Private Secretary to the Sovereign

Private Secretary to the Sovereign

The Private Secretary to the Sovereign is the senior operational member of the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, as distinct from the Great Officers of the Household. The Private Secretary is the principal channel of communication with the Governments of the United Kingdom and the fifteen other Realms. He also has responsibility for the official programme and correspondence of the Sovereign. Through these roles the position wields considerable influence.

The office of Private Secretary was first established in 1805. The current Private Secretary is The Rt. Hon. Christopher Geidt, CVO OBE"'.

Functions and history

The principal functions of the office are as follows. First, he acts as a channel of communications between the Sovereign and his or her Government, and advises on any constitutional, political or governmental questions. Secondly he organises the official programme of the Sovereign, advising on its elements, ensuring the acceptability of these to the interests of both the Sovereign and the Government. These duties including drafting speeches, maintaining liaison with other Households, the Royal Train, The Queen's Helicopter, No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF, and the armed forces — the latter through the Defence Services Secretary. Thirdly he deals with the Sovereign's official correspondence from members of the public, including congratulatory messages, the Press Office, the Court Circular, private papers, the Royal Archives, and the Buckingham Palace website.

A new addition to the Private Secretary's Office is the Director for Security Liaison, currently Brigadier Jeffrey Cook, OBE MC, appointed 2004. The Private Secretary has general oversight of security, though the Master of the Household is also involved, and the Keeper of the Privy Purse has responsibility for the ceremonial bodyguards, such as the Gentlemen at Arms and the Yeomen of the Guard.

The office of Private Secretary is comparatively new, with the first acknowledged Private Secretary being Colonel Herbert Taylor, appointed in 1805 — though the office was only officially established in 1867. Constitutionally there was some opposition on the part of Ministers to the creation of an office which might grow to have considerable influence upon the Sovereign. However, it was soon realised that the Sovereign was in need of secretarial support, since his Ministers had ceased to provide daily advice and support with the growth of ministerial government. Queen Victoria did not have a Private Secretary until she appointed General the Honourable Sir Charles Grey to the office in 1861, since her husband Albert, the Prince Consort, had been effectively her secretary.

The present position is that the Private Secretary, though being a rather prosaic title, wields considerable influence. The office is regarded as equivalent to that of the permanent secretary of a government department, and the incumbent is always made a Privy Counsellor on appointment, and normally receives a peerage on retirement. The current Private Secretary is the Rt Hon Christopher Geidt, CVO OBE, who succeeded Sir Robin Janvrin in September 2007. cite press release
title=Announcement of the retirement of Sir Robin Janvrin
publisher=Buckingham Palace

The Private Secretary is head of one of the operational divisions of the Royal Household. Others are headed by the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen, the Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office, the Crown Equerry, the Director of the Royal Collection, and the Master of the Household. Control is exercised by the part-time Lord Chamberlain, though the Master of the Horse is nominally in charge of the Royal Mews — the responsibility of the Crown Equerry — and the Lord Steward responsibility for the Master of the Household's Department. Other units of the Royal Household include the Royal Almonry, the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, and the Ecclesiastical Household and Medical Household. In some respects, however, these are co-ordinated by the Private Secretary, who has direct control of the Press Office, the Queen's Archives, and the office of the Defence Services Secretary.

Private Secretaries to the Sovereign (1805 – )

=George III=

*Colonel Herbert Taylor, 1805 – 1811

=George, Prince Regent/George IV=

*Colonel the Rt Hon Sir John McMahon, Bt 1811 – 1817
*Lieutenant-General Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, GCB 1817 – 1822
*Sir William Knighton, Bt, MD 1822 – 1830

=William IV=

*Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Taylor, GCB GCH 1830 – 1837


*HRH Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 1840 – 1861 (unofficial)
*General the Hon Sir Charles Grey, 1861 – 1870
*Major-General the Rt Hon Sir Henry Ponsonby, GCB 1870 – 1895
*Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon Sir Arthur Bigge, KCB CMG 1895 – 1901 (later Lord Stamfordham)

=Edward VII=

*The Rt Hon Lord Knollys, GCB GCVO KCMG ISO 1901 – 1910

=George V=

*The Rt Hon Lord Knollys, GCB GCVO KCMG ISO 1910 – 1913
*Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon Lord Stamfordham, GCB GCVO GCIE KCSI KCMG ISO 1910 – 1931
*Colonel the Rt Hon Sir Clive Wigram, GCB GCVO CSI 1931 – 1936 (later Lord Wigram)

=Edward VIII=

*Major the Rt Hon Sir Alexander Hardinge, GCVO KCB MC 1936

=George VI=

*Major the Rt Hon Sir Alexander Hardinge, GCVO KCB MC 1936 – 1943
*Captain the Rt Hon Sir Alan Lascelles, GCB GCVO CMG MC 1943 – 1952

=Elizabeth II=

*Captain the Rt Hon Sir Alan Lascelles, GCB GCVO CMG MC 1952 – 1953
*Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon Sir Michael Adeane, GCB GCVO 1953 – 1972 (later Lord Adeane)
*Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon Sir Martin Charteris, GCB GCVO OBE 1972 – 1977 (later Lord Charteris of Amisfield)
*The Rt Hon Sir Philip Moore, GCB GCVO CMG 1977 – 1986 (later Lord Moore of Wolvercote)
*The Rt Hon Sir William Heseltine, GCB GCVO AC 1986 – 1990
*The Rt Hon Sir Robert Fellowes, GCB GCVO 1990 – 99 (later Lord Fellowes)
*The Rt Hon Sir Robin Janvrin, GCB GCVO 1999 – 2007 (later Lord Janvrin)
*The Rt Hon Christopher Geidt, CVO OBE 2007 – present

Deputy Private Secretaries to the Sovereign (1972 – )

*Mr Edward Young, 2007 – present
*Mr Christopher Geidt, CVO, OBE 2005 – 2007
*Mrs Mary Francis, LVO February – June 1999
*Sir Robin Janvrin, KCVO CB 1996 – 1999
*Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO CMG 1990 – 1996
*Sir Robert Fellowes, KCVO CB 1986 – 1990
*Sir William Heseltine, KCVO CB 1977 – 1986
*Sir Philip Moore, KCVO CB CMG 1972 – 1977

Assistant Private Secretaries to the Sovereign (1878 – )

*Mr Douglas King, 2007 – present
*Mr Edward Young, 2004 – 2007
*Mr Christopher Geidt, OBE 2002 – 2005
*Mr Stuart Shilson, LVO 2001 – 2004
*Mrs Kay Brock, LVO 1999 – 2002
*Mr Tim Hitchens, LVO 1999 – 2002
*Mrs Mary Francis, 1996 – 1999
*Mr Robin Janvrin, CVO 1990 – 1995
*Sir Kenneth Scott, KCVO CMG 1985 – 1990
*Mr Robert Fellowes, LVO 1977 – 1985
*Mr William Heseltine, CVO 1972 – 1977
*Mr Philip Moore, CMG 1966 – 1972
*Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Martin Charteris, KCVO CB OBE 1952 – 1972
*Sir Edward Ford, GCVO KCB ERD DL 1946 – 1967
*Sir Eric Mieville, KCIE KCVO CSI CMG 1937 – 1945
*Major Sir Michael Adeane, KCVO CB 1936 – 1953
*Sir Godfrey Thomas, Bt KCVO CSI 1936
*Sir Alan Lascelles, KCVO CB CMG 1935 – 1943
*Sir Frank Mitchell, KCVO CBE 1931 – 1937
*Major the Hon Sir Alexander Hardinge, CB CVO MC 1920 – 1936
*The Earl of Cromer, 1916 – 1920
*Colonel Sir Clive Wigram, KCVO CB CSI 1910 – 1931
*Colonel Sir Arthur Davidson, KCB KCVO 1901 – 1910
*Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frederick Ponsonby, KCB KCVO 1895 – 1914
*Colonel Sir Arthur Bigge, KCB 1880 – 1895
*Lieutenant-Colonel the Rt Hon Sir Fleetwood Edwards, KCB 1878 – 1895


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