Groom of the Chamber
Groom of the Chamber and Groom of the Privy Chamber were positions in the Royal Household of the English monarchy, the latter considerably more elevated. Other Ancien Régime royal establishments in Europe had comparable officers, often with similar titles. In France, the Duchy of Burgundy, and in England while French was still the language of the court, the title was varlet or valet de chambre. In German, Danish and Russian the term was "Kammerjunker" and in Swedish the similar "Kammarjunkare".
Traditionally, the English Court was organized into three branches or departments:
- the Household, primarily concerned with fiscal more than domestic matters, the "royal purse;"
- the Chamber, concerned with the Presence Chamber, the Privy chamber, and other more public rooms of the royal palaces, as the Bedchamber was concerned with the innermost.
- the Bedchamber, focused on the most direct and intimate aspects of the lives of the royal family, with its own offices, like the Groom of the Body and the Squire of the Body;
The Chamber organization was controlled by the Lord Chamberlain; if he was the general of a small army of servitors, the Grooms of the Chamber were his junior officers, with ushers and footmen the footsoldiers. The Grooms wore the royal livery (in earlier periods), served as general attendants, and fulfilled a wide range of specific functions. (One Groom of the Chamber had the job of handing the "King's Stuff" to a Squire of the Body, who would then dress the King.) Grooms ranked below Gentlemen of the Chamber, usually important noblemen, but above Yeomen of the Chamber. They were mostly well-born, on a first rung of a courtier's career.
The office of Groom of the Chamber could also be bestowed in a more honorific manner, upon people who served the royal household in some less direct way. The early Tudor poet Stephen Hawes became a Groom of the Chamber in 1502, under Henry VII. In the reigns of the early monarchs of the House of Stuart, James I and Charles I, the actors of the King's Men, the playing company under royal patronage, were officially "Grooms extraordinary of the Chamber". They did not usually fulfill the normal functions of the office; rather, they served the King by performing plays for him. Although on busy occasions, the King's Men appear to have acted as more ordinary servants: in August 1604 they were "waiting and attending" upon the Spanish ambassador at Somerset House, "on his Majesty's service" — but no plays were performed.) They were also turned out to bulk up the Household for grand ceremonial occasions.
A similar arrangement held for some of Queen Anne's Men, including their playwright Thomas Heywood; they became Grooms of the Queen's Chamber, under the Queen's Chamberlain. On some occasions, Shakespeare, Heywood, and their compatriots wore the royal livery, marched in processions, and played other roles in the ceremonial life of the monarchy. (Grooms could not be arrested for debt without the permission of the Lord Chamberlain — a big advantage for sometimes-struggling actors.) In at least two cases, those of George Bryan (Lord Chamberlain's Men) and John Singer (Queen Elizabeth's Men; Admiral's Men), professional actors became "normal" Grooms of the Chamber, with the normal duties, after retiring from the stage.
Grooms of the Bedchamber were close to the King and were occasionally sent overseas as special envoys to negotiate royal marriages and such. During the exile of James II a court was maintained by that king in France and certain of his grooms joined him there. Similarly, during the last years of the reign of King George III, when he withdrew from public life in consequence of his poor mental health, several of his grooms followed him to Windsor Castle, whilst others remained in London to serve the Prince Regent, later to become King George IV. When the Monarch was a Queen, the positions of Groom of the Bedchamber were not filled.
List of Grooms of the Privy Chamber
|6 June 1660||Maurice Wynn||James Elliott||Robert Thompson|
|7 June 1660||Adam Hill|
|10 June 1660||Adrian May|
|12 June 1660||James Progers|
|17 May 1661||Roger Burgess|
|27 January 1669||Thomas Ross|
|30 April 1670||Arthur Ingram|
|15 May 1671||Thomas Cooke|
|15 May 1672||Paul French|
|17 May 1673||John Lowther|
|25 June 1673||Christopher Jeffreys|
|8 July 1676||John Bellingham|
|18 December 1676||Humphrey Graves|
|11 October 1677||Richard Binns|
|20 May 1678||Yelverton Peyton|
|23 October 1680||Edward Lloyd|
|20 August 1683||John Radcliffe|
|February 1685||Robert Thompson||Christopher Jeffreys|
|February 1689||Robert Thompson||Christopher Jeffreys|
|28 March 1689||Thomas Duppa||Humphrey Graves|
|12 January 1694||David Carbonell|
|29 July 1695||William Wallis|
|30 November 1695||William Whitmore|
|22 December 1699||Robert Barkham|
|19 May 1700||Robert Wallis|
|25 October 1701||Cornelius Tilburgh|
|9 July 1702||John Bonning||Robert Hemmington|
|26 March 1711||Cornelius Tilburgh|
|28 May 1715||Joseph Ashley|
|3 February 1719||James Trymmer|
|12 August 1719||Edward Parsons|
|25 November 1720||John Parsons|
|10 December 1728||Langham Edwards|
|11 May 1729||Wentworth Odiarne|
|2 June 1740||Charles Collins|
|7 June 1745||Edward Capell|
|24 February 1750||Charles Husband Collins|
|3 June 1762||Strelley Pegge|
|8 October 1762||Samuel Pegge|
|5 July 1774||John Larpent|
|6 July 1774||Thomas Collins|
|24 October 1778||William Fordyce|
|24 February 1781||James Trail|
|18 November 1781||James Hawkins|
|7 March 1785||Hale Young Wortham|
|March 1788||Richard Byron|
|5 February 1794||Edmund Armstrong|
|19 October 1797||Robert Chester|
|29 July 1798||James Meller|
|23 May 1800||John Hunter|
|18 May 1802||William Chapman Fowle|
|19 August 1808||Frederick Chapman|
|3 June 1812||William Fenton Scott|
|6 July 1814||Robert Powell|
|12 August 1818||William Beresford|
|12 December 1823||Charles Dashwood|
|21 April 1832||Courtenay Edmund William Boyle|
|23 April 1833||Thomas Shiffner|
|6 May 1836||Arthur Johnstone Blackwood|
|1 November 1839||Stewart Henry Paget|
|24 February 1840||Thomas Noel Harris|
|1 March 1852||Hon. Mortimer Sackville-West|
|13 July 1852||Samuel Randall|
|16 February 1859||John Home Purves|
|31 March 1860||John Francis Campbell, of Islay|
|2 October 1862||Edward Stopford Claremont|
|3 July 1867||Hon. Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel|
|14 January 1871||Hon. Charles George Cornwallis Eliot|
|8 January 1874||James Bontein|
|16 February 1874||Nathaniel George Philips|
|24 October 1884||Arnold Royle|
|25 July 1890||Malcolm Drummond, of Megginch|
|1 October 1893||Hon. Otway Frederick Seymour Cuffe|
|14 November 1899||Sir Francis Knollys|
List of Grooms of the Bedchamber
Charles I (1625–1649)
No Grooms of the Bedchamber appointed
Charles II (1661–1685)
|1 Feb 1661||John Ashburnham||Daniel O'Neill||Henry Seymour|
|2 Feb 1661||Thomas Elliot||Thomas Killigrew||Richard Lane||Robert Phillips||Silius Titus||David Walter|
|3 Feb 1661||Edward Proger|
|6 Feb 1661||William Legge|
|1 Jan 1662||Hon. Henry Coventry|
|28 Oct 1664||James Hamilton|
|1 Oct 1670||Sidney Godolphin|
|16 June 1671||Thomas Felton|
|21 June 1672||Bernard Granville|
|7 June 1673||Henry Savile|
|8 July 1675||Henry Guy|
|August 1677||George Porter|
|18 July 1678||George Rodney Bridges|
|April 1679||Thomas Wyndham|
|16 May 1679||Thomas Lee|
|26 Nov 1679||Thomas Neale|
|March 1683||Bevil Skelton|
|15 May 1683||Francis Gwyn|
|19 Dec 1683||Henry Killigrew|
James II (1685–1688)
|2 May 1685||James Fortrey||Oliver Nicholas||Henry Slingsby||Hon. Heneage Finch||Richard Leveson||Hon. James Griffin||Francis Russell||David Lloyd|
|9 March 1687||Richard Bagot|
William III (1689–1702)
|6 June 1689||Percy Kirke||Hatton Compton||Charles Trelawny||Emanuel Scrope Howe||John Sayers||Adrian van Borselen||Hon. James Stanley|
|March 1690||Arnold Joost van Keppel|
|29 Apr 1691||Hon. Thomas Windsor|
|January 1692||Hon. George Cholmondeley|
|6 May 1695||Thomas Wentworth|
Anne (1702–1714) No Grooms of the Bedchamber appointed
George I (1714–1727)
|20 Sep 1714||Hon. William Kerr||James Tyrrell|
|16 Oct 1714||James Dormer||Hon. Charles Howard||William Breton||George Feilding|
|21 Oct 1714||Henry Cornewall||Philip Honywood|
|15 June 1715||Sir Gustavus Hume|
|13 May 1719||Hon. William Finch|
|11 June 1720||Sir Wilfrid Lawson|
|10 Aug 1721||Hon. Charles Cornwallis|
|24 June 1722|
|25 May 1723||Hon. Robert Sawyer Herbert|
George II (1727–1760)
|21 Aug 1727||Sir Robert Rich|
|14 Sep 1727||Thomas Paget||Hon. Charles Lumley||John Selwyn||Charles Churchill||Hon. Charles Cathcart||John Campbell||Hon. Sir James Campbell||Sir Charles Hotham|
|7 May 1731||John Clavering|
|7 May 1733||Hon. James Brudenell|
|22 April 1740||Hon. William Herbert|
|14 July 1742||Hon. Edward Finch|
|20 Jan 1746||John Mostyn|
|22 Jan 1747||Hon. Edward Cornwallis||Hon. John Waldegrave, 3rd Earl Waldegrave|
|5 April 1757||Hon. Henry Seymour Conway|
|4 June 1757||John Offley|
|16 Jan 1760||Charles FitzRoy|
|19 Jan 1760||Hon. Richard Savage Nassau|
George III (1760–1820)
George IV (1820–1830)
|January 1820||Hon. Edward Finch||Hon. William Keppel||Edmund Stevens||Hon. William Lumley||Charles Nassau Thomas||Hon. Henry Fitzroy Stanhope||Hon. Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw||Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner||Hon. Sir Edward Paget||Sir George Campbell||Hon. Henry King||Joseph Whatley||Sir Edmund Nagle|
|4 April 1820||Lord Francis Nathaniel Conyngham|
|24 Jan 1821||Sir Andrew Francis Barnard|
|11 Oct 1821||Hon. Sir Charles Paget|
|7 Sep 1825||Sir William Houston|
|27 May 1828||Thomas Armstrong|
|24 Sep 1828||Hon. John Robert Townshend|
|14 Feb 1830||Hon. George Cecil Weld-Forester|
|15 March 1830||Henry Thomas Hope|
William IV (1830–1837)
|June 1830||Hon. Edward Finch||Hon. William Keppel||Hon. William Lumley||Hon. Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw||Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner||Joseph Whatley||Hon. Sir Charles Paget||Sir William Houston||Thomas Armstrong||Hon. John Robert Townshend||Hon. George Cecil Weld-Forester||Henry Thomas Hope|
|17 July 1830||Sir Hussey Vivian|
|24 July 1830||Hon. Sir Robert Cavendish Spencer|
|30 Nov 1830||Hon. Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet|
|23 Dec 1830||Sir Robert Waller Otway|
|31 Jan 1831||Sir James Reynett|
|24 Feb 1831||Hon. George Pryse Campbell|
|12 Nov 1832||Sir Charles Rowley|
|15 Dec 1832||Thomas William Taylor|
|20 June 1837||Accession of Queen Victoria. Post became redundant.|
The French portrait painter Jean Clouet (c. 1485–1540) was appointed a valet de chambre groom of the chamber of the French monarchy in 1523, as was his son François Clouet later. The office could serve as a sinecure to provide a minimum income and social place for someone who enjoyed royal favor.
Many noble households in Europe had their own grooms of the chamber, known by various titles. See Valet de chambre for a fuller account.
- "Hawes, Stephen". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Halliday, p. 460; spellings modernized.
- At that time, Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester (1563–1626), younger brother of Sir Philip Sidney.
- C. E. Challis, 'Sharington, Sir William (c. 1495–1553), administrator and embezzler', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004
- The London Gazette: . 8 November 1839.
- The London Gazette: . 24 February 1840.
- The London Gazette: . 2 March 1852.
- The London Gazette: . 20 July 1852.
- The London Gazette: . 18 February 1859.
- The London Gazette: . 30 March 1860.
- The London Gazette: . 3 October 1862.
- The London Gazette: . 26 July 1867.
- The London Gazette: . 17 January 1871.
- The London Gazette: . 16 January 1874.
- The London Gazette: . 20 February 1874.
- The London Gazette: . 28 October 1884.
- The London Gazette: . 25 July 1890.
- The London Gazette: . 10 October 1893.
- Bucholz, R. O. The Database of Court Officers 1660-1837. Loyola University of Chicago.
- Brown, Cedric C., ed. Patronage, Politics, and Literary Traditions in England, 1558-1658. Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1993.
- Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.
- Walter, James. Shakespeare's True Life. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1890; reprinted Kessinger Publishing, 2003.