Wardrobe (government)

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The wardrobe, along with the chamberlain, made up the personal part of medieval English government known as the king's household. Originally the room where the king's clothes, armour and treasure was stored the term was expanded to describe its contents and then the department of clerks who ran it. The wardrobe treasure of gold and jewels, funded by but not under the control of the treasury (and therefore Parliament) enabled the king to make secret and rapid payments to fund his diplomatic and military operations.

The wardrobe often appropriated large funds from the exchequer, the main financial government office. During the reign of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III, there were several conflicts over the confusion of authority between these two offices. The conflict was largely resolved in the mid-fourteenth century when William Edington, as treasurer under Edward III, brought the wardrobe in under the financial oversight – if not control – of the exchequer. In the sixteenth century the wardrobe lost much of its former importance. This was due both to the growing sophistication and size of government making it less mobile, and to the lower frequency of military campaigns led by the king in person.

There were in fact two main wardrobes for a period - around 1300 the confusingly-named Great Wardrobe, responsible only for expenditure on such things clothing, textiles, furs and spices, had split away from the more senior household wardrobe, which remained responsible for financing the king's personal expenditure and his military operations, but the two departments were later reunited. In addition there were smaller Privy Wardrobes at the Tower and various royal palaces.

The chief officials went under the title of Master or Keeper of the Wardrobe and was a position in the British Royal Household. Under the keepers were lesser officials such as the controller. Several keepers of the great wardrobe, such as future bishop John Buckingham, were promoted to the household wardrobe. Below is a list of known holders until the abolition of the office in 1782.

Keepers of the Household Wardrobe[edit]

  • c1200: Robert of Braybrooke
  • 1213–1215: Odo
  • 1222–1232: Walter of Brackley (later Bishop of Ossory) (jointly)
  • 1224–1231: Walter of Kirkham (later Bishop of Durham) (jointly)
  • 1224–1227: Ranulph le Breton (jointly)
  • 1232–1234: Peter de Rivaux
  • 1234–1236: Walter of Kirkham
  • 1236–1240: Geoffrey the Templar
  • 1240–1241: Peter of Aigueblanche (later Bishop of Hereford) and William de Burgh
  • 1241–1254: Peter Chaceporc
  • 1255–1257: Artaud of Saint-Romain
  • 1257–1258: Peter de Rivaux
  • 1258–1261: Aubrey of Fecamp
  • 1261–1261: Peter of Winchester
  • 1261–1263: Henry of Ghent
  • 1264–1265: Ralph Sandwich
  • 1265–1268: Nicholas of Lewknor
  • 1268–1272: Peter of Winchester
  • 1272–1274: Philip Willoughby
  • 1274–1274: Antony Bek (later Bishop of Durham)
  • 1274–1280: Thomas Bek (later Bishop of St Davids)
  • 1280–1285: William of Louth
  • 1285–1287: Hamo de la Legh
  • 1287: Roger de Lisle
  • 1290–1295: Walter Langton
  • 1307–1308: John Benstead
  • 1308–1309: John Droxford
  • 1309–1311: Ingelard Warley
  • 1312–1312: Peter Collingbourn
  • 1312–1314: Ingelard Warley
  • 1314–1316: William Melton
  • 1316–1322: Roger Northburgh
  • 1322–1323: Roger Waltham
  • 1323–1328: Robert Wodehouse
  • 1328–1329: Richard Bury
  • 1329–1331: Thomas Garton
  • 1331–1334: Robert Tawton
  • 1334–1337: Edmund Ferriby
  • 1337–1338: Edmund de la Beche
  • 1338–1340: William Norwell
  • 1340–1341: William Cusance
  • 1341–1344: William Edington
  • 1344–1347: Walter Wetwang
  • 1347–1349: Thomas Clopton
  • 1349–1350: William Cusance
  • 1350–1353: William de Retford
  • 1353–1357: John Buckingham
  • 1357–1358: William de Retford
  • 1358–1359: Henry Walton
  • 1359–1360: William Farley
  • 1360–1361: William Ferriby
  • 1361–1366: William Manton
  • 1366–1368: William Gunthorpe
  • 1368–1369: Thomas Brantingham (later Bishop of Exeter)
  • 1369–1375: Henry Wakefield
  • 1375–1376: William Moulsoe
  • 1376–1377: Richard Beverley
  • 1377–1390: William Pakington
  • 1390-1399: John Carp
  • 1399 Merged with Great Wardrobe

Keepers or Masters of the Great Wardrobe[edit]

Keepers of local Wardrobes[edit]

  • 1405-1408 Henry Somer (Keeper of the Wardrobe in the Tower)
  • 15??: Thomas Maynman (Keeper of the Wardrobe at East Greenwich)
  • 1515: John Patey (Keeper of the Wardrobe at Richmond)
  • 1533-1557: John Rede (Keeper of the Wardrobe at Westminster)
  • 1563: Sir Hugh Underhill (Keeper of the Wardrobe at East Greenwich)

Deputy Masters of the Great Wardrobe[edit]

The Deputy Master of the Great Wardrobe was a position in the British Royal Household, the chief subordinate to the Master of the Great Wardrobe. Holders enjoyed a salary of £200 (fixed in 1674), reduced to £150 in 1761. The post seems to have developed into a sinecure, and by 1765, the office of Assistant to the Deputy Master had become established. The post was abolished with the other offices of the Great Wardrobe in 1782.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Campbell, William (ed.), Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII, pp. 164, 306, 588 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bucholz 2006, pp. 146-156.
  3. ^ Namier, Sir Lewis; Brooke, eds. (1985). The House of Commons, 1754-1790. vol. II. Cambridge: Secker & Warburg. pp. 28–29. 


Further reading[edit]