In both the United Kingdom and Canada, a Chapel Royal refers not to a building but to a distinct body of priests and singers who explicitly serve the spiritual needs of the sovereign. They are organized as a royal chapel in the form of an ecclesiastical body of clergy, singers and vestry officers appointed to serve the spiritual needs of the country's reigning sovereign.
The chapel royal refers not to a building but to an establishment in the Royal Household; a body of priests and singers to explicitly serve the spiritual needs of the sovereign. The term is also, however, applied to those buildings used as chapels by the priests and singers of the chapel royal for the performance of their duties. The two currently regularly used British Chapels Royal are located in St James's Palace in London: the Chapel Royal and the Queen's Chapel. In the United Kingdom, the Chapel Royal is a department of the Ecclesiastical Household, formally known as the royal "Free Chapel of the Household". The household is further divided into two parts: an ecclesiastical household each for Scotland and England, belonging to the Church of Scotland and the Church of England respectively.
In their early history, the English and Scottish chapels royal travelled, like the rest of the court, with the monarch and performed wherever he or she was residing at the time. The first records of the Scottish Chapel Royal date from the eleventh century. James IV of Scotland established a building for the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle in 1501, which James VI commissioned William Schaw to rebuild in 1594. The Italianate building was used for the christening of James's son, Prince Henry.
The collegiate chapel or Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle was reconstructed by James IV in 1501, lying between the King's Old Building and the Great Hall. The original lay further south than the present building. This was the chapel in which Queen Mary was crowned in 1543. When James VI's first son, Prince Henry was born in 1594, it was decided to rebuild the chapel for the royal christening. It has Italianate arched windows. The interior was decorated by the painter Valentine Jenkin prior to the visit of Charles I in 1633. The wall paintings were rediscovered in the 1930s
The English Chapel Royal had emerged as a distinct body by the eleventh century. Records of the Dean of the Chapel Royal date to 1312, and the first full description of the chapel, describing twenty-six chaplains and clerks, comes from the fifteenth century, during the reign of Edward IV. The English Chapel Royal became increasingly associated with Westminster Abbey, so that by 1625 over half of the Gentlemen of the English Chapel Royal were also members of the Westminster Abbey choir. The chapel achieved its greatest eminence during the reign of Elizabeth I, when William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were joint organists. The Master of the Children had, until at least 1684, the power to impress promising boy trebles from provincial choirs for service in the chapel. The theatre company affiliated with the chapel, known as the Children of the Chapel Royal, produced plays at court and then commercially until the 1620s by playwrights including John Lyly, Ben Jonson and George Chapman.
In the 17th century the chapel royal had its own building in Whitehall, which burned down in 1698; since 1702 it has been based at St James's Palace. In the 18th century the choristers sang the soprano parts in performances of Handel's oratorios and other works. Under Charles II, the choir was often augmented by violinists from the royal consort; at various times the chapel has also employed composers, lutenists and viol players.
Since such establishments are outside the usual diocesan structure, the chapels royal are royal peculiars. Scotland and England have distinct Deans of the Chapel Royal, that of England being held since 1748 by the (sitting) Bishop of London, while daily control is vested in the Sub-Dean, presently the Revd Canon Paul Wright, who is also Domestic Chaplain to the sovereign at Buckingham Palace. He is assisted by the Revd William Whitcombe and the Revd Richard Bolton, who both hold the office of Priest in Ordinary to the Sovereign, and Jon Simpson who is Sergeant of the Vestry.
The chapels royal are served by a choir, six Gentlemen-in-Ordinary and ten Children of the Chapel— all boys. The current Director of Music of the English Chapel Royal is Joe McHardy  who is assisted by a sub organist. The chapel royal occupies a number of buildings.
The Chapel Royal conducts the Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and combines with the choir of the host abbey or cathedral on Royal Maundy.
St James's Palace
This building has been used regularly since 1702 and is the most commonly used facility today. Located in the main block of St James's Palace, it was built c. 1540 and altered since, most notably by Sir Robert Smirke in 1837. The large window to the right of the palace gatehouse is in the north wall of this chapel which is laid out on a north-south rather than the usual east-west axis. Its ceiling richly decorated with royal initials and coats of arms is said to have been painted by Holbein.
The separate Queen's Chapel, once also part of the St James's Palace compound, was built between 1623 and 1625 as a Roman Catholic chapel, at a time when the construction of Catholic churches was prohibited in England, for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. From the 1690s it was used by Continental Protestant courtiers and became known as the German chapel. After the adjacent apartments burnt down in 1809 they were not replaced, and in 1856–57 Marlborough Road was built between the palace and the chapel.
Hampton Court Palace
At the daughter Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace a Choral Foundation was registered as a charity in 2011 with an appeal for funds "to preserve its historic tradition of sacred music from Tudor times to the twenty-first century at the present high standard of excellence." The aim is to raise £1 million to provide bursaries for Choristers to help them with the cost of instrumental or vocal tuition; to encourage schools near Hampton Court Palace to promote choral music and organ music with the help of the chapel royal; and to make the musical establishment of the chapel royal financially independent of the Privy Purse Charitable Trust and of the income from collections at services in the chapel royal.
Denis Mulliner in 2010 was made its Canon after no such holder for 530 years.
Tower of London, Brighton and Dublin
Two patronised instances almost never attended by the monarch are the chapels of St John the Evangelist and St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, having their own chaplains and choirs. Roger Hall, the chaplain of the Tower of London, was made canon of the chapel royal at the Tower of London after no such holder for 300 years.
Brighton has a former chapel royal known as the Chapel Royal which was promoted in 2010 to a church in its own right having been for visiting Royalty and primarily a chapel of ease (to the Church of St Peter).
Three sanctuaries in Canada have the designation of Chapel Royal, and all of them are located in the province of Ontario. They have historic ties both to the Canadian Crown and to First Nations people.
Two of them are associated with the Mohawk people: Mohawk Chapel in Brantford and Christ Church near Deseronto. The former was designated as a Chapel Royal in 1904 by King Edward VII. The latter was designated as a Chapel Royal in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth II and is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ontario.
- Anglican church music
- Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal
- Religion in Canada
- Religion in the United Kingdom
- Royal peculiar, places of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch
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- Dale, Antony (1989). Brighton Churches. London: Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 0-415-00863-8.
- "History". Mohawk Chapel. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "Her Majesty's Chapel Royal of the Mohawk". The Anglican Parish of Tyendinaga. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
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- The Buildings of England, London 6: Westminster (2003) page 587.
- "Blow, John." Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 December 2006), Grovemusic.com
- "Purcell." Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 December 2006), Grovemusic.com
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