Read our Trustees' biographies
Updated 25 March. In line with Public Health England guidance, we have taken the decision to close all six of our palaces and gardens until 31st May. We will be reviewing this and will keep you updated. Please read our statement for further information. Read our statement
Rupert Gavin is a British business leader and theatre impresario. He is currently Chairman of Historic Royal Palaces and Chairman of the Honours Committee for Arts and Media He is also Chairman of DNeg plc and Chairman of the Living Room Cinemas Ltd. Rupert is a former CEO of BBC Worldwide and of Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group. As a producer he is notable for a long series of successful plays and musicals over 30 years, principally through his company Incidental Colman. His productions/co-productions have won fourteen Olivier awards and five Tony awards.
He is a Non-Executive Director of Wyevale Garden Centres and Countrywide plc. He is also a co-owner of L’Escargot restaurant and an advisory board member of the Founders Forum, a community for global entrepreneurs, CEOs, and investors. He was Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and a Governor of Oundle School until July 2018.
Rupert read economics at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. After graduation he took a copywriting role at Sharps advertising agency; becoming an equity partner in the firm before it was sold to Saatchi & Saatchi. While working at Sharps he established close links with Dixons Store Group, and would eventually go on to become Deputy Managing Director. In 1994, he joined British Telecom to work on its internet and multimedia strategy; he went on to become Managing Director of the firm’s consumer division. In 1998 he was appointed Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide and was a member of the BBC Executive Committee for seven years.
Zeinab was born in the Sudan and her family moved to London when she was two years old. She studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and took a Masters Degree in History and Anthropology at SOAS London University.
She has extensive experience in television and radio and is best known for her work on the BBC’s 'Hard Talk', 'Global Questions' and World Debates. Through her own production company, she has produced and presented many programmes, including most recently the definitive tv series of Africa’s history in association with UNESCO. Zeinab has been awarded two honorary doctorates for her services to broadcasting.
Zeinab’s awards include International TV Personality of the Year (the Association of International Broadcasters), the President’s Medal by the British Academy, the May Chidiac Lifetime Achievement award and the MVISA Movie and Video Industry Lifetime Achievement award. She has also been named several times in the 'Power List' as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the black community, and in 2018 she was named one of the top 50 most influential African diaspora members by African Leaders Magazine.
Zeinab has held numerous Board positions. She is currently the Chair of the Royal African Society, a trustee of BBC Media Action (the charitable arm of the BBC), and a trustee of Hampstead Theatre.
Michael Wood is a Historian, Broadcaster and the Author of many highly praised books including In Search of the Dark Ages, Domesday, and In Search of Shakespeare.
He has made over 120 documentary films, among them In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Conquistadors and The Story of India - each of which was accompanied by a bestselling book. His Story of England, the tale of one village through history, was praised by the Independent as ‘the most innovative TV history series ever.’
Michael was born in Manchester and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Oriel College Oxford, where he did post-graduate research in Anglo-Saxon history, on which he has written many academic articles. He is professor of Public History at the University of Manchester and recently received the British Academy’s President’s Medal for outreach in history.
Robert Swannell CBE is Chairman of UK Government Investments, which is responsible for corporate finance and corporate governance for HMG. Robert is also Chairman of the LP Advisory Committee of Ahren, an investment company based on deep, transformational science at Cambridge University, a Director of the Investor Forum and a member of The Takeover Panel Appeal Board. Robert is Chairman of The Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation, a Trustee of Teach First and a visiting Fellow at the Oxford University, Said Business School.
Robert was previously Chairman of Marks & Spencer (2010-2017), senior independent director of The British Land Company PLC (1999-2010) and of 3i Group PLC (2006-2010) and Chairman of HMV (2009-2011). He was also Chairman and a member of the Governing Body of Rugby School from 2004-2014, a Trustee of Career Ready from 2003-2012, Trustee of the Kew Foundation from 2011-2017 and a member of the Advisory Board of The Sutton Trust from 2014-17.
Until 2010, Robert spent a career of over 30 years in investment banking with Schroders/Citigroup. He was formerly Vice-Chairman of Citi Europe and Chairman of Citi’s European Investment Bank. Robert qualified both as a chartered accountant and a barrister. He was appointed CBE in the 2018 New Years’ Honours for services to Business, Finance and Retail.
Lord Houghton is a former United Kingdom Chief of Defence Staff - the professional Head of the UK’s Armed Forces. He stood down in July 2016 and is now the Constable of The Tower of London and a Cross-Bench Peer in the House of Lords.
Lord Houghton joined the Army in 1973. He was commissioned from Sandhurst into the Green Howards, a Yorkshire Infantry Regiment. In his early twenties he undertook an in-Service degree in Modern History at St Peter’s College, Oxford. In a 43-year military career he served seven times in Northern Ireland earning operational awards as both a Commanding Officer and a Brigade Commander in Belfast. He was the Deputy Commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq in 2005-6 for which he was awarded the US Legion of Merit. He was the Chief of Joint Operations from April 2006 to May 2009, in charge of all overseas operations of UK Forces, including the final extraction from Iraq. He was both Vice Chief of the Defence Staff then Chief of the Defence Staff over the period 2009-2016 during the time of two Strategic Defence Reviews and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. He was the Colonel Commandant of the Intelligence Corps and the founding Colonel of the Yorkshire Regiment.
On leaving the Army, he established his own consultancy company, which specialises in giving strategic advice to multinational corporates. He also advises a number of technical start-ups. He is a Trustee of RUSI, the Royal Armouries and The HM Tower of London Chapels Royal Foundation. He is an Honorary Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford and a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London.
Jane Kennedy is a senior partner and former Chairman of Purcell, a large international firm of architects specialising in the conservation and development of historic buildings and palaces.
She has over 35 years' experience in the care and development of historic buildings and has played a key role in securing the future of some of the finest historic buildings in the country.
Jane was Surveyor to the Fabric of Ely Cathedral from 1994 to 2017 and oversaw a period of major restoration within the Cathedral and its precincts.
Jane has served as a Commissioner for English Heritage, and she is also Trustee of the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust and a member of the Canal and River Trust’s Heritage Advisory Committee. She is the Co-Chairman of the Historic England Places of Worship Forum and Chairman of the Cathedral Architects Association. She is a Lay Canon of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford.
Tim Knox was appointed Director of the Royal Collection by HM The Queen in 2018. Previous to that he was Director and Marlay Curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum between 2013 and 2018, where he made a number of important acquisitions and planned the Museum's masterplan, New Ways In. He was Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London between 2005 and 2013. Here he restored Sir John Soane’s glittering architectural treasury to its appearance in 1837, just as its founder wished, and converted the neighbouring houses to provide facilities for the museum.
Brought up in Nigeria and Fiji, he studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was Assistant Curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Collection 1989-95, and moved to the National Trust, first as its Architectural Historian, becoming its Head Curator in 2002. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Member of the Society of Dilettanti. He is Co-Patron of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust, which he helped found and Chaired 2000-2004. He currently sits on the Advisory Committee of the NHMF and is a Director of Yale University Press.
He regularly lectures and writes on aspects of architecture, sculpture and the history of collecting. Publications include Sir John Soane’s Museum London (2010), and The British Ambassador’s Residence Paris (2011).
Carole Souter is Master of St Cross College, University of Oxford. She is the Chair of the Board of Visitors of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and a Trustee of the Oxford Preservation Trust, the Horniman Museum and the London Emergencies Trust. She is also a Lay Canon of Salisbury Cathedral.
Carole was Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund from 2003 to 2016. She previously worked in the Departments of Health, Social Security and the Cabinet Office, before moving out of the civil service.
She was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 2014. In 2018 she became a Trustee of the Hung Cheng and Baroness Olga Knoop Trust for Ophthalmic Research.
Sir Michael Stevens is Keeper of the Privy Purse, Receiver General of the Duchy of Lancaster. He is also a Trustee of The Royal Collection Trust and the Military Knights of Windsor.
Sir Michael was Finance Director of The Royal Collection Trust from 1995 to 2014. He was a Governor and Member of Council, King Edward VII Sister Agnes Hospital from 2010 - 2019 and Chairman of the hospital's Audit and Investment Committee 2013-2019.
Formerly a Senior Manager with KPMG, his career included working in the UK and the Middle East between 1979 and 1995.
Sir Michael became Deputy Chairman of Trustees for Historic Royal Palaces in May 2019.
Sue has held a number of prominent roles within the arts and education. She was Chief Executive of the Reading Agency from January 2014 to July 2019. Prior to this she was Director of UK Academic and Government Alliances at Elsevier.
Sue read history at Clare College Cambridge, trained as a teacher and did a post-graduate course in museum education at the University of Leicester. As Director of Policy at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) she created the ground-breaking quality and impact framework, Inspiring Learning for All, which is now used in museums, archives and libraries all over the world.
While at MLA she worked with public libraries and their partners to deliver a wide range of programmes, and with local museums to establish, and secure funding for the Renaissance in the Regions programme.
She was awarded an MBE for services to museum education in 2014 and an OBE for services to literature and libraries in 2020. Sue was previously a Trustee of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Handel House Museum.
Sarah is the incoming Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi London, one of the biggest and most successful agencies in the UK, clients include BT, HSBC, Direct Line Group, Visa and Proctor & Gamble
Previously she held the positions of Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Account Management at Grey London, where she was responsible for some of the agency’s flagship accounts - including the British Heart Foundation. Across her advertising career she has driven marketing activity for organisations as diverse as Mars, GlaxoSmithKline, Virgin Media and the Home Office, delivering campaigns across TV, print, PR, activation, direct marketing and tech.
A champion of creativity, in particular within schools, Sarah is also the co-founder of the Advertising Diversity Taskforce (ADT); a collective of the UK's most progressive advertising and media agencies. The ADT work together to create legacy initiatives to make advertising and marketing a more accessible place for people from diverse backgrounds and to drive greater diversity within campaigns.
Sarah is a regular speaker, news commentator and industry panellist. She has been recognised with numerous accolades including a Fellowship from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).
Jo is CEO of Ukie, the trade body for UK games and interactive entertainment, making the UK the best place in the world to make, sell and play games. She is also Deputy Chair of the British Screen Advisory Council, London Tech Ambassador, Chair of the BAFTA Games Committee and BAFTA Trustee, an Ambassador on the Mayor of London’s Cultural Leadership Board, and Creative Industries Council member.
In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the creative industries and won the MCV 30 Women in Games award for Outstanding Contribution. She won MCV Industry Hero in 2019 and Devcom Hero for Leadership in the European games industry in 2019. She is a VP for games and accessibility charity, SpecialEffect and the government’s Sector Champion for Disabilities.
Previously, Jo was Channel 4 Education Commissioning Editor where she commissioned Digital Emmy-winning Battlefront II (not the game), free to play browser and iOS games and social media projects. Jo was Multiplatform Commissioner for BBC Entertainment & Switch, BBC Three Multiplatform Channel Editor, and technology reporter for BBC News.
Her doctorate in the late 1990s was an ethnography exploring identity and concepts of difference in place based and virtual communities. In 2018 Jo was awarded an Honorary Visiting Professorship by Ravensbourne University.