King’s Messenger may be a dangerous job

Although modern diplomatic relationships between nations are delicate enough at any time, they are doubly so in a time of war, and should, for example, a ciphered letter be’ decoded by a nation to whom it was not addressed, relations between the countries might be disrupted, and more fagots heaped on the fires of war. Kings messenger dangerous

Consequently, whenever the Foreign Office wishes to send valuable and confidential State documents to an embassy or legation in another country, they are sent in “the diplomatic bag” in the personal charge of a Queen’s Messenger.

15 Queen’s Messengers

In 2005 there are about 15 Queen’s Messengers, and when King Charles II. first formed the corps, they had to be proficient in both horsemanship and the pistol; it is now sufficient for them to be expert shots.

In those early days, they had to defend the King’s despatches with sword and pistol, perhaps while riding in a rocking post-chaise. A brigand-infested mountain pass. It was a dangerous job. The last Royal courier to lose his life went to look at his horses outside an Austrian inn during the Napoleonic wars and was never seen again. Kings messenger dangerous

The Silver Greyhound

The Queen’s Messengers carry a badge that consists of the Royal monogram with a silver greyhound as a pendant. King Charles II. was an exile in Holland when he founded the corps and selected two English and two Dutch officials to carry his despatches.

When they set out on their first journey, the King Is reputed to have been at breakfast, and, pulling the silver porringer to him, he is said to have broken off the four greyhounds with which it was ornamented, giving one to each of his messengers as identification and passport.

In former times, the occupation of King’s Messenger consisted of a considerable extent of serving the warrants issued by the Secretary of State for the apprehension of persons accused of high treason and other grave offenses against the State. Nowadays, however, they are principally employed in foreign service. Kings messenger dangerous

Diplomatic Bag

The “diplomatic bag” sent from the Foreign Office to an embassy or legation in another country is a short, stout sack made of closely woven canvas. Its opening closes very tightly and is double-locked. It closes so tightly that during the last war, when the boat in which a King’s Messenger was traveling was torpedoed, the bag, being practically airtight, floated.

Kings Messenger Badge-GeorgeIIIa
The Silver Greyhound badge, which the King’s Messengers carry (during the reign of King George III).

Fortunately, it was rescued by another British ship. Still, the risk of State documents floating into enemy hands was revealed and caused the Foreign Office to have the bags weighted with lead and perforated. Thus, any bags now lost in the sea would sink to the bottom and be safe from prying enemy eyes.


The Chief Queen’s Messenger today receives a salary of £900 yearly. The other messengers, several retired officers, receive salaries ranging from £300 to £650 a year, but some are unpaid. One of the most important of them is the well-known Captain Beddington Behrens, who made diplomatic history last year by carrying the bag to America by air. Kings messenger’s dangerous job

Famous Messengers

The most famous of recent King’s Messengers were Sir Park Goff, who died in 1939. He was appointed honorary messenger at the beginning of the last war and, during its first two years, crossed the Channel 80 times, the North Sea 30 times, the Mediterranean 22 times, the Black Sea four times, and the Caspian twice. Of those 730 days, he was at home, only 22! Kings messenger dangerous

Unique Red Passport

The King’s Messengers are armed with a unique red passport, which frees the bearer of every Customs barrier, and a diplomatic “laissez-passer,” a beautiful document ornately engraved on banknote paper, which states that the bearer is “on the King’s business.” Sometimes the messenger must use the latter to extricate himself from difficult and dangerous situations.

In wartime, the risks of personal danger are significantly increased, which has caused the Foreign Office to request the Commissioner of Police to provide King’s Messengers with protection. Retired officers at Scotland Yard’s particular branch are now recalled as escort guards to all the messengers.

These guards act as “shadows” and are experts in that task because they have all been bodyguards to statesmen and Royalty. They not only know foreign countries but international political criminals as well.

Not only do they have to guard the messengers against apparent dangers, but they have also to keep a watchful eye on spies of both sexes. Even these days, enemy nations are said to use beautiful women to discover State secrets. However, one famous King’s Messenger always lamented that the traditional glamorous spy who used her feminine wiles on Royal couriers never seemed to cross his path! Kings messenger dangerous

Read the story of Matthew Slater, Senior King’s Messenger (to King George III), from 5 July 1775 to 1803, and experiences as a Queen’s Messenger by Lieutenant Colonel Kimmins.

In 2017, current and retired Messengers came together with the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to recognize the historic dedication of the King’s Messenger Service.

King Charles III

Following the accession of King Charles III, the Queen’s Messenger Service, our experienced and respected global courier service, has now been renamed the King’s Messenger Service.

Our King’s Messengers provide an invaluable service, safely delivering critical items within the Diplomatic Bag around the globe. They are about to travel for the first time using diplomatic passports that name them as King’s Messengers instead of Queen’s Messengers, marking the start of a new era serving under King Charles III’s reign.” -Head of the King’s Messenger Service-



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Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

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During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

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Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

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Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

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A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

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