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Master of the Horse

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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In England, an important official of the sovereign's household. The master of the horse is the third dignitary of the court, and is always a member of the ministry (before 1782 the office was of cabinet rank), a peer and a privy councillor. All matters connected with the horses and hounds of the sovereign, as well as the stables and coachhouses, the stud, mews and kennels, are within his jurisdiction. The practical management of the royal stables and stud devolves on the chief or crown equerry, formerly called the gentleman of the horse, who is never in personal attendance on the sovereign and whose appointment is permanent. The clerk marshal has the supervision of the accounts of the department before they are submitted to the Board of Green Cloth, and is in waiting on the sovereign on state occasions only. Exclusive of the crown equerry there are seven regular equerries, besides extra and honorary equerries, one of whom is always in attendance on the sovereign and rides at the side of the royal carriage. They are always officers of the army, and each of them is "on duty" for about the same time as the lords and grooms in waiting. There are also several pages of honour in the master of the horse's department, who must not be confounded with the pages of various kinds who are in the department of the lord chamberlain. They are youths aged from twelve to sixteen, selected by the sovereign in person, to attend on him at state ceremonies, when two of them, arrayed in an antique costume, assist the groom of the stole in carrying the royal train.

In France the master of the horse ("Grand Ecuyer," or more usually "Monsieur le grand") was one of the seven great officers of the crown from 1617. As well as the superintendence of the royal stables, he had that of the retinue of the sovereign, also the charge of the funds set aside for the religious functions of the court, coronations, &c. On the death of a sovereign he had the right to all the horses and their equipment in the royal stables. Distinct from this officer and independent of him, was the first equerry ("Premier Ecuyer"), who had charge of the horses which the sovereign used personally ("la petite ecurie"), and who attended on him when he rode out. The office of master of the horse existed down to the reign of Louis XVI. Under Louis XVIII. and Charles X. the duties were discharged by the first equerry, but under Napoleon I. and Napoleon III. the office was revived with much of its old importance.

In Germany the master of the horse (Oberststallmeister) is a high court dignitary; but his office is merely titular, the superintendence of the king's stables being carried out by the Oberstallmeister, an official corresponding to the crown equerry in England.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Master of the Horse'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica.​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​m/master-of-the-horse.html. 1910.