The Piper to the Sovereign


In 1842, Queen Victoria with her husband Albert, took a trip to Taymouth Castle. She heard John Ban MacKenzie playing the bagpipes and was delighted. She sent a letter to her mother describing the event and told her that she had decided to have a piper. The Marquis of Breadalbane recommended Angus MacKay as the Piper for the Queen. MacKay accepted the job and moved to London where he became the first Piper to the Sovereign.

Early on, the Piper to the Sovereign had several duties, including serving as footman in the garden, waiting at dinner, greeting visitors and escorting them, and taking orders from the Sergeant Footman. Now, the Sovereign's Piper plays every weekday morning at 9:00am outside the Queen's window when she is at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Balmoral. He also plays at special events and accompanies the Queen to various audiences. While at Balmoral during the summer, the Queen has an unofficial rule that the same tunes can not be played twice.

The Queen's Piper, as he is sometimes called, coordinates twelve pipers to play in the dining room for official state banquets. He plays at the Queen's dinner table each evening at Balmoral, Holyroodhouse and Windsor.

To date, there have been 12 Piper's to the Sovereign. The position used to be held until the Piper's death; however this is no longer the case. In 1965, the post of Piper to the Sovereign was removed from the Civil List, and has since been given to a serving soldier and experienced army Pipe Major. The Piper would become a Master of the Household's Department at Buckingham Palace and retain his position until his enlistment expires (maximum of 22 years). The Queen personally interviews Pipers for the position. The current Piper to the Sovereign is PM Alistair Cuthbertson. He was Pipe Major to the 1st Battalion the Royal Scots when he took this position.

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