The Chapel Royal in Modern times

Queen Victoria opened the Palace and its grounds to the public in 1838. A lot of restoration work was undertaken, and some fine later building was returned to its original Tudor appearance. The management of it all was the responsibility of the Royal Household under the direction of the Lord Chamberlain. That remained the case until the 1960s, when the upkeep of the Palace was entrusted to the Department of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings. Later the task was undertaken by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, and then by the Department of the Environment. Finally, in 1989, Hampton Court Palace and a group of other historic Royal residences were handed over to a charitable trust, called Historic Royal Palaces, which maintains them now.

Children of The Chapel Royal- The Chapel Royal The choral tradition in the Chapel Royal, which had lapsed after the Court left the Palace in 1737, was revived in the twentieth century when the Chapel Royal had been opened to the public and the Chaplain, the Director of Music and the Clerk of the Chapel had again been regularly appointed by the Sovereign after a lapse of about a hundred years. The Chapel Royal is the only part of the Palace which is still administered by the Royal Household : its Ordinary is The Queen, and its ecclesiastical Ordinary is the Dean of the Chapel Royal, at present an ex officio post of the Bishop of London, to which he is appointed by The Queen.

In 2002 the Choir celebrated The Queen's Golden Jubilee by a tour of the Czech Republic (which was the first time the Choir of the Chapel Royal has travelled abroad since 1520, when it accompanied King Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold near Calais) ; with us we took a banner of the Chapel Royal, a scarlet field with a gold Hospitaller Cross emblazoned upon it, the badge of the Chapel Royal which expresses its conscious continuity with the chapel of the Knights Hospitaller which once stood on the site.

In May 2004 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the Hampton Court Conference at a service in the Chapel Royal which was attended by Her Majesty's College of Chaplains as well as by the entire Chapel Royal establishment. That was probably the first time The Sovereign has worshipped at a service in the Chapel Royal since King George II withdrew the Court from the Palace after the death of Queen Caroline in 1737. To commemorate the occasion a pulpit fall of brown oak, inlaid with the Hospitaller Cross in white sycamore and the Royal Cyphers of King James I and Her Majesty The Queen, was made for the Chapel Royal under the direction of The Queen's nephew Viscount Linley.

Next to the pulpit stands a fine Ethiopian cross used as a processional cross in the Chapel Royal. It was presented to the Chapel Royal by Father Nessibu of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1968, when he was Chaplain to the Imperial Family in Addis Ababa. The design is a traditional Ethiopian “Net of Solomon”, and you can imagine how, if it were not made of solid gilded bronze, it could be folded in upon itself towards the centre, trapping any demons flying nearby like catching insects in a net!

There are about three hundred regular worshippers 'on the books' of the Chapel Royal at present, of whom only a handful are nowadays residents of the Palace. They do not worship in the Chapel Royal as of right (as they would in a parish church), but by invitation of The Queen. Her Majesty, and the Dean of the Chapel Royal, who is the ecclesiastical Ordinary, are represented by a Deputy Priest in Ordinary, who is the Chaplain appointed by The Queen and installed by the Dean. Once run by a staff of forty chaplains in Tudor times, the Chapel Royal now has one! But I am much helped by a superb Director of Music and Organist and Choir, and by a very efficient virger, who is known by the historic title of 'The Clerk of the Chapel'. Between us we offer worshippers in the Chapel Royal two choral services on Sundays and on important Holy Days, and a daily ministry of the Offices of Morning Prayer and the Eucharist in The Queen's Holy Day Closet, according to the traditional Anglican rite of the Book of Common Prayer. Visitors are welcome to see the beautiful and historic Chapel Royal when services are not in progress, and stewards, who are regular worshippers, present its history and its continuing ministry to all who are interested. The Sacrament is permanently reserved in the Chapel Royal, with the permission of the Dean, as a focus for prayer and devotion and for the Communion of the sick.

The Palace and the Chapel Royal are not always the same as before, and there is something new to see and learn on every visit. In 2009, for instance, the Palace commemorated the five hundredth anniversary of the accession of King Henry VIII to the throne of England with special exhibitions and lectures.

On the 12th of September 2009 the first Royal Marriage for centuries was solemnised in the Chapel Royal between Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor : Lord Frederick is the son of Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

In December 2010 The Queen's Christmas message was broadcast from the Chapel Royal, and the Choristers sang some Christmas carols for Her Majesty on that occasion.

All photographs of the Chapel Royal or taken in the Chapel Royal are with the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen

Copyright © HM Chapel Royal and The Choral Foundation 2011-2015

Photography by Richard Champness
Website maintained by Charlotte Duff