Friday, June 01, 2012

British Royal Household Staff Records 1660-1924

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was just received from our friends at FindMyPast. Please address all inquiries thru that website.

  • Discover who served Britain’s Kings and Queens from King Charles II to King George V, at  findmypast.co.uk
  • ‘Chocolate Maker to the Queen’, ‘Keeper of the Lions in the Tower’ and ‘Moletaker’ among some of the most extraordinary roles
Have you ever wondered who works in a Royal Household, or whether you might have a connection to someone who served the Royal Family? In celebration of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, family history website findmypast.co.uk, in association with the Royal Archives, has today launched the Royal Household Staff Lists, a detailed collection made available online for the first time.

Previously only accessible at Windsor Castle by appointment, these rarely viewed records cover royal residences across the UK including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St. James’ Palace, and include 50,000 staff records from the reign of King Charles II to King George V between 1660 and 1924. With details such as name, occupation, age, length of service and salary, the records paint a vivid picture of life in a Royal court, revealing what it takes to run a Royal Household and the wide range of duties involved in serving the British Monarchy.

Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, commented: “To be able to view these records online for the first time is incredibly exciting - not only for people worldwide with an interest in the British Monarchy, but also for anyone wanting to confirm family rumours about connections to those who worked for the Royal Household! With such a broad range of trades and occupations spanning four centuries of Royal Household history, almost anyone could find they’re connected to those who served the Crown!”

Pages, physicians and the ‘Chocolate Maker to the Queen'
A reigning monarch typically had 1000 staff in the Royal Household. The biggest department was the Lord Chamberlain’s Department, which had on average 700 staff and was responsible for the ceremonial and social life of the Court. Traditionally, employees in this department included the ‘above stairs’ servants such as pages, craftsmen, chaplains, physicians, musicians, watermen and Yeomen of the Guard. There are also a number of most unusual occupations listed among the Royal Household staff:

Extraordinary Job Titles in the Royal Household*
  1. Chocolate Maker to the Queen
  2. Yeoman of the Mouth to Her Majesty Queen Mary in the Pantry
  3. Necessary Woman to the Corridor and Entrance Hall
  4. Keeper of the Lions in the Tower
  5. Moletaker
  6. Master of the Game of Cock Fighting
  7. Groom of the Removing Wardrobe
  8. Groom of the Stole
9.     Strewer of Herbs
10.  Laundress of the Body Linen

The records reveal charming details of life in the Royal Household. Queen Anne, for example, had such a penchant for barley cream and posset, according to records from 1702, that she engaged two women of the Bedchamber to make them and other ‘spoon meats’ for £60 per annum. Examples like this provide a fascinating snapshot into royal tastes centuries ago.

Inside the Royal Kitchen
In the run up to The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it is also interesting to compare how the Royal Household prepared for previous Jubilee celebrations, including that of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 115 years ago.  

According to the records, Gabriel Tschumi was Master Chef to three monarchs: Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V, having joined the Royal Household as a cook’s apprentice at the age of 16. For Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee banquet in 1897, 24 additional chefs were brought over from Paris to help with the cooking. What’s more, the younger apprentices in the kitchens attempted to grow their moustaches to resemble those of their French superiors!

The Royal Family and their guests, including several crowned heads of Europe, dined on a banquet of Normandy sole, lamb chops, roast beef, quail and tongue, with pineapple fritters and meringue for dessert.***

Professor Robert Bucholz, renowned expert on officials of the Royal Household and Professor of History at Loyola University of Chicago, commented: “The court at Whitehall, St. James’s and Buckingham Palace was not just the seat of the most powerful government in the world; it was the political, social and cultural centre of the nation. Thus the records of Royal Household staff, preserved in the Royal Archives at Windsor and now made available online through findmypast.co.uk, are the record of their service to the British crown.

Bucholz continued: “Professional historians have long had access to these records, but now ordinary citizens from around the world have the opportunity to track down ancestors here.  Indeed, even I – an American of German and Mexican descent – found a namesake: one George Buckholtz, livery pony boy, undoubtedly part of the German contingent serving at the later Hanoverian court.”

Debra Chatfield concluded: “People across the globe continue to be fascinated by the British Royal Family, as well as the relationship between ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ life. In the year of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, this is the perfect opportunity to explore your family history and discover whether you have an ancestor who worked for the Royal Household.”

The Royal Household Staff records can be searched for free at http://www.findmypast.co.uk/search/other-records/british-royal-archives/. Transcripts and scanned images of the original documents can be viewed with PayAsYouGo credits or a Full subscription, 

About findmypast.co.uk
Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk was the first company to make the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England and Wales available online in April 2003, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation.

Findmypast.co.uk has subsequently digitised many more family history records and now offers access to over 750 million records dating as far back as 875 AD. This allows family historians to search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of military, census, migration, parish, work and education records, as well as the original comprehensive birth, marriage and death records. The company runs the official 1911 census website for England and Wales in association with The National Archives and has digitised several other record sets from the national collection.

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