Earl marshal: the duke coordinating the Queen’s funeral and King’s coronation

The hereditary behind-the-scenes role involves organising state funerals of sovereigns and arranging the accession of monarchs

As the nation mourns a Queen and celebrates a new King, a key behind-the-scenes figure is the earl marshal.

This hereditary role has responsibility for arranging the state opening of parliament, as well as organising the state funerals of sovereigns and the accession and coronations of new monarchs.

The position is traditionally held by the highest-ranking duke in England, which is the Duke of Norfolk. The current earl marshal is the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 65, who inherited the title when his father died in 2002.

As part of his duties, the duke played a major role in the proclamation of King Charles III, standing on the balcony overlooking Friary Court at St James’s Palace, as the principal proclamation was read aloud in public by the garter king of arms.

The father of five, who is known to his friends as Eddie and is reported to be worth more than £100m, is regarded as the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic church in Britain, and is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

Educated at Ampleforth College and Lincoln College, Oxford, he previously reportedly ran a bottled gas company, a joinery business, and is said to be a keen racing driver and accomplished skier.

Last month, it was reported that he and his wife of 34 years, Georgina, had finalised their divorce. He was quoted in the Mail on Sunday saying: “It’s just terribly sad.” The couple married in 1987, separated in 2011, but were reconciled by 2016, only to split up again, and he is now in a new relationship.

In 2015, his niece, Kinvara Balfour, granddaughter of the 17th Duke of Norfolk, called for the “archaic, mad and bonkers” law of primogeniture to be overhauled, saying her mother, Lady Tessa, had missed out on inheriting Arundel Castle in West Sussex, the seat of the Duke of Norfolk, because she was not born a boy, with it going to her younger brother.

All past and present dukes of Norfolk have been descended from Edward I.

Since the 16th century, the earl marshal has had authority over the kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants at the College of Arms, the body that regulates heraldry. Among the many titles he holds, he is also said to be he is one of three claimants to the role of chief butler of England.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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