Great Officer of State

Great Officer of State

In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional Crown ministers, who either inherit their positions or are appointed to exercise certain largely ceremonial functions. Separate Great Officers exist for England and Scotland, and formerly for Ireland. Many of the Great Officers became largely ceremonial because historically they were so influential that their powers had to be resumed by the Crown or dissipated.


The Great Officers of England are:

# Lord High Steward
# Lord High Chancellor - custodian of the Great Seal of the Realm
# Lord High Treasurer - Head of HM Treasury
# Lord President of the Council - presiding officer of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and member of cabinet
# Lord Privy Seal - responsible for the monarch's personal ("privy") seal
# Lord Great Chamberlain - charge over the Palace of Westminster and the House of Lords; bearer of the Sword of State at state openings and closings of Parliament
# Lord High Constable
# Earl Marshal
# Lord High Admiral - commander of the Royal Navy

Some offices are appointed, while others inherit their positions. The Lord High Stewardship was held by the Earls of Leicester until 1399 when the holder became the Sovereign; and since 1421, a Lord High Steward has generally only been appointed temporarily either for the day of a coronation or for the trials of peers (before 1948). The office of Lord Great Chamberlain is also hereditary, originally being held by the Earls of Oxford. Later, however, the Chamberlainship came to be inherited by multiple heirs, each holding a fraction of the office. One of the holders, chosen by rotation, exercises the office as a Deputy. The post of Lord High Constable was originally inherited by the Earls of Hereford, but when one holder was attainted and executed in 1521, the office reverted to the Crown, only to be reinstated for the day of a coronation. The final inheritable office is that of Earl Marshal, held by the Dukes of Norfolk. During the many periods in which the Dukes were attainted, another individual was appointed to the post. Furthermore, prior to 1824, the Earl Marshal had to appoint a Protestant Deputy if he was a Roman Catholic.

Some offices are put into "commission"; that is, multiple commissioners are appointed to collectively exercise the office. The office of Lord High Treasurer has been in commission since 1714: the First Lord of the Treasury is the Prime Minister, the Second Lord is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the remaining Lords Commissioner are Government Whips. The office of Lord High Admiral was for many years also in commission, and is now vested in the Sovereign. The remaining officers — Lord Chancellor, Lord President and Lord Privy Seal — are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister. The posts of Lord President and Lord Privy Seal are normally combined with that of Leader of the House of Commons and Leader of the House of Lords, respectively, though the current Government has the posts reversed.

The Great Offices had and have varying duties. The Lord High Steward was originally a holder of significant political power, but gradually became a ceremonial office, as have become the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshal. The Lord High Treasurer, Lord High Constable, and Lord High Admiral were originally responsible for monetary, military, and naval matters respectively. The Lord President of the Council is responsible for presiding over the meetings of the Privy Council. The office of Lord Privy Seal is a sinecure, though he is technically the Keeper of the Privy Seal. The Lord Chancellor is the most important of the Great Officers: he is the cabinet minister responsible for the Ministry of Justice, formerly the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Department for Constitutional Affairs) and formally Keeper of the Great Seal. The Queen assumed the title of Lord High Admiral in 1964 when the Admiralty was incorporated into the Ministry of Defence.

The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, but the Act provided that the Lord Great Chamberlain and Earl Marshal be exempt from such a rule, so that they may continue to carry out their ceremonial functions in the House of Lords.

The current Great Officers are:
* Lord High Steward - (vacant)
* Lord High Chancellor - The Rt Hon. Jack Straw
* Lord High Treasurer - (In Commission) The Lords Commissioner of the Treasury
* Lord President of the Council - The Baroness Ashton of Upholland
* Lord Privy Seal - The Rt Hon. Harriet Harman
* Lord Great Chamberlain (Deputy) - The Marquess of Cholmondeley
* Lord High Constable - (vacant)
* Earl Marshal - The Duke of Norfolk
* Lord High Admiral - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


The term "officer of state" is sometimes used loosely of any great office under the Crown. A number of historical offices ended at or soon after the Acts of Union 1707. There are also a number of Officers of the Crown and Great Officers of the Royal Household.

Officers of State

Present Officers of State are:
# Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland (now under the possession of the First Minister)
# Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
# Lord Clerk Register
# Lord Advocate
# Lord Justice Clerk
# Lord Justice General or Lord President of the College of Justice
# Lord Lyon King of Arms

Officers of the Crown

Officers of the Crown are:
# Great Chamberlain
# Lord High Constable of Scotland
# Earl Marischal
# Lord High Admiral of Scotland
# The Knight Marischal
# Lord Lyon King of Arms

Great Officers of the Royal Household

The Great Officers of the Royal Household are:
# Lord High Constable of Scotland
# The Master of the Household
# The Keeper of Holyroodhouse
# The Armour-Bearer
# The Bearer of the Royal Banner
# The Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland
# Lord Justice General
# Great Steward of Scotland

The Royal Household in Scotland also includes a number of other hereditary and non-hereditary offices, now including The Master Carver, Hereditary Keepers of Palaces and Castles, the Lord Lyon and his heralds and pursuivants, the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Company of Archers (Queen's Bodyguard), the Dean of the Thistle, the Dean of the Chapel Royal, chaplains, physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, the Historiographer Royal, the Botanist, the Painter and Limner, the Sculptor and the Astronomer Royal for Scotland.


A number of offices ended at or soon after the Union of 1707. These include the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, the Treasurer of Scotland, the Treasurer-depute of Scotland, the Secretary of State, Scotland, the Master of Requests and the President of the Privy Council.

As in England, many offices are hereditary. The post of High Constable is held by the Earls of Erroll. Originally, the heads of the Keith family held the office of Earl Marischal, but in 1716, the holder was attainted for treason, and the office has not been regranted. The Dukes of Argyll are the Hereditary Masters of the Household. All other officers are Crown appointees. Many of these offices, though originally associated with political power, are only ceremonial now.

The remaining officers are related to Scotland's judiciary. The Lord Justice General was originally an important noble, though in the 19th century, the office was combined with that of Lord President of the Court of Session. Now, the Lord Justice General is the head of Scotland's judiciary. The Lord Clerk Register is an officer with miscellaneous functions that included conducting the elections of representative peers and registering births and deaths. The Lord Advocate is at the head of the law offices of Scotland; all prosecutors act in his name. The Lord Justice Clerk serves as a deputy of the Lord Justice General. Finally, the Lord Lyon King of Arms is the sole judge in the Lyon Court, which determines cases relating to heraldry.

Current Great Officers

The current Great Officers are:
* Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland - The Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond
* Keeper of the Privy Seal - office unfilled since death of the 1st Marquess of Breadalbane in 1922
* Lord Clerk Register - James Mackay, Baron Mackay of Clashfern
* Lord Advocate - The Rt Hon. Elish Angioloni
* Lord Justice Clerk - The Rt Hon. Lord Gill
* Lord Justice General - The Rt Hon. Lord Hamilton
* Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland - The Rt Hon. David Sellar
* Lord High Constable - The Rt Hon. The Earl of Erroll
* Hereditary Master of the Household in Scotland - His Grace The Duke of Argyll

ee also

*United Kingdom order of precedence
*Great Officers of the Crown of France
*Great Officers of Sweden
*Great Officers of the Holy Roman Empire

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