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Queen's Messenger

queen's messenger, royal albert bone china queen's messenger
The Corps of Queen's Messengers are couriers employed by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office They hand-carry secret and important documents to British embassies and consulates around the world Many Queen's Messengers are retired Army personnel Messengers generally travel in plain clothes in business class on scheduled airlines, carrying an official case from which they must not be separated - it may even be chained to their wrist

The safe passage of diplomatic baggage is guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and for reasons of state secrecy, the diplomatic bag does not go through normal airport baggage-checks and must not be opened, x-rayed, weighed, or otherwise investigated by customs, airline security staff, or anyone else for that matter The bag is closed with a tamper-proof seal and has its own diplomatic passport The Queen's Messenger and the messenger's personal luggage are not covered by special rules, however, so although the diplomatic bag, covered by the passport, is not checked, the messenger and the messenger's personal luggage go through normal security screening


  • 1 History
  • 2 Modern day
  • 3 See also
  • 4 References
  • 5 Further reading
  • 6 External links


The first recorded King's Messenger was John Norman, who was appointed in 1485 by King Richard III to hand-deliver secret documents for his monarch During his exile, Charles II appointed four trusted men to convey messages to Royalist forces in England1 As a sign of their authority, the King broke four silver greyhounds from a bowl familiar to royal courtiers, and gave one to each man A silver greyhound thus became the symbol of the Service1 On formal occasions, the Queen's Messengers wear this badge from a ribbon, and on less formal occasions many messengers wear ties with a discreet greyhound pattern while working

Modern dayedit

Queen's Messenger diesel locomotive seen at Bristol Temple Meads station in 2008

Modern communications have diminished the role of the Queen's Messengers, but as original documents still need to be conveyed between countries by "safe-hand", their function remains valuable, but declining

In 1995 a Parliamentary question2 put the number then at 27 The current number of Messengers as of March 2015 is sixteen full-time and two part-time, and the departmental headcount is nineteen3

In December 2015 an article in the Daily Express suggested that the Queen's Messenger service was "facing the chop by cost-cutting Foreign Office mandarins who see them as a legacy of a by-gone age"4

The British Rail Class 67 diesel locomotive 67005 bears the name Queen's Messenger

See alsoedit

  • Diplomatic courier
  • BSAA Star Dust was carrying a King's Messenger at the time of its disappearance
  • SS Berlin was carrying a King's Messenger at the time of its sinking


  1. ^ a b Mitchell, Keith 25 March 2014 "The Silver Greyhound - The Messenger Service" GOVUK Retrieved 18 September 2015 
  2. ^ "Hansard" UK Parliament Retrieved 17 April 2015 
  3. ^ Freedom of Information Act 2000 Request Ref: FOI Ref: 0315 Letter from Foreign & Commonwealth Office, dated 27 April 2015
  4. ^ Giannangeli, Marco 5 December 2015 "Queen's Messengers face the axe, heroes who resisted all tyrants, honeytraps and pirates" Daily Express Retrieved 7 September 2016 

Further readingedit

  • Antrobus, George Pollock 1941 King's Messenger, 1918-1940 : memoirs of a Silver greyhound H Jenkins 

External linksedit

  • Queen's Messenger Story 1952, British Pathe film, 7:42 mins Can be viewed online

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Queen's Messenger Information about

Queen's Messenger

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