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Lord-Lieutenant Badge

A Guide to the Current Role and History of the Lieutenancy

An outline of the present role

The office of Lord-Lieutenant has existed for well over four hundred years.
Now each county has a Lord-Lieutenant who is The Queen's representative for the whole area of the county.  In Leicestershire this includes the City of Leicester, as well as all of the Boroughs and Districts in the surrounding county area.
The current Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire is Jennifer, Lady Gretton JP, who was appointed by on 1st February 2003.
Lord-Lieutenants are appointed by the Monarch to serve until they reach the age of 75 years.  This can mean that a Lord-Lieutenant may serve for a very long period e.g. in Leicestershire, Colonel Sir Andrew Martin served for 24 years (1965-1989).
When an appointment is made it is confirmed by an impressive document called Letters Patent under the Great Seal.
Lord-Lieutenants in the 21st century have an important role representing the Monarch in many formal and ceremonial ways. In the past the office was a powerful device by which Monarchs exercised control of counties by indirect rule.  In particular, it was the Lieutenants (as they were originally known) who controlled the militia, the local defence forces, which existed variously as military reserves, as police, and as forces for national unity.  
As Lord-Lieutenant Lady Gretton’s first and foremost duty is to uphold the dignity of the Crown. She seeks to promote a spirit of co-operation by encouragement of the voluntary services and benevolent organisations, and by taking an active interest in the business, industrial and social life of the County. The Lord-Lieutenant’s role is, like the Monarch’s, essentially non-political.

The main duties of the Lord-Lieutenant may be summarised as follows:

  • Arranging visits of Members of the Royal Family, and receiving and escorting Royal Visitors as appropriate.
  • Presentation of medals and awards on behalf of The Queen to individuals, voluntary groups and business organisations.
  • Participation in civic, voluntary and social events within the County.
  • Liaison with local units of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Royal Air Force and their associated Cadet Forces.
  • Leadership of the Local Magistracy as Chairman of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Appointment of Justices of the Peace (who are also known as Magistrates).
The Lord-Lieutenant has appointed a Vice Lord-Lieutenant (Colonel R M L Colville TD) and a number of Deputy Lieutenants to assist her in the discharge of her duties and responsibilities.

A brief history of the office of Lord-Lieutenant

Although Lord-Lieutenants are now long term appointments throughout the United Kingdom the early history of the office was the reverse.
The office of Lieutenant, for that was the original title, was created first in Tudor times (1485-1603). In early England a regular standing army was unknown, so in times of threat to the country, such as invasion, the Monarch had to have defensive forces raised. This was done by appointing noblemen, later to be called Lieutenants, who were required to assemble specified numbers of men into what were later called militias (armed forces).
Originally there was not a Lieutenant for every county in England. The flexibility of this system served Monarchs well, as there was no requirement to appoint a Lieutenant, but it was an option when order had to be preserved. As most Lieutenants were Lords it was natural that they should be referred to as Lord Lieutenant, although the title of the appointment was still Lieutenant. Monarchs took the precaution of limiting a Lieutenant’s area of activity to the county boundary.  
The Militia Act 1661 made permanent the office of Lieutenant, and gave him full power over the county Militia. The Lieutenant came to be more than a military officer, and particularly in time of political uncertainty he became the key person in the county.
From 1689 it became increasingly common for Lieutenants to also be appointed as Custos Rotulorum or Keeper of the Rolls (Records of Magistrates), and effectively the Chief Magistrate.
In the 18th Century the Militia was placed on a proper footing and legislation determined the precise numbers of men which each of the counties of England and Wales should provide for the defence of the country.  
The 19th Century saw Lieutenants being appointed on the basis of being expected to support the government. This was very significant as most were Peers (Members of the House of Lords) and had an important role in law making. Before the establishment of County Councils in 1889 what we now regard as local government services were administered in the county areas, surrounding cities and boroughs, by the Magistrates who were led by the Lieutenants.
In 1871 the Militia ceased to be under the command of the Lieutenant, but it was not until 1921 that Lieutenants’ duties under the Militia acts were finally ended.
The Local Government Act 1972 gave official sanction to the designations Lord-Lieutenant and Vice Lord-Lieutenant. Although there had been several Queens of England it was not until 1974 that a woman was appointed as Lord-Lieutenant when Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, was appointed for the County of West Sussex.

A more detailed history of the office of Lord-Lieutenant

Although Lord-Lieutenants are now long term appointments throughout the United Kingdom the early history of the office was the reverse.
The office of Lieutenant, for that was the original title, for a county or counties was created first in Tudor times (1485-1603). It began as a temporary military post, and although the story of it's origin and growth belongs in part to military history, it also belongs to the history of local administration.  Like so much else in the constitution, the appointment of Lieutenants developed slowly and often as a response to the immediate needs of the time.  William Harrison (1535-1593) defined them as 'noblemen set over the Shire in time of necessity' .
The problem of the control of the counties was for the Tudor monarchs always an anxious matter requiring serious consideration.  They were well aware that a disturbance might easily occur in any part of England which could develop to the point of depriving them of the throne.  
In early England a regular standing army was unknown, and in these circumstances it was usual for the Monarch, in times of need to protect the country from invasion or domestic insurrection, to issue a Commission to a single person usually a nobleman.   This required, by impressment or otherwise, a specified number of men from particular counties to be assembled as a defensive force or levy (later to be known as a militia).
These Commissions were superseded by Commissions of Lieutenancy, appointing Lieutenants only for a particular area during a time of crisis, but by the end of the reign of Elizabeth I they were playing an important part in the social and administrative history of their counties.
There was by no means a Lieutenant for every county in England, nor a consistent pattern of appointments. The flexibility of this system of local administration served Monarchs well, as there was no requirement to appoint a Lieutenant, but it was an option when order had to be preserved.
As most Lieutenants were Lords it was natural that those who were should be referred to as Lord Lieutenant, or collectively as Lords Lieutenant, although the title of the appointment was still Lieutenant.  It was centuries later that the title was formally changed to Lord-Lieutenant.  
Every Lieutenant, in addition to the Commission appointing him, would have directions issued on behalf of the Monarch by the Privy Council. Examples of this correspondence show that the main anxiety of Monarchs was to keep the Kingdom well under control.  In addition to the usual orders concerning levies, and the control of seditious vagabonds and propagators of false rumours, it was insisted on again and again that the special duty of a Lieutenant was to encourage service in the levies and foster a general good disposition of loyalty towards the Crown.  
When Queen Elizabeth I inherited the throne, England, unlike Germany, Spain and France, still did not have even the start of a standing army.  England’s physical separation from the rest of Europe was clearly a factor, as it had been insulated from military developments elsewhere.  Due to the risk of invasion there was every reason for Queen Elizabeth to continue the appointment of Lieutenants
Queen Elizabeth’s predecessor Mary had, eight months before her death, given royal assent to two bills dealing with Militias which were the successors to the Levies. The whole community was divided into 10 income groups, with at the lower end a requirement for a man to arm himself, to at the other end of the scale, a wealthy man having to provide a substantial number of horses and a large quantity of military equipment.
The county was the administrative unit for military affairs, as it was for general purposes.  The office of Sheriff, dating from the eleventh century, and Justices of the Peace (Magistrates) had played a key part in the past and continued to have important duties, but they were superseded in their military capacity by the Lieutenant who was by far the dominant figure.
The office of Lieutenant like so many other English institutions developed gradually. A Lieutenant, although still not a permanent appointment, now had far-reaching powers.  His Commission gave him the right to call up the men of his county, to assemble, try them out, and arm each according to his capability; to lead them against the enemies of the Crown; and within the county boundary “to repress, subdue, slay, kill and put to execution of death these enemies by all ways and means”.  He had at his disposal the services of all of the local officials.  As these powers were so wide and powerful safeguards were provided.  The Crown took the obvious precaution of limiting the Lieutenant’s sphere of activity to the county boundary.  He was empowered to appoint Deputies, but they were nominated by the Crown.  (This is reflected today in that although Deputy Lieutenants' are Commissioned by the Lord-Lieutenant, this is subject to the Monarch's non-disapproval).   
During the Commonwealth Protectorate following the execution of Charles I Lieutenants were not appointed, although in 1655 England was divided into 11 military districts, each with a Major General in charge.  At the Restoration in 1660, a compromise was reached between King Charles II and Parliament concerning the right of making Lieutenancy appointments.  The Militia Act 1661 made permanent the office of Lieutenant, and vested in him, under the Crown “full power and authority” over the county Militia, “to arm and array” and to “lead, conduct and employ it”.
By the time of the accession of James II the Lieutenancy was not only responsible for raising the Militia, but was also a means of communication and direction between the Government and the country.  The Lieutenant came to be rather more than a purely military officer, and particularly in time of political uncertainty he became the key person in the county.
From 1689 when William III came to the throne it became increasingly the practice for Lieutenants to also be appointed as Custos Rotulorum or Keeper of the Rolls (of Magistrates), and effectively the Chief Magistrate.
In the 18th Century following concern at military shortcomings the Militia was placed on a proper footing with legislation determining the precise numbers of men which each of the counties of England and Wales should furnish for the defence of the country.1778 saw the start of troubles in the American colonies, and in 1789 the beginnings of the French Revolutionary and later the Napoleonic Wars with the threat of invasion, all creating the need for military forces.
By 1808 threat of invasion lessened, but the Militia remained under the command of Lieutenants who were responsible for efficiency and discipline, until the Army Regulation Act 1871, when the powers returned to the Crown. (Lieutenants duties under the Militia Acts, although already redundant, finally disappeared on the introduction of the Territorial Army and Militia Act 1921. Lieutenants became Presidents of Territorial  and Reserve Associations and in a different form this continues today.)
The 19th Century saw Lieutenants being appointed on the basis of being expected to support  the government. This was very significant as most were Peers (Members of the House of Lords). In 1850 of the English Lieutenants all except one were Peers, and 23 of 33 in Scotland.
In 1871 the Militia ceased to be under the command of the Lieutenant, but it was not until 1921 that Lieutenants’ duties under the Militia acts were finally ended.
Before the establishment of County Councils in 1889 what we now regard as local government services were administered in the county areas, surrounding cities and boroughs, by the Magistrates who were led by the Lieutenants.
Although originally Lieutenants had the sole right of recommending the appointment of Magistrates, in 1911 following a Royal Commission the method was altered with the establishment of Advisory Committees chaired by the Lieutenants formulating recommendations.
During the early 20th Century the role of Lieutenants and their appointment started to change leading to the position we see today.
It was not until the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 in which it was determined that the Monarch should appoint "a Lord-Lieutenant" for each county and Greater London, that the designation Lord-Lieutenant was given official sanction for the first time, as was the title Vice Lord-Lieutenant. Although there had been several Queens of England and it was not until 1974 that a woman was appointed as Lord-Lieutenant when Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, was appointed for the County of West Sussex.

Lord-Lieutenants of Leicestershire

Year

1549 Henry Grey, 3rd Marquis of Dorset KG
1551 Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon KG
1552 Henry Grey, 3rd Marquis of Dorset, lst Duke of Suffolk KG
1554 Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon KG
1559 Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, jointly with his son Henry
1561 Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon KG
1587 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester KG
1596 George Hastings, 4th Earl of Huntingdon
1607 Henry Hastings, 5th Earl of Huntingdon
1638 Henry Hastings, 5th Earl of Huntingdon, jointly with his son Ferdinando
1642 Henry Grey, 2nd Baron Grey of Groby, lst Earl of Stamford
1667 John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland
1677 John Manners, 9th Earl of Rutland
1687 Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon
1689 John Manners, 9th Earl of Rutland
1703 Basil Feilding, 4th Earl of Denbigh & 3rd Earl of Desmond
1706 John Manners, 9th Earl of Rutland, lst Duke of Rutland
1711 Basil Feilding, 4th Earl of Denbigh & 3rd Earl of Desmond
1714 John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland KG
1721 John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland KG
1779 Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland KG
1787 Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort KG
1799 John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland KG
1857 Charles Cecil John Manners, 6th Duke of Rutland KG
1888 Richard William Penn Curzon-Howe, 3rd Earl Howe GCVO, CB
1900 Henry John Brinsley Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland KG
1925 Arthur Grey Hazlerigg, 13th Baronet, lst Baron Hazlerigg
1949 Robert Godfrey Wolseley Bewicke-Copley, 5th Baron Cromwell DSO, MC
1965 Colonel Sir Andrew Martin, KCVO, OBE
1989 Sir Timothy Brooks, KCVO
2003 The Lady Gretton
From 1974 to 1997 Rutland was included in the Leicestershire Lieutenancy.

Page Last Updated: 11 July 2013