Charles St Clair, 17th Lord Sinclair

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Major Charles Murray Kennedy St Clair, 17th Lord Sinclair, CVO, DL (21 June 1914 – 1 April 2004) was a Scottish peer who spent his entire life in the service of the Crown; as a soldier, an officer of arms, an equerry in the Queen Mother's Household, a representative peer and as a Lord Lieutenant.

Early and personal life

Charles St Clair was born in 1914, the son of the Archibald St Clair (later the 16th Lord Sinclair), and his wife Violet Kennedy, daughter of Col. John Kennedy.[1] He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge.[2][3] When his father succeeded to the Lordship in 1922,[4] Charles St Clair became known as The Master of Sinclair, in accordance with the usual practice for Scottish peerages. In 1968 he married Anne Cotterell (daughter of Richard Charles Cotterell, 5th Baronet[5]), with whom he had two daughters and a son Matthew Murray Kennedy St Clair, 18th Lord Sinclair, who succeeded him as Lord Sinclair.[6]

Military career

St Clair was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the General List of the Territorial Army in 1936[7] and transferred to the Coldstream Guards in 1937.[8] He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1938.[9] St Clair served in Palestine until 1939, during which time he was wounded and mentioned in despatches. During World War II he served with the Guards Armoured Division. As a result of his wounds, St Clair retired from the army on 29 May 1947 whilst a captain, and was granted the honorary rank of Major.[6][10]

St Clair was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers (The Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland) for many years.[6] This entailed only ceremonial duties.

Royal Service

Charles St Clair was appointed Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary in 1949,[11] thus becoming a member of the Royal Household. Like the other officers of arms he took part in state ceremonies, including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. In 1952 it was St Clair, as Portcullis Pursuivant, who made the ceremonial demand for entry into the City of London for the third traditional reading of the accession proclamation.[12] St Clair was promoted to York Herald of Arms in Ordinary in 1957,[13] and held this office until his resignation in 1968.[14]

He was made a Member (4th Class) of the Royal Victorian Order in the Coronation Honours List,[15] and promoted to Commander in the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours.[16] He also held the position of Honorary Genealogist to the Order from 1960 to 1968.[17][18]

In October 1953 St Clair was appointed an Extra Equerry to the Queen Mother,[19] although he had been a personal friend of hers for some years.[6] During this appointment (which he held until her death) he attended the Queen Mother at various public occasions.[20] He often stayed on the Balmoral estate when she visited Scotland, and went fishing with her, as both were keen anglers.[6]

Public Offices

St Clair succeeded his father as Lord Sinclair in November 1957.[1] In 1959 he was elected as one of the representative peers for Scotland in the House of Lords,[21] a position also held by the previous four Lords Sinclair.[22] This appointment terminated in 1963 when the passing of the Peerage Act ended the election of representative peers and allowed all Scottish peers to sit in the House of Lords. Before he resigned the office of York Herald, Lord Sinclair was in the possibly unique position of being able to participate in the ceremonial of the State Opening of Parliament either in his capacity as a member of the House of Lords, or as a herald. (It is perhaps for their participation in the State Opening that the officers of arms are best known to the general public.)

In 1969 Lord Sinclair was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.[23] Due to the replacement of Scottish counties by regions and districts in the mid 1970s this became a deputy lieutenancy in the Dumfries and Galloway Region (District of Stewartry).[24] In 1977 Lord Sinclair was made Vice-Lord-Lieutenant for the same district,[25] and became Lord Lieutenant in 1982,[26] a position he held until 1989.[5][27]

Lord Sinclair died on 1 April 2004.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Obituary, The Times, 27 November 1957, p14
  2. The College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street : being the sixteenth and final monograph of the London Survey Committee, Walter H. Godfrey, assisted by Sir Anthony Wagner, with a complete list of the officers of arms, prepared by H. Stanford London, (London, 1963)
  3. The Times, 24 June 1936, p.21
  4. The Times, 26 April 1922, p16
  5. 5.0 5.1 Burke's Peerage, 1999 Edition
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Obituary in The Scotsman 8 April 2004
  7. The London Gazette: no. 34327. p. 6215. 29 September 1936. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 34364. p. 619. 29 January 1937. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 34546. p. 5549. 30 August 1938. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  10. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37967. p. 2428. 27 May 1947. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 38658. p. 3299. 5 July 1949. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  12. The Times, 8 February 1952, p6
  13. The London Gazette: no. 41136. p. 4428. 26 July 1957. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 44608. p. 6411. 6 June 1968. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39863. p. 2947. 26 May 1953. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 52173. p. 4. 15 June 1990. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 42094. p. 4925. 15 July 1960. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 42094. p. 5187. 7 May 1968. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  19. The London Gazette: no. 39991. p. 5579. 20 October 1953. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  20. See the Court Circular, e.g. The Times, 17 March 1954, p10
  21. The Times, 7 October 1959, p14
  22. See e.g. The Times, 1 June 1929, p6 for his father, 11 December 1885, p6 for his grandfather, 4 December 1868, p7 for his great-grandfather, 14 February 1835, p5 for his great-great-grandfather.
  23. The London Gazette: no. 39991. p. 3936. 15 April 1969. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  24. Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and subsequently The Lord-Lieutenants Order 1975 (1975/428)
  25. The London Gazette: no. 47246. p. 7657. 14 June 1977. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  26. The London Gazette: no. 49192. p. 16209. 10 December 1982. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  27. The London Gazette: no. 51800. p. 7811. 4 July 1989. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Walter John Macdonald Ross
Lord Lieutenant of Kirkcudbright
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Herries
Heraldic offices
Preceded by
Anthony Wagner
Portcullis Pursuivant
Succeeded by
Colin Cole
Preceded by
Aubrey Toppin
York Herald
Succeeded by
Conrad Swan
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Archibald St Clair
Lord Sinclair
Succeeded by
Matthew St. Clair