About the Royal Archives
About the Royal Archives
The Royal Archives is based in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle and holds documents that relate to the Royal Family and British Monarchy for a period of over 250 years.
The Royal Archives is responsible for preserving the official and personal archives of the Sovereign and of members of the Royal Family and the administrative records of the Royal Household and private estates.
The Royal Archives, therefore, holds some records which are a rich source of information for genealogists, whose ancestors may have worked in the Royal Household or been otherwise associated with the monarchy.
As part of a long-term project to increase access to the information held in the Royal Archives, some of the records relating to Royal Household employees are being made available online for the first time on findmypast.co.uk in the Royal Archives Collection.
You can search the following records on findmypast.co.uk as part of the Royal Archives Collection:
- More than 200 establishment lists of Royal Household employees covering the period 1526-1924
- Around 15,000 index sheets, each referring to the name of a Royal employee or tradesperson supplying the Royal Household
Between them, the establishment records and the index sheets contain extensive, but not complete, lists of employees throughout the Royal Household from the late 17th century.
Find out more about each set of records by selecting an option from the left-hand menu.
Information about the different household departments in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries
The Royal Household formerly consisted of three departments, each headed by one of the Great Officers of the Household: the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse. Broadly speaking, the Lord Chamberlain's Department dealt with the ceremonial and social life of the Court; the Lord Steward's Department with domestic and culinary matters and the Master of the Horse's Department was responsible for the royal stables and for arranging transport for the Sovereign and the Royal Household.
Until 1924, the Great Officers were political appointees, changing with changes of government, and until the end of the 19th century most of their departmental records were deposited at the Public Record Office, now The National Archives. Since then, all their departmental records have been transferred to the Royal Archives, as have the records of the Privy Purse (which deals with the Sovereign's finances) and more recent departments such as the Private Secretary's Office or the Royal Collection.
The Lord Chamberlain's Department
This department dealt with the ceremonial and social life of the court, organising royal ceremonies and administering the licensing of theatres and theatrical performances. Traditionally, household employees in this department included the 'above stairs' servants, such as pages, some craftsmen, chaplains, physicians, musicians, watermen and Yeomen of the Guard.
The Lord Steward's Department, later Master of the Household's Department
This department, dealing with domestic and culinary matters, was originally presided over by the Lord Steward, who was in charge of all 'below stairs' officers and staff through the Board of Green Cloth. The Lord Steward, however, delegated much of the work to his subordinates, in particular the Master of the Household, and by the 1920s this department was renamed the Master of the Household's Department.
The department was responsible for the catering and official entertaining at all the Royal Palaces, and for all the domestic arrangements. This means that the staff in the department included all who worked in the Royal Kitchens, the Housekeeping staff, including housemaids, and some of the craftsmen who maintained the furnishings in the Royal Palaces.
The Master of the Horse's Department, later the Royal Mews Department
The Master of the Horse was the head of the Royal Mews and he had charge of all matters relating to the Sovereign's stables, including the provision of horses, carriages, and latterly vehicles, the maintenance of the Royal studs and responsibility for the transport of the Royal Household as it moved from residence to residence. As such his staff included coachmen, helpers, chauffeurs and footmen (although from 1920 footmen were transferred to the Master of the Household's department).
The Privy Purse
This department was responsible for administering the Sovereign's financial affairs but because it also administered the Sovereign's private income, staff members include the personal staff of the monarch, such as dressers or valets, and can also often include the more important posts on the private estates.
Other useful information
Further reading (PDF)