Alan Lascelles

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Sir Alan Lascelles.jpg
Lascelles in 1943
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
In office
Preceded bySir Alexander Hardinge
Succeeded bySir Michael Adeane
Assistant Private Secretary to the Sovereign
In office
Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
In office
Governor GeneralThe Earl of Bessborough
Preceded bySir Eric Miéville
Succeeded byShuldham Redfern
Personal details
Born(1887-04-11)11 April 1887
Sutton Waldron, Dorset, England
Died10 August 1981(1981-08-10) (aged 94)
Kensington, London, England
Joan Frances Vere Thesiger, Lady Lascelles
(m. 1920; died 1971)
EducationMarlborough College
Alma materTrinity College, Oxford (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1913–1938
UnitBedfordshire Yeomanry
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsMilitary Cross

Sir Alan Frederick "Tommy" Lascelles, GCB, GCVO, CMG, MC (/ˈlæsəls/; 11 April 1887 – 10 August 1981) was a British courtier and civil servant who held several positions in the first half of the twentieth century, culminating in his position as Private Secretary to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. In 1950, he wrote the Lascelles Principles in a letter to the editor of The Times, using the pen-name "Senex".

Early life and education

Lascelles was born on 11 April 1887 in the village of Sutton Waldron in Dorset, England, the sixth and youngest child and only surviving son of Commander Frederick Canning Lascelles and Frederica Maria Liddell, and the grandson of Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood.[1][2] He was thus a cousin of Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, who married Mary, Princess Royal, sister of his employers, Edward VIII and George VI. His mother was the daughter of Sir Adolphus Liddell, son of Thomas Liddell, 1st Baron Ravensworth.[3]

After attending Marlborough College, followed by Trinity College, Oxford, Lascelles served in France with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry during the First World War, where he rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Military Cross, after which he became aide-de-camp to his brother-in-law Lord Lloyd, the Governor of Bombay from 1919 to 1920.


Lascelles then returned to Britain and was appointed Assistant Private Secretary to Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1920, serving in that role until resigning in 1929, citing differences with the prince. From 1931 to 1935, he was Secretary to the Governor General of Canada, Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough.

Lascelles became the Assistant Private Secretary to George V in the latter months of 1935.[4]

When the Prince of Wales ascended the throne as Edward VIII on the death of George V in January 1936, Lascelles served briefly as the new King's assistant private secretary. Then, when Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936, Lascelles became assistant private secretary to George VI, some time after the new king's accession.[5]

Lascelles was knighted by George VI, while aboard a train, during the moderately successful 1939 royal tour of Canada and the United States, which he had helped to arrange and manage; the King made him a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO)[6] which is an honour in the personal gift of the sovereign and does not require political approval.[7] He had been appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1937, was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1944 and to Knight Grand Cross on his retirement in 1953.[6] He had been appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1926, before his promotion to Knighthood in that Order in 1939.[6] He was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1933.[6] He was sworn of the Privy Council, entitling him to the prefix "Right Honourable", in 1943.[6]

In 1943 Lascelles was promoted to Private Secretary to George VI. In 1952 he became Private Secretary to Elizabeth II, a role he held until 1953.

Lascelles was also Keeper of the Royal Archives from 1943 to 1953.

He retired from his 27 years of royal service on the last day of 1953, at the age of 66.[8] He had been asked by then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill twice and by the Queen once whether he would like to go to the House of Lords with a hereditary peerage but he declined.[8] He did, however, accept appointment as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath which, he said, "rated much higher than a peerage".[8]

Lascelles's papers are now held in the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.[9]

Personal life

On 16 March 1920, Lascelles married Joan Frances Vere Thesiger (1895–1971), daughter of Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, a former Viceroy of India and First Lord of the Admiralty.[6]

They had three children:

  • John Frederick Lascelles, born 11 June 1922, died 11 September 1951.
  • Lavinia Joan Lascelles, born 27 June 1923, died 3 November 2020; married to Major Edward Westland Renton, divorced 1960, then 1962–64 to the writer Gavin Maxwell, and to David Hankinson in 1969.[citation needed]
  • Caroline Mary Lascelles, born 15 February 1927; married 1949 to Antony Lyttelton, 2nd Viscount Chandos; then 1985 to David Erskine, son of Lord Erskine.

Lascelles died on 10 August 1981 at Kensington Palace at the age of 94.

Honours and awards

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.svg
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB)
UK Royal Victorian Order ribbon.svg
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
UK Order St-Michael St-George ribbon.svg
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)
Military cross BAR.svg
Military Cross (MC) (1919)
1914 Star BAR.svg
1914–15 Star
British War Medal BAR.svg
British War Medal
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg
Victory Medal with palm for Mentioned in Dispatches
UK King George V Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal (1935)
UK King George VI Coronation Medal ribbon.svg
King George VI Coronation Medal (1937)
UK Queen EII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953)
Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)

In popular culture

Lascelles is portrayed by Paul Brooke in the 2002 film Bertie and Elizabeth and Pip Torrens in the 2016 Netflix series The Crown.


  • Lascelles, Alan (1986). Hart-Davis, Duff (ed.). End of an Era, 1887–1920. The Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles. Vol. 1. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-11960-0.
  •  ———  (1989). Hart-Davis, Duff (ed.). In Royal Service, 1920–1936. The Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles. Vol. 2. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-12562-5.

 ———  (2006). Hart-Davis, Duff (ed.). King's Counsellor: Abdication and War: The Diaries of Tommy Lascelles. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85155-4.


  1. ^ Rose, Kenneth (17 December 2006). "A most devoted subject and a most exacting critic". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 7 June 2012.
  2. ^ Prochaska 2004.
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004.
  4. ^ Lascelles 2006, p. 20.
  5. ^ Lascelles 2006, p. 22: "So he did not resign again, but soldiered on through Edward's short reign and the protracted crisis of the Abdication in 1936. He then settled down to work as Assistant Private Secretary to King George VI..."
  6. ^ a b c d e f Who's Who: Lascelles, Alan.
  7. ^ Lascelles 2006, p. 28: "The King, giggling in a most disarming fashion, knighted me in the train tonight, as the train was approaching Buffalo. I think I can fairly claim to be the first man to be dubbed in a train, and also the first Englishman to be so treated by his Sovereign on American soil; so the episode has, at any rate, some historic interest."
  8. ^ a b c Lascelles 2006.
  9. ^ "The Papers of Sir Alan Lascelles | ArchiveSearch". Retrieved 18 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)


Lascelles, Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Frederick, (11 April 1887–10 Aug. 1981), Past Director: The Midland Bank; Royal Academy of Music; Private Secretary to the Queen, 1952–53; Keeper of the Queen’s Archives, 1952–53 (of the King’s Archives, 1943–52), Who's Who

External links

Government offices
Preceded by Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by
Court offices
Preceded by Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Succeeded by