How to look for records of... Royal household and Wardrobe
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
This guide will tell you what type of records, especially those naming staff, are available at The National Archives on the wardrobe, royal household, royal warrant holders or suppliers of goods for the household.
2. Essential information
The wardrobe often gained funds from the Exchequer (E), the main finance office of central government, and this is reflected in the records held by The National Archives.
The majority of records for the royal household and associated royal warrants and suppliers of goods fall under two other departments, the Lord Chamberlain’s department (LC) and Lord Steward’s (LS) department. The arrangement of records reflects this separation of responsibilities of these two distinct departments.
3. What records can I see online?
Search for a Royal Household employee from 1526-1924 using the Royal Household establishment lists and Royal Household index sheets (£) on findmypast.co.uk. Each record includes an image, or multiple images, of original documents held at the Royal Archives.
There are over 386,000 records covering staff employed at Royal residences across the UK. The date range includes the reigns of King Charles I, Queen Victoria and King George V.
4. Wardrobe (c1154-1830)
The wardrobe was the storage and expenditure department of the royal household.
4.1 What information do these records provide?
The surviving records of the wardrobe provide a rich source for all aspects of royal administration, expenditure, patronage, ceremonial, and life at court particularly for the medieval and early modern period. These records are also useful to those studying textiles, armoury, weaponry, food and diet, dress, architecture and the arts, transport and horses.
4.2 Exchequer records
4.2.1 Exchequer accounts various (E 101)
Exchequer accounts various in series E 101 provide detailed information about the wardrobe and household.
Consult the following published finding aid in order to find full document references for records in series E 101: Lists of various accounts in the Exchequer (list and index volume xxxv, 1912). Use the subject and name index to get a full reference, for example E 101/531/2.
See also: List of documents relating to the household and wardrobe, John-Edward I (Public Record Office Handbook, no.7, 1964).
Detailed information in series E 101 may include:
- Documents sent to the Exchequer, minutely detailing expenses, used to audit such accounts
- Daily summaries of the expenses of individual household departments with totals for each day and each week
- Foreign expense rolls recording the extraordinary expenditure of the wardrobe, and usually divided into separate sections for alms, gifts, necessaries, and messengers
- Lists of household personnel are also to be found in this kind of account under the details of summer and winter robes given as livery to royal servants
- War wages, horses, munitions and garrisoning
- Accounts and indentures from individual household officers, such as tailors or armourers, giving very detailed descriptions of their expenses for particular occasions, such as tournaments or coronations, and descriptions of garments and decorations for the royal family
- Inventories of the royal treasure, and great wardrobe accounts listing purchases of cloth, fur, precious metals and jewels, spices and other flavourings, wax, and exotic foods
- Wine details found in the butlerage accounts
Similar records amongst the miscellaneous items are in series E 36, Treasury books in series E 315 and miscellaneous books in series E 407. The series E 358 contains some stray avenars’ (a buyer of oats for horses) accounts. Names of members of the royal household are separately listed for 1523-1696 in the taxation returns (E 179) which can be searched in the E 179 database.
4.2.2 Expenditure and accounts
Summary information of wardrobe and household expenditure from 9 Edward II is in series E 361. Before this date, the information is in the pipe rolls, E 372. Details of royal expenditure can be found in the warrants for issues and wardrobe debentures in series E 404, and series E 403, the issue rolls, where payments were recorded. There are a number of stray household accounts in series E 364, and several series of household accounts of royal children are in series E 351.
4.2.3 Payments to staff
Many of the names of servants and officials receiving payment can be found in the three volumes by Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer (1835-37), Warrants for issues 1399-1485 (list and index supplementary volume ix, 1964), and in two manuscript volumes, Appointments and offices in the Exchequer (compiled in 1827), all available at The National Archives.
5. Royal household: Lord Chamberlain’s department (1500-1901)
The Lord Chamberlain’s department was in charge of the ceremonial, social, and artistic life of the monarch and royal court. Read 8.3 for more details.
5.1 Staff records
Staff records from the Lord Chamberlain’s department are found in a range of different record series under the department LC:
|Date ranges||Description||Catalogue references|
|1641- 1849||Establishment books||LC 3/1-23|
|1660-1800||Warrant books of the treasurer of the chamber||LC 5/11-26|
|1660-1851||Appointment books, series II||LC 3/61-71|
|1667-1857||Salary, livery and pension books||LC 3/37-52|
|1685-1838 (incomplete between 1685 until 1838)||Appointment books, series I||LC 3/56-60|
|1806-1846||Palaces ledgers||LC 9/367-374|
|1820-1866||Miscellaneous: includes some appointments||LC 5/248-251|
|1830-1901||Offices of robes letter books||LC 13/1-5|
|1851-1901||Appointment books, series II||LC 5/237-241|
|1864-1897||Officers and servants of the Lord Chamberlain’s Department||LC 5/247|
5.2 Other associated staff records
- There are some entry books of wills and letters of attorney from 1750-1754 in LC 5/104-106
- There is material relating to servants among the correspondence books in series LC 1
- Messengers’ travelling expense from 1784-1838 can be found in LC 10/1-9
- Records of funerals in series LC 2 may list the households of deceased royal persons
- The household of the later duke of York in 1827 is listed in LC 2/56
- Housemaids are named in connection with mourning in the bill books for sundries, LC 11/144-145 (1846-1857)
- Gamekeepers are rarely named in the Royal Household records, although four gamekeepers at Richmond are named in LC 3/23 (1846-1849)
- There is a break in the series of Royal Household records for the Commonwealth period, but some bills of the 1650s have been preserved in series of bills and vouchers LC 9/377-390
Names of certain office holders can be found in Frederick Devon’s Issues of the Exchequer, List and index of warrants for issues 1399-1485 and in Appointments and offices in the Exchequer (compiled in 1827), all available at The National Archives.
5.3 Warrant holders
Royal warrants were issued to those suppliers of specific goods which lay under the responsibility of Lord Chamberlain’s department. These include:
|Tradesmen’s appointments, included with those of household officers||LC 3/61-70|
|1800-1837||The bill books contain the original bills presented by tradesmen to the department, both warrant holders and other suppliers||LC 11|
|1830-1901||Royal warrant holders: tradesmen supplying items for ceremonial, such as peruke-makers, embroiderers and feather-dressers||LC 13/1-5|
|1830-1901||Royal warrant holders: tradesmen supplying more personal items, such as combs, perfumes and corset stays||LC 13/1-5|
1837-1901 Royal warrant holders: tradesmen supplying furnishings, floor and wall coverings, linens and stationery LC 5/243-2461900 onwards Royal warrant holders: annual lists of published in the London Gazette ZJ 1 or online at The Gazette.
5.4 Suppliers of goods
Records of different suppliers of goods under the responsibility of the Lord Chamberlain’s department from 1600 to 1900 are found in the following:
|1600-1900||Suppliers of goods to the royal household||LC 9, LC 10, LC 11|
|1628-1810||Suppliers of all kinds of goods||LC 5/132-163|
|1773-1827||Orders to tradesmen and for court mourning||LC 5/197-199|
|1830-1901||Original bills presented by tradesmen, both warrant holders and other suppliers||LC 11|
|1860-1901||Suppliers of goods to the office of robes||LC 12|
|1773-1827||Orders to tradesmen and for court mourning||LC 5/197-199|
|1860-1901||Office of robes accounts||LC 12|
6. Royal household: Lord Steward’s department (1600-1870)
The Lord Steward’s department was responsible for the domestic side of the royal household which included catering. Read 7.2 for more details.
6.1 Staff records
Staff records from the Lord Chamberlain’s department are found in a range of different record series under the department LS:
- Warrants of appointment to servants and officers of the Lord Steward’s department appear in LS 13/246-267 (1660-1820) and there is an entry book for 1627-1641, LS 13/251
- Extraordinary staff and the higher officers of the stables appear in the cheque rolls, LS 13/6-13 (Jas I – Geo II)
Certificate books of admission in LS 13/197-204 (1672-1820) include servants of the Lord Steward’s department such as stables, chapels, and the Secretaries of State
- Special duties and leaves of absence from 1766 to 1811 are recorded in LS 13/205-208
- Receipt books for wages and allowances, LS 13/154-167 (1761-1816) contain the signatures of many servants for receipt of boardwages and other payments, including ‘carpet and cushion money’
- The creditors also record the payment of boardwages from 1641 to 1854 in series LS 8
- Stable creditors, LS 13/210-230 (1761-1781) show creditors and salary bills for the stables, chamber and chapels
- Record allowances in kind, including ‘pitchers and platters’ from 1815-1834 are in LS 13/295-299. The names and often the signatures are included
- Records of the royal gardens from 1796 to 1854, which provided produce for the table appear in LS 10-12
Garden labourers at Kew, Windsor and Hampton Court from 1834 to 1835 are named in LS 11/19-20
6.2 Records of minor households
The creditors of two minor royal households survive. Consult records of Princess Charlotte from 1814 to 1815 in LS 8/315-316, and for prince of Hesse-Homburg for the year 1818 in LS 8/317. Records of pensions for members of Princess Charlotte’s household are in LS 13/321. The households of royal princesses and the duke of Clarence for the year 1805 are mentioned in LS 8/237.
6.3 Royal warrants
Royal warrants were issued to those suppliers of specific goods which lay under the responsibility of Lord Steward’s department. These include:
|1761-1782||Some original warrants to purveyors and other tradesmen e.g. cork cutter, wine chest maker, cake maker||LS 13/246-250|
|1627-1820||Enrolled copies of warrants. From 1674 they are divided into two series, Royal and Steward’s. Warrants to purveyors appear in the Steward’s series. Grocery, poultry, wines and wax candles are among the goods to be purveyed||LS 13/251-267|
|1820 onwards||The issue of tradesmen’s warrants does not appear to have been recorded|
|1838-1850||Fees for warrants, including fees for purveyor’s warrants||LS 13/306|
|1854-1900||In 1854 the office of Lord Steward was replaced by that of the master of the royal household, whose records are not public records||Royal Archives, Windsor|
|1900 onwards||Royal warrant holders: annual lists of published in the London Gazette||ZJ 1 or London Gazette available online at The Gazette|
6.4 Suppliers of goods
Records of different suppliers of goods under the responsibility of the Lord Steward’s department from 1641 to 1854 are found in the following:
|1641-1760||Creditors (showing amounts owed to various suppliers)||LS 8/1-98|
|1660-1729||Kitchen Ledgers, names of suppliers given||LS 9/60-77|
|1761-1781||Stables creditors||LS 13/210-230|
|1761-1814||Mensils. Monthly lists of the consumption of foodstuffs and wines, coals and brushes. Gives names of suppliers||LS 9/227-290|
|1761-1815||Kitchen creditors for foods||LS 8/100-270|
|1761-1815||Household creditors, for foods, fuel, lights and laundry||LS 8/100-270|
|1761-1815||Incidental creditors, for stationery, hardware and cartage||LS 8/100-270|
|1761-1854||Tradesmen’s bills||LS 2|
|1761-1782||Original warrants to purveyors||LS 13/246-250|
|1763-1851||Orders to tradesmen. The tradesmen are not always named, especially in the earlier period, where often only the trade is given, e.g. the glassman||LS 13/134-153|
|1795-1799||Creditors for Hampton Court Palace||LS 8/100-270|
|1815-1854||Quarterly accounts, arranged according to palaces. Give names of goods, suppliers and costs||LS 8/271-314|
|1838-1850||Fees for purveyor’s warrants||LS 13/306|
7. Other royal household records (1154-1958)
7.1 Staff records
There are detailed records relating to the employment of estate staff, such as gamekeepers, park and gatekeepers and fishermen, at Windsor Great Park in the records of the Crown Estate office from 1766 to 1958 in series CRES 4.
Records mentioning staff and officials and relating to the household and can also be found in Chancery miscellanea (C 47). There is frequent mention of officials and servants in the close and patent rolls (C 54 and C 66), and in the state papers domestic (SP).
See also the printed calendars of patent rolls and close rolls (mostly covering the medieval period), Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, and calendars of state papers domestic, which are all well indexed and available at The National Archives.
7.2 Discipline of royal staff
The marshal of the household, who was in charge of discipline of the royal staff, had the right to try crimes which occurred within verge. The verge was the area stretching 12 miles around wherever the household happened to be and this was subject to change. Find marshalsea inquisitions from the reign of Henry VI in series E 35. Pleas of the hall, which the marshal heard, are in series E 37 up to 1623. Records relating to the discipline of staff after 1623 are in series PALA 6.
8. Background information
8.1 Wardrobe and royal household
From Anglo-Saxon times onwards, the monarch employed staff at many levels to maintain the running of his household which tended to his person, possessions and affairs. Originally these would have been his kinsmen but gradually this collection of servants structured itself into different sections that together made up what became known as the royal household, itself the centre of the royal court.
During the Middle Ages, one of these departments, the wardrobe, became the main accounting office of the king’s household. The Lord Chamberlain’s department and the Lord Steward’s Department appeared after the wardrobe.
8.2 Lord Chamberlain’s and Lord Steward’s department
The Lord Chamberlain’s department was responsible for:
- office of robes
- yeoman of the guard
- artists and craftsmen
- other offices such as librarian, Latin secretary, Poet Laureate, examiner of plays, and keeper of lions at the tower
The Lord Steward’s department was responsible for:
- kitchen offices (almonry, ewry, bakery, pastry, confectionery, buttery, spicery, poultry, larder, pantry, wine cellar, scullery)
- counting house, wood and coal yards
- the verge
- gardens and stables
- Table deckers and other related positions, such as keeper and repairer of the buckets, keeper of ice and snow, trunkmaker, brewer, cistern cleaners
8.3 Warrant holders and suppliers of goods
The royal household was a major consumer of many staple and luxury goods. The position of tradesmen supplying goods to the royal household was not so well-regulated before 1830. After 1830, those who became royal warrant holders effectively became recognised supplier of goods to the royal household.
Grants to warrant holders of the right to use the royal coat of arms began in 1830, and were made by the Lord Chamberlain. Today the issue of royal warrants to tradesmen is carefully controlled by the royal household. The grant of such a warrant entitles the holder to use the phrase ‘by appointment’, and to display the royal coat of arms.
9. Records in other archives
Contact the Royal Archives for records of the royal household servants after 1854. The Royal Archives also hold a comprehensive card index of persons employed in the Lord Chamberlain’s and Lord Steward’s departments.
10. Further reading
Some or all of the publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ bookshop. Alternatively, search The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
V Carr, By Royal Appointment, Ancestors, issue 45, May 2006, pp. 36-42
B F Byerly and C F Byerly (eds), Records of the Wardrobe and Household for 1285-1286 and 1286-1289, 2 vols (HMSO, 1977, 1986)
Court & City Register, 1742-1808
C J Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England, 1360-1413 (Yale University Press, 1986)
Royal Kalendar, 1767-1849
J C Sainty and R O Bucholz, Officials of the Royal Household, 1660-1837, 2 vols (Institute of Historical Research, 1997-98)
R Sherwood, The Court of Oliver Cromwell (London, 1977)
D Starkey, The English Court: from the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (London, 1987)
T F Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England, 6 vols (Manchester, 1920-1933)
Webster’s Royal Red Book, from 1847
The Database of Court Officers 1660-1837 (DCO), which goes further than the published work and contains the career histories of every person who served in the British royal household from the restoration of the Stuart monarchy to the death of Queen Victoria.
The IHR publications site for provisional lists of office holders. These are, at present, largely confined to the post-medieval offices of the English central government.