The Earl Marshal is a Great Officer of State with a significant role in the arrangement of coronations and other State ceremonies.
Upon the death of the Sovereign, he is in charge of organising the funeral as well as the accession and coronation of the new monarch.
The Earl Marshal is a senior figure, which takes precedence after the Lord Great Chamberlain before all peers of his own degree other than Royal Dukes.
The Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain also preside at the State Opening of Parliament.
The Earl Marshal has also had authority over the kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants at the College of Arms, the body concerned with heraldry dating back to the 16th century. The Earl Marshal’s warrant has to be acquired prior to a grant of arms being made. His day-to-day job includes overseeing the work of the College of Arms.
A pursuivant or as it is properly known, pursuivant of arms, is a junior officer of arms. During the mediaeval times, a good number of nobles used the services of their officers of arms.
The office of Earl Marshal is a hereditary position occupied by the Duke of Norfolk. The present Earl Marshal is Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk.
The post derives from the office of Marshal, one of the King’s chief military officers during the Middle Ages.
During this time, the Earl Marshall was tasked with the responsibility of coronations and additional State ceremonies.
The Marshal became one of the two joint judges of the Court of Chivalry during the 14th century.
The title changed from Marshal to Earl Marshal in 1386 and has been used ever since.
Although many of the Marshals were related to each other from the 12th century and on, the office was not at first hereditary.
Since 1677, the office has descended to the present 18th Duke of Norfolk.