Who is Andrew Parker? The former MI5 chief turned Lord Chamberlain who will play a key role in Queen’s funeral

Baron Parker of Minsmere will break his staff over the late monarch’s grave - but it’s all in the name of tradition

And many of those traditions could look quite bizarre to those not au fait with their practise.

One such tradition will see the Lord Chamberlain - the most senior official of the Royal Household whose job it is to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments - break his white staff over the Queen’s grave immediately before her burial.

But who is the Lord Chamberlain, and what does this unusual tradition symbolise?

Who is the Lord Chamberlain - why will he break his staff?

Lord Chamberlain – Baron Parker of Minsmere – is the most senior official of the Royal Household.

The former MI5 spy chief headed the Queen’s working household and it is his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office.

Tradition dictates that the Lord Chamberlain must now break his white staff over the Queen’s grave – a symbolic gesture marking the death of the sovereign he serves.

(Photo: VICTORIA JONES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The last Lord Chamberlain to break his staff in this manner was the Earl of Clarendon over King George VI’s grave in 1952.

Parker's official job is mostly organisational and ceremonial; he chairs a monthly meeting of all the royal household's heads of department and provides a weekly update on activities.

The position is non-executive and part-time, but it is estimated to pay around £90,000 per year.

Who is Andrew Parker?

Parker, 60, is relatively young for the post.

He grew up in Newcastle, where he is currently also a visiting professor at Northumbria Law School. He was a Cambridge natural sciences graduate who worked his way up the secret service career ladder for more than three decades

He joined the Security Service (MI5) in 1983, and in 1999 was posted to HM Customs and Excise as Director Intelligence before becoming Director, International Terrorism of the Security Service inFebruary 2005.

He was appointed Deputy Director General in 2007 after heading the Security Service’s reaction to the 2005 London bombings and the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.

Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker delivers a speech on the security threat facing Britain on October 17, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Parker was appointed as the Service’s Director General in April 2013, and was paid between £165,000 and £169,999, making him one of the 328 highest-paid persons in the British public sector at the time.

Parker was created a crossbench life peer in the 2020 Political Peerages, and in January 2021, was named Baron Parker of Minsmere, of Minsmere in the County of Suffolk, a territorial designation which reflects his love of bird watching.

Parker left MI5 in April 2020; Buckingham Palace announced on 5 February 2021 that Lord Parker of Minsmere would succeed Earl Peel as Lord Chamberlain.

Will he serve as Lord Chamberlain under King Charles III?

Though it is not a foregone conclusion that Baron Parker WILL BE reappointed by the new monarch, top authorities believe it would be a wise decision to retain continuity in the post.

Importantly, figures familiar with Parker’s 2021 appointment say King Charles III was very interested in the process, which came at a time when the Queen’s health was declining and transition plans were being put in place.

The role of Lord Chamberlain has become less political in recent years, but many believe the incoming king would benefit from utilising his skills.