approbation Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Listowel Rea  
26/10/65 Approbation Gardiner* Dilhorne Listowel Henderson Ogmore  
18/04/66 New Parliament Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Rea Donovan  
19/04/66 Approbation Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Rea Morris of Borth-y-Gest  
29/06/70 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
30/06/70 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
12/01/71 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
06/03/74 New Parliament Elwyn-Jones* Listowel Windlesham Shackleton Byers  
07/03/74 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Saint Aldwyn Byers  
22/10/74 New Parliament Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Windlesham Byers  
23/10/74 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Champion Listowel Saint Aldwyn Byers  
03/02/76 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Byers Hailsham of Sain Marylebone  
09/05/79 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Soames^ Aberdare Byers Elwyn-Jones  
10/05/79 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Soames^ Aberdare Byers Elwyn-Jones  
15/06/83 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Aberdare Belstead Byers Cledwyn of Penrhos  
16/06/83 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Aberdare Belstead Byers Cledwyn of Penrhos  
07/11/86 Prorogation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Whitelaw^ Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe Diamond Elwyn-Jones  
17/06/87 New Parliament Havers* Whitelaw^ Seear Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos  
18/06/87 Approbation Havers* Whitelaw^ Seear Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos  
15/11/88 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Belstead^ Nugent of Guildford Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
16/11/89 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Belstead^ Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
01/11/90 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Denham Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
22/10/91 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Waddington^ Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
16/03/92 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Waddington^ Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
27/04/92 New Parliament Mackay of Clashfern* Caithness Aberdare Seear Cledwyn of Penrhos  
28/04/92 Approbation Mackay of Clashfern* Ferrers Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
05/11/93 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Wakeham^ Richard Seear Weatherill  
03/11/94 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Richard Seear Weatherill  
08/11/95 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Ampthill Jenkins of Hilhead Richard  
17/10/96 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Jenkins of Hilhead Richard Weatherill  
21/03/97 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Jenkins of Hilhead Ampthill Richard  
07/05/97 New Parliament Irvine of Lairg* Richard^ Jenkins of Hilhead Cranborne Weatherill  
08/05/97 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Richard^ Thomson of Monifieth Cranborne Weatherill  
19/11/98 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Cranborne Rodgers of Quarry Bank Jay of Paddington^ Chalfont  
11/11/99 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Strathclyde Rodgers of Quarry Bank Jay of Paddington^ Weatherill  
23/10/00 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Jay of Paddington^ Mackay of Ardbrecknish Rodgers of Quarry Bank Weatherill  
30/11/00 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Jay of Paddington^ Marsh Strathclyde Rodgers of Quarry Bank  
13/06/01 New Parliament Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Strathclyde Moore of Wolvercote Jenkins of Hillhead  
14/06/01 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Moore of Wolvercote Strathclyde Williams of Crosby  
07/11/02 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Williams of Crosby Strathclyde Molyneaux of Killead  
20/11/03 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Thomson of Monifieth Donaldson of Lymington  
18/11/04 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Blatch Donaldson of Lymington Williams of Crosby  
11/05/05 New Parliament Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Donaldson of Lymington Roper  
12/05/05 Approbation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Roper Donaldson of Lymington  
08/11/06 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally  
30/10/07 Prorogation Ashton of Upholland^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Williamson of Horton  
26/11/08 Prorogation Royall of Blaisdon^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Williamson of Horton  
22/06/09 Approbation Royall of Blaisdon^ Strathclyde McNally D’Souza Jack Straw*  
12/11/09 Prorogation Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Royall of Blaisdon^ D’Souza  
08/04/10 Prorogation Royall of Blaisdon^ Hayman~ Strathclyde Shutt of Greetland D’Souza  
18/05/10 New Parliament Strathclyde^ Hayman~ McNally Royall of Blaisdon D’Souza  
19/05/10 Approbation Strathclyde^ Hayman~ McNally Royall of Blaisdon D’Souza  
01/05/12 Prorogation Shutt of Greetland D’Souza~ Strathclyde^ Williamson of Horton Royall of Blaisdon  
25/04/13 Prorogation Williamson of Horton D’Souza~ Hill of Oareford^ McNally -1  
14/05/14 Prorogation Butler of Brockwell D’Souza~ Hill of Oareford^ Royall of Blaisdon Wallace of Tankerness  
26/03/15 Prorogation D’Souza~ Hunt of Kings Heath Laming Newby Stowell of Beeston^  
18/05/15 New Parliament Stowell of Beeston^ D’Souza~ Royall of Blaisdon Wallace of Tankerness Laming  
19/05/15 Approbation Stowell of Beeston^ D’Souza~ Royall of Blaisdon Laming Wallace of Tankerness  
12/05/16 Prorogation Wallace of Tankerness D’Souza~ Stowell of Beeston^ Hope of Craighead Smith of Basildon  
27/04/17 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Hope of Craighead Fowler~ Newby Smith of Basildon  
13/06/17 New Parliament Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Hope of Craighead  
14/06/17 Approbation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Hope of Craighead  
09/09/19 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Hope of Craighead      
08/10/19 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Newby Judge Smith of Basildon  
04/11/19 Approbation Robert Buckland* Evans of Bowes Park^ Dholakia Judge Smith of Basildon  
17/12/19 New Parliament Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Judge  
17/12/19 Approbation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Judge  

UPDATE (March 2020)

I recently came across the Journals of the House of Lords which, unlike Hansard, do list all the commissioners and even describe their seating order. I will not be remaking the spreadsheet though. Firstly I just can’t be bothered, and secondly only certain years of the journals are available online, so the updated recored would have several serious gaps.

Musings on the Garter

Lady Mary Peters by Nedkennedy and her armorial achievement by Heralder (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Earlier this year Dame Mary Peters, Gold Medalist in the Pentathlon at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, was appointed a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Last year the same honour was conferred on Dame Mary Fagan, former Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. The Garter is England’s oldest order of chivalry. Membership is marked by, among other things, a carving of one’s crest atop a stall in the quire of St George’s Chapel Windsor. Here a problem emerges – women don’t have crests!

English heraldry grants crests only to men (“men” includes Queens Regnant), and they are transmissible only through the agnatic line unless by special warrant. This is consistent throughout the armorial traditions of most countries where crests are used at all – Canada being a notable exception, for its heraldic authority was founded relatively recently and is subject to that country’s stringent equality laws. What, then, do Garter ladies put atop their stalls?

Up until this point, the absence of female crests has been worked around by using their coronets instead, though in many cases this leads to a loss of uniqueness. Margaret Thatcher, Mary Soames and Elizabeth Manningham-Buller have been represented by baronial coronets, Lavinia Fitzalan-Howard by a ducal one. Queens Alexandra, Mary and Elizabeth used the royal crown, while the Princess Royal and the Honourable Lady Ogilvy used lesser crowns appropriate to a child or grandchild of the sovereign respectively. It is not just women to whom this applies – many times the Garter has been given to foreign princes (more on them later) to whose native heraldry the crest is unknown, and they too have simply used their crowns or coronets in its place – although Japanese kamon are sufficiently dissimilar that Emperor Akihito had to improvise a little with his chrysanthemum seal.

The challenge that Fagan and Peters present is that they are neither princesses nor peeresses, and thus would not have coronets to put above their shields (or indeed lozenges) either. The solution was to grant them each a badge – a paraheraldic device that is normally worn by the owner’s staff and retainers rather than the owner herself. This is not as revolutionary as may first appear, for in the mists of time the badge may well have been the origin of the crest and they are sometimes used interchangeably. Though a blazon is not readily available, Fagan’s badge shows a blue boar standing on a red cap of maintenance and Peters’s shows a Ulysses butterfly on the dome of Belfast City Hall. Their armorial achievements still omit the helm, torse and mantling which normally go between the crest and the shield.

At this point it is worth a mention of these Marys’ Caledonian counterpart Lady Marion Fraser. In 1996 she was appointed to the Order of the Thistle, essentially Scotland’s equivalent to the Garter, whose members’ crests are similarly displayed at the High Kirk of Edinburgh. As with the Garter, Ladies of the Thistle before Fraser had invariably been peeresses and/or princesses, so could use their coronets instead. Lady Marion was a special exception in receiving a grant to use a helm and crest (A demi-female richly attired holding in her dexter hand at the shoulder a thistle slipped and leaved all Proper and in her sinister hand at the hip a fraise Argent), which are displayed on her stall in the same way as the men’s.

Moving back to the foreign princes, in 1988 King Juan Carlos of Spain was made a Stranger Knight of the Garter. In 1989 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was made a Stranger Lady. As monarchs, they bore the undifferenced royal arms of their respective countries. Beatrix abdicated in 2013 and Juan Carlos in 2014, in favour of their sons Willem-Alexander and Felipe VI. The new king of Spain was admitted to the order himself in 2017, and the Dutch king in 2018. The decision to appoint these two monarchs while their predecessors are still alive means that the royal banners of their countries will now appear twice each in the chapel. Beatrix, reverting to Princess, has since adopted a differenced version of her arms (quartering with the arms of the former Principality of Orange, then surmounting them with an inescutcheon of the arms of her father Prince Bernhard), though it remains to be seen if her Garter banner will be updated. Juan Carlos, still styling himself King (though not The King as with British Queens Dowager) has adopted new external ornamentation but his shield remains the same. The only domestic example of this was Edward VIII, whose honours all merged into the crown upon his accession and were granted anew following his abdication. As Duke of Windsor he differenced the royal arms with a label of three points Argent, the centre bearing the Imperial Crown Proper.


Snapping a Sovereign

Many times on this website I have logged my encounters with notable individuals,including so far an astronaut, three MPs, an MEP a baron and a bishop. In recent weeks I have repeatedly made reference to the reconstruction of the campus of the University of Hull. Today those threads intertwine as I recount the opening of the Allam Medical building by Her Majesty The Queen.

First notice of the event was given nine days in advance in an electronic message by the vice-chancellor. More information came in stages, with the exact timings revealed only the night before along with a list of suitable vantage points for people not directly involved. Security was visible yesterday, with police cars appearing intermittently on the forecourt. Today crowd barriers were erected at key points and several hundred people swarmed behind them. Having had a long morning lecture I was unable to stand on the front line, so went into the neighbouring Brynmor Jones Library. Even there it was crowded, but I found a spot of empty window space on the third floor. This turned out to be far more advantageous than standing by the barriers – firstly because I could sit down at a computer desk instead of standing in the cold air, secondly because my window was parallel to the southern face of the Allam Medical building, and through two layers of glass we could see the official party moving around inside. We spotted the bright blue flash of Her Majesty’s dress as she emerged from the lift on the third floor. We also spotted some of her attachment running down the access stairs in advance of her departure. Finally she emerged from the glass doors to return to her state limousine to be driven over to the Canham Turner building for the next stage of her engagement.

Another dense crowd formed in advance of her emergence, so getting a view was impossible. I tried to find an upstairs window in the Robert Blackburn building opposite but could not see anything useful. From directly behind the crowd I could barely get a view of the door and from the steps of student central my eye line was blocked by the large metal overhang. Desperately I sought a viewing post inside Canham Turner, eventually joining a smaller clump of onlookers peering through a glass door off the entrance lobby. The view was extremely limited – made worse by so many students pressing their enormous smart phones against the glass. Attendance at these events always requires a delicate balance between present and posterity – one can spend so much time trying to record the perfect video or photograph that one defeats the objective of actually looking at the subject in the flesh. Eventually we saw the Queen and other guests go by (judging by their elaborate clothes we guessed one of them was the Lord Mayor of Hull) and then I dashed back outside to see the flag atop the limousine shrinking as it drove away. Briefly I considered that the day was over – then I had another idea.

Rushing around the back of the Gulbenkian Centre and the Loten Workshops I found that the access road behind the campus (beyond which are the old sports centre and the new Courtyard accommodation) was relatively uncrowded. The procession of cars passed barely a metre from me. Upon spotting a small girl with a bouquet of flowers, one of the support vehicles even paused and collected them to pass on later.

This is probably the peak of my encounters. Reigning for more than six decades in sixteen countries, our hexadecimal nonagenarian monarch is as famous a human as is ever likely to exist in my lifetime. I guess it’s all downhill from here.


Long To Reign Over Us

A dark-haired woman of 19 in a military uniform stands in from of a green truck with a large red cross on the right face.

HRH The Princess Elizabeth in April 1945.

Not many people, even among royalty, make it to the age of ninety years. George III and Victoria both expired at 81, while the first Elizabeth was a source of amazement for living to 69. Indeed, many a sovereign has died rather young – Henry V died at 36, Richard II at 33, Mary II at 32 and two Tudor monarchs (Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey) never reached adulthood. Edward V did not manage to reach his teens.

All the more impressive it then is for our diamond nonagenarian to reign as she does today. More so, it is a significant accomplishment that today’s birthday girl can still appear in public for her celebrations, whereas few others of her age could claim likewise. By the time that George III reached his final year he was bald, blind, and utterly insane. Among his many descendants he had outlived three of his children and three of his grandchildren. His wife, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg, tightly predeceased him as well.

Victoria had her own share of tragedies: having been one of few monarchs to truly marry for love, she spent thirty-nine years in mourning for her lost Prince Consort. Again, several princes could not outlive the Queen – Alice, Alfred (of Edinburgh), Leopold, Frederick, Sigismund, Waldemar, Albert Victor, Alexander John, Friedrich, Marie, Alfred (of Saxe-Coburg), Christian Victor, Harald, and two unnamed stillbirths.

Lilibet, by contrast, has her litter, and theirs, intact. Though she has lost her younger sister, the only death so far in the generation below her was Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 (and she, by that point, was not actually a relative anymore). In that decade it was lamented that, in the family supposed to represent the bulwark of British integrity, three of her four children had divorced. Now, though, two have happily remarried while the third has seemingly reconciled with his former spouse.

Furthermore, the institution she represents has generally been stable – whereas Charles

Having been head of state in so many countries for so many years (with the result of featuring on so many coins, notes and stamps), Her Majesty has the most reproduced face in all of human history.