Ahead of Yourself


To the extent that most people have heard of heraldry at all, they conceive it as the study and management of coats of arms. Certainly that is what the majority of my posts on the topic have discussed. That is not a herald’s only concern, however, for armory tends to intersect with other interests. Genealogy, vexillology and phaleristics are the obvious ones, but also within orbit are matters of ceremony and protocol, which often centre heavily on precedence.

Orders of precedence determine the seating plans of formal dinners and the sequencing of parades or processions. Certain institutions whether public or private may have their own specific orders of precedence, and even unaffiliated civilians may be required to adopt them for their extended families at weddings and funerals. What tends to concern heralds and heraldists, though, is the general order of precedence for an entire country.

The order of precedence for England & Wales (though that distinction is a recent one) can be documented descriptively as early as 1399, but the earliest extant prescriptions are the House of Lords Precedence Act 1539 and an ordinance issued by commissioners of the office of Earl Marshal in 1595 (itself based largely on the Lord Chamberlain’s order from 1520). It arranges the royal family and the grades of the aristocracy (peers, knights, esquires, gentlemen and their offspring) as well as the holders of important government, judicial and ecclesiastical offices. The sequence reflects the relative importance of certain jobs in Tudor times and earlier, which is often rather different to the level of power they exercise today. The Lord President of the Council and the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal – now sinecures given to the leaders of the houses of Parliament – rank just below the royal family while the secretaries of state who make up the bulk of the cabinet rank just below barons and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a redundant setting below the privy council.

The bulk of the scale has remained intact to the present day – and been repeated at the start of each edition of Burke’s and Debrett’s, though royal warrants have been issued on occasion to make small updates, such as the insertion of new orders of chivalry or of offices not formerly recognised.

The Lord High Treasurer was once a great officer of state*, but when it was put into commission the commissioners had no precedence, even after it became convention for the First Lord of the Treasury to be the de facto head of government. Victoria’s prime ministers would frequently walk into formal gatherings behind barons of their own nomination. The job of Prime Minister was at last given formal recognition by a warrant in December 1905 placing him in the position his grandfather office would have conferred. The Speaker of the House of Commons ranked rather low until a warrant in 1919 put him just after the Lord President. Other offices have fallen away over time, such as the Vice-Regent in Spirituals, the Lord High Steward and the Lord High Constable.

As with so many such matters, the situation in Scotland is less well documented. The earliest extant prescription is Edward VII’s royal warrant from February 1905. Indeed, that may be the earliest ever such instrument, for the preamble admits “a Scale of Precedence in Scotland has not been defined with due authority” and “doubts and a diversity of practice have arisen in consequence”. The order within the royal family is much the same as for England, with the exception that the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland during the sitting of the General Assembly outranks everyone except the sovereign – including the Duke of Rothesay. The office is currently held by Prince William, who thus temporarily precedes his own father. Following the nephews of the sovereign – cousins are mysteriously omitted – there is a complicated insertion explaining that the Lord Lieutenants, Lord Provosts and Sheriffs Principal rank above the Lord Chancellor within their own jurisdictions. Following the Lord Chancellor the other Scottish high officers are listed, then the ranks of the peerage and orders of chivalry in a manner near-identical to the English version. The Church of Scotland is rather different in status and structure to the Church of England so there are no bishops listed for the Scottish scale. Senators of the College of Justice are ranked similarly to High Court judges and Lords Justices of Appeal, though other senior Scottish judicial figures are ranked above the viscounts whereas their English counterparts are below barons. I note that the position for Secretaries of State is not defined in the Scottish scale either.

Small amendments have been made to the scale in subsequent years – most prominently in 1999 to clarify the positions of office-holders in the devolved administration. Even so, there are some glaring omissions:

A series of constitutional reforms in the latter noughties saw the duties of the Lord Chancellor carved up: His administrative role in the English & Welsh judiciary was devolved to the Lord Chief Justice, his executive powers to the Secretary of State and his presidency of the upper house of Parliament to the elected Lord Speaker. Plans to abolish the chancery altogether were dropped and the incumbent’s ceremonial precedence was not pushed down, but it was deemed necessary for the others to be raised up. The Lord Speaker was given precedence immediately after the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is curious that the upper house was not given ceremonial priority here, though that could be in recognition of the superior vintage of the latter office as well as the greater degree of power he has within his institution. The Lord Chief Justice had previously been placed below the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, similarly redundant as all holders in nearly three centuries had been privy councillors and/or peers. A warrant in 2007 promoted him to just below the Lord Speaker, as well as moving the Master of the Rolls (still usually commoners) to just below the barons.

The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary previously ranked solely by their necessary peerages. Upon their reconstitution as a separate Supreme Court, the justices (who from then on would not be ennobled) were placed immediately below the Master of the Rolls, while the President was placed immediately below the Lord Speaker – and thus above the Lord Chief Justice. A difficulty arises here because the Supreme Court is a UK-wide institution while the Master of the Rolls only exists in England & Wales. The precedence of non-baronial Supreme Court justices in Scotland is thus undefined – though all at least are members of the Privy Council. The President also has this problem, although it may be masked by the complexity of the incremental insertions – Scotland had its own privy council prior to the Acts of Union, with its own Lord President whose responsibilities and status were comparable to those of his English counterpart. Logically the Lord President for Great Britain (and later the United Kingdom) would continue to have the same precedence as his provincial predecessors, but the Scottish scale from 1905 makes no reference to the post. This in turn means that the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Speaker and the President of the Supreme Court are all without a defined rank in Scotland. Even the Prime Minister is left without a place, since the Archbishop of York is England-only**. It is no wonder that the Scottish scale was described by one contributor in 2011 as “a bit of a mess” and by another as “complete horlicks”.

Northern Ireland is an even worse story – there is no scale properly defined, and the Wikipedia article uses an unofficial, descriptive list from Burke’s 106th edition in 1999, which tellingly says “as in England” rather frequently.

A common feature of all three is that men and women are listed separately***. The bishoprics and various public offices are exclusively listed in the male scale. There were insertions into the women’s for dames of various orders of chivalry (outranking wives of knights of the same), but subsequent warrants regarding ministers and judges do not bother to specify which list they are altering. A convention has developed among Wikipedians (and probably everyone else who has to mind these matters) that any office held by a woman is temporarily transposed to the female scale, but without authoritative guidance we cannot be certain.

Another curiosity is that the general scale is formally headed by “The Sovereign” while the ladies’ scale is headed by “The Queen”, such that a queen regnant is technically first man as well as first woman, and while a king’s wife is a queen consort a queen’s husband is nothing at all until a special warrant is issued for his benefit. While we’re on the subject of the royal family, our attention should turn to the four – soon five – grandchildren of the Prince of Wales.

It is unusual for an heir apparent to be a grandfather before his accession to the throne. George IV (as regent) almost managed it in 1817 when his daughter Princess Charlotte of Wales was pregnant but she and the baby predeceased him. Edward VII had quite a few – Lady Alexandra Duff (later Duchess of Fife) in 1891, Lady Maud Duff (later Countess of Southesk) in 1893, Prince Edward of York (later Edward VIII) in 1894, Prince Albert of York (later George VI) in 1985, Princess Mary of York (later Princess Royal), Prince Henry of York (later Duke of Gloucester) in 1900. The first two were through a daughter so don’t really count for these purposes and the latter four were still small children when Victoria died, which means it was never necessary to define their place at state functions, though their titles and styles were subject to some dispute. Prince George of Cambridge is now older than Edward VIII was at his great-grandmother’s death and could be into adulthood – or at least adolescence – by the time of the next demise of the crown. Without any specific place for them within the royal family section, Wikipedians have determined that George and his cousin Archie rank as eldest sons of dukes of the blood royal. This status is below the non-royal dukes, who in turn are below the great officers already described****. Charlotte, as the daughter of a royal duke, similarly ranks below the duchesses. This makes sense if you consider royal dukes to be an unofficial sixth extra rank of the peerage above the normal dukes. By extension one would expect Prince Louis, as younger son of a royal duke, to rank immediately below the eldest sons of normal dukes who in turn are just below the marquesses. Instead his place is just below the earls but above the eldest sons of marquesses. This placement is rather confusing as it breaks the otherwise-consistent pattern by which children of peers are stationed. I don’t think there were any royal dukes in England with children of their own in 1520 and there certainly weren’t any in 1595, so the logic behind the original decision eludes me.


*The great officers of state (Lord High whatever) in ancient times are not to be confused with the great offices of state (Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary).

**Whether any of the Church of England’s officials should have precedence in Wales is questionable after 1920.

***Bizarrely, in the Scottish warrant from 1905 these were called “The Scale of General Precedence” and “The Scale of Precedence for Ladies”. The ladies are therefore special, one logically presumes.

****One must wonder if the current Lord President of the Council has ever sought a bow from the prince – only to follow protocol, of course.

And Ever Shall Be

It was always difficult to work out the exact year in which a given episode of Victoria was taking place, given the series’ sloppiness with chronology. Series 2 ended with “Luxury & Conscience” in which Sir Robert Peel resigns as prime minister following the murder of his personal secretary Edward Drummond – events which actually took place three years apart. Series 3 picks up with “Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown”, which covers the revolutions of 1848 and features Lord John Russell in charge. Dialogue indicates that the return of the Whigs to government is a recent development. In between these installments is the 2017 Christmas special “Comfort & Joy”, set in 1846 and showing, among other things, the adoption of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (which happened in 1850). The curious thing about the Christmas special is the absence of the political side of things. In real life Russell’s ministry had already been in place for six months but, in the series’ uncertain timeline, the political situation is simply ignored. This is almost certainly deliberate, as the intention is for the holiday special to be a purely family affair. Plus, with more than a year’s gap between the series it’s entirely possible that the later story arcs hadn’t yet been planned out, nor the relevant characters cast.

Flash forward to 2021: The Duke of Edinburgh had wished for a low-key funeral (well, by royal standards at any rate), and the pandemic meant that something on the scale of the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002 or even Lady Thatcher’s in 2013 would not be possible. Instead Philip’s coffin was driven a short distance within the bounds of Windsor Castle and then lowered into the vault. Hundreds of soldiers were still present outside, but COVID regulations forbade more than thirty attendees. Ordinarily it would be expected that prime ministers and other senior officials would attend, but Boris Johnson (and, presumably, any others concerned) relinquished his place to make room for more of the deceased’s family. The resulting guest list included eighteen descendants of King George V, eight spouses thereof, three other descendants of Queen Victoria and one spouse thereof. I had wondered if the family or the press would have sought to orchestrate a photograph of Prince George of Cambridge saluting the coffin à la John Kennedy, but it was decided that the great-grandchildren were too young to be involved.

While the masks and social distancing ought to be obvious giveaways, I actually found that the reduced attendance gave the ceremony a strangely timeless quality – it was effectively a bottle show. Other than Msssrs Mozzia and Brooksbank all the people there were the same people one would have expected to see there at had this happened at any point in the last ten years – admittedly Viscount Severn and Lady Louise would have been smaller. Justin Welby might be considered a semi-political figure and he took office in 2013, but as St George’s Chapel is a royal peculiar he played a minor role compared to David Conner, who has been Dean since 1998. Thomas Woodcock as Garter King of Arms could also be considered vaguely political given his role introducing new members of the House of Lords, with that office the public tend to remember the uniform rather than the face. The sounds of the past week, too, were those you’d expect to here: steady footsteps, military orders, cannon blasts, church bells, and, from the studio, the interminable wittering of Gyles Brandreth. Now the burbling of a Land Rover TD5 has been added to the mix. Even that adds to the timeless effect, since the Defender was in production for a third of a century and without a number plate even I – a subscriber to Land Rover Enthusiast for a few years – could not guess at a glance the decade in which this one was constructed.

Those who have studied British political history know that long ago the House of Commons met in St Stephen’s Chapel, with the Speaker’s chair on the altar steps and the members facing each other in the choir stalls – an arrangement which has been maintained in subsequent legislative chambers in Britain and around the world. As a consequence today’s proceedings – with only a few dozen people carefully spaced apart – resembled a session of the hybrid house, or perhaps even the failed 1am prorogation in 2019. Hopefully on this occasion the ceremony won’t have to be repeated a month later.

Having already done a piece about television scheduling in light of COVID, it would be pertinent to review it in relation to the royal death. Of course major newspapers and broadcasters have documentaries and obituaries prepared years in advance of the event – not just for the Duke of Edinburgh but for a wide range of prominent public figures. Eye 1545 page 18 notes how, in the build up to his centenary on 10th June, contributors often had to do each interview twice – the first speaking in present tense wearing light suits, the second in past tense wearing black ones. It was also noted that, in addition to different networks’ documentaries often – and unavoidably – using the same stock footage and delivering the same story as each other, there were some instances of companies recycling interview footage from their own documentaries in 2011 or even 2007, with talking heads who nowadays are visibly much older or even who themselves have died in the intervening years.

On other occasions this temporal tangle would be cause for disdain, but to commemorate a man who has been “a constant” for longer than most of the world can remember, somehow it feels oddly appropriate.

UPDATE (20th April)

The video I originally embedded (from the firm’s own YouTube channel) has now been set to private. The BBC’s has also disappeared. I have replaced it with the Teletrece version.

UPDATE (1st May)

That one has gone as well. I’m now using the one from 6abc Philadelphia.

Memories of Malta

Fort Manoel in Gżira, Malta, 1880.

This is Thursday and I still haven’t written anything and in any case, with the way I have been feeling and the things that have happened, I can’t even remember what I was supposed to write about. However, this week has seen the Queen celebrate her 80th birthday, and being a true royalist I was sitting watching the film of her life. She is a few months older than I am and was always there when I was a child. The two little princesses were my favourite pair. No television in those days, but I used to keep a scrapbook and cut out every picture I could find of them.

Sitting watching the program, Paull came and sat with me and I started telling him different things that had happened to granddad and myself over the years where our lives had touched with Elizabeth and Philip and had just been telling him about our lives in Malta when he left me to my program. No sooner had he gone than Malta appeared on the screen and I called him back. He watched the program with and said Grandma, you should write about these things. You knew all about that, didn’t you, so here you have a few memories. Just a few, I won’t bore you too much.

P.O. Stanley Edward Taylor & wife in Malta, 1949.

Stan and I met at Royal Arthur, a shore base at Butlins in Skegness. The first time I saw him he was wearing a pink tu-tu and dancing with four other PTIs to the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Shortly afterwards, Royal Arthur moved across country to Corsham in Wiltshire. There were three huge camps there: The first was the Ship’s Company camp for the Wrens, sailors and officers. The second was the working offices and training camps where new entries were taken in and trained, and their instructors lived on the same camp with them. I was a writer pay as it was termed and our office was very close to the gym where Stan spent his time. Up the road there was another camp, Kingsmoor where petty officers took their courses and it was there that we first made contact with Philip. We had been told that Prince Philip of Greece would be joining us and none of us had ever heard of him. We honestly thought that he was to be one of our young entrants so we were absolutely bowled over when this handsome blonde young man whizzed through the gate in an elderly open-topped sports car. The first time my friend and I saw him we were just going through the gate back to our working camp when this old black car without even slowing down shot past us taking Jean’s jacket off her arm and leaving it in the dust. Now, Jean was a Hull girl and no-one did that to her. When he didn’t stop she took her shoe off and aimed it at him together with a load of abuse. The poor old jaunty was dancing up and down waving his arms and mouthing no-no-no. That was our first meeting with Philip. We would occasionally meet him at sports events and he met with us when we played mixed hockey. Rumours started to circulate that he was getting mail from Buckingham Palace and returning from London one day he had a slight car accident. It was reported straight back to the Palace and Elizabeth dashed out and got into her car and started off for Corsham. However, word was sent that she had to be turned back and back home she was sent. Later, of course, came the Royal Wedding and ten Chiefs and Petty Officers from Kingsmoor were invited to the wedding and much to their embarrassment were known ever after that as the bridesmaids.

Philip’s ship, the Black Swan-class Magpie.

The following year Stan and I were married and Stan was posted to Malta where he was the PTI for six frigates, one of which was Philip’s Magpie. Stan was based on the Pelican which wasn’t easy for sport with six ships to look after and as we were newly-weds he pleaded his case and was allowed to stay ashore with me, except when they all went on exercises together. The little ships had never been heard of in the Med sports before but he went from one ship to the other getting his teams together by means fair and fowl. He had more AN Others on his lists than actual names, but by the time he had told each of his boxers that it didn’t really matter as so-and-so was a better boxer anyway, he ended up with his teams and that year took every cup in the Med. I can still see him and Captain Bonham Carter standing behind the goal with their faces up to the nets calling come on, hit me, hit me, and seeing their caps go flying in the air with each goal.

Stan’s ship, the Egret-class Pelican.

We went out with the footballers that night, starting out in Sliema, but the boys got restless and wanted to go down the Gutt as the red light district is known, but couldn’t because they knew Stan wouldn’t let me go. He said “As long as I am with her she can go anywhere.” and off we all went to Floriana. I was very innocent in those days and watched a matelot dancing with a large lady in a pink satin blouse. After a quick glance at this pair I remarked to Stan “What a large lady that is!”, at which all the lads curled up with laughter. We then went on to the main Gutt and after a while one of the lads came to Stan and whispered in his ear, and Stan said okay and decided that it was time we got ourselves home, and off we went. The next morning there was an SOS from Philip: “What have you done to my crew? Get yourself down to the local prison and see if you can get them out!”, and that was when I learned that Stan had been asked to remove me as there was a fight brewing between the navy and the army.

Lt. Mountbatten with the Princess Elizabeth, 1947.

Elizabeth sometimes came down to Manoel Island when the boys were playing friendly matches. There would hardly be a soul watching and a matelot would walk to the side of the of the pitch with a wooden chair and a few minutes later she would appear. No sign of her detective though, he was always around watching from a distance, and in no time a little group of sailors would be standing around her chair watching the match. She always looked so happy in Malta. They were very happy days for all of us.

Must go, it’s bedtime.

Written 27th April 2006
by Pauline Taylor (1927-2018)
UPDATE (12th April)
The Lord Judge, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, referenced his own Maltese memories in a parliamentary speech earlier today.

The Late Duke

His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark was born on 10th June 1921. He was the only son of His Royal Highness Prince Andrew of Greece & Denmark, who in turn was a younger son of His Majesty King George I of the Hellenes. Through his agnatic line he was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, while his mother Princess Alice was from the House of Battenberg. Queen Victoria was his enatic great-great grandmother.

Philip’s titles have an interesting history, in that he was born a prince of Greece and of Denmark but later renounced these titles to obtain British citizenship. This move later turned out to be unnecessary as the Sophia Naturalization Act 1705 meant he had British citizenship already. He adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was used by his maternal uncle Louis (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma) and represented an Anglicised version of Battenberg. The subsequent controversy over whether his descendants should be the House of Windsor or Mountbatten-Windsor is a little ironic given that Philip himself was already effectively going by his mother’s maiden name rather than his father’s.

The marriage certificate says Philip Mountbatten.

New titles were bestowed rapidly in advance of his wedding: On 19th November George VI appointed him a Royal Knight of the Garter (one day after The Princess Elizabeth, to maintain her seniority) and granted him the style of Royal Highness (on British authority this time), then on 20th raised him to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich – all of which now belong to his eldest son. The lack of simultaneity between these events means that for a single day he was styled “Lieutenant His Royal Highness Sir Philip Mountbatten”. On the 21st his title was inserted into the Book of Common Prayer. He was ceremonially introduced to the House of Lords on 21st July 1948. For a while there was some controversy over whether or not he was a prince. This was resolved on 22nd February 1957 when his wife, now sovereign, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, which put him level with her sons and uncles. There were some suggestions of making him “Prince Consort” like Albert or “Prince of the Commonwealth” to reflect the monarchy’s larger purview but these were ultimately turned down.

His precedence at this time is unclear, though obviously the lowest he could have ranked was as the newest ordinary duke. A royal warrant on 26th September 1952 declared his should “upon all occasions and in all Meetings except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament have, hold and enjoy Place, Pre-eminence and Precedence next to Her Majesty”, which again followed the example set by Victoria with Albert. This technically made him second man in the land, for the monarch is always first man even when female, and is the reason he was often seen walking two paces behind his wife on formal occasions.

Heraldic banner at St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, 2010

Philip’s heraldic status in his youth is not clear to me, but as a British adult he was – rather unconventionally – given two grants of arms. In 1947 his armorial achievement showed the arms of Greece surmounted by those of Denmark, which in turn were surmounted by those of his great-grandmother Alice (albeit omitting the Saxe-Coburg inescutcheon she used, which the British royals had abandoned in 1917). For reasons difficult to uncover these were deemed “unsatisfactory” so in 1949 the shield was replaced by a new quarterly version. The first quarter showed the lesser arms of the Kingdom of Denmark, the second quarter the white cross of Greece, the third the black and white stripes of Battenberg and the fourth a castle on a rock for Edinburgh. That last part is especially unusual as peers’ shields do not normally incorporate the municipal insignia of their nominal territories. These arms were of course rendered as a rectangular flag (confusingly called a royal standard, even though “standard” refers to a very different style of flag) and a square banner above his Garter stall at Windsor. In composing this article I also discovered that he had a badge, showing the castle surmounted by a princely coronet and encircled by the Garter, though I do not recall ever seeing it in use. Livery colours are not so prominent in modern times, and those of the royal family no longer change with the dynasty. Philip had his own personal livery of “Edinburgh Green”, used for his personal cars and the uniforms of his staff.

New badge illustration, published mere minutes ago.

Sodacan has of course illustrated all of these for Wikimedia Commons, and already I have spotted several instances of his illustrations being used in television coverage of his death as well as in reports online.


The Next State Opening

There has been a lot of uncertainty over the last few years with respect to the beginnings and endings of parliamentary sessions. It might have been hoped that in 2021 the process would go back to normal, with a speech from the throne each May (typically the third Wednesday, with prorogation the week before). Now, alas, the pandemic could have thrown that out as well. A Cheapo’s Guide to London currently hints that it will take place in October, while Parliament’s own website gives no information at all. It is likely that any planned date could be changed many times depending on how events unfold in the coronavirus saga.

The key difference between this year and last is that now we have a smorgasbord of vaccines to thwart the disease and – in contrast to our poor performance in controlling the outbreak – are distributing them much faster than most other countries. Priority for vaccination is given largely in descending order of age, which could mean that for a few months of this year we have the paradoxical situation in which the elderly are safe to mingle outside while the young have to remain shielded. Overall this bodes well for the House of Lords, the majority of whose members are aged 70 and over. The Lord Speaker went for his first vaccine back in December. The Queen received hers in January. If the government’s target of 2 million vaccinations per week is maintained then the majority of Britain’s population, including nearly all peers, should have received at least one vaccine dose by the start of May.

Still, that doesn’t mean the ceremony will be plain sailing: likely there will still be some social distancing required and face coverings will remain prominent, which could dampen the splendour a little. In particular the crowding of MPs in the cramped space behind the bar of the upper chamber could prove dangerous, and it may be required that only a small delegation from the lower house is allowed to come. Of the frontal foursome it is probable that Mr Speaker (63), Black Rod (55) and the Commons Clerk (62-ish) will have immunity but the Serjeant-at-Arms (44) might not. As with the introduction ceremonies there could be some subtle changes in choreography to allow the key players to stand further apart.

The preceding prorogation would need to have such tweaks as well – although attendance for that is usually quite a lot lower anyway. Lady Evans of Bowes Park is by far the youngest of the five commissioners and thus probably the last to be immunised, unfortunate given that as the Leader of the House she is the one least able to be substituted, as well as the one who sits in the middle and the one doing all the talking. It could be that this year’s prorogation is again done with just three commissioners in attendance rather than five. It is hard to find the dimensions of the chamber online but I think there might just be room to space them out properly, though perhaps it may have to be contrived so that they sit in a triangular instead of linear formation.

To make matters worse, the devolved legislatures in Cardiff and Holyrood are expected to go up for election in the same month. They traditionally welcome the monarch for an opening ceremony in the summer months – though unlike in Wesminster the speech is not a prerequisite for the commencement of parliamentary business. As with so much in this phenomenon, all we can do is wait and see.

UPDATE (22nd March)

The government has put out a press release announcing that the state opening will be on Tuesday 11th May, “adapted, with reduced ceremonial elements and attendees to ensure it is COVID-secure”.

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.


UPDATE (February 2021)

Today I found a podcast series about Richard III by Matt Lewis.

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.


UPDATE (April 2021)

I have come across some documentation of the Spanish kings’ banners – that of Juan Carlos has a lion Gules and a pomegranate Gules seeded Or, whereas Felipe’s has a lion Purpure and a pomegranate Proper seeded Gules. There are also subtle differences in the artistic depictions of the castle and the chain orle. In the footage of Prince Philip’s funeral you can see the two versions either side of the banner of King Harald V of Norway.