Privy Chamberlains of Sword and Cape

Divided into three categories, privy chamberlains of sword and cape active, privy chamberlains of sword and cape di numero (in ordinary, or titular), and supernumerary privy chamberlains. Active privy chamberlains are now four in number and include the offices of grand equerry to His Holiness, pontifical postmaster-general and custodian of the Golden Rose; these have their offices for life. Their institution dates from 1555 when the pope had It number of lay servitors (cubicularii) who were called of "sword and cape" to distinguish them from ecclesiastical chamberlains. To their own title, the title "Don" is added. Privy chamberlains di numero have no other special charge than that of audiences, although they also assist the supernumerary chamberlains and chamberlains of honor in the pontifical antechamber. They are four in number. Supernumerary privy chamberlains (of which there are at present 407) are to the papal court much the same as chamberlains of a secular court: they have existed at least since the 16th century, have a special habit, and are stationed in the privy antechamber with the chamberlains di nurnero and aid these in their function of audiences. Their number varies greatly. Originally chosen exclusively from the nobility, as active and di numero chamberlains still are, they are now recruited from the upper classes of all Christian countries for special service to the Holy See.

New Catholic Dictionary

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