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A Chapel Royal is a department of the Ecclesiastical Household of the monarch in right of either Canadamarker or the United Kingdommarker, formally known as the royal Free Chapel of the Household. The household in the UK is further divided into two parts: an ecclesiastical household each for Englandmarker and Scotlandmarker, belonging to the Church of Scotlandmarker and the Church of England, respectively, while in Canada the household is a part of the Anglican Church of Canada.


Emerging as a distinct body in the late 13th century dating from 1483 as presently constituted, and first establishing the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal in 1312 The Chapel Royal formerly had no official base, but travelled, like the rest of the court, with the monarch and held services wherever he or she was residing at the time, until James VI commissioned William Schaw to build a new Chapel Royal at Stirling Castlemarker in 1594. The Italianate building was used for the christening of James's son, Prince Henry. In the 17th century the chapel had its own building in Whitehallmarker, which burned down in 1698; since 1702 it has been based at St James's Palace.

The chapel's choir, known as the Children of the Chapel, achieved its greatest eminence during the reign of Elizabeth I, when William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were joint organists. The Master of the Children had, until at least 1684, the power to press-gang promising boy treble from provincial choirs for service in the chapel; the boy choristers were also used until 1626 as actors in productions of plays at court and in the 18th century to sing the soprano parts in performances of Handel's oratorios and other works. Under Charles II, the choir was often augmented by violinists from the royal band; at various times the chapel has also employed composers, lutenists and viol players.

The Queen's Chapel of the Mohawks and Christ Church, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, were associated with the Royal Family since the late 18th century, but elevated to the status of Chapel Royal by Queen Elizabeth II only in 2004.


The Chapel Royal originally referred not to a building, but to an establishment in the Royal Household; a body of priests and singers to explicitly serve the spiritual needs of the sovereign. Over time, the term has become associated with a number of chapels used by monarchs for worship over the centuries. Today, the two main British Chapels Royal are located in or near St. James's Palacemarker in Londonmarker: the Chapel Royal and the Queen's Chapel; since such establishments are outside the usual diocesan structure, they are known in the UK as royal peculiar. Both Scotland and England have distinct Deans of the Chapel Royal, that of England being held since 1748 by the sitting Bishop of London, while daily control is vested in the Sub-Dean, presently the Rev'd Prebendary William S. Scott, who is also Domestic Chaplain to the sovereign at Buckingham Palacemarker. The Canadian Chapels Royal are located in and administered by the Diocese of Ontario and the Diocese of Huron.

In the United Kingdom, the Chapels Royal are served by a choir, comprising Gentlemen-in-Ordinary and Children of the Chapel all boys and by a small number of Priests-in-Ordinary and Deputy Priests-in-Ordinary, appointed to assist the Sub-Dean on an occasional basis. The current Organist, Choirmaster, and Composer is Andrew Gant, who is assisted by a Sub Organist. Previous holders of these offices have included George Frideric Handel (1723-59), Jeremiah Clarke (1704-1707), William Croft (1708-27), Henry Purcell (1682-95), John Blow (1673/4-1708), Orlando Gibbons (1605-25), John Bull (1591-1613), William Byrd (c.1572-c.1618), and Thomas Tallis (c.1545-85). The Children of the Chapel Royal used to attend a residential choir school, but this closed in 1923 and they now attend the City of London Schoolmarker as Queen's Scholars.


In the United Kingdom

The Chapel Royal occupies a number of buildings. The main chapel, known as the Chapel Royal, was built circa 1540 and altered since, most notably by Sir Robert Smirke in 1837, and is located in the main block of St. James's Palace. The large window to the right of the palace gatehouse illuminates this room, which has been used regularly since 1702, and is the most commonly used facility today. Once also part of the St. James's Palace compound, the Queen's Chapelmarker was built between 1623 and 1625 as a Roman Catholic chapel, at a time when the construction of Catholic churches was prohibited in England, for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. After the adjacent apartments burnt down in 1809 they were not replaced, and in 1856-57 Marlborough Road was built between the palace and the chapel.

There are additional Chapels Royal in Hampton Court Palacemarker, and at the Chapels of St. John the Evangelistmarker and St. Peter ad Vinculamarker, both in the Tower of Londonmarker. All are cared for by their own chaplains and choirs. Brightonmarker was once home to a Chapel Royalmarker, though it is now a chapel of ease to the city's parish church, the Church of St. Peter'smarker, and one existedmarker at Dublin Castlemarker prior to Ireland's adoption of a republican status.

In Canada

The Queen's Chapel of the Mohawks, built in 1785 in Brantfordmarker, Ontariomarker, and Christ Church, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, founded in 1784 and rebuilt in 1843, near Deseronto, Ontariomarker, are the only two Chapels Royal in Canada.

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