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History & Duties

History of the Office of Lord Lieutenant

The Office of Lord Lieutenant is military in origin and can be said to date from the reign of Henry VIII when its holder took over responsibility for the maintenance of order and for all military measures necessary for local defence. By 1569 provision was made for the appointment of deputies.

The Regulation of the Forces Act 1871 removed the Militia from the Lord Lieutenant’s direct control but it was not until 1921 that Lord Lieutenants finally lost the power to call on all able-bodied men of a county to fight in case of need.

The traditional links with the armed forces have been preserved in a modern form in the association of the Office of Lord Lieutenant with the Volunteer Reserve Forces and with other uniformed organisations such as the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services and many voluntary bodies such as the Red Cross, the Cadet Forces and other national and local Youth organisations

In recent years the sphere within which the Lord Lieutenant’s leadership role is exercised has come to include a wide range of matters, civil and defence, professional and voluntary. Lord Lieutenants are effective in such work largely because of their links to the Crown and the essentially voluntary and apolitical nature of their role.

From the earliest days the Office of Lord Lieutenant has been closely associated with the Magistracy and until the nineteenth century the Lord Lieutenant was appointed Clerk of the Peace.

Since at least the eighteenth century a military-style uniform has been worn by male Lieutenants (appropriate to the military origins of the post).

The office is unpaid and the age of retirement is 75.

The Lord-Lieutenant will be interested in all aspects of life within the County – both voluntary and statutory as well as business, social and cultural including nominations for the National Honours List.

Lord-Lieutenants are required to appoint Deputy Lieutenants within an establishment that varies according to the population of a county. They are appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant, subject only to Her Majesty not disapproving the Commission. The letters ‘DL’ appear after their names. The Vice Lord-Lieutenant is appointed by the Lord -Lieutenant from among the Deputies.

The traditional links with the military have been preserved in the modern form in the association of the Lord-Lieutenant with the Territorial Army and other reserve forces. In recent years, the links between Lord-Lieutenants and the uniformed organisations have also led to support being given to a wide spectrum of voluntary groups.

From the earliest days the Lord-Lieutenant has also been closely associated with the Magistracy, and until the nineteenth century he was appointed the Clerk of the Peace. Today the Lord-Lieutenant usually holds the office of Keeper of the Rolls.