Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837. Originally published by University of London, London, 2006.
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The Later Stuart Royal Household 1660–1714
The years covered by this introduction saw two long periods of intermittent experimentation on and reform of the structure of the royal household (1660–1718; 1761–1837), bracketing an interval of administrative stability, even stagnation (1718–61). The first such period of experimentation was the result of Charles II's decision to re-establish a court which was nearly as large and extravagant as that of his father. (fn. 1) There is evidence that the new King had, prior to the Restoration, expressed an intention to reform the royal household. (fn. 2) But once he arrived in England, the pressure to restore long-displaced but still loyal servants, to find places for those who had served him in exile and to provide for new adherents who saw the opportunity of the century was very great. (fn. 3) The result was a massive number of appointments in a very short time. According to Fig. 1A, over 1,200 officers and servants were sworn in by October 1660, including about 800 in the lord chamberlain's department, about 290 in that of the lord steward and about 130 under the master of the horse. (fn. 4) The court continued to expand for two years, reaching, by the autumn of 1662, the remarkable size of 1,357 sworn and paid servants' places in ordinary. Nor does this figure include a large army of reversionary, supernumerary or extraordinary positions on the main establishment, or the household servants of subordinate members of the royal family. (fn. 5)
Clearly, the new court was a symbol of the King's desire both to enjoy his own again and to please as many of his adherents as possible. The sense of untrammelled profligacy is most evident in the King's decision, enshrined in the royal warrant of 22 October 1660, to grant diet to virtually every household officer who had had it on the last full establishment of Charles I - inclu ding medical personnel, musicians, even the King's limner. (fn. 6) Nor were the King's guests forgotten, for by the spring of 1661 the principal officers had begun to keep open tables of hospitality at the King's expense. (fn. 7) This period also saw a general openness on the part of household administrators to increase wages or perquisites of inferior servants where a precedent or increased need could be proved. (fn. 8) The costs to the King were almost certainly exacerbated by the restoration of many of the most draining features of Charles I's administrative system. For example, sale of office was carried on openly as a legitimate perquisite for heads of departments. (fn. 9) This led, in turn, to an inclination toward life tenures, nepotism, de facto hereditary succession and an enthusiasm for exploiting perquisites in kind in order to recoup an original investment as quickly as possible.
None of this was healthy for the finances of the royal household. Charles II was granted a revenue supposed to yield an income of £1,200,000. No separation of the King's civil from his purely domestic responsibilities was made in 1660, nor was he guaranteed this sum should the earmarked revenues fail to meet it, as they often did during the first decade of the reign. In fact, parliament would eventually rise to the challenge, providing additional grants which yielded an income matching this figure. (fn. 10) Yet this was not enough to keep up with the King's spending - household or otherwise. By the end of September 1661, the lord steward's department had spent over £165,000 in 15 months. But as indicated in Fig. 5, Exchequer issues to Charles II's household departments were relatively modest in 1660–1, leading to a debt by Michaelmas 1661 of over £50,000. In the fiscal year 1661–2 the steward's expenditure was £168,784, and promising to grow still larger with the added expense of supplying the new Queen's household. (fn. 11)
The King's inability to sustain his vast household establishment precipitated a period of experimentation, intermittent retrenchment and would-be reform which would outlive the Stuarts. The first signs of reaction came in late 1662. At the end of November the King ordered the board of green cloth to cut 16 pensions in half. (fn. 12) At about the same time, work began on the first household budget of the reign. The establishment of 1 December 1662 eliminated diet for all but the highest-ranking officers, reduced the size of the lord steward's department from about 350 to 230, cut its ordinary annual expenditure from £170,000 to £120,000 and imposed stricter procedures for exceeding that figure. Not surprisingly, the new establishment was greeted with howls of protest by household administrators and servants. (fn. 13)
These measures were not adequate to bring household expenditures into reasonable proportions. Between Michaelmas 1662 and Michaelmas 1663 the Exchequer issued £349,225 to the household departments (Fig. 5), a sum which the King's precarious revenues simply could not support. On 23 August 1663 the payment of pensions was suspended. (fn. 14) This was followed on 25 August by a royal warrant ordering the suppression `of all Dyetts - Chamber messes, Bouge of Court, Pentions, Board wages & allowances of any kind whatsoever, except wages to the household servants above & below stairs'. T he only exception was the diet for the King and Queen, Prince Rupert and the maids of honour. (fn. 15)
The elimination of diet to so many servants and guests made possible a sweeping retrenchment of now redundant culinary personnel. A new establishment enacted in mid 1665, but backdated to 1 October 1664, cut the lord steward's department even further, from about 230 ordinary positions to less than 150 (Fig. 1A). Those so cut were reduced to supernumerary status, with the promise of succession to ordinary positions as they became vacant. (fn. 16) Some diets and the servants necessary to prepare and serve them would be re-established in 1668 and 1674, but the vast majority of the tables suppressed in 1663 would never be restored, resulting in a saving of over £27,000 a year. (fn. 17) This changed, fundamentally, the court's relationship to the ruling class and to its own servants. It meant that no longer would the King provide regular hospitality to members of parliament and others whose presence at court might be translated into political advantage. If principal household officers sometimes provided such hospitality, they did so out of their own funds. Those who continued to serve were now put to boardwages, which meant utter dependence on the Treasury's ability to pay them.
Though most of the tables eliminated in 1662–3 would never return, the household's financial situation was eased only temporarily. Issues to the royal household fell in 1663–4 to less than £200,000, but they rose again the following year to almost £319,000 (Fig. 5). This occurred, in part, because in 1665 an attempt was made to reimburse all household servants for the year of suspension. (fn. 18) While Lord Treasurer Southampton was more successful in restraining household expenditure during the last two years of his life, it was the `rougher hands' of the Treasury commission of 1667–9 who confronted squarely the old administrative and financial system of the household. They began by asserting the Treasury's right to call for and examine departmental accounts, to modify establishments, and even to direct how individual household paymasters should dispose of their funds. (fn. 19) This aroused considerable departmental resistance at first, especially from the great wardrobe. (fn. 20) But after the Treasury's primacy was confirmed by the order in council of 31 January 1668, the Treasury went on to pursue the goals of tenure and salary reform, speedy declaration of accounts at the Exchequer, in English, and the weekly submission of receipts and remains by all spending departments. (fn. 21) In addition, a committee of the Privy Council was established to contemplate a sweeping retrenchment of the household which would have brought total expenditures down to just under £210,000. (fn. 22)
In the end, only a few of the Treasury's ideas were enacted: for example, in 1670–1, the gentlemen pensioners were reduced from 50 to 40 and the yeomen of the guard from 200 to 100. (fn. 23) A new household establishment, dated 1 October 1668, actually increased the number of servants below stairs to almost 200, yet managed to hold fixed expenditure down to just over £101,000. (fn. 24) In addition, another partial suspension of salaries brought total issues to the household down to a mere £36,811 in 1667–68 (Fig. 5). But this was a temporary measure. (fn. 25) Lord Treasurer Danby presided over some of the most expensive years of the second Caroline court. Indeed, a third period of suspension in 1676–7 (fn. 26) actually saw the first of two consecutive increases in issues to the household (Fig. 5), occasioned in part `by reason of the Excessive rates of all sorts of Provicons for Our Stables this current yeare, as allsoe of the Extraordinary encreases and Allowances now there that were not in the last Suspencon'. (fn. 27) The need for a more stringent retrenchment and more sweeping reform was obvious to Danby as early as the beginning of 1679, but before it could be implemented, he lost his office in the furore over the Popish Plot. (fn. 28)
It was left to the Treasury commission of 1679 to revive, with more lasting success, most of the policies of the previous commission. (fn. 29) In 1679–80, it imposed stringent economies. (fn. 30) Though the household establishment of 9 January 1680 is labelled `A Temporary Settlement', it remained in effect until the end of the reign. It reduced nearly every salary by at least a quarter, most by two-thirds, and sliced the budget for the lord steward's department by nearly one half, down to £54,000. (fn. 31) Overall, issues to the household departments during Charles II's last five and a half years (Michaelmas 1679-Easter 1685) fell to an average of £154,608 a year, the lowest total for an extended period of time for any of the later Stuarts. These cuts were not borne evenly within the court; some servants suffered massive arrears in pay. (fn. 32) At his death, Charles II left a household debt, conservatively calculated (and not counting the arrears of those paid at the Exchequer), of over £130,000. (fn. 33)
Despite its continuance until the end of the reign, the retrenchment of the early 1680s was clearly intended as a temporary measure. There is evidence that a more permanent solution to the problems of household administration and finance was contemplated during this period. (fn. 34) But it was left to Charles II's brother and successor, James II, to realize that solution. (fn. 35) Early in the reign Lord Chamberlain Arlington, Vice Chamberlain Savile and Lord Godolphin submitted a report to the King suggesting major reforms in the household, including the abolition of useless offices and the consolidation of payments within single departments. Much of the driving force behind the ensuing reforms has also been attributed to Lord Treasurer Rochester. (fn. 36) While the deliberations which produced the new establishments are somewhat shadowy, the immediate results are clear. As indicated in Fig. 1A, James II reduced the size of the royal household from about 1,160 places at Charles II's death to just over 780 - a reduction of approximately 380 offices, or almost one third. This included the elimination of 188 (out of 768) places in the lord chamberlain's department, 102 (of 221) in the lord steward's department, and 87 (of 171) in that of the master of the horse. (fn. 37) That the last two departments did proportionally worse than the sinecure-heavy chamber, suggests that James's interest in a more efficient and fru gal household was tempered by the need to maintain both the patronage opportunities and the splendour of his house. The latter is consistent with the increased formality of the new court. (fn. 38) Fig. 1B confirms this imbalance. While 88% of the previous court's highest ranking offices survived, and 77% of its middling offices, only 62% of the lower or menial servants' places were retained on the new establishment. Still, the elimination of about 90 offices suitable for gentlemen did nothing to endear the new King to his most powerful subjects. (fn. 39)
James II also attacked sale of office and the remaining life tenures, restrained fee taking, demanded more work from his remaining servants and - armed with a revenue that yielded £1,600,000 a year - raised wages nearly to pre-1680 levels in compensation. (fn. 40) Though some diets were restored in 1685, (fn. 41) it is significant that, in another rationalizing move, salaries were expressed by a single figure, rather than being divided into wages and boardwages. This marks the court's final break with widespread board for its servants. It was also part of an attempt to wean household servants away from costly, non-established forms of remuneration.
This philosophy did not lead immediately to a less expensive court. At £257,891, that of James's household actually cost more, on average, than that of Charles II (Fig. 6). (fn. 42) Besides the augmentation of salaries and the need to pay supernumeraries at half-pay until their reinstatement or death, James II supported two establishments of the chapel royal, an Anglican and a Catholic chapel with singers of Gregorian chant. (fn. 43) In fact, the King's healthy finances allowed him to engage in architectural and artistic patronage on a scale which exceeded even that of his profligate brother. (fn. 44) Moreover, as the reign wore on - and increased in political tension - his administration found it necessary to recall some servants (for example, several messengers of the chamber) and fill other places left blank in 1685. (fn. 45) In fact, the figure given above is more indicative of actual household expenditure than that for Charles II because James left few debts and paid his servants on time. As his reign progressed, that expenditure should have declined as the supernumeraries at half-pay on the 1685 establishme nt died off or were absorbed into the main household.
The long-term success of James II's household reforms must remain a matter for speculation, for they came to an untimely end simultaneously with his reign. There is a certain irony in this, since the first requirement that William III and Mary II would seem to have had of their household was thrift. As its historian has observed, the financial settlement voted by parliament in 1690 was temporary, inadequate and heavily encumbered. (fn. 46) But financial uncertainty had done little to restrain Stuart extravagance in the past and it did not do so now. The new regime had an even more pressing need to maintain the royal state and, with it, an appearance of legitimacy. Soon after ascending the throne on 13 February 1689, the new monarchs apparently promised to restore the establishments of the royal household to their pre-1685 levels. (fn. 47) A glance at Fig. 1A reveals that they came close to fulfilling that promise. The total number of places in the household rose from 864 at Michaelmas 1688 to just over 1,000 a year later. By 1694, the year of Mary's death, the royal household exceeded 1,060 places - less than Charles II's most liberal establishments, but larger than any other court prior to 1837. (fn. 48) The payment of this vast establishment, combined with the massive outlay on the grandiose building projects at Hampton Court and Kensington (which more than doubled the annual expenditure of the royal works (fn. 49) ), cost, on average, £307,983 a year (Fig. 6). This made the court of William and Mary easily the most expensive of the later Stuarts.
This sudden expansion in the size of the household payroll and physical establishment did not, by and large, benefit James II's old servants, about half of whom lost their places at the beginning of the new reign. Some fled with their master to France. A few others were proscribed because of their Catholicism. (fn. 50) But the majority were simply purged - almost the only instance between 1660 and 1837 in which the word is appropriate - for their association with the old regime. In many cases, these individuals came from old court families: Apsleys, Bathursts, Granvilles, Oglethorpes, Wyvills and Yarboroughs. (fn. 51) Some found employment in the household of Princess Anne. In the main household they were replaced by Dutchmen in sensitive positions near the monarch and, often, Whigs, officers with Whig associations, or individuals who had played a key role in the Revolution in ceremonial and administrative positions. This was especially true in the bedchamber, at the green cloth and in posts involving supply in the chamberlain's and master of the horse's departments. (fn. 52)
The replacement of administrators, accounting officers and purveyors of long experience with new men had great significance for the court's administrative and fiscal standards. While the complaints of Sir Stephen Fox, a Tory who left his place at the green cloth soon after the Revolution, were hardly disinterested, there is considerable evidence for a decline in the administrative standards of the government generally and of the household in particular once `Whig disaplin', as he put it, took over. (fn. 53) Preoccupied with his crusade against Louis XIV, the otherwise conscientious William tolerated the revival of reversionary appointments and life tenures within his household. The sale of court office seems to have grown more common, or at least more flagrant. (fn. 54) One of his `Revolution Officers' (as they were dubbed by another displaced Fox) turned out to be unusually corrupt, even by contemporary standards. In 1690 the new treasurer of the chamber, Sir Rowland Gwynne, was found to have embezzled at least £3,000 out of his department. The money was never recovered from Gwynne and had to be supplied by his successor, Lord Edward Russell. (fn. 55)
It was perhaps inevitable, given the inexperience and laxity of William's household administration, the size and expense of his establishment and the inadequacy of his financial settlement, that he would soon be unable to pay his servants. As early as June 1691, with the revenue anticipated to 1695 because of the war, the board of green cloth reported the servants below stairs to be nearly three quarters in arrears and the purveyors threatening to cut off supplies. (fn. 56) By February 1695 these servants were sixteen months in arrears and in `a Starving & Wretched Condition'. (fn. 57) As the war dragged on and the Crown's financial situation worsened still further with the recoinage, the Treasury resorted, as it had under Charles II, to tallies of anticipation and fictitious loan. (fn. 58)
A degree of order and stability came to household finances in 1698, with the enactment of 9 & 10 William III, c. 23, the first Civil List Act. This legislation earmarked a series of taxes, intended to yield £700,000, to pay the King's domestic expenses. (fn. 59) However, this figure was granted to support not only the royal household, but the whole of the nation's peacetime administration (less the revenue services), including the salaries of the ministers, judges and officers of the central administration, the diplomatic service, the maintenance of royal, parliamentary and public buildings, pensions, bounties and secret service. Actual household expenditure comprised only about 42% of the civil establishment, and, given the sometimes more urgent demands of these other services, the household often received less than this percentage during the early eighteenth century. (fn. 60) Moreover, as numerous historians have pointed out, the figure of £700,000 was based on no reliable estimate of the King's actual expenses. Worse, the act contained no guarantee that the taxes which it earmarked would yield this figure or that parliament would take steps to meet any shortfall should they fail to do so. In fact, the legislators who drew up the first Civil List Act were so confident of its adequacy that they made provision to claim any surplus for the use of the public. Furthermore, in 1701 parliament passed 12 & 13 William III, c. 12 which appropriated £3,700 a week (£192,400 a year) out of the excis e, regardless of overall civil list yield, as security on a loan of £820,000 for use of the navy, guards and garrisons and land forces. (fn. 61)
Fortunately, civil list yields during the remaining years of William's reign routinely exceeded £700,000. Moreover, the coming of peace provided an opportunity to reduce his household establishments. Unfortunately, the new establishments only managed to eliminate about 50 places (see Fig. 1A for 1699–1701) and cut expenditures by about £15,000. Moreover, they received the royal signature too late (October 1701 for the lord steward's department; December 1701 for the lord chamberlain's) to have much of an effect before the King's death on 8 March 1702. (fn. 62) Despite a massive effort to repay arrears in 1698–9 (see Fig. 5), William III died owing his household servants and purveyors over £307,000, a full year's worth of payment on salaries and bills, and well over twice the household debt left by the spendthrift Charles II. (fn. 63)
Just as Anne embraced the foreign policy of her predecessor, so she attempted to implement his final thoughts on household reform. Immediately upon her accession in 1702, she was granted virtually the same civil list revenues with the same encumbrances as William III. (fn. 64) In her speech of acceptance, she predicted that `It is probable the Revenue may fall very Short of what it has formerly produced', (fn. 65) and, indeed, not once in her reign did it yield the expected £700,000. Rather, it met expenditures in only three years out of twelve, and averaged but £584,329 a year. This, combined with additional deductions for the service of the public led to the Queen's having at her disposal during the period of her first ministry (1702–10) a mere £543,665 a year to pay the expenses of a civil list established at £666,765. The household was supposed to comprise £258,000 or 39% of this latter figure; in practice, it often received less than its fair share of civil list revenues. (fn. 66)
Given the virtual impossibility of securing an augmentation of those revenues because of the expense of the war and the volatile party situation, it was imperative that the Queen and her household administrators restrain her expenses. Accordingly, her chamberlain's and steward's establishments were more stringent versions of those implemented at the end of the previous reign. Their most important innovation was the elimination of about 130 places, mostly in the departments of the lord chamberlain and master of the horse, leading to a saving of about £10,000 from the establishment of 1689. (fn. 67) All told, Anne's court was the smallest between that of James II and Economical Reform (Fig. 1A).
The new court recalled the spirit of James II, too, in its revival of administrative and financial reform. One of the Queen's first instructions to her new board of green cloth was the warrant of 29 June 1702, prohibiting sale of office. (fn. 68) This was followed by the elimination of fees for fixed salaries at the green cloth and among several court tradesmen. The Treasury also pursued the now traditional call for the completion and declaration of outstanding accounts and the return of old plate. In 1703, it demanded that, in future, all warrants for such plate be accompanied by an estimate of cost, as in the great wardrobe. (fn. 69) Taken together, these provisions, like the new establishments, amounted to a less drastic attack upon the fundamental administrative and financial problems of the court than that launched by Anne's father. But in light of his fate, they represented a more prudent and potentially effective compromise between reform and frugality on the one hand, and the need to maintain the dignity - and opportunities for patronage - of the royal state on the other.
The Queen's resolve for good husbandry, ably abetted by Lord Treasurer Godolphin, and the economical starting point provided by the new establishments led to an annual average expenditure of £238,891, making Anne's court the least costly of any in the period, apart from that of her much-defaulting uncle (Fig. 6). (fn. 70) This, combined with relatively good civil list yields in 1702–4 and Godolphin's able management of available funds (including the application to the civil list of the proceeds from periodic sales of the Queen's tin), explains why her early years were not marred by the chronic financial difficulties experienced by her uncle and brother-in-law. But as the total civil expenditure increased and the civil revenue began to decline, the household portion of that expenditure came to be squeezed. Beginning in April 1704, and with ever-increasing frequency and urgency thereafter, household paymasters began to complain to the Treasury about insufficient funds and long arrears. There is evidence to suggest that the court's inability to pay its servants and suppliers vitiated some of the reforms noted above by leading them to resort to corruption to survive. (fn. 71)
These matters came to a head under the Oxford ministry. The civil list yield for the ministry's first full year in office (Michaelmas 1710 to Michaelmas 1711) was only £513,615, the lowest of the entire reign. Despite almost £130,000 of additional moneys derived from the continuing sale of the Queen's tin, her household received only £182,206 that year, barely 70% of its annual established expenditure. The Queen's last years saw continued complaints by paymasters and servants. (fn. 72) Oxford's response was to propose the Civil List Lottery of 1713. This piece of legislation, 12 Anne, c. 11, allowed the Queen to mortgage £35,000 a year out of the civil list to pay off the interest on an immediate loan of £500,000, which was used to pay a year and a quarter's arrears. Clearly, this was a temporary measure. Rather than a permanent augmentation of the Queen's resources, it reduced them until the loan was paid off. (fn. 73) Nor did it do anything to prevent subsequent arrears from accumulating, which they began to do before the end of the reign. (fn. 74) It did set the precedent of parliament paying the Crown's civil list debts. That precedent would lead, eventually, to parliamentary scrutiny and, later still, reform of the household, inspired by parliament. (fn. 75)