Groom of the Stool: Robert Shepherd, ‘Westminster: A Biography’

Robert Shepherd’s ‘Westminster: a Biography’ covers the whole lifespan of the marshy island which became the centre of Robert Shepherd, 'Westminster: A Biography'power and government in Britain. For me, Westminster has become a workplace and I often forget the history behind the buildings which have shaped the form of government operating in Britain. As a result of this book, I now pay much more attention to my surroundings. 

Shepherd shows how British government has evolved from religious power to monarchical service and advice to a more modern form of exercising power. A great example is the notorious ‘Groom of the Stool.’

Access to the monarch brought increasing power to the Tudor privy chamber. The most intimate duties fell to the ‘Groom of the Stool,’ who was charged with seeing that ‘the house of easement be sweet and clear.’ This post had lost its lavatorial function by the seventeenth century, when its true origin was disguised by the title of ‘Groom of the Stole.’ Despite the subsequent demise of this office, Westminster careers can still be advanced by a readiness, metaphorically, to perform the same service.

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