PAGE OF HONOUR TO HM QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Archibald Blair Cecil Young b. 1991; Blair after his grandfather Sir Blair Aubyn Stewart-Wilson, Cecil after his father Jonathan Cecil Ian Young, and 🙂 🙂 🙂 .
Pages, it turns out, were not simply pages. There were different types of page with different titles and different duties. There were Pages of the Backstairs, Pages of the Presence and Pages of Honour.
1. Pages of Honour
Young aristocrats from some of the wealthiest and most influential families in the nation.
Appointed at around the age of eleven or twelve, these Pages often went on to take up positions in one of the Household regiments. Highly sought after, these posts paid well at £120. Pages of honour did not live in the royal palaces and had no official duties in the royal household. They were just required for formal ceremonial occasions, when they would attend in full ceremonial livery. The next phase of my research will involve trying to establish exactly what they would have worn and if any of these garments survive. I’m off to visit the experts from the Royal Dress Collection at Hampton Court and Kensington Palace.
2. Pages of the Backstairs
Less well born and in the middling ranks of the royal household.
Six pages of the Backstairs were employed and worked in rotation. Historically, they would have waited outside the doors of the King’s Apartments but by the early eighteenth century they had moved within the Chamber. The Royal Bedchamber was a suite of the King’s private apartments where access was restricted to a select few. The most important duty of the Page of the Backstairs was to guard access to the Royal Body by policing access into the private apartments via the Back (private) stairs. Other duties of Pages of the Backstairs included serving the King’s private meals, attending to his royal needs, assisting with dressing and looking after the Bedchamber apartments. Roles within the bedchamber were strictly defined. For example in the reign of Queen Anne the Page of the Backstairs would fetch the basin and ewer for washing but it was the woman of the Bechamber would set it before the Queen. And whilst it was the the Page of the Backstairs who would reach for the glass and pass it to the Woman of the Bedchamber, it was the high-born Lady-in-Waiting who would actually hand it to the Queen. We cannot be certain that by the time of the Regency that these rigid rules were still strictly adhered to but the royal household is marked by a longstanding tradition of continuity and it is unlikely that roles would have been radically different. The Pages of the Backstairs had bedrooms close to the King’s chamber so that they could be called on as necessary. On the floor plan illustrated a page’s bedroom can be identified close to the King’s Chamber in the north part of the building (on the left of the plan). There were at least two other page’s bedrooms close by. One Page of the Backstairs would be in waiting in the King’s Chambers and two would be in attendance upon the King during dinner. So although not high-born like the Pages of Honour their power lay in their ability to restrict or admit access to the monarch and in their potential influence on the monarch by their close contact with him. In 1817 they were paid £200 a year.
3. Pages of the Presence
Pages with the lowest status of the three types of page.
The main role of a Page of the Presence was to wait on the aristocratic Gentlemen or Lords in Waiting who were the King’s close companions and attendants. Pages of the Presence would also wait on the King’s visitors at meal times. They worked in more public areas and were not permitted access to the Bedchamber at all which meant they would have to liaise closely with the Pages of the Bedchamber is order to arrange for a visitor or member of the Royal Household to see the monarch in his private apartments. In 1821 first class pages earned between £230-£260, and the second class between £140-£170. They worked in strict rotations on a month-on, month-off basis. During their months off they would be paid 7 shillings (35p) a day for board and lodging. All Royal Pages of Honour have RED heels on their buckled court shoes. In Scotland they are known as THISTLE PAGES. The livery is in dark green, and they carry a wonderful tricorn hat which hangs from a hook on their belt. The best part of all for all the boys, is of course THE SWORD. There is only one thistle page at a time, who comes from a noble Scottish family. His job is to attend HM at the Thistle ceremony held in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. It is a huge responsibility for small boys of only 11 or 12 and depending on how small they stay, they can do the job until they are 13/14 yrs old. HM Queen Elisabeth II (the boss) does not like them to be taller than her!!! Archibald Blair Cecil (Archie for insiders) did three years and it got to the stage where it became a worry when he went to public school. After one opening of parliament however the Captain of the Rugby team bent down from a great height and said ‘well done Archie’! The white tights are abit of a problem.