Alan Lascelles

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The Right Honourable
Sir Alan Lascelles
Sir Alan Lascelles.jpg
Lascelles in 1943
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
In office
Preceded by Sir Alexander Hardinge
Succeeded by Sir Michael Adeane
Assistant Private Secretary to the Sovereign
In office
Monarch George V
Edward VIII
George VI
Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
In office
Governor General The Earl of Bessborough
Preceded by Sir Eric Miéville
Succeeded by Shuldham Redfern
Personal details
Born (1887-04-11)11 April 1887
Sutton Waldron, Dorset, England
Died 10 August 1981(1981-08-10) (aged 94)
Kensington, London, England
Nationality British
Joan Frances Vere Thesiger
(m. 1920; d. 1971)
Children 3
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford
Military service
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1913-1938
Rank Captain
Unit Bedfordshire Yeomanry

World War I

Awards Military Cross

Sir Alan Frederick Lascelles GCB GCVO CMG MC (/ˈlæsəls/; 11 April 1887 – 10 August 1981) was a British courtier and civil servant who held several positions in the first half of the twentieth century, culminating in his position as Private Secretary to both King George VI and to Queen Elizabeth II. He wrote the Lascelles Principles in a 1950 letter to the editor of The Times, using the pen-name "Senex".

Early life and education[edit]

Sir Alan was known to his intimates as "Tommy".[1] He was born on 11 April 1887 in the village of Sutton Waldron in Dorset, England, the son of Commander Frederick Canning Lascelles and Frederica Maria Liddell, and the grandson of Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood.[2] He was thus a cousin of Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, who married Mary, Princess Royal, sister of his employers, Edward VIII and George VI.

After attending school at Marlborough College, followed by Trinity College, Oxford, Lascelles served in France with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry during the First World War, where he rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded the Military Cross, after which he became the aide-de-camp to his brother-in-law Lord Lloyd, the Governor of Bombay from 1919 to 1920.


Lascelles then returned to Britain and was appointed Assistant Private Secretary to Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1920, serving in that role until resigning in 1929, citing differences with the prince. From 1931 to 1935, he was Secretary to the Governor General of Canada.

Lascelles became the Assistant Private Secretary to King George V in 1935.

When the Prince of Wales ascended to the throne as King Edward VIII, upon the death of King George V, in January 1936, Lascelles served briefly as the new King's private secretary. Then, when Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936, Lascelles became private secretary to King George VI, some time after the new king's accession.[3][page needed]

Lascelles was knighted by King George VI, while aboard a train, during the highly successful 1939 royal tour of Canada and the United States, which he had helped to arrange and manage.[3][page needed]

In 1943, Sir Alan was promoted to Private Secretary to King George VI. In 1952, he became Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II, a role he held until 1953.

Sir Alan was also Keeper of the Royal Archives from 1943 to 1953.

Sir Alan's papers are now held in the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Personal life[edit]

On 16 March 1920, Sir Alan married Joan Frances Vere Thesiger (1895–1971).

They had three children:

  • John Frederick Lascelles, born 11 June 1922, died 11 September 1951.
  • Lavinia Joan Lascelles, born 27 June 1923; married to Major Edward Westland Renton, then briefly to the writer Gavin Maxwell.
  • Caroline Mary Lascelles, born 15 February 1927; married 1949 to Antony Lyttelton, 2nd Viscount Chandos; then 1985 to David Erskine, son of Lord Erskine.


Sir Alan Lascelles died on 10 August 1981 at Kensington Palace at the age of 94.

In popular culture[edit]

He is portrayed by Pip Torrens in the Netflix series The Crown, where he is portrayed as a strict enforcer of regal protocol and convention. He did not hold back in giving the crown advice contrary to the Queen's views. Queen Elizabeth appreciated his role and work with the palace and frequently took his advice even when it compromised her relationship with her sister Princess Margaret.

In the movie The King's Speech, he is played by Richard Dixon, although the movie credits only state "Private Secretary".

Honours and awards[edit]

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB)
Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)
Military Cross ribbon.png Military Cross (MC) (1919)
1914 Star BAR.svg 1914–15 Star
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg Victory Medal with palm for Mentioned in Dispatches
GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png King George V Silver Jubilee Medal (1935)
GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png King George VI Coronation Medal (1937)
UK Queen EII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953)
Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)




Lascelles, Alan (2006). Hart-Davis, Duff, ed. King's Counsellor: Abdication and War: The Diaries of Tommy Lascelles. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85155-4. 
Prochaska, Frank (2004). "Lascelles, Sir Alan Frederick (1887-1981), Courtier". In Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, Brian; Goldman, Lawrence. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31334. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. 

Further reading[edit]

Lascelles, Alan (1986). Hart-Davis, Duff, ed. End of an Era, 1887–1920. The Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles. 1. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-11960-0. 
 ———  (1989). Hart-Davis, Duff, ed. In Royal Service, 1920–1936. The Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles. 2. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-12562-5. 


Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Eric Miéville
Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by
Shuldham Redfern
Court offices
Preceded by
Sir Alexander Hardinge
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Succeeded by
Michael Adeane