In Service to the Sovereign

I’m in the middle of reading a Regency spy series that I’m enjoying very much. I’ve always had an interest in stories that feature a hero or heroine who works on behalf of the sovereign, and this series fits the bill nicely.

Of course, a character doesn’t have to be a spy or work in the foreign office to serve the sovereign. There were plenty of positions in historic royal households—from butlers to footmen, from equerries to aides-de-camp—that I think would make for an interesting story.

Some of those positions are ceremonial (perfect for a nobleman in disguise); some date back hundreds of years. And some have odd, but intriguing titles, like:

Silver Stick in Waiting to the Queen.

What kind of a job is Silver Stick?

It turns out there are two different appointments bearing that name: Gold Stick and Silver Stick. Gold Stick is the senior of the two; Silver Stick is Gold’s assistant, and while they technically have different responsibilities, Silver is ready to step in if Gold isn’t available for some reason or can’t fulfill his or her duties.

Earl Mountbatten of Burma, in uniform as Colonel of the Life Guards, with gold stick in hand (1973) (credit: Wikipedia.org)

The positions were named for the gold and silver heads on their ebony staffs of office. In the old days, they served as royal bodyguards and used their staffs to beat anyone who got too close to the sovereign.

Close up detail of the Gold Stick.

Both positions—which date back to Tudor times—are held by military officers. The position of Silver Stick is always held by the officer in command of the Household Cavalry. On state occasions Silver Stick provides the closest escort to the sovereign, whether he or she is on foot or riding in a carriage.

Photo of Queen Elizabeth riding in an open carriage. Beside her a uniformed member of the military rides on horseback.
Queen Elizabeth attends Trouping the Colour ceremony in the late 1980s.

During the Regency, the office of Gold Stick in Waiting was always held by a colonel of the 1st or 2nd Life Guards.

Illustration of four men on horseback. Each man is dressed military uniform.
1807 uniform of the Life Guards to George III

In Queen Victoria’s reign, her cousin, Prince George William Frederick Charles, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (a grandson of George III) served as Silver Stick.

Black and white photo of Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge in military uniform.
Prince George William Frederick Charles, 2nd Duke of Cambridge in a photo taken about 1888 (credit: The National Portrait Gallery https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?mkey=mw189792)

Lord Mountbatten of Burma (uncle of the late Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh) was Silver Stick to George V.

If you watch The Crown you know that Andrew Parker-Bowles (Camilla’s ex-husband) served as Silver Stick in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth when he commanded her Household Cavalry.

More recently, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was Gold Stick-in-Waiting, thanks to her service to the queen as Colonel of the Blues and Royals.

Head and shoulders photo of Princess Anne dressed in full military regalia.

Despite the odd-sounding title, I think a Silver Stick in Waiting would make a terrific Regency hero—the kind of hero everyone underestimates (even though he’s actually a military officer) in a Scarlet Pimpernel sort of way. But the plucky, strong-willed heroine sees through his disguise, of course; and together they overcome plots against the crown, uncover plenty of skullduggery, and fall in love along the way.

What do you think? Would you read a Regency romance with a character who served as Silver Stick in Waiting to the King?

4 thoughts on “In Service to the Sovereign

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