1678, John Every et al, grooms of the queen’s privy chamber, request the same privileges and advantages afforded to the king’s grooms

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, John Every, Thomas Chiffinch, Anthony Vane, John Walthew, William Shaw and James Windebank. SP 29/400 f. 39 (1678).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of John Every Thomas Chiffinch, Anthony Vane John Walthew, William Shaw and James Windebank.

Sheweth that according to your majesties gracious promise and intention that the groomes in ordinary of your royall consort her majesties privy chamber, should receive the like priviledges and advantages as others your majesties groomes in the like places have alwaies paid unto them, being the allowance of 60 pounds per annum for boardwages to each of them, which has beene and still is the constant allowance.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that in regard their charges in progresses and continuall attendance upon the person of her royall majestie is very considerable your majestie will graciously be pleased to confirme unto your petitioners allowance thereof, by granting them your majesties warrant to the lord steward his grace the Duke of Ormond or to any others your majesties officers of the greene cloath to allow thereof and cause them to be entered into the present book signed of establishment of your majesties household.

And your petitioners (as in duty bound) shall ever pray etc

The peticion of John Every and others

For a second, related petition, click here: John Every, Thomas Chiffinch, Anthony Vane, John Walther, William Shaw and James Windebank. SP 29/400 f. 40 (1678)

Report by Frank Edwards

In their first petition, the six grooms of her Majesty’s privy chamber, John Every, Thomas Chiffinch, Anthony Vane, John Walthew (or Walther), William Shaw and James Windebank claimed that as ‘grooms in ordinary’ in the privy chamber of the queen consort they should receive the same ‘privileges and advantages’ as the King’s grooms. In particular they sought the ‘constant allowance’ of £60 a year for board wages. They asked the King to issue the necessary warrant to the Lord Steward, Duke of Ormond or any other officers of the Green Cloth.

At the same time the same six grooms sent a second petition, identical to the first, except in two details. They cited the ‘constant allowance’ that was paid to the King’s grooms as ‘ten groats per diem for board wages’. This, they claimed, should be paid to them as ‘supernumerary grooms’.

The royal household

The royal household under Charles II had two main branches: the Lord Chamberlain’s department and associated sub-departments ‘above stairs’ and the Lord Steward’s department ‘below stairs’. Broadly, the former was concerned with ceremonial and personal attendance on the monarch, the latter with the supply and provision of services.[1]

Amongst the many officers of the Lord Chamberlain’s department were the ‘grooms of the privy chamber’, responsible for staffing the doors into the privy chamber. Under Charles II they were six in number, receiving annual wages (in 1660) of £20 and board wages of £53. Charles also appointed assistant grooms, known as ‘grooms of the privy chamber in ordinary standing supernumerary’, also receiving annual wages of £20.[2] It is likely that the King’s assistant grooms also received board wages.

The grooms described themselves as ‘grooms in ordinary’ or ‘supernumerary grooms’, that is assistant grooms. Their claim was for equal treatment with the grooms of the King’s privy chamber, in respect of ‘board wages’, which formed the larger part of an officer’s remuneration. The grooms cited £60 a year, suggesting the going-rate had risen from the £53 paid in 1660. They also referred to ten groats a day. As one groat was worth four old pennies, ten groats a day was more or less £60 a year, expressed in a different way.[3]

The Lord Steward’s department, below stairs, included the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the Cofferer (the disbursement and accounting official), the first and second clerks of the Comptroller and the first and second clerks of the Board of Green Cloth. The Board of Green Cloth, so named from the covering of the table at which its members sat, oversaw day-to-day financial matters. It consisted of the Cofferer, the first and second clerks to the Comptroller and the first and second clerks to the Board. The Treasurer or the Comptroller were also sometimes present. Matters relating to the terms of employment of the royal household’s many staff were subject to the scrutiny and authorisation of the Lord Steward and his officers.[4]

Each member of the royal court had his or her own household which could include some elements (but maybe not all) of the monarch’s household.[5] Our petitioners were based not in the royal household but in the household of the queen consort, Catherine of Braganza, indicating that she employed ‘grooms in ordinary’ or assistant grooms, as did Charles II.

Although there is detailed information about office-holders in the royal household there are no comparable records for office-holders in the service of Catherine. Thomas Chiffinch, may be Thomas, the only son of Thomas Chiffinch and nephew of William Chiffinch, both courtiers and royal officials.[6] John Walthew may be John Walthew who served in the royal household from June 1660 to April 1673 as a ‘sewer of the chamber’.[7] There is no certain information about the petitioners, however, beyond their names and positions.

A possible prompt for the petitions

One explanation for the timing of the grooms’ petitions may lay in the King’s prorogation of Parliament from November 1675 to February 1677. Some officers of the royal household who continued to attend during the prorogation had not been paid board wages. At the time of their petitions, steps were taken to rectify this. In December 1677, the Lord Steward and the Board of Green Cloth were authorised to pay carvers, cupbearers and sewers board wages at the rate of 4s. a day, from January 1675 to March 1677, this ‘being the time that the waiters’ table has been suppressed’. The Lord Steward and the Board were similarly authorised to pay 4s. a day to the four gentleman ushers of the privy chamber and the four gentlemen ushers, daily waiters who ‘had constantly attended during the whole of the late 15 months’ suspension’.[8] On 14 January, 1678, authorisation was given to deal with the ‘grooms of the privy chamber and the gentlemen ushers, quarter waiters’ in the same way.[9]

It is likely that within the royal household news of such action travelled fast. The grooms of her Majesty’s privy chamber may have been prompted to seek board wages by the knowledge that other officers were now to receive such wages retrospectively.

The outcome of the grooms’ petitions

The petitioners were clearly aware of how things worked in the royal household and where their claim should be considered. They referred to the ‘officers of the Green Cloth’ and also pointed the King in the direction of the Lord Steward. In 1678 that position was held by Lord Ormond. Born James Butler in 1610, Ormond had served Charles I during the civil war and joined the future Charles II in exile. For his loyalty he was made Marquis of Ormond in 1642, Duke of Ormond in 1661 and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1662. Like many other returning loyalists, he was also rewarded with an appointment in the King’s household, becoming Lord Steward in 1660 and holding this position until his death in 1688.[10]

The petitioners also enlisted support from the Lord Steward’s eldest son, Thomas. Thomas Butler became Earl of Ossory when his father was elevated to Marquis. Described as a ‘friend and confidant’ of Charles II, in 1666 he became a gentleman of the King’s bedchamber (responsible for assisting him in dressing, waiting on him when he ate in private, guarding access to him and providing ‘noble companionship’). His main interest, however, was in military affairs. In 1677 he fought with the Dutch forces engaged against the French and in January 1678 became general of all British forces in the Dutch service.[11]

On 6 January, before travelling abroad, Thomas lobbied for the grooms, writing to Secretary of State, Sir Joseph Williamson, a long standing and by now very senior officer in Charles II’s court.[12] The Earl asked Sir Joseph to ‘try what can be done’ about an attached paper he had presented to the King on behalf of the grooms, explaining that he could not pursue matters himself due to his sudden departure to Holland. The attached paper appears to be the two petitions stating the case for the grooms’ equal treatment with the grooms of his Majesty’s privy chamber through the payment of £60 a year or 10 groats a day for board wages.

In the record is a further note, perhaps prepared by the Earl, which states the motives for the King’s granting the petitioners’ request’, namely that ‘all the Grooms of his Majesty’s Privy Chamber are allowed board wages, and so are all the officers of the Queen’s Privy Chamber, the six Grooms in ordinary only excepted’.[13]  It appears from the reference in this note to ‘all the Grooms’ that, by 1678 at least, most assistant grooms, just as fully-fledged grooms, were receiving board wages, in addition to £20 a year.

With the backing of the Earl of Ossory, son of the Lord Steward and confidant of the King, the grooms had weighty support. They also had the potential involvement of Sir Joseph Williamson, someone with even greater influence than the Earl. There is no evidence to show what Sir Joseph did in response to the Earl’s request or of any final outcome of the grooms’ petitions, but it would seem likely their claim met with success.


[1] G. E. Aylmer, The Crown’s Servants: Government and Civil Service under Charles II, 1660-1685 (2002), pp. 20-22.

[2] ‘Introduction: IV, Remuneration and Value of Office’, in R O Bucholz (ed.), Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837 (2006), pp. liii-lxiii. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/liii-lxiii and ‘Privy Chamber: Grooms of the Privy Chamber 1660-1837’, in Bucholz (ed.), pp. 38-42,  http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp38-42.

[3] ‘Groat (coin)’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groat_(coin).

[4] Aylmer, pp. 20-22; ‘Introduction: Administrative structure and work’, in R O Bucholz (ed.),Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837 (2006), pp. xx-xxxvii. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/xx-xxxvii; ‘The household below stairs: Lord Steward 1660-1837’, in Bucholz (ed.), pp. 397-398 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp397-398.

[5] Aylmer, pp. 25-26.

[6] ‘Chiffinch [Cheffin], Thomas (1600-1666) courtier and royal official’ and ‘Chiffinch, William (c.1602-1691), courtier and royal official’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004),https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-5280?rskey=l3pAZj&result=2 and https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-5281?rskey=iHHAUs&result=1.

[7] ‘Index of officers: Wa – Wh’, in R O Bucholz (ed.), Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837 (2006), pp. 1582-1625. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp1582-1625.

[8] ‘Charles II: December 1677’, in F H Blackburne Daniell (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1677-8 (1911), pp. 486-548. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1677-8/pp486-548.

[9] ‘Charles II: January 1678’, in F H Blackburne Daniell (ed.) Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1677-8 (1911), pp. 548-617. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1677-8/pp548-617.

[10] ‘Butler, James, first duke of Ormond (1610-1688), lord lieutenant of Ireland’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-4191?rskey=JN5wRP&result=7.

[11] ‘Butler, Thomas, sixth earl of Ossory (1634-1680), politician and naval officer’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-4210; ‘The bedchamber: Gentlemen of the Bedchamber’, in R O Bucholz (ed.), Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837 (2006), pp. 14-19, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp14-19.

[12] ‘Williamson, Sir Joseph (1633-1701), government official’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-29571?rskey=Izi9aa&result=2.

[13] ‘Charles II: January 1678’, in F H Blackburne Daniell (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1677-8 (1911), pp. 548-617. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1677-8/pp548-617.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.