In modern-day Britain, there are a great number of governmental, judicial and servile positions which are largely representational; that is to say, they are mainly or wholly ceremonial and have no function outside the upholding of a certain tradition – often at great financial cost to the public.
All the offices which are discussed below are related in some way to the British monarchy, and although historically they were some of the most powerful positions in the British government, the holders of the majority of these offices do not have any political power today – which, arguably, makes their upholding even more indefensible.
“Any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don’t believe it when somebody else tells you.” – Mark Twain
Great Officers of State (incomplete)
Lord High Steward
The officer who carries St. Edward’s crown during the coronation of the British monarch.
Lord High Chancellor
The custodian of the Great Seal of the Realm.
Lord President of the Council
The minister who presents new business to the Privy Council (the council which advises the British monarch about affairs of state).
Lord Great Chamberlain
The officer in charge of Buckingham Palace.
Lord Privy Seal
The custodian of the monarch’s Privy Seal.
Lord High Constable of England
The ceremonial chief of the Royal Army.
The officer who is charge of organising Royal funerals and coronations.
Lord High Admiral
The titular head of the Royal Navy.
Ceremonial Officers (incomplete)
Lord Lieutenants (and their Deputies)
The monarch’s personal representative in a Lieutenancy.
High Sheriffs (and their Undersheriffs)
The monarch’s judicial representative in a Reeve.
Stewards, Chancellors, Admirals, Keepers, Receivers, Solicitors, Wardens, Surveyors, Auditors and Heralds of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall
The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall are the rental properties of the British Monarch and the Prince of Wales respectively.
Kings of Arms, Heralds, Pursuivants and Inspectors
The officers of arms manage heraldic and armorial matters and participate in Royal ceremonies.
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
An officer who is titularly responsible for the defence of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich.
Warden and Marker of the Swans
These officers concern themselves with swan welfare on behalf of the British Monarch, who holds the title ‘Seigneur of the Swans’, and owns all mute swans in Britain.
Royal Household Officers (incomplete)
Royal Bodyguards, Yeomen and Archers
These are the ceremonial bodyguards of the British Monarch. Their commanders are known as Gold Stick and Silver Stick.
Chief Butler of England
This office organises the coronation banquet for each newly crowned British Monarch.
Mistress of the Robes
This office manages the clothes and jewellery of the Queen of England.
Pages of the Backstairs, Presence and Honour
These are titles given to the people who serve dinner to the British monarch, announce guests at events at Buckingham Palace, and carry the Queen’s train at official occasions.
“One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense
“It’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.”
– Talullah Bankhead
If claims that the actress slept with ’40 per cent of the British aristocracy’ during her eight-year stay in 1920s London are overblown, her reckless exhibitionism is well attested. When crew complained of her lack of underwear on the set of Lifeboat in 1944, Hitchcock’s laconic reply was: ‘I don’t know whether that’s a concern for wardrobe or hairdressing.’
Lese-majesty is a crime (as treason) committed against a sovereign power or an offence violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power.
At the time of writing, article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” – Denis Diderot
The Great Council of Venice declared prostitution to be “absolutely indispensable to the world” in 1358, and government-funded brothels were established in major Italian cities throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.
The British Crown Jewels are not insured.
A government laboratory in Beijing uses electric eels to predict the time and location of earthquakes. In 2005, its accuracy rate was 89 percent.
Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires means “Good air”.
The Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to East Asia. They constitute approximately 20% of the entire global human population, making it the largest ethnic group in the world.
Salvador Dali broke his jaw while putting his fist in his mouth as a party trick. He was trying to impress the woman who would later become his wife.
Odontophobia is the fear of teeth.
Queen Victoria wore a bridal veil made from human hair.
According to USA Today, North Koreans must abide by one of 28 approved haircuts. Unmarried women must have short hair, but married woman have many more options. The hair of young men should be less than 2 inches long, older men can go as long as 2¾.
Since 1968 onwards, more Americans have died from gunfire on home soil than in all the wars in United States history.
At Her Majesty’s pleasure (His Majesty when appropriate, sometimes abbreviated to Queen’s or King’s Pleasure) is a legal term of art derived from the fact that the authority for all governance stems from the Crown. Originating from the United Kingdom, it is now used throughout the Commonwealth realms, though usually in a traditional manner.
The Crown of Saint Edward
In realms where the monarch is represented by a viceroy, the phrase may be modified to be at the Governor’s pleasure, since the governor-general, governor, or lieutenant governor is the Queen’s personal agent in the country.
In nations under a presidential form of government, the phrase has been adapted to suit the title of the chief executive.
The term is also used to describe detainment in prison or a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite length of time; a judge may rule that a person be “detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure” for serious offences or based on a successful insanity defence. This is sometimes used where there is a great risk of re-offending; however, it is most often used for juvenile offenders, usually as a substitute for life sentencing (which would naturally be much longer for younger offenders).
For example, Britain’s Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 states:
“Where a person convicted of murder or any other offence the sentence for which is fixed by law as life imprisonment appears to the court to have been aged under 18 at the time the offence was committed, the court shall (notwithstanding anything in this or any other Act) sentence him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.”