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.
- Earl Marshal
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