Who are the royal courtiers working behind the scenes after the Queen’s death?

·8-min read

A large team of royal courtiers and senior advisers have been called upon at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House in the wake of the Queen’s death.

Many are vastly experienced, having worked for or closely with the royal household for decades but never during the momentous occasion of the death of a British monarch and the start of a new reign.

Who are the aides and staff operating behind the scenes as the monarchy faces the death of Elizabeth II and the accession of a new King?

– The Earl Marshal

The Earl Marshal is responsible for arranging the State Opening of Parliament.

But it also his duty to organise sovereigns’ state funerals, and the accession and coronations of new monarchs, a task he will now have to perform for the first time.

The hereditary role of Earl Marshal falls to the Duke of Norfolk, the highest ranking duke in England.

The Earl Marshal - the Duke of Norfolk
The Earl Marshal – the Duke of Norfolk (Victoria Jones/PA)

The current Earl Marshal is the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who inherited the position upon the death of his father in 2002.

The duke is the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain and a crossbench peer in the House of Lords

An Oxford-educated father of five, he is a descendant of Elizabeth I and also reported to be worth more than £100 million.

Known to his friends as Eddie, the duke was once one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors, and previously ran a bottled gas company and a joinery business and was a keen racing driver.

He is also a daredevil skier.

“Eddie Norfolk” hit the headlines in 2011 when he split from his wife of many years, Georgina.

Their separation was reportedly so acrimonious they missed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding to avoid being in the same room as one another and to spare the Queen any embarrassment.

But after a five-year break which saw them live for a time in opposite wings of their family seat, Arundel Castle in West Sussex, the pair were reconciled.

The duke apparently oversees proceedings such as the State Opening of Parliament with a “mixture of flair, timing, absolute precision and with great humour”, but is also reported to be somewhat “pompous”.

State Opening of Parliament 2017
The Earl Marshal among the Royal Procession during the State Opening of Parliament in 2017 (Alastair Grant/PA)

At the state opening, the Queen would be met by the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain at the Palace of Westminster’s Sovereign’s Entrance.

Since the 16th century the Earl Marshal has had authority over the kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants at the College of Arms, the body that regulates heraldry.

As well as organising the Queen’s funeral with the College of Arms, and later the King’s Coronation, he will also be in charge of the official public proclamation of Charles as King at the Accession Council.

The Earl Marshal will stand on the balcony of Friars Court in St James’s Palace as the declaration of the new sovereign is read out publicly for the first time in London.

– The Queen’s private secretary

The Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young worked for the monarch for more than 18 years.

Sir Edward Young
The Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young (Steve Parsons/PA)

He was responsible for supporting the Queen in her duties as head of state and was the channel of communication between the sovereign and the Government and overseas realms.

He will be guiding Charles, the new king, through the coming days, on matters of state and constitutional issues, and working closely with the Government in the run up to the funeral and beyond to keep the monarchy functioning smoothly.

Sir Edward began working for the royal household in 2004, rising through the ranks to private secretary in 2017.

He succeeded Lord Geidt, who faced allegations of a “power struggle” with Charles who was said to be wary of any changes that might have reduced his involvement in the causes he was passionate about.

Sir Edward was previously head of corporate communications at Granada and worked for Barclays bank.

He played an influential role in getting the Queen to star in the much talked-about 2012 Olympics opening sequence film with James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

His tenure has included the difficult Megxit saga, and he faced criticism from some quarters over the handling of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In 2022, Harry declared he was making sure the Queen was “protected” and had the “right people around her” after visiting her for the first time in two years.

The Sussexes are known to have had a strained relationship with senior officials at both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

– Charles’s principal private secretary

Charles’s longstanding top aide, Sir Clive Alderton, has been at his side as his principal private secretary since 2015.

He was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen in 2022.

Camilla in particular is said to adore him, but Harry and Meghan were believed to have had a difficult dealings with Sir Clive.

He is a career diplomat who became Britain’s ambassador to Morocco after a previous six-year stint as an aide at Clarence House between 2006 and 2012.

Cop26 – Glasgow
Clive Alderton (left) with the French president Emmanuel Macron at Cop26 in 2021 (Jane Barlow/PA)

Always sharply dressed with blond combed-over hair, he regularly accompanies Charles on overseas tours.

Sir Clive joined the Foreign Office in 1986 and has taken up posts in Poland, Belgium, Singapore and France.

He will be working closely with Sir Edward Young in the coming days and months on Charles’s official programmes, speeches and his role as King.

It will be up to the new King to personally decide who to appoint as his main private secretary – whether Sir Clive or Sir Edward or an entirely new addition to the team.

– Master of the Household

The Master of the Household at Buckingham Palace is Vice Admiral Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt and his department is the largest in the royal household, with over 250 employees.

Queen Elizabeth II official birthday
Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt (right) with the Queen (Joanne Davidson/PA)

The department is responsible for all hospitality, catering and housekeeping arrangements for official and private entertaining at all royal residences.

The Master will have to ensure the palace continues to run like clockwork for the royal family as its members mourn the loss of the Queen.

Charles also has his own Master of the Household – a post held since 2014 by the Earl of Rosslyn.

He was head of royalty protection for more than 10 years when he was known professionally as Commander Peter Loughborough.

– The Lord Chamberlain

Lord Chamberlain – Baron Parker of Minsmere – is the most senior official of the Royal Household.

Royal visit to MI5
The Queen with MI5 director general Andrew Parker before he became her Lord Chamberlain (Victoria Jones/PA)

The former MI5 spy chief headed the Queen’s working household and it is his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office.

Tradition dictates that the Lord Chamberlain must now break his white staff over the Queen’s grave – a symbolic gesture marking the death of the sovereign he serves.

The last Lord Chamberlain to break his staff in this manner was the Earl of Clarendon over King George VI’s grave in 1952.

– Ladies in waiting and equerries

Camilla as the new Queen is likely to appoint a series of Ladies-in-Waiting.

The loyal assistants will have a variety of duties including attending to private and personal matters for the Queen Consort and handling her correspondence.

Royals attend church service
The Queen with her lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey in 2020 (Joe Giddens/PA)

Some of the Queen’s ladies in waiting were with her for more than 50 years.

Contenders could include Camilla’s formidable and loyal former private secretary Amanda MacManus.

Equerries are responsible for the detailed planning and execution of the royals’ daily programmes.

As the royal court goes into mourning, the equerries will be ensuring the diaries are readjusted and kept running like clockwork.

– Angela Kelly

The Queen’s senior dresser and personal adviser will be mourning her close friend and lifelong employer.

Royal visit to London Fashion Week
The Queen sits with Anna Wintour and royal dressmaker Angela Kelly (second right) at London Fashion Week (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Kelly is likely to be in charge of selecting the monarch’s funeral gown or robes.

She oversees the teams of seamstresses who may be called upon to help prepare the royal family’s mourning clothes and funeral attire.

– Press Office

The Queen’s communications secretary and team of press officers will be on hand to deal with the deluge of inquiries from journalists around the world in the days ahead.

They will be tasked with maintaining the royal website and social media accounts in memory of the Queen, and holding briefings on the funeral masterplan.