Most of the royal jobs with silly titles are largely honorific.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
The royal directories called in evidence this week at the Old Bailey phone hacking trial have occasioned much hilarity. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, caused laughter to break out when he quipped “interesting titles – ‘royal pastry’!” as he flicked through one of them. Just for a moment, the lid was lifted on the peculiar royal world.
The job that really caught the court’s eye was “warden of the swans”, a post held by biologist Christopher Perrins, an emeritus fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. The warden of the swans works alongside the marker of the swans, David Barber, and together they conduct the annual census of swans on the Thames called swan upping. The Queen owns all the UK’s mute swans, but only exercises her right of possession around Windsor.
As they row past Windsor Castle, the swan uppers salute “Her Majesty the Queen, Seigneur of the Swans” in a time-honoured ceremony that Lib Dem MP Norman Baker once dismissed as a feudal throwback. “Swan upping is harmless in itself, but it masks a wider anachronism which is unhealthy and unfair,” he complained. What he perhaps didn’t know was that the two jobs are relatively recent, dating from 1993 when the 13th-century post of keeper of the Queen’s swans was split in two. Who says the royal household doesn’t move with the times?
Most of the royal jobs with silly titles are, like the two swan posts, largely honorific. The earl marshal, lord great chamberlain and lord steward have to attend to the sovereign’s well-being and look presentable in scarlet; the key qualification for mistress of the robes is not good dress sense but marriage to a duke; the equerries, gentlemen ushers and ladies of the bedchamber are all aristocrats and retired colonels. Only the queen’s piper, David Rodgers of the Irish Guards, has to work hard, piping up outside the Queen’s door every weekday at 9am and playing for 15 minutes.
If anything, though, the battiness of royal job titles is in decline as the royal household tries to propel itself into the 17th century. Keeper of the lions in the Tower has sadly bitten the dust, as have laundress of the body linen, necessary woman to the corridor, groom of the removing wardrobe, yeoman of the mouth, strewer of herbs, master of cock fighting, chocolate maker to the queen, and all the royal moletakers. At least Norman Baker will be pleased.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010