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Lord great chamberlains in the Oxford DNBlocked

The Anglo-Norman kings had several chamberlains, some of whom were financial officers, while others served in the king's household. Henry I created a master-chamberlainship for Robert Malet, and although this office soon lapsed it was re-created in 1133 for Aubrey (II) de Vere, specifically for 'all England'. Aubrey may have been expected to act in place of the treasurer, Nigel, who resigned that year and was apparently not replaced. But the office soon lost its administrative associations and became an increasingly ceremonial one, valued particularly for the precedence it conferred within the royal household. It was passed down through Aubrey's descendants—earls of Oxford from 1141—until about 1265, when it was forfeited by the fifth earl for his support of Simon de Montfort. Recovered by the seventh earl, it was forfeited again in 1388 by the ninth, and became vested in the crown. It remained so even after his services led to the chamberlainship being restored to John de Vere, thirteenth earl of Oxford, in 1485. Under Elizabeth I the sixteenth earl recovered the chamberlainship as a hereditary office, and entailed it on his heirs male.

In 1626, following the death without an heir of the eighteenth earl, the earldom of Oxford and the chamberlain's office were separated, with the latter being conferred on the seventeenth earl's nephew Robert Bertie, fourteenth Baron Willoughby of Eresby. It then descended in the Bertie family until the death without an heir of the fourth duke of Ancaster in 1779, when it was inherited jointly by his sisters, as represented by their husbands. Its joint descent was interrupted in 1870 by the death of the twenty-third Baron Willoughby of Eresby, whose half of the chamberlainship was then also divided between his sisters and their descendants. The prominence of the lord great chamberlain at royal coronations continued to make its tenure periodically important, and thus a subject for dispute. A judgment of the House of Lords in 1902 confirmed its descent in the families of Cholmondeley, Wynn-Carington, and Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, with the office being exercised by their representatives in rotation.

Until the mid-1960s the chamberlain was nominally the chief authority in the House of Lords. He was responsible for organizing the state opening of parliament, as well as other state occasions, and served as the principal intermediary between the Lords and the crown. The holder continues to fulfil ceremonial duties at the Palace of Westminster and sits as one of the remaining hereditary peers in the House of Lords. The office of lord great chamberlain should not be confused with that of lord chamberlain of the royal household, though there was a tendency in the second half of the fourteenth century for the same man to act in both capacities.


Robert Malet (1066–1105)


(II)Aubrey de Vere (d. 1141)


(III)Aubrey de Vere, count of Guines and earl of Oxford (d. 1194)


Robert de Vere, third earl of Oxford (d. 1221)


John de Vere, seventh earl of Oxford (1312–1360)


Robert de Vere, ninth earl of Oxford (1362–1392); forfeited 1388; also lord chamberlain of the royal household, 1377–87


John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon (c. 1352–1400); deprived 1399; also lord chamberlain of the royal household


John Beaufort, earl of Somerset (c. 1371–1410)


Humphrey of Lancaster see Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (1390–1447)


William de la Pole, first duke of Suffolk (1396–1450)


John Beaumont, first Viscount Beaumont (1409?–1460)

1460 (Oct–Dec)

Richard Neville, fifth earl of Salisbury (1400–1460); also lord chamberlain of the royal household


Richard Neville, sixteenth earl of Warwick and sixth earl of Salisbury (1428–1471)


Richard, duke of Gloucester see IIIRichard (1452–1485)


George, duke of Clarence (1449–1478)


Richard, duke of Gloucester see IIIRichard (1452–1485)

1483 (July–Nov)

Henry Stafford, second duke of Buckingham (1455–1483)


Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland (c. 1449–1489); replaced 1485


John de Vere, thirteenth earl of Oxford (1442–1513)


John de Vere, fifteenth earl of Oxford (1482–1540)


Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex (in or before 1485, d. 1540)


Robert Radcliffe, first earl of Sussex (1482/3–1542)


Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford see Seymour, Edward, duke of Somerset (c. 1500–1552)


John Dudley, earl of Warwick see Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)


William Parr, marquess of Northampton (1513–1571); forfeited 1553


John de Vere, sixteenth earl of Oxford (1516–1562)


Edward de Vere, seventeenth earl of Oxford (1550–1604)


Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl of Oxford (1593–1625)


Robert Bertie, fourteenth Baron Willoughby of Eresby see Bertie, Robert, first earl of Lindsey (1582–1642)


Montague Bertie, second earl of Lindsey (1607/8–1666)


Sir Peter Burrell (1754–1820); deputy chamberlain


Charles Robert Wynn-Carington, marquess of Lincolnshire (1843–1928); joint chamberlain