General Sir Nicholas Houghton installed as 160th Constable of the Tower of London

General Sir Nicholas Houghton installed as 160th Constable of the Tower of London

On Wednesday 5 October 2016 General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the ex-Chief of the Defence Staff, was installed as the 160th Constable of the Tower of London in a traditional ceremony at the Tower of London.

The colourful ceremony saw General Sir Nicholas Houghton being handed the gold master-keys of the Tower by the Lord Chamberlain, The Earl Peel, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen symbolising the Constable‘s responsibility for this royal palace. The Tower’s famous Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) were also on parade in their scarlet and gold State Dress as well as General Sir Houghton’s previous regiment the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. Other troops on parade included the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, The Honourable Artillery Company, The Band of the Scots Guards and the State Trumpeters of the Life Guards.

The role of Constable is the most senior appointment at the Tower, acting as the monarch’s representative, and is one of the most ancient offices in England, dating back to within a few years of the Norman Conquest. In the past, this appointment has been held by eminent prelates of the Church, prominent politicians and distinguished soldiers.

As well as being one of the most honourable positions in the Crown's service, the Constable of the Tower was once one of the most profitable. Perks of the job included any horses, oxen, pigs or sheep that fell off London Bridge and every ship that came upstream to the city had to moor at Tower Wharf to unload a portion of its cargo for the Constable - these included oysters, mussels, cockles, rushes and wine. This tradition is still upheld at the Ceremony of the Constable's Dues every year when one large naval ship that visits the Port of London delivers a barrel of rum to the Constable on Tower Green.

Today the 5-year appointment is predominately a ceremonial role, but also includes becoming a trustee of both Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for the Tower, and the Royal Armouries.

General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Constable of the Tower of London, said: “Taking up the mantle of the 160th Constable of the Tower of London is an enormous privilege and I'm very mindful of the wonderful diversity of characters that have preceded me in this office and of the enormous responsibilities involved, not least in assisting with the custodianship of this remarkable building which has been at the heart of our nation’s history for almost a thousand years. 

“It’s very exciting, I’m looking forward to undertaking not only the role but also to revisiting my love of history and the opportunity to delve into the rich past in which the Tower of London is steeped”.

The Installation ceremony took place in front of an invited audience totalling some 600 spectators.

Notes to Editors

Representative Officers in attendance upon the Constable (known as his ‘supporters’) during the ceremony were:

  • Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach GBE KCB ADC DL – Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC – Chief of the Naval Staff
  • General Sir Richard Barrons KCB, CBE, ADC Gen - Colonel Commandant of the Honourable Artillery Company
  • Mr Philip Jordan QPM - City Marshal, City of London
  • Mr Will Tuckley - Chief Executive, London Borough of Tower Hamlets Borough Council
  • Colonel the Honourable Mark Vincent MBE – Regimental Colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company and Master Gunner within the Tower

William the Conqueror appointed the first Constable, Geoffrey de Mandeville, in the eleventh century. Recent holders of the position are:

General the Lord DANNATT               August 2009 – July 2016

General Sir Roger WHEELER              August 2001 – July 2009

Lord INGE                                           August 1996 – July 2001

Sir John STANIER                                August 1990 – July 1996        

Sir Roland GIBBS                                 August 1985 – July 1990                    

Sir Peter HUNT                                    June 1980 – July 1985

Images will be available shortly after the ceremony however if you have any queries or interview requests please contact Cat Steventon in the Historic Royal Palaces press office 0203 166 6302.

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