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Gentleman Usher

Gentleman Usher

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Encyclopedia
Gentleman Usher is a title for some officers of the Royal Household
Royal Household
A Royal Household in ancient and medieval monarchies formed the basis for the general government of the country as well as providing for the needs of the sovereign and his relations....

 of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. See List of Gentlemen Ushers for a list of office-holders.

Historical


Gentlemen Ushers were originally a class of servants found not only in the Royal Household, but in lesser establishments as well. They were regularly found in the households of Tudor
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

 noblemen, and were prescribed by Richard Brathwait, in his Household of an Earle, as one of the "officers and Servants the state of an Earle requireth to have". The Gentlemen Ushers occupied a level intermediate between the steward
Butler
A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its...

, the usual head, and the ordinary servants; they were responsible for overseeing the work of the servants "above stairs", particularly those who cooked and waited upon the nobleman at meals, and saw to it the great chamber was kept clean by the lesser servants. He was also responsible for overseeing other miscellaneous service, such as the care of the nobleman's chapel and bed-chambers. It was traditionally the gentleman usher who swore in new members of the nobleman's service.

The duties of a gentleman usher, not unlike those of a contemporary butler
Butler
A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its...

, made him quite important in Tudor and 17th century households. George Chapman
George Chapman
George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar, and his work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been identified as the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the Metaphysical Poets...

's play The Gentleman Usher has as its title character the pompous but easily fooled Bassiolo, Gentleman Usher to Lord Lasso.

The Gentlemen Ushers of the Royal Household, in order of precedence, were originally the four Gentlemen Ushers of the Privy Chamber (who attended the Sovereign in the Privy Chamber), the four Gentlemen Ushers Daily Waiters, and the eight Gentlemen Ushers Quarter(ly) Waiters. The latter two originally served different terms of service, but the distinction later became only nominal, as the role of the Gentlemen Ushers became increasingly ceremonial and they exercised less supervision over the staff. In 1901, King Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

 abolished the three classes and began to appoint simply Gentlemen Ushers in Ordinary.

Contemporary


Gentlemen Ushers to The Queen are generally appointed from retired military, naval and air force officers (and occasionally civilians) for irregular and infrequent attendance at royal events. They are used for Garden Parties
Garden party
A garden party is a social gathering with food provided, in the open in a park or a garden. An event described as a garden party is usually more formal than other similar gatherings, which may be called just parties, picnics, barbecues, etc,...

, and Investiture
Investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

s, where they act as ushers. Ushers, who are unpaid, retire at 70, when they may become Extra Gentlemen Ushers.

Particular Gentlemen Ushers


Certain Gentlemen Ushers have duties outside of the Royal Household, usually attached either as officers of an order of knighthood or to a House of Parliament. These are, in order of antiquity:
  • The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, established c.1361 as an officer of the Order of the Garter
    Order of the Garter
    The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

    , who also serves as secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain
    Lord Great Chamberlain
    The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable...

     and Doorkeeper of the House of Lords and (since 1971) Serjeant-at-Arms
    Serjeant-at-Arms
    A Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer appointed by a deliberative body, usually a legislature, to keep order during its meetings. The word sergeant is derived from the Latin serviens, which means "servant"....

     of the House of Lords
    House of Lords
    The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

    . During the Tudor period, he was usually one of the senior members of the Royal Household, such as the Groom of the Stool
    Groom of the Stool
    The Groom of the Stool was the most intimate of a monarch's courtiers, whose physical intimacy naturally led to him becoming a man in whom much confidence was placed by his royal master, and with whom many royal secrets were shared as a matter of course...

    ; from the Restoration until 1765, Black Rod was the senior of the existing Gentleman Usher Daily Waiter, after which a new Daily Waiter was appointed to succeed the previous Black Rod. The present Black Rod is Lieutenant General Ian Davidson.
  • The Gentleman Usher of the White Rod, established as a hereditary dignity c.1373, who attended the Parliament of Scotland
    Parliament of Scotland
    The Parliament of Scotland, officially the Estates of Parliament, was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The unicameral parliament of Scotland is first found on record during the early 13th century, with the first meeting for which a primary source survives at...

     before its abolition in 1707. The heritable office was pronounced to be adjudgeable in 1758, and has been bought and sold several times since then. The position was revived to some degree in connection with the Parliament of Great Britain
    Parliament of Great Britain
    The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

    , and is now held by the Walker Trustees.
  • The Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod
    Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod
    The Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod is the Gentleman Usher to the Order of the Thistle, established in 1687.- Office Holders from 1714 :*1714–1761 Sir Thomas Brand*1762–1787 Robert Quarme*1787–1800 Matthew Robert Arnott*1800–1842 Robert Quarme the younger...

    , established 1714, is the usher for the Scottish Order of the Thistle
    Order of the Thistle
    The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order...

    , currently Rear Admiral Christopher Hope Layman.
  • The Irish Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, established 1783, is the usher for the Irish Order of St Patrick; there have been no appointees to the office since 1933.
  • The Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod
    Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod
    The Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod is the Gentleman Usher to the Order of the Bath, established in 1725.-Office Holders from 1725:*1725 – ?: Edmund Sawyer*bef. 1763 – aft. 1789: Henry Hill*bef. 1806 – 2 July 1814: Sir Isaac Heard...

    , established in 1725, is the usher for the British Order of the Bath
    Order of the Bath
    The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

    . The present Scarlet Rod is Major General Charles Vyvyan.
  • The Gentleman Usher to the Sword of State
    Gentleman Usher to the Sword of State
    The Gentleman Usher to the Sword of State is an officer of the British Royal Household. He is responsible for bearing the Sword of State before the monarch on ceremonial occasions...

    , established c.1842, is the usher who bears the Sword of State
    Sword of State
    A sword of state is a sword, used as part of the regalia, symbolizing the power of a monarch to use the might of the state against its enemies, and their duty to preserve thus right and peace.It is known to be used in following monarchies:...

     in ceremonial processions, currently Sir John Allison.
  • The Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod
    Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod
    The Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod is the Gentleman Usher to the Order of St Michael and St George, established in 1818.The office was simply designated as that of "Officer of Arms" to the Order from the first appointment in 1882 until 1911, when it received the present name.-Officers of Arms of...

    , established as 1882 as an "Officer of Arms" and made an usher in 1911, is the usher for the British Order of St Michael and St George
    Order of St Michael and St George
    The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

    , currently Sir Anthony Figgis
    Anthony Figgis
    Sir Anthony Figgis, KCVO CMG was Her Majesty's Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom from 2001 to 2008....

    .
  • The Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod
    Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod
    The Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod is the Usher to the Order of the British Empire, established in 1917 and effective since 1918.-Office Holders from 1918:*1918 – 23 August 1952: Sir Frederic Kenyon*30 September 1952 – 2 December 1960: Sir Ernest Gowers...

    , established in 1918, is the usher for the Order of the British Empire
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

    , currently Sir Alexander Michael Graham.


Gentlemen Ushers of the Black Rod also exist for New Zealand, Australia and its states, and Canada.