For nearly a thousand years, his family has played a prominent role at every coronation. Should anyone challenge the new king or queen to a duel, it is the duty of the hereditary champion to fight them on behalf of the monarch – to the death.
And on May 6, that honor will go to a 68-year-old former accountant from Lincolnshire. For Francis Dymoke is the 34th King’s Champion in an unbroken family line since William the Conqueror gave the job – and the Lordship of the Manor of Scrivelsby – to a Norman ancestor.
By his own admission, Mr. Dymoke is not a fighter. The father-of-three is also not the right size to squeeze into one of the last two remaining suits of armor standing in the hallway of his childhood home. However, he proves to be an active champion of King Charles III in many other respects.
The past few weeks have been nervous waiting as Mr Dymoke’s invitation was not formally confirmed until this week. ‘As the 34th champion, I’ve had the other 33 look over my shoulder,’ he laughs, pointing to the portrait of his ancestor Sir Henry Dymoke, King’s Champion at George IV’s coronation.
That was the last time the champion performed the time-honoured role of riding into the banquet, fully armored, on horseback. He would then throw down his gauntlet three times and demand that any challenger step forward or remain silent forever.
Francis Dymoke is the 34th King’s Champion in an unbroken family line since William the Conqueror gave the job. Pictured: Mr. Dymoke with George IV’s coronation cup
Mr Dymoke, pictured with his wife Gail, is also the Lordship of the Manor of Scrivelsby
The King’s Champion is a real living link to the era of knights in shining armor
If none appeared – and it never did – the king would toast the champion’s health with a golden cup which was then presented as his fee.
There have been no gold cups since Sir Henry’s time (and the latter are in a bank vault today), and it was the Champion’s job to carry a banner or flag to Westminster Abbey. So next Saturday Mr. Dymoke – in morning dress, not armor – will carry the royal standard.
The King’s Champion is a real living link to the era of knights in shining armor. Yet the squire of Scrivelsby Court does not live in stately splendour. His father inherited a crumbling Tudor house and 3,000 acres of leased land after World War II. Most of the house was later demolished.
The son of an army officer, Mr. Dymoke spent most of his childhood on the road. After training at Marlborough and Hull University, he pursued a career in accountancy before finally taking up the estate.
The past few weeks have been nervous waiting as Mr Dymoke’s invitation to the coronation was only formally confirmed this week.
“As the 34th champion, I’ve had the other 33 look over my shoulder,” said Mr. Dymoke
Scrivelsby Hall is home to the Dymoke family, traditionally holding the title of King’s Champion
“Then someone asked me to mentor the Prince’s Trust,” he tells me. He enjoyed volunteering for the new king’s most famous creation so much that he became a long-serving member and later chairman of the Lincolnshire branch. For over fifteen years he has helped several businesses get off the ground and is extremely proud to have helped two young men turn a grant of £5,000 into a timber company employing 40 people.
Mr. Dymoke also shares another great passion of the king, which is the restoration of old buildings. He served for many years on the board of the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire. Like the King, he holds an honorary rank: Colonel of the County Cadet Force.
Both he and his wife, Gail, also drive electric cars. “I think the king has known exactly what it’s about for years,” he says. He is also a tree enthusiast and is planting over 25,000 new trees on the estate. Gail, meanwhile, has converted the walled garden into a thriving wedding venue.
However, the two men have only met briefly twice, once on a local royal visit and once at a palace garden party for the Prince’s Trust. Mr. Dymoke says, “There was only time for a short talk and we didn’t discuss the family relationship.”
Although due to lack of space, Mr. Dymoke isn’t allowed a “plus one,” Gail is just relieved that he’s going at all. “We would all be very disappointed if it didn’t happen,” she says.
It certainly meant a lot to the previous champion in 1953. “For the rest of his life, my father always remembered that day,” says Mr. Dymoke. In fact, before his death in 2015, the late Colonel John Dymoke left one clear instruction for his funeral: he wanted to leave this world on the same coronation song that his son will hear at the abbey next week: Handel’s Zadok The Priest.