Traditionally, when the Marquess of Cholmondeley (as Lord Great Chamberlain) escorted Her Majesty when in the Houses of Parliament, as Her Majesty’s representative in Westminster, he formerly did this in the most unusual way… he walked backwards as escorting the royal party.
But for a few years now, Her Majesty has cast away this tradition. Some say since 2003, in her move to modernise the court.
This move probably came alongside a similar notion in the 1990s, when Her Majesty did away with the rule that no one could turn their back in her presence and now this rule is only retained at investitures and the State Opening of Parliament when the Lord Chancellor hands her the Speech.
The Marquess of Cholmondeley no longer walks backwards on state occasions and has now spoken to Vanity Fair about this update to protocol.
“The Queen decided we needed to modernise a bit, so I was told to walk forwards,” he tells Vanity Fair. “I don’t see the point of changing it. It’s rather a shame – it was part of the pageantry of the occasion, which is all very old-fashioned.”
“But I do now walk forwards. Everyone still says to me, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who walks backwards.’ I say, ‘I’m afraid we don’t anymore.’”
The Lord Great Chamberlain not only plays an important role at the State Opening of Parliament, but also has a major part to play in royal coronations, having the right to dress the monarch on coronation day and to serve the monarch water before and after the coronation banquet, and also being involved in investing the monarch with the insignia of rule. He also regulates the design and the wearing of court uniform and dress and how insignia are worn. He wears a distinctive scarlet court uniform and bears a gold key and a white stave as the insignia of his office.