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Sir Alan Frederick "Tommy"[1] 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 to Queen Elizabeth II. He wrote the Lascelles Principles in a 1950 letter to the editor of The Times, using the pen-name "Senex".

Sir Alan Lascelles

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
MonarchGeorge V
Edward VIII
George VI
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
(m. 1920; died 1971)
Alma materTrinity College, Oxford
Military service
Branch/serviceBritish Army
Years of service1913-1938
UnitBedfordshire Yeomanry
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsMilitary Cross


Early life and educationEdit

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 Hon Frederick Canning Lascelles and Frederica Maria Liddell, and the grandson of Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood.[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 school at 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 the 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 1935.

When the Prince of Wales ascended to the throne as Edward VIII, upon the death of George V, in January 1936, Lascelles served briefly as the new King's private secretary. Then, when Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936, Lascelles became private secretary to George VI, some time after the new king's accession.[4][page needed]

Lascelles was knighted by George VI, while aboard a train, during the highly successful 1939 royal tour of Canada and the United States, which he had helped to arrange and manage; the King made him a Knight of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO)[5] which is an honour in the personal gift of the sovereign and does not require political approval.[4][page needed] He had been appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1937, was promoted to Knight 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.[7] He was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1933[8]. He was sworn of the Privy Council, entitling him to the prefix "Right Honourable", in 1943.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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".[12]

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

Personal lifeEdit

On 16 March 1920, Lascelles married the Honourable Joan Frances Vere Thesiger (1895–1971), daughter of Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, a former Viceroy of India and First Lord of the Admiralty.[13]

They had three children:

  • John Frederick Lascelles, born 11 June 1922, died 11 September 1951.
  • Lavinia Joan Lascelles, born 27 June 1923; married to Major Edward Westland Renton, then briefly to the writer Gavin Maxwell.
  • 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.

In popular cultureEdit

Lascelles is portrayed by Pip Torrens in the Netflix series The Crown.

In the film The King's Speech, Lascelles is played by Richard Dixon, although the credits only refer to the character as "Private Secretary".

Honours and awardsEdit


  1. ^ Rose, Kenneth (17 December 2006). "A most devoted subject and a most exacting critic". The Daily Telegraph.
  2. ^ Prochaska 2004.
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004.
  4. ^ a b Lascelles 2006.
  5. ^ Who's Who.
  6. ^ Who's Who.
  7. ^ Who's Who.
  8. ^ Who's Who.
  9. ^ Who's Who.
  10. ^ Hart-Davis, Duff (2006). King's Counsellor: Abdication and War, the Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles.
  11. ^ Hart-Davis, Duff (2006). King's Counsellor: Abdication and War, the Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles.
  12. ^ Hart-Davis, Duff (2006). King's Counsellor: Abdication and War, the Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles.
  13. ^ Who's Who.


Lascelles, Alan (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.
Prochaska, Frank (2004). "Lascelles, Sir Alan Frederick (1887-1981), Courtier". In Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, Brian; Goldman, Lawrence (eds.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31334. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8.
Lascelles, Alan (1986). Hart-Davis, Duff (ed.). End of an Era, 1887–1920. The Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles. 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. 2. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-12562-5.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Eric Miéville
Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by
Shuldham Redfern
Court offices
Preceded by
Sir Alexander Hardinge
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Succeeded by
Michael Adeane