13 Bizarre Royal Jobs That Actually Exist
From carving meat to breaking in shoes, the royal family employs a host of royal officials to keep up their sometimes strange traditions.
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Grand Carver of England
Of course, the royals would never cut their own meat. This honour is passed down within a high-status family, as it is an inherited office. The Earl of Denbigh and Desmond is the current roast-carving aficionado and gets the chance to show off his expertise at special royal dinners and events.
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Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection
The Queen doesn’t just appear on stamps in the United Kingdom—she also collects them. Many pieces from the extensive collection were passed down from her grandfather and father, who were avid collectors, before her. These days, the collection is so huge that stamp specialist Michael Sefi holds the head position, organizing and maintaining the historically significant documents. He’s held the position since 2003, working to add to the collection and make it visible to the public.
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The Queen’s Bargemaster
The Royal Bargemaster sits at the command of a team of 24 Royal Watermen, and these positions date back hundreds of years, to times when the royals travelled by water quite frequently. According to the official royal website, there are no state barges still on the Thames today, though there is still the official royal motor launch, the Royal Nore, which members of the royal family use when travelling on the Thames for official engagements. So, the duties of the Royal Watermen are now purely ceremonial. They still engage in escorting royals on the Royal Nore or greeting official guests who come by boat, and now have some on-shore duties as well.
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Master of the Queen’s Music
Well, it’s not exactly the Queen’s royal Spotify-playlist maker. The Master of the Queen’s Music actually has no set responsibilities, as Business Insider reported, but they may compose pieces for royal or state occasions as they see fit. Composer Judith Weir has held this position since 2014 and is actually the first woman in British history to do so. There is a time limit of 10 years, though, so expect to see a new face in 2024.
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Her Majesty’s Botanist
Like many of the other positions on this list, the role of Her Majesty’s Botanist is technically an honourary position. Currently, Professor Stephen Blackmore, botanical enthusiast and regius keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, holds the rank. Curious about how the royals can afford to employ all these positions? Many are ceremonial and paid for by the state.
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Astronomer Royal is the title given to a prominent scientist in the field of astronomy. The position was established in 1675 by King Charles II, so you can imagine how much the field has changed since. The current astronomer, Martin Rees, is in good company in this office; Edmund Halley, for whom Halley’s Comet is named, is an alumnus.
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Royal Horological Conservator
This lengthy title is befitting for someone who oversees the functioning and maintenance of all the clocks in the royal properties and residences. And there are certainly a lot of them: 500 in Buckingham Palace, 379 in Windsor Castle, and 80 in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The conservator’s busiest times? The two weekends when he must lead the Royal Collection staff team in switching every single clock in the collection to or back from British Summer Time, spending over 50 hours carefully adjusting the historical timepieces.
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Master of the Horse
Though the position is largely ceremonial today, as the Crown Equerry now handles the general day-to-day dealings of the royal horses, it is still an important role. It was established in the 14th century when the office held much greater political importance and was responsible for providing horses for travel and warfare for the sovereign. Nowadays, Lord Samuel Vestey is Master of the Horse and attends state and royal occasions where the Queen may be riding on horseback or in a carriage, such as Trooping the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament.
Horses aren’t the Queen’s favourite animal, however—that title belongs to the corgi!
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Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures
The Queen holds possession of the Royal Collection for the nation of the UK, which houses roughly one million works of art and historical pieces, including paintings, furniture, books and photography. With that many invaluable objects to take care of, of course there must be someone in charge. Desmond Shawe-Taylor was appointed to the office in 2005. In addition to anything held in archives or put on display for the public, he is also in charge of caring for and maintaining any works that adorn the walls of the royal castles and residences.
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Warden of the Swans and Marker of the Swans
Did you know the Queen actually owns all unmarked swans on open water in England? A traditional event called the Swan Upping takes place each July, with the purpose of counting all of the swans in the Thames and accounting for their health in order to preserve conservation efforts. The Warden and Marker lead the event every year, and release a report documenting the observed health of the swan populations.
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Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales
That’s right—Prince Charles has his own personal harpist. Anne Denholm, who currently holds the position, often performs at royal events. Previous harpists have even performed at Prince Charles’ wedding.
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Not many of us get to step into the shoes of royalty. But at over 90 years old and still attending daily events dressed impeccably, it might really be a necessity for the Queen to have someone break her shoes in for her before she wears them. It’s not known who exactly does this job, but it is definitely one of the more peculiar duties at Buckingham Palace. Much more than the Queen’s comfort is at stake—as she ages, it’s essential that she not appear weak or too old, so having to step out of an event because of painful or tired feet would be a big problem.
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A highly sought-after position in the bagpiping world, the Piper to the Sovereign is tasked with the duty of waking up the Queen each morning by playing each weekday promptly at 9 a.m., in addition to some other related duties. Pipe Master Scott Methven is the current Piper, and plays whenever the Queen is residing at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, or the Palace of Holyroodhouse; he does not play at Sandringham. The tradition began in the days of Queen Victoria, but Queen Elizabeth enjoyed it so much that she’s kept it around. Even the Queen Mother preferred to wake up this way, and she had her own piper as well.
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