Sunday, 13 April 2014


Groom of the Stool

A Close-Stool c.1650. Hampton Court collection

Following the Royal Banquet for the President of the Irish Free State, at Buckingham Palace last week and the Royal Toast being led by Royalist Sinn Fein's  second minister at Buckingham Palace, there is considerable speculation in Irish Republican circles on the Royal  Groom of the Stool status of Martin McGuinness on the queen's forthcoming frequent Irish visits. With the Queen expected to visit Dublin on a monthly basis, to conduct due diligence on her administration and Anglo Irish bankers in John Bull's other island, there is added significance in Her Majesty's intimate servants role in Ireland,
The Groom of the Stool (formally styled: "Groom of the King's Close Stool") was the most intimate of an English monarch's courtiers, whose physical intimacy naturally led to him becoming a man in whom much confidence was placed by his royal majesty and with whom many royal secrets were shared as a matter of course. This secret information he is privy to, whilst it would never have been revealed, to the discredit of her majesty, in turn led to him becoming feared and respected and therefore powerful within the royal court in his own right. The office developed gradually over decades and centuries into one of administration of the royal finances, and under Henry VII, the Groom of the Stool became a powerful official involved in setting national fiscal policy, under the "Chamber System".

Origin of the Office

The appellation "Groom of the Stool" derived from the item of furniture now known as a commode or portable lavatory (Old English & Norse Stol or Stoll meaning a chair), was in the earliest times a male servant in the household of an English monarch who was in charge of providing facilities for the monarch's defecation, and assisted in his cleansing or washing thereafter. Often when the visit of a modern monarch is planned, for example during the construction of a new building, a special royal lavatory pavilion is built for the occasion.

Evolution of the Office

In the early years of Henry VIII's reign, the title was awarded to court companions of the King who spent time with him in the Privy chamber. These were generally the sons of noblemen or important members of the gentry. In time they came to act as virtual personal secretaries to the King, carrying out a variety of administrative tasks within his private rooms. The position was an especially prized one, as it allowed one unobstructed access to the King's attention. David Starkey writes: "The Groom of the Stool had (to our eyes) the most menial tasks; his standing, though, was the highest ... Clearly then, the royal body service must have been seen as entirely honorable, without a trace of the demeaning or the humiliating."[9] Further, "the mere word of the Gentleman of the Privy Chamber was sufficient evidence in itself of the king's will," and the Groom of the Stool bore "the indefinable charisma of the monarchy."

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