Those watching the recent coronation may have noticed the Princess Royal forming part of the procession as the ‘Gold Stick-in-Waiting’. But what is this curious military appointment?
The Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms may claim to be the ‘nearest guard’ to the sovereign, but there have been others over the centuries, today oft-forgot subjects, who have provided nothing but the closest, most personal and loyal protection possible to the sovereign.
Indeed, the role and descriptor of the ‘nearest guard’ actually belongs to the Gold Sticks, a court appointment established – like the Gentlemen at Arms – by King Henry VIII.
While the role of the Gentlemen at Arms was – and remains – to act as the monarch’s ceremonial bodyguard, the role of the two Gold Sticks (on rotation) in England was to provide the sovereign with around-the-clock, close protection. To emphasise the point, the Gold Stick-in-Waiting (the one on duty at the given time) was until the reign of Queen Victoria required to sleep outside the king’s (or queen regnant’s) bedroom door.