Groom of the Chamber

Groom of the Chamber

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Groom of the Chamber and Groom of the Privy Chamber were positions in 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 English monarchy
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, the latter considerably more elevated. Other Ancien Régime royal establishments in Europe had comparable officers, often with similar titles. In France, the Duchy of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

, and in England while French was still the language of the court, the title was varlet or valet de chambre
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

. In German, Danish and Russian the term was "Kammerjunker".

In England

Traditionally, the English Court was organized into three branches or departments:

1) the Household, primarily concerned with fiscal more than domestic matters, the "royal purse;"

2) the Bedchamber, focused on the most direct and intimate aspects of the lives of the royal family, with its own offices, like the Groom of the Body and the Squire of the Body;

3) the Chamber, concerned with the Presence Chamber, the Privy chamber
Privy chamber
A Privy chamber was the private apartment of a royal residence in England. The gentlemen of the Privy chamber were servants to the Crown who would wait and attend on the King and Queen at court during their various activities, functions and entertainments....

, and other more public rooms of the royal palaces, as the Bedchamber was concerned with the innermost.

The Chamber organization was controlled by the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is one of the chief officers of the Royal Household in the United Kingdom and is to be distinguished from the Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the Great Officers of State....

; if he was the general of a small army of servitors, the Grooms of the Chamber were his junior officers, with ushers and footmen the footsoldiers. The Grooms wore the royal livery (in earlier periods), served as general attendants, and fulfilled a wide range of specific functions. (One Groom of the Chamber had the job of handing the "King's Stuff" to a Squire of the Body, who would then dress the King.) Grooms ranked below Gentlemen of the Chamber, usually important noblemen, but above Yeomen of the Chamber. They were mostly well-born, on a first rung of a courtier
A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

's career.

The office of Groom of the Chamber could also be bestowed in a more honorific manner, upon people who served the royal household in some less direct way. The early Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 poet Stephen Hawes
Stephen Hawes
Stephen Hawes was a popular English poet during the Tudor period who is now little known. He was probably born in Suffolk owing to the commonness of the name in that area and, if his own statement of his age may be trusted, was born about 1474. It has been suggested that he was an illegitimate...

 became a Groom of the Chamber in 1502, under Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

. In the reigns of the early monarchs of the House of Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

, James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, the actors of the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

, the playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

 under royal patronage, were officially "Grooms extraordinary of the Chamber". They did not usually fulfill the normal functions of the office; rather, they served the King by performing plays for him. Although on busy occasions, the King's Men appear to have acted as more ordinary servants: in August 1604 they were "waiting and attending" upon the Spanish ambassador at Somerset House, "on his Majesty's service" — but no plays were performed.) They were also turned out to bulk up the Household for grand ceremonial occasions.

A similar arrangement held for some of Queen Anne's Men
Queen Anne's Men
Queen Anne's Men was a playing company, or troupe of actors, in Jacobean era London. -Formation:...

, including their playwright Thomas Heywood
Thomas Heywood
Thomas Heywood was a prominent English playwright, actor, and author whose peak period of activity falls between late Elizabethan and early Jacobean theatre.-Early years:...

; they became Grooms of the Queen's Chamber, under the Queen's Chamberlain. On some occasions, Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Heywood, and their compatriots wore the royal livery, marched in processions, and played other roles in the ceremonial life of the monarchy. (Grooms could not be arrested for debt without the permission of the Lord Chamberlain — a big advantage for sometimes-struggling actors.) In at least two cases, those of George Bryan
George Bryan (16th-century actor)
George Bryan was an actor in English Renaissance theatre, a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men with William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage....

 (Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

) and John Singer (Queen Elizabeth's Men
Queen Elizabeth's Men
Queen Elizabeth's Men was a playing company or troupe of actors in English Renaissance theatre. Formed in 1583 at the express command of Queen Elizabeth, it was the dominant acting company for the rest of the 1580s, as the Admiral's Men and the Lord Chamberlain's Men would be in the decade that...

; Admiral's Men
Admiral's Men
The Admiral's Men was a playing company or troupe of actors in the Elizabethan and Stuart eras...

), professional actors became "normal" Grooms of the Chamber, with the normal duties, after retiring from the stage.

List of Grooms of the Chamber

  • William Sharington
    William Sharington
    Sir William Sharington was an English courtier of the time of Henry VIII, master and embezzler of the Bristol Mint, member of parliament, conspirator, and High Sheriff of Wiltshire.-Early life:...

  • Daniel Bacheler
    Daniel Bacheler
    thumb|right|250px|Daniel Bacheler from an engraving by [[Thomas Lant]] of the funeral procession of Sir Philip Sidney in 1586Daniel Bacheler, also variously spelt Bachiler, Batchiler or Batchelar, was an English lutenist and composer...


In France

The French portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

 painter Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet
Jean Clouet was a miniaturist and painter who worked in France during the Renaissance. He was the father of François Clouet.-Biography:Clouet was allegedly born in Brussels....

 (c. 1485–1540) was appointed a valet de chambre groom of the chamber of the French monarchy in 1523, as was his son François Clouet
François Clouet
François Clouet , son of Jean Clouet, was a French Renaissance miniaturist and painter, particularly known for his detailed portraits of the French ruling family.-Historical references:Clouet was born in Tours....

 later. The office could serve as a sinecure
A sinecure means an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service...

 to provide a minimum income and social place for someone who enjoyed royal favor.

Many noble households in Europe had their own grooms of the chamber, known by various titles. See Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

 for a fuller account.

See also

  • Groom of the Robes
    Groom of the Robes
    Groom of the Robes is an obsolete office in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of England, later Great Britain, ultimately the United Kingdom. It is equivalent to a Lady-in-Waiting for Queens Regnant.-List of Grooms of the Robes:...

  • Groom of the Stole
    Groom of the Stole
    Groom of the Stole in the British Royal Household is a position dating from the Stuart era but which evolved from the earlier Groom of the Stool, an office in existence until the accession of Elizabeth I. The original nomenclature derived from the chair used in the performance of the function...

  • 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...

  • Gentleman of the Bedchamber
    Gentleman of the Bedchamber
    A Gentleman of the Bedchamber was the holder of an important office in the royal household of the Kingdom of England from the 11th century, later used also in the Kingdom of Great Britain.-Description and functions:...