In a move that is being seen as a sign of approval of the ordination of women priests, the Queen has appointed the first female Church of England royal chaplain.
Canon Marion Mingins will join 34 men already holding the honorary title, which involves taking private services for the Royal Family at the royal chapel in St James's Palace.
"I have not been privy to the extent the Queen made the running on my appointment, but the fact remains she is the supreme governor of the Church of England," said Canon Mingins yesterday.
"In appointing a woman as royal chaplain it appears to be a vote of confidence in the ordination of women which is why I am particularly pleased."
Canon Mingins, 43, was among the first women to be ordained as a Church of England deacon when she was given the title at Southwark Cathedral in 1987.
She was ordained a full priest in April 1994, soon after the church changed its rules to allow women priests, and for the last five years has been a residentiary canon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where the bishop, the Right Rev John Dennis, said the appointment was "a very great tribute to her and the quality of her ministry".
The former social worker from Tyneside said she was delighted with her appointment to the principally ceremonial post, which dates back to the Middle Ages.
"Many areas of ministerial responsibility in the church which had been previously closed to women are now opening up to them and this is just the latest example," she said, adding: "The appointment is a considerable personal honour."
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen had a woman royal chaplain in the Church of Scotland, but that Canon Mingins was the first in the Church of England.