Carole Souter CBE appointed interim Chair of Historic Royal Palaces

3 August 2022

Her Majesty The Queen has on advice from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, approved the appointment of Carole Souter CBE FSA FRSA as Interim Chair of Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity responsible for the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.  The appointment will take effect from 1 August 2022 and is expected to continue until a permanent Chair is appointed.  Carole Souter will succeed Rupert Gavin, who retires as Chair after more than seven years in the post.

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, and at English Heritage.  In 2016, Carole was announced as Master of St Cross College, University of Oxford, a position from which she will retire in September this year.  She has served as the Chair of the Board of Visitors of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and is a Trustee of the Oxford Preservation Trust, the Horniman Museum and the London Emergencies Trust.  A Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, she is also a Lay Canon of Salisbury Cathedral.  Carole has been a Trustee of Historic Royal Palaces for six years.

Rupert Gavin retires as Chair of Historic Royal Palaces after completing an extended second term.  During his tenure, Historic Royal Palaces achieved record-breaking visitor numbers, rising to 5 million a year in 2019.  In this time, the organisation has undertaken a host of high-profile projects and initiatives, including the opening of the ‘Magic Garden’ at Hampton Court Palace in 2016, taking over and restoring the Great Pagoda at Kew in 2018, the commemorative ‘Flames’ installation at the Tower of London in 2018, and the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations including the ‘Superbloom’.  Rupert’s period in office also saw Hillsborough Castle successfully re-opening to the public in 2019, after a £25 million project to transform the building and gardens into a visitor attraction and heritage asset for Northern Ireland.

As Chair, Rupert oversaw Historic Royal Palaces through the challenging circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.  As an independent charity, reliant on admissions income and inbound tourism, Historic Royal Palaces lost almost all of its revenue in 2020 and faced huge financial challenges.  To cope with these, Historic Royal Palaces has been through a total restructure of its organisation and cost base, refocused its efforts on the domestic audience and gained long term funding security through a loan from the Culture Recovery Fund.  Due to a series of popular exhibitions and displays, strong visitor numbers are now returning.  A priority for the Board of Trustees and the management will now be to rebuild depleted reserves, repay the loan and restore resilience.

Carole Souter CBE said,

‘I am proud to be able to play my part in supporting the outstanding team of staff and Trustees at Historic Royal Palaces, who look after and love six of the most wonderful palaces in the world.  I look forward to telling their stories and working with our supporters as we welcome back more and more visitors and inspire them with our unique history.  As I begin this new role, I’d like to thank Rupert Gavin for his commitment and leadership, which has contributed greatly to the organisation’s success in recent years.’

Rupert Gavin said,

'It has been an absolute delight to serve for two and a half terms as Chair of HRP, and to work closely with our many stakeholders within the Royal Family, the Royal Household, the Government and the charity and heritage community.  I leave with an exceptionally strong Board in place, and a sector leading management team and exceptional staff throughout the organisation.  In my period as Chair, HRP has time and time again inspired the national mood, and been at the forefront of bringing our historic DNA vividly to life.  I believe we have demonstrated that delivering ambitious, imaginative work can be consistent with sound fiscal management and good governance.  The organisation has weathered the brutal storm of the pandemic with aplomb.  HRP marches on at the very top of its game.  It is therefore, with a heavy heart, the right moment to bring my time as HRP’s Chair finally to an end and move on to of fresh challenges.  I am delighted to be able to hand the reins to my talented and excellent fellow Trustee, Carole Souter, who I know will ably lead the organisation on the next exciting chapter of the journey in the post pandemic environment.'

John Barnes, Chief Executive, Historic Royal Palaces, said,

‘I am delighted to welcome Carole Souter into her new role as our Interim Chair and look forward to working with her at an exciting time for the organisation.  As we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic, we’ll be re-focusing our efforts on extending our reach and impact.  Carole brings considerable experience and expertise to the role and I’m confident that she and the rest of the Board of Trustees will support us in realising our ambitions for coming years.’

On behalf of us all at Historic Royal Palaces, I’d like to thank Rupert Gavin for seven years of exemplary service.  Personally, I am deeply grateful for his leadership and wise counsel during an extraordinary period in the history of the charity.’


Notes to Editors

For further information and images please contact Laura Hutchinson in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: [email protected] / 07990726229

Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred.  We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted.  We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you dont.  We let people explore and we set minds racing.  We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone. 

Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit