The court was a concept as well as an entity. It symbolized the magnificence and preeminence of the prince.

The Tudor royal servants were chosen by the King "from the men closest to him". They were thus courtiers "par excellence". In the sixteenth century, the court was indeed the seat of the government in England.

The royal household was divided into two departments: household above stairs, called "the chamber", and household below stairs called the household proper. The latter under the supervision of the Lord Steward was styled domus providentiae, concerned with the material and mundane necessities of the monarch and of his court such as food, drink, lighting and fuel. The former, domus magnificentiae, was the Lord Chamberlain´s department, which catered to the personal needs of the sovereign with a view to manteining his princely dignity.

The upper floor of the royal place comprised a great hall and the chamber; the former used for the monarch´s formal an public business and the latter for his private and personal use in the company of a few intimate servants.

The Lord Chamberlain, the great officer sitting in the King´s chambre, was not only the officer in charge of the household above stairs, he was also the most important figure in court. He was in charge of all court entertainments, he supervised distribution of lodgings in the palace, made arrangements for the king´s progresses, received the Ambassadors and othrçer visitors to the court, and conducted them into the royal presense. He carried a white staff, the simbol of this office and authority, which he occasionally wielded for more tangible purposes. He was assisted by a vice-chamberlain. Both of them were ex-officio members of the privy council.

The chamber was later divided into a privy chamber (distinguished from bedchamber in 1559), and outer chamber (often styled presence chamber), and the great hall. The privy chamber was the most influential department in the royal household. It housed the king's "privy lodging", consisting of bedroom, library, study, and of course, the toilet. Originating in Henry VII's reign, the privy chamber developed through a slow and tortuous process of reform and reorganization during 1518/36. By the time Henry VIII ascended the throne, it had become quite "institutionalized". It had a regular staff of its own, such as gentlemen, ushers, grooms, and pages.

Prior to the evolution of the privy chamber the chamber had been divided into three sub-departments - the Jewel House under a master, the Wardrobe of Robes (distinct from the Great Wardrobe situated outside of the court), and the Wardrobe of Beds, each under a yeoman. These three departments took care of the sovereign's jewels, clothing, and mattresses. Still other specialized officers of the chamber were the monarch's secretary, chaplain, physician, surgeon, apothecary, barber, henchmen or young gentlemen in attendance under their master, and finally, the Esquires of the Household.

The Esquires of the Household were important officers in clase contact with the monarch. As the Black Book of 1478 had stipulated, there were four "esquires for the body"--"four Noble, of condition, whereof always two be attendant on the King's person, to array him, and unarray him; watch day and night; and to dress him in bis cloaths... Their business is in many secrets, some sitting in the King's chamber, some in the hall, with person of like service". In the fifteenth century the esquire was regarded superior to a Gentleman in the Privy Chamber. For instance, Henry IV's gentleman, John Wodehouse, was promoted as an Esquire by Henry V. Master Bloomfield "refused the honour of Knighthood, esteerning it to be a superior honour to be Esquire of Body" and "paid a fine rather than take that honour". According to the Statutes of Eltham (19 Jan 1526), an esquire was more important than a Groom of the Privy Chamber. Every esquire was entitled to five horses whereas every groom to two horses.

The most important innovation in the administration of the royal chamber in the sixteenth century was the creation of the post of the Gentleman in the Privy Chamber on the French model (gentilhomme de la chambre). This post was created around 1518 by amalgamating the posts of the two earlier officers - Esquires of the Household and the Knights of the Body. The duties of the gentlemen of the privy chamber or "gentlemen weyters" (later these gentlemen waiters would belong to the chamber) were required to "dilligently attend upon . . . [the king's] person . . . doeing humble, reverent, secrett,and lowly service". In other words, this service consisted  primarily in giving company to the sovereign and in dressing and undressing him. though they performed a varierty of chores. The Privy Chamber became a separate household department under the command of one of the two chief gentlemen who also assumed the title of the groom of the stole. The primary duty of the groom of the stole (or stool) was to see that "the house of easement be sweet and clear". He, however, emerged eventually as the manager of the privy chamber as well as the privy purse. The gentlemen were assisted by the grooms of the privy chamber who, under the supervision of the gentlemen ushers, attended to the cleanliness of the rooms.

The Statutes of Eltham of 1526 provided for six gentlemen, two gentlemen ushers, four grooms, one barber, and one page, "whom the King's grace for their good behaviour and quallityes hath elected for that purpose". By 1547 the number of gentlemen was increased to eighteen. During 1549-53 there were six principal gentlemen and twenty-six "ordinary" gentlemen in Edward VI's privy chamber. As salary a gentleman received £50 a year, a gentleman usher £30, and a groom £20. The gentlemen were regular officers of the court and hence belonged to what was called "the ordinary of the King's honorable house".

The post of the gentleman was thus quite lucrative. Moreover, a holder of this office, necessarily a royaI favourite, invariably received a number of sinecures. Yet the most important attraction of this office was not its emoluments and profits. As Nicholas Carlisle points out, gentlemen solicited positions in the privy chamber for "the pure Dignity of the Post itself, added to the laudable ambition of being employed in Publick Characters abroad, or of filling High Offices at home". This explanation, coming as it does from a gentleman of the privy chamber of the nineteenth century, might equally apply to bis Tudor forbears. In the sixteenth century parents of young aspirants to careers in the royal household were prepared to send their children to the court to serve without any salary or fee. Most importantly, to a gentleman of the sixteenth century employment in the privy chamber offered the greatest attraction: propinquity to the monarch.

Francis Bacon voiced a popular sentiment when he said:

'...The fountain of honour is the king, and the access to his person continueth honour in life, and to be banished from his presente is one of the greatest eclipses of honour that can be...'

WoIsey's secretary, Cavendish, refused to accept employrnent in the royal household for he had learnt from his master's tale:

'...the wonderous mutabilitie of vayn honours the bryttell Assuraunce oí haboundaunce the oncertyntie of dignytes the fflateryng of fayned tIendes And the tykyll trust to worldly prynces... And the inconstantnes of prynces fauour...'

Cavendish, however, was hopelessly in the minority. Sir Thomas Cawarden perhaps acted in the true spirit of a Tudor gentleman when he rejected the post of the master of revels in 1544, for he:

'...did mislyke to be tearmed a Seriaunt because of bis better countenaunce of roome and place beinge of the kinges maiesties privye Chamber.'

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