How to look for records of... Royal Household and Wardrobe

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1. Why use this guide?

This guide will help you to find records of and relating to the Royal Household which are now held at The National Archives. These records are a window on the life of the British and (formerly) English monarchy, and are particularly illuminating for studies of the medieval and early modern periods. The records provide insights into the administration, lifestyle, tastes and inner-workings of the monarchy and the royal court surrounding it, and include details of

  • officials and other personnel
  • royal expenditure and patronage
  • royal piety and religiosity
  • royal dress and diet
  • armoury, weaponry and the conduct of war
  • architecture and the arts
  • material culture at court
  • transport

2. What is the Royal Household?

From the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, the monarch employed a variety of officials and other personnel to maintain the running of their household and tend to their person, possessions and affairs. Originally these would have been their kinsmen but gradually this collection of servants was divided into a more organised structure, consisting of a number of official departments which together made up the Royal Household.

Many of these departments emerged during the medieval period, when offices within the Royal Household gained their own identity, among them the Royal Wardrobe, which became the main accounting office of the monarch’s household, and the departments of the Lord Chamberlain and Lord Steward.

The majority of the surviving records for the Royal Household are from these three departments.

2.1 Royal Wardrobe

The Royal Wardrobe was a department within the Royal Household, responsible not just for the cloth, clothing and accoutrements worn by the monarchy in their official business and used to adorn royal buildings and furnishings but also for their expenditure and financial accounts.

2.2 Lord Chamberlain’s department

The Lord Chamberlain’s department was in charge of the ceremonial (royal christenings, marriages, funerals and coronations, and supervision of regalia), social, and artistic life of the monarch and royal court.

2.3 Lord Steward’s department

The Lord Steward’s department was responsible for the domestic side of the Royal Household, including the catering, the chapels royal, grounds and gardens of royal palaces.

3. Online records

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. Royal Wardrobe records (c1154-1830)

The surviving records of the Royal Wardrobe provide detailed material for studies of royal administration, expenditure, patronage and the life of the royal court in general.

The Royal Wardrobe often drew funds from the Exchequer (E), the main financial department of the medieval and early modern English state, and this is reflected in the records held by The National Archives.

4.1 Exchequer accounts: records of expenditure and revenue

One of the primary sources for records of the Royal Household and Wardrobe is the series of Exchequer records in E 101. These records, often rich in detail, include:

  • Documents sent to the Exchequer, minutely detailing expenses
  • 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 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

To find specific document references (for example, E 101/531/2) in series E 101, which you will need before you can see the documents themselves, consult the following published finding aids:

Other useful Exchequer records include:

  • Miscellaneous Treasury of the Receipt records in series E 36
  • Treasury books in series E 315
  • Miscellaneous books in series E 407
  • Miscellaneous accounts relating to significant events and substantial sources of revenue in series E 358
  • Names of members of the royal household, separately listed for 1523-1696 in the taxation returns – search for these in the E 179 database
  • Summary information of wardrobe and household expenditure, often supplying or supplementing information in the accounts of individual household and wardrobe officials from 1257-1548 in series E 361; before this date and during the reigns of Henry III (1216-1272) and Edward I (1272-1307), the information is usually found in the pipe rolls in series E 372
  • Details of royal expenditure in the warrants for issues and wardrobe debentures in series E 404 and the issue rolls, where payments were recorded in series E 403
  • A number of stray household accounts in series E 364
  • Several series of household accounts of royal children in series E 351

4.2 Payments to staff

Consult the following publications, all available at The National Archives, for names of many of the servants and officials who received payments:

  • Issues of the Exchequer by Frederick Devon (3 volumes, 1835-37)
  • Warrants for issues 1399-1485 (List and Index Supplementary Volume 9, 1964)
  • Appointments and offices in the Exchequer (2 manuscript volumes compiled in 1827)

5. Lord Chamberlain’s department records (1500-1901)

The records of the Lord Chamberlain’s department are held at The National Archives under department code LC.

5.1 Staff records

Employees of the Lord Chamberlain’s department included:

  • housekeepers
  • messengers
  • yeoman of the guard
  • watermen
  • physicians
  • musicians, artists and craftsmen

More specific and specialist posts included Latin Secretary, Poet Laureate, Examiner of Plays and Keeper of Lions at The Tower.

Staff records from the Lord Chamberlain’s department are found in a range of different record series in the LC department:

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
1754-1781  Comptroller LC 5/27-30
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
  • Examine messengers’ travelling expense from 1784-1838 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

Look for names of office holders in the following publications, available at The National Archives.:

5.3 Warrant holders

Royal warrants were issued to suppliers of specific goods, some of which were the responsibility of the Lord Chamberlain’s department. The records include:

Dates Description Series
1660-1766,
1774-1837
Appointment books – these are primarily records of the employment or re-employment of officers and servants but include some warrants for trades people LC 3/61-70
1800-1837 Bill books – these contain the original bills presented by tradesmen, both warrant holders and other suppliers, to the department LC 11
1830-1901 Royal warrant holders: tradesmen supplying items for ceremonial occasions, such as peruke-makers, embroiderers and feather-dressers and 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 5/243-246
1900 onwards Royal warrant holders: annual lists published in the London Gazette ZJ 1 or online at The Gazette

5.4 Suppliers of goods

Search in the following records for details of suppliers of goods to the Lord Chamberlain’s department from 1600 to 1900:

Dates Description Series
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. Lord Steward’s department records (1600-1870)

Responsibilities of the Lord Steward’s department included:

  • the kitchen (divided into smaller sub-departments such as the buttery and the wine cellar)
  • counting house, wood and coal yards
  • 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

The records of the Lord Steward’s department are held at The National Archives under the department code LS.

6.1 Staff records

Records of Lord Chamberlain’s department staff, such as caretakers, waiters and porters, are found in a range of different LS record series:

  • 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 the 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

The Royal Household was a major consumer of luxury and staple goods. Royal warrants were issued to suppliers of goods for which the Lord Steward’s department was responsible. After 1830 the issuing of warrants became more regulated and those who became royal warrant holders effectively became the recognised official supplier of those 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.

The records include:

Dates Description Series
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:

Dates Description Series
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

The following record series contain a variety of documents relating to staff, some of them easily searchable on our catalogue, others which require that you visit us before you can begin your search:

  • c1154-c1272 – ancient petitions in series SC 8 –  click on the series codes and search by name for household servants
  • c1272-c1625 – ancient correspondence in series SC 1 – click on the series codes and search by name for household servants
  • 1201 onwards – the patent rolls in series C 66 – search for grants of offices and mention of officials and servants
  • 1230-1485 – warrants for the Great Seal in series C 81
  • 1485-1714 – warrants for the Great Seal in series C 82
  • c1216-c1702 – Chancery miscellanea in C 47 – search for records mentioning staff and officials and relating to the household
  • 1204-1903 – close rolls in C 54 – there are frequent mentions of officials and servants
  • 1766-1958 – records of the Crown Estate office in series CRES 4 – try a name search or browse these detailed records relating to the employment of estate staff, such as gamekeepers, park and gatekeepers and fishermen, at Windsor Great Park

The huge collections of State Papers Domestic include countless mentions of officials and servants. For advice on how to search these records see our state papers research guides.

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 was subject to change.

Records relating to the discipline of staff:

  • marshalsea inquisitions from the reign of Henry VI (1422-1461) in series E 35
  • up to 1623 – pleas of the hall, which the marshal heard, in series E 37
  • after 1623 – records relating to the discipline of staff in series PALA 6.

8. Records in other archives

Contact the Royal Archives for records of 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.

9. Further reading

Books

Some 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 our library and reading rooms in 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

Websites

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.

Guide reference: Domestic Records Information 26