Lord Lieutenant

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Flag of a Lord Lieutenant
The title Lord Lieutenant is given to the British monarch's personal representatives around the United Kingdom, usually in a county or similar circumscription, with varying tasks throughout history. Usually a retired local notable, senior military officer, peer or business person is given the post honourarily. Both men and women are eligible for the post. The office can be considered viceregal, but not equivalent to that of a Governor-General, as Lord Lieutenants have no role in local government, nor are they responsible for promulgating local ordinances in the monarch's name.


England and Wales

In England and Wales and in Ireland, the lord lieutenant was the principal officer of his county. His creation dates from the Tudors.

Lieutenants were first appointed to a number of English historic counties by Henry VIII in the 1540s, when the military functions of the sheriff were handed over to him. He raised and was responsible for the efficiency of the local militia units of the county, and afterwards of the yeomanry, and volunteers. He was Commander of these forces, whose officers he appointed. These commissions were originally of temporary duration, and only when the situation required the local militia to be specially supervised and well prepared — often where invasion by Scotland or France might be expected.

Lieutenancies became more organised soon, probably in the reign of his successor Edward VI, their establishment being approved by the English parliament in 1550. However, it was not until the threat of invasion by the forces of Spain in 1585 that lieutenants were appointed to all counties and counties corporate. Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the need for lieutenants was reduced — and the lieutenancies of some counties were left vacant in the 1590s.

The three ridings (sub-divisions) of Yorkshire each got their own.

The official title of the office at this time was His or Her Majesty's lieutenant for the county, but as almost all office-holders were peers they were referred to as "lord-lieutenant".


An Act to make the Militia of this Kingdom more useful (Geo 2, C.9) was passed by the Parliament of Ireland in 1715. This provided for the issuing of commissions to appoint persons as "his Majesty's lieutenant or lieutenants, governor or governors, and commissioners of array for the several and respective counties, cities, and places of Ireland". The lieutenants were empowered to embody militia regiments.


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The Royal Standard of Scotland - flown by Lord Lieutenants in their Lieutenancies.
Although lieutenants were appointed to a few counties from about 1715, it was not until 1794 that permanent lieutenancies were established by Royal Warrant. By the Militia Act 1797,[1] the lieutenants appointed "for the Counties, Stewartries, Cities, and Places" were given powers to raise and command county militia units.

While in their Lieutenancies, Lord Lieutenants are among some of the few individuals in Scotland officially permitted to fly the banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland, or Lion Rampant as it is more commonly known.

19th century

The Militia Act 1802[2] provided for the appointment of lieutenants to "Lieutenants for the Counties, Ridings, and Places" in England and Wales, and gave them command of the county militia. In the case of towns or cities which were counties of themselves, the "chief magistrate" (meaning the mayor, chief bailiff or other head of the corporation) had the authority to appoint deputy lieutenants in the absence of an appointment of a lieutenant by the crown.

The Regulation of the Forces Act 1871[3] removed the lord-lieutenant as head of the county militia, as the jurisdiction, duties and command exercised by the lord lieutenant were revested in the crown, but the power of recommending for first appointments was reserved to the lord lieutenant.

The Militia Act 1882[4] revested the jurisdiction of the lieutenants in the crown.

The lieutenancies were reestablished on a new basis by Section 29 of the 1882 Act which stated that "Her Majesty shall from time to time appoint lieutenants for the several counties in the United Kingdom". Counties for lieutenancy purposes were also redefined as "a county at large, with the exception that each riding of the county of York shall be a separate county". This meant that the lieutenancies for the majority of counties corporate in England were henceforth to be held jointly with their associated county - for example a lieutenant was now appointed for "the County of Gloucester, and the City and County of Gloucester, and the City and County of City of Bristol". These lieutenancies had previously been generally held by the mayor of the city or borough corporation. The one exception was Haverfordwest, to which a lieutenant was appointed until 1974.

The Constable of the Tower of London and the Warden of the Cinque Ports were to continue to be the lord-lieutenants for the Tower Hamlets and Cinque Ports respectively, which were to be regarded as counties for lieutenancy purposes.

From 1889 lieutenancy counties in England and Wales were to correspond to groupings of administrative counties and county boroughs established by the Local Government Act 1888. The creation of a new County of London also led to the ending of the Tower Hamlets lieutenancy. The Act also extinguished the lieutenancy of the Cinque Ports.

Section 69 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 realigned the lieutenancy counties with the new administrative counties created by the Act. The one exception was County Tipperary, which although administered by two county councils, was to remain united for lieutenancy. In contrast to the legislation in England and Wales, each county borough was to have its own lieutenant, and those counties corporate not made county boroughs were abolished. The effect of this was to create a Lord Lieutenant for the county boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry, and to abolish those for the City of Kilkenny, borough of Drogheda and town of Galway.

The office of lord lieutenant was honorary, and held during the royal pleasure, but virtually for life. Appointment to the office is by letters-patent under the great seal. Usually, though not necessarily, the person appointed lord lieutenant was also appointed custos rotulorum or keeper of the rolls. Appointments to the county bench of magistrates were usually made on the recommendation of the lord lieutenant.

20th century

The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907[5] established County Territorial Force Associations, of which the lord-lieutenant was to be head, styled president of the county association. It restated the combination of counties and county corporates as lieutenancy counties.

In 1921, with the establishment of Northern Ireland, lord-lieutenants continued to be appointed through the Governor of Northern Ireland to the six counties and two county boroughs. The creation of the Irish Free State in the following year saw the remaining county lieutenancies in Ireland abolished. In 1973 the counties and county boroughs were abolished as local government units, and Lord-lieutenants are now appointed directly by the Queen to "counties and county boroughs... as defined for local government purposes immediately before 1 October 1973". In 1975 the term lord-lieutenant officially replaced that of lieutenant.[6][7]

Local Government reform in England in 1965 led to the appointment of lord-lieutenants to Greater London[8] and Huntingdon and Peterborough, and the abolition of those of the County of London, Middlesex and Huntingdonshire.

A more fundamental reform of local government throughout England and Wales (outside Greater London) created a new structure of metropolitan, non-metroplitan and Welsh counties in 1974. Section 218 of the Local Government Act 1972 that established the new system stated: "Her Majesty shall appoint a lord-lieutenant for each county in England and Wales and for Greater London..." The Act appears to be the first statutory use of the term "lord-lieutenant" for lieutenants to counties.

Existing lord lieutenants were assigned to one of the corresponding new counties wherever possible. Where this could not be done, the existing office-holder became a lieutenant of a county, junior to the lord-lieutenant. For example, the Lord Lieutenant of Montgomeryshire was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Powys, with those of Breconshire and Radnorshire each being designated as simply "Lieutenant of Powys". This measure was temporary, and no lieutenants have been appointed in this way since 1974, although the power still exists.

In 1975 counties ceased to be used for local government purposes in Scotland. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 replaced the counties with regions, and each region was to have one or more lord-lieutenants appointed.[9] The areas to which they were appointed approximated to the counties and were based and were defined in terms of the new local government districts.

Present day

In 1996 Scottish regions and districts were abolished on further local government reorganisation, and since that date lord-lieutenants have been appointed to lieutenancy areas.[10]

Partial reform of local government in England since 1995 has led to the creation of so-called ceremonial counties to which lord-lieutenants are now appointed. The Lieutenancies Act 1997 is the most recent piece of primary legislation dealing with Lieutenancies in England and includes the definitive list of the current areas used. Ceremonial counties may be comprised of combinations of county council areas and unitary authorities.[11]

Since the local government re-organisation of 1996 in Wales, lord-lieutenants are now appointed to preserved counties.[12]

The City of London was unaffected by changes introduced since 1882. It has a Commission of Lieutenancy rather than a single Lord-Lieutenant. The Head of the Commission is the Lord Mayor of London.

Lord-lieutenants are the monarch's representatives in their lieutenancy. It is their foremost duty to uphold the dignity of the Crown, and in so doing they seek to promote a spirit of co-operation and good atmosphere by the time they give to voluntary and benevolent organisations and by the interest they take in the business and social life of their counties.

The modern responsibilities of lord-lieutenants include:
  • Arranging visits of members of the Royal family and escorting Royal visitors;
  • Presentation of medals and awards on behalf of the Sovereign, and advising on Honours nominations;
  • Participation in civic, voluntary and social activities with the Lieutenancy;
  • Liaison with local units of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Royal Air Force and their associated cadet forces;
  • Leading the local magistracy as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace; and
  • Chairing the local Advisory Committee for the Appointment of the General Commissioners of Income Tax, a tribunal which hears appeals against decisions made by the HM Revenue and Customs on a variety of different tax related matters.
As the sovereign's representative in his or her county, the Lord-Lieutenant remains non-political nor holds office in any political party. The customary age of retirement is 75. They are appointed for life, although the sovereign may remove them.

The Lord-Lieutenant is supported by a Vice Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants which he or she appoints. The Vice Lord-Lieutenant takes over when the Lord-Lieutenant is abroad, ill or otherwise incapacitated. The Lord-Lieutenant appoints between 30 to 40 Deputy Lieutenants depending on the county's population size.

They are unpaid, but receive minimal allowances for secretarial help, mileage allowance and a driver. Male Lord-Lieutenants receive an allowance for the ceremonial uniform, worn when receiving members of the royal family and on other formal occasions.

There is no uniform for a female Lord-Lieutenant, but there is a badge which can be worn on ceremonial occasions. Male Lord-Lieutenants wear a dark blue uniform in the style of an Army No. 1 dress along with a cap and sword with a steel scabbard. The uniform for a male Vice Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants is of a similar style, but with features to distinguish it from a Lord-Lieutenant.

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was the head of the British administration in Ireland until the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Correct forms of address for the Lord-Lieutenant

  • Written: '(Title and name), Lord-Lieutenant'
  • Salutation: 'Dear Lord-Lieutenant'
  • In a Speech: 'My Lord-Lieutenant'
  • In conversation: '(Title and name)' or 'Lord-Lieutenant'.

See also

Sources and External links


1. ^ Militia Act 1797 (37 Geo.3, C.103)
2. ^ Militia Act 1802 (1802 c.90)
3. ^ Regulation of the Forces Act 1871 (1871 c.86) section 6
4. ^ Militia Act 1882 (1881 c.49) section 5
5. ^ Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907(7 Edw.7 C.9)
6. ^ Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (1973 c.36) section 36(5)
7. ^ The Northern Ireland (Lieutenancy) Order 1975 S.I. 1975/156
8. ^ Administration of Justice Act 1964 (1964 c.2) section 18
9. ^ The Lord-Lieutenants Order 1975 (1975/428)
10. ^ The Lord-Lieutenants (Scotland) Order 1996, Statutory Instrument 1996 No. 731 (S.83).
11. ^ Lieutenancies Act 1997 (1997 c.23)
12. ^ Preserved Counties (Amendment to Boundaries) (Wales) Order 2003
monarch (see sovereignty) is a type of ruler or head of state. Monarchs almost always inherit their titles and are rulers for life; that is, they have no term limit. Historically monarchs have been more or less absolute rulers.
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A county corporate or corporate county was a form of local government in England, Ireland and Wales.

Counties corporate were created during the Middle Ages, and were effectively small self-governing counties.
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