The Man Who Always Travels with Queen Elizabeth II (Hint: It’s Not Prince Philip)

Let’s just say he has his bagpipes in tow wherever they go!

As mere commoners, most of us wake up to the loud buzz of an alarm clock, but for royalty like Queen Elizabeth II, she wakes up to the sounds of bagpipes playing. The Piper to the Sovereign has been a coveted royal household position with only 15 people who have held the title since its inception in 1843. She enjoys the melodies so much that she brings her royal bagpiper to all of her United Kingdom residences, except for Sandringham House due to the lack of accommodations. It is even said that the royal bagpiper travels with her more often than her own husband, Prince Philip! Having a personalized alarm clock is just one of the 15 most bizarre “perks” of the royal family.

Every morning at 9:00 on the dot, you’ll find the piper below the British monarch’s bedroom window proudly blowing into his bagpipes for exactly 15 minutes. He even pipes at the dinner table! “People can hear the pipes around the estate,” a royal source from Balmoral Castle told the Daily Mail.

 But you better not play the same tune twice. Although most royal pipers remain tight-lipped about their past royal duties, Gordon Webster, a Piper to the Sovereign from the 1990s, said that he had memorized about 700 tunes because the queen didn’t like to hear the same tunes repeated in a day.

Other Piper to the Sovereign duties include escorting the Queen to the audiences she has throughout the day and coordinating the military pipers who play at state banquets.

Queen Victoria instated the royal bagpiping position when she saw that the Marquis of Breadalbane in Scotland had his own piper. In a letter to her mother she wrote, “We have heard nothing but bagpipes since we have been in the beautiful Highlands and I’ve become so fond of it that I mean to have a piper.” Soon after, the Piper to the Sovereign title became official.

In 2015, the Queen’s piper had to resign due to family reasons, but other than this brief gap between pipers, the only time the queen has gone without her morning bagpipe was for four years during World War II.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.