State of Change

May I see the wine list?

Late last night it was announced that, due to episodic mobility issues, Queen Elizabeth would not be personally present for the state opening of Parliament today. While the shortness of notice is unusual, it is far from unprecedented for a parliamentary session to begin without the monarch. The present queen missed the openings of 1959 and 1963 due to pregnancy. Victoria loathed to visit Parliament at all during her forty years of mourning. On those occasions the standard procedure was to open the session by commission, with the Lord Chancellor reading the speech. This time, perhaps in consequence of the shortness of notice, the full state ceremony went ahead but with the Prince of Wales reading the speech instead of his mother.

The last time an heir apparent opened Parliament in this way was 23rd November 1819, when the Prince Regent opened the second session of the sixth Parliament on behalf of George III, a mere nine weeks before actually ascending to the throne. Charles, of course, is not full regent, and performed today’s ceremony in his capacity as counsellor of state. Such counsellors are required to act in pairs, hence the first appearance of the Duke of Cambridge at the event.

It was reported in the BBC coverage that Charles was sitting on the consort’s throne, with the monarch’s throne being removed from the chamber completely. The Imperial State Crown was displayed on a small table to his right where the monarch’s throne would normally be, while his wife and son sat on the smaller chairs in the alcoves either side.

Convention has long been for the peer reading the speech to do so in first person, as the sovereign herself would have done, but Charles opted to switch to third person, repeatedly describing the government and its ministers as “Her Majesty’s” instead of “my”*. I do not know if he was making the substitution mentally or if the speech was actually printed again with altered wording – which would require a downgrade in materials.

Also last night it was announced that Professor Anne Curry had been appointed Arundel Herald Extraordinary. This did not make her a member of the College of Arms, but did allow her to take part in the procession with the other heralds.

This afternoon the House of Lords Flickr account published twenty photographs of the ceremony, taken by Annabel Moeller and licensed as CC BY 2.0, enabling me to quickly absorb them into Wikimedia Commons. It is unusual for us to have such number and quality of images for events like these. The trend towards releasing photographs in this way is encouraging, even if it is intermittent.

Given that this if the first time counsellors of state have been used to open a legislative session, and that the decision was not known until thirteen hours prior, one has to wonder how much improvisation was employed in today’s ceremony, for example:

  • Their Royal Highnesses travelled entirely by motorcar. Had there previously been plans to use the horse-drawn carriages?
  • The Prince of Wales was in full military uniform as for most state openings, but his wife and son were in morning suits as for the “dress down” occasions in June 2017 and December 2019. The inconsistency is inexplicable.
  • There was no mention of the Union Flag over the Victoria Tower being swapped for the royal standard. Was a banner of the heir apparent’s arms available?
  • The limousine carrying Charles had his own shield of arms mounted on the roof, but that carrying William used the generic red shield with a crown. Has a shield of William’s arms been made for this purpose?
  • The carpet on the lowest step to the throne was plain red, whereas previously the pattern of lions and roses continued all the way.
  • Sir Lindsay Hoyle is wigless for the third consecutive state opening, despite promising to wear it before his election. It can’t still be missing, can it?

When the ceremony is over, both houses debate a response to the address. Tradition dictates that the motion be introduced by a long-serving older member and seconded by a younger, recently-elected one. The role of the “old duffer” was this time fulfilled by my own MP, the “shy and retiring” Graham Stuart. He said of his constituency:

Beverley and Holderness comprises four towns—Beverley, Hornsea, Withernsea and Hedon—and many other hamlets and villages that are dotted across east Yorkshire. It is a beautiful part of the world and has history as well as charm. Beverley has contributed more than most places to the improvement of our democratic system over the years—admittedly chiefly by running elections in such a corrupt manner that the law had to be changed afterwards. After the unseating of the victorious candidate in 1727 by a petition, his agents were imprisoned and Parliament passed a whole new bribery Act. But Beverley’s notorious freemen were not to be put off so easily. Beverley continued to be a byword for electoral malpractice. The novelist Anthony Trollope stood in the Liberal interest, unsuccessfully, in 1868, and such was the level of wrongdoing that a royal commission was established especially and a new law passed disenfranchising the town and barring it from ever returning a Member of Parliament again. Obviously the law did change. Free beer and cash inducements were the electoral controversies then, rather than, say, beer and curry today. Never in the history of human conflict has so much karma come from a korma.

FURTHER READING

*The version used on the Hansard website for both the Commons and the Lords is in third person as Charles delivered it, while that on the government’s site is in first person, as well as annotated with the names of the bills being described.

Fighting Corruption in the Judiciary

Many times before I have virtually attended the kinds of events that I could not attend in person. Sometimes it is because the location is too far away, other times because I am not a member of the organisation hosting. On this occasion it was both.

When I first found the flyer for today’s presentation on Eventbrite I assumed it would be an academic or professional presentation similar to all the others. Only upon entry did I realise it was actually the preparatory talk to a competition (which I obviously will not be entering).

The challenge was for high-schoolers and undergraduates to imagine that they were junior staffers at the justice ministry in a fictional Eastern European country which, having emerged from the Warsaw Pact, signed and ratified the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention but then, after a change of government, withdrew from it, and wanted to make changes to the method of appointment and dismissal of judges. The student’s task was to make a video presentation about the meaning and consequence of corruption. They should outline the basics of a legal strategy to bring their fictional homeland in line with the convention again, and produce three key ideas on enhancing judicial independence.

The speaker, Alice Thomas, then went on to make some general points about political corruption: It exists everywhere in some shape or form. What we know is only what other people have found out, and in countries without an independent media it can be difficult to find out anything. Most countries have anti-corruption strategies, at least on paper. The United Nations often follows the work of smaller regional groups, because having fewer members means it takes less time to reach decisions. North Korea, unsurprisingly, did not sign the aforementioned treaty at all. Some countries signed but did not ratify. International cooperation is important for asset recovery and information exchange, since corruption is often a cross-border phenomenon. The judiciary, legislature and executive are there to monitor each other. In a country without a functioning judiciary everybody can basically do as they please. Corruption may take the form of individual judges being bribed or coerced rather than the whole system being controlled. For a government to ensure judicial independence without inadvertently encroaching on it is a complicated task, since attempts to scrutinise the courts would themselves resemble the executive applying  political pressure.

Rather amusingly, Thomas ended by telling participants to be careful about their sources and not to rely on Wikipedia because “it’s not always very accurate. It’s a very subjective thing. It relies on who writes what in it.” – me, for example.

EXTERNAL LINKS

More Speakers, More Arms

Almost three years ago I constructed, for Wikipedia, a list of all the coats of arms borne by Speakers of the House of Commons. That list covered the lower houses of Great Britain (1707-1800) and the United Kingdom (1801-present). Finding sources for the later incumbents was difficult – quite a few were missing from Burke’s and Debrett’s, so I had to get creative in looking for visual evidence, often relying on photographs from corporate events at Speaker’s House.

A few weeks ago the heraldic artist Baz Manning, whose photographs from Lincoln’s Inn I had already used for a similar page about Lords of Appeal, contacted me to say that he had taken extensive photographs inside the Palace of Westminster of the speakers’ arms, and would be uploading those on Flickr too. Not content with merely documenting those speakers who served since the Acts of Union, he had photographed the shields commemorating just about every speaker since the age of Henry III. It was therefore only natural that I should make a Wikipedia list for them as well.

In addition to these photographs I had written the written source of the 1850 book The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons by James Alexander Manning (Related? I’ll have to ask.), which I had already used for the earlier entries in the British list. The relative ease of accessing these compared to what I had before meant the prequel was much more easily accomplished than the original.

That is not to say that there were no difficulties, however – whereas speakers from the Georgian age onward generally served a good number of years in the green chair before ascending to the red bench*, in medieval to Stuart times their tenures were often very brief – indeed, the legislatures themselves were often only in existence for a few weeks. It was also much more common for members to serve non-consecutive terms, which means confusion about how to arrange their entries.

A particularly knotty problem is that many of these men lived and died in an age long before English spelling was nailed down, which means tricky decisions on what to actually call them (e.g. Guildesborough or Goldsborough, Broke or Brooke). Another is that different sources often contradict each other as to what exactly their armorial bearings were, Baz even pointing out quite a few instances where the painted shield on the wall does not conform to the blazon in the grant, or when there are two separate illustrations that are not in agreement.

Still, the page is up, and unlike last time it does not appear that I will be stuck waiting months for review and clearance, so I’m counting this as a success. It remains to be seen if one more armorial page can be squeezed out of this topic. Obviously the old Parliament of Scotland had no elected speaker (being unicameral and chaired by the Lord Chancellor much like the House of Lords), but the House of Commons of Ireland before 1801 had one much like its English counterpart. I will have to see if a similar gallery of painted shields is maintained at College Green, and if any other budding heraldists have been able to photograph it.

*Only five speakers of the English House of Commons ever ascended to the peerage, whereas only ten speakers of the British house have not, and several of them died in office. Quite a lot of English speakers were at least knights or baronets, though that introduces the further difficulty of finding out if each one was knighted before or after their time in office.

A Thistly Issue

I have written before about the intricacies of the Order of the Garter. Although it technically has only one grade (in contrast to the Bath which has three, or the British Empire which has five), there are many finely differentiated categories of membership. It is traditionally said that the order is limited to twenty-four knights companion at a time, but of course the reigning monarch himself is always the sovereign of the order (and all others), so really it was twenty-five. Then the Princes of Wales had automatic membership, so it was twenty-six. On top of that, George III in 1786 created the separate status of “royal knight”, so that his unusually large brood of sons could be installed without crowding out everybody else. In 1813 a further category of “stranger knight” was instituted so as to allow the appointment of supernumerary foreign members.

The position of female members is even more complicated. From the time of Richard II it was common to appoint ladies of the order, though even after many years I am still unsure as to their exact status and function. The last such lady appointed was Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother, in 1488. After that the installation of women to the order was discontinued completely, and for the next four hundred years the only women to wear the Garter robes were the queens regnant. After Victoria’s passing her son Edward VII, her grandson George V and her great-grandson George VI each installed their consorts as royal ladies by special statute. The Princess Elizabeth was also made a royal lady in 1947 and the stranger category came to include foreign female monarchs. From 1987 the statues were altered to allow non-royal women to be Ladies Companion of the order on the same basis as the non-royal men, the first example being the Duchess of Norfolk in 1990.

Wikipedia’s list of members for the order took pains to colour-code and differentiate between the different categories of membership. Curiously, while the modern ladies from Queen Alexandra onwards were all included, the medieval ladies were omitted. Long ago there had been a separate smaller page listing them, but it had been deleted on the recommendation to merge with the larger list. For unknown reasons that merger was never actually carried out, so that the medieval ladies were simply forgotten.

Yesterday, with the aid of one other editor, I worked to correct that problem. The sixty-four Garter ladies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are now included in the table with their own colour code and numbering. For completeness, I have also added entries for those monarchs who were not already members of the order prior to accession.

Having finished that task, I then wondered if the page for the Order of the Thistle – Scotland’s Garter equivalent – would need a similar refurbishment. The list page I found was of a very different table design to that used for the Garter, or indeed the other chivalric orders, bearing sharp black borders around cells and being organised by century instead of by monarch. It took just over a day to completely convert the content to the more usual format. On the one hand, the Thistle has fewer categories than the Garter – sixteen knights brethren and supernumerary extra knights. On the other, the list did not differentiate one type of member from the other in the way that the Garter’s did, so in many cases guesswork was required and it is likely that the whole numbering system will need to be redone at some point to account for any I’ve missed.

While going through this, I received a notice that I had been granted access to the Wikipedia Library. This was intriguing, for it was an innocuous, easy-to-miss announcement of what turned out to be quite an important perk of being an editor. According to a video I found from last summer, the library has actually been around for about a decade, but until recently there was no systematic effort to advertise it, and so the vast majority of eligible members (including me) had no clue it existed. Having only discovered the resource today I cannot yet report on how useful it will be, but it looks promising so far.

It’s not all good news – for a long time I have been vexed by the positioning of “Sir” and “Dame” in the infoboxes of such subjects as are entitled to them. I prefer them to be in the name field, rather than among the honorific prefixes. Previously this appeared to be the consensus among the editors who frequented the articles of knighted politicians and civil servants, though not necessarily those of actors and musicians, with only a small number of persistent miscreants persisting otherwise. A fortnight ago this was discussed and my contribution was sought. It appeared that my stance was going to win out, but when the matter went to vote my supporters were rarely to be seen. We’re doomed to ugly box-headers for the forseable future, one supposes.

Guts for Garters

For the last few Decembers I have eagerly awaited the release of the new year honours list. Normally they arrive a few days before the actual new year, but this time around they came with barely an hour to spare.

There were, as to be expected, a great many awards given on ministerial advice for those involved in fighting COVID, but at the very top were three new appointments made at Her Majesty’s personal discretion to the Order of the Garter: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, her daughter-in-law; Valerie, Baroness Amos, former Lord President of Her Privy Council; and Tony Blair, her former Prime Minister.

While sons (and in modern times also daughters) of the reigning monarch are appointed to the order routinely it is rare for royals by marriage. The only examples in the past two hundred years are of those married to the sovereigns themselves – Albert two months in advance of his wedding, Alexandra, Mary and Elizabeth shortly after their husbands’ accessions. Camilla and the late Prince Philip are the only consorts to receive the garter while their spouses were not yet on the throne. I wonder if she shall use the same stall that he did?

Amos is a former leader of the House of Lords (like Lord Salisbury, and indeed others of that title before him). She also served a brief term as High Commissioner to Australia and an even briefer one as International Development Secretary.

Tony Blair appointed Amos to most of those offices. It used to be the norm for former Prime Ministers to join the order, up to and including John Major in 2005 it became rare to see party politicians appointed. It was long assumed that Blair had declined any honours if indeed he was ever offered them, whether that was due to his personal distaste for them (he portrayed himself as a moderniser rather than a traditionalist, and was often observed to behave more like a US President than a British minister), or potential public backlash over controversies stemming from his premiership. What has persuaded him to accept the award now, fifteen years on, is not yet known.

These are the first appointments to the order since 2019. There were no Garter Day ceremonies in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic. This year is set to be Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, so one presumes that the Firm will be keen to make up for lost time.

Today’s news will have interesting ramifications heraldry-wise: Camilla has of course been openly armigerous since 2005, and Sodacan has already updated his graphic of her arms to include the Garter circlet. Amos has been a peeress all my life, and typically appears early on in the pages of Burke’s and Debrett’s, but has never been shown with any armorial design. She may therefore receive a brand new grant in the coming months. Blair is especially confusing, though he is joining an English order of chivalry, he may be Scottish for heraldic purposes and so it would be Lyon not Garter arranging his grant.

SEE ALSO

Hard to Track Down

Following Gordon Casely’s talk on the subject two months ago, I have pursued the topic further with the creation of another Wikipedia armorial.

As with the Middle-earth one, I notified both the relevant WikiProject groups beforehand. Nobody in the heraldry group responded, as per usual. The UK railways group took a lot more interest, though so far none have directly contributed to the article. One controversy was how to name the article – at present it is called ”Armorial of railways in Great Britain” as I have decided the island of Ireland should be a separate article to reflect its railways having always been a separate administration, though this does leave some ambiguity over how to classify the railway heraldry of the smaller islands. It may expand to ”Armorial of railways in the British Isles” at a later date.

The other controversy, of course, was over what to count as heraldry. As Casely’s lecture pointed out – and as many in the latter talk page reminded me – most railway armory in the UK is entirely bogus in terms of legal authority and trite in terms of artistic merit. This leads to some difficulties in how to cite the various insignia being catalogued, since few will appear in the works of Burke, Debrett or Fox-Davies, though the latter’s Book of Public Arms still proved very useful in blazoning the civic arms which railway emblems so frequently appropriated. Most of the illustrations are not by me, nor by other heraldic artists, but photographs of emblems as they appear on the sides of old locomotives, stock and stations or scans from very old books (William Weaver Tomlinson’s The North Eastern Railway; its rise and development being especially handy). A good handful of the company seals found are easy enough to recognise in terms of blazonry (such as the York, Berwick & Newcastle Railway, which just had the shields of those towns in a triangle formation) but others (such as Hull & Selby) have no armorial pretensions at all and look more suited to the Soviet Union.

The list is still far from complete at present, and it will be difficult by nature to judge when completeness has been achieved, but I hope this has at least got the fire started – and allowed at least one of the Sudrian shields to get a viewing.

In further heraldry news, the Lyon Court recently opened a YouTube channel, and the second uploaded video is of the installation of new heralds at the Court of Session that I covered some time ago.

Islanders’ Arms

Ever since the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Railway Series last May, I have been looking to bridge my interest in that franchise with my hobby as a heraldist. I had long known that the thin clergyman had invented coats of arms for many characters and institutions within his fictional world, but it was difficult to actually find them.

Of particular importance was a video by Max Davies, better known as Terrier55Stepney, documenting one of many visits that he and other tankies have made to the Talyllyn Railway. This particular video is valuable because at fifteen minutes and ten seconds in it shows a front-on close-up shot of an old sheet of paper on which Awdry had sketched and blazoned four different fictional coats of arms. I had glimpsed this before but never in quite enough clarity to make out the details. Even in this version the handwriting is not always legible. Luckily I found a handful of old posts on the Sodor Island Forums where other fans had also attempted to decipher the text. I have now illustrated all four shields there depicted and uploaded the results to Wikimedia Commons, though whether I shall be able to use them on any Wikipedia articles following last year’s purge is debatable.

CROVAN’S GATE

Escutcheon: Vert a gateway kernelled Or with portcullis closed of the same. In base a glove dexter Argent.

Motto: Ave Amicos Cave Hostes (Welcome Friends, Beware Enemies)

The symbolism here is fairly obvious – the gate is a literal interpretation of the proverbial “gate” (the narrow pass in the hills between eastern and central Sodor) at which King Godred Crovan held the Normans at bay in 1089, while the glove is one of his famous white leather gauntlets.

SUDDERY


Escutcheon: Argent in base three closets wavy Azure charged at the nombril point with a coracle therein a monk erect dexter hand raised in blessing in sinister hand a crozier all Proper.

Motto: Luoc Sodoris Lux (Luoc, the Light of Sodor)

This was the hardest to do and the least visually-satisfying at the end. The arms are pictorial heraldry, showing the legendary arrival of Saint Luoc on the island in the fifth century. There is a discrepancy between sources here – the above blazon refers to simply “a monk” but The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways twice asserts that the arms have him “arrayed as a bishop”, the latter reference specifying “in cope and mitre”. I have said before that human figures usually don’t work well in heraldry, and this is no exception. Awdry does not describe Luoc’s appearance nor his liturgical vestements, so I took a drawing of St Vallier and changed the colours to give a more Anglo-Irish aesthetic, with the mitre using the blue and green shown on the other coats of arms here.

TIDMOUTH

Escutcheon: Quarterly Azure and Vert 1st a lymphad 2nd a Smith’s hammer & tongs saltirewise 3rd a wheel 4th three herrings naiant all Argent.

Motto: Industry and Progress

There is some obvious faux-quartering here, though at least the colour scheme works. The first and fourth quarters refer to the towns history of fishing and later ship-building while the second and third refer to the other industries based there – possibly including the big train station.

THE NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY

Escutcheon: Per saltire Azure and Vert two gloves Argent saltirewise in fess a rose of Lancaster Proper in chief Azure a wheel or winged of same dexter Vert a fleece Argent sinister Vert a mattock Argent hafted Or in base Azure three herrings naiant Argent.

Motto: Nil Unquam Simile (There’s Nothing Quite Like It)

The gloves are here again, though I have elongated and narrowed them to fit the saltire. The herrings also make a reappearance. The winged wheel has a long history in heraldry and has appeared in the arms of a few real-life transport companies. The fleece and mattock presumably represent agriculture and industry, both of which are serviced by the railway but do not have any more specific importance. The rose refers to Sodor’s attachment to the Duchy of Lancaster, though of course its symbolism as such is very much a modern affectation.

While we are here, let us recap the other heraldic images I have mentioned here before:

THE SODOR REGIMENT

Escutcheon: Sable two gloves Argent saltirewise, charged in fess with the Rose of Lancaster Proper.

The blazon is given in the book (described as the regiment’s “colours”), though I wasn’t sure which shape to use for the field. The significance of the red rose and the white gloves has already been explained. The military is not covered much in the franchise so their is little detail to give here.

THE EARL OF SODOR

The Norramby line is mentioned in the book but nothing is said of them armorially. When the earl appears in the 2013 special “King of the Railway” his shield is Azure a pale Argent bearing a representation of Ulfstead Castle, with a jewelled Eastern crown on top and two lions rampant Or as supporters.

Taken as a whole, the Sudrian arms are a mixed bag – just as in real life. The time of matriculation for any of these devices is not specified, though we can guess from both content and context – the North Western Railway was formed in 1915 so its arms cannot be older unless inherited from one of the predecessor companies (earliest 1853). It looks a little too busy, as do those of many real railway companies from the time. The regimental badge, featuring the red rose, is probably from no earlier than Victoria’s reign. The faux-quartering on Tidmouth’s shield suggests a much more modern adoption, most likely by assumption in the mid-twentieth century. The shield of Crovan’s Gate is simple enough that it could be medieval. I am not sure about Suddery as I do not know how far back precedent can be found for the depiction of humanoid religious icons in heraldry.

I notice that blue and white seem to be the most persistent (though of course not universal) colours in the island’s civic and corporate heraldry as well as in the flag. This could be the diagetic reason for the majority of the main characters on the North Western Railway being painted blue. It would also fit the historical connections made in the source material, as blue and white were the livery colours of both the House of Lancaster and the Lordship of Ireland.

UPDATE (1st November)

I have just discovered the website Railway Mania, dedicated to building and running model trains. A subsidiary project is Sodor Histories, an attempt at re-imagining Awdry’s island in as much detail and as realistic a manner as possible. It’s well worth a look for the truly dedicated railfan.

Matters of the Harp

Heraldists and historians will know that there have long been two versions of the British royal arms. Prior to the death of Elizabeth I the arms of England had been three yellow lions passant guardant on a red background, while those of Scotland had been one red lion rampant on a yellow background. When James VI of Scotland ascended to the English he quartered the arms of both countries to indicate their personal union, albeit varying the precedence so that each kingdom had its own arms in both the first and fourth quarters with the other’s confined to the second. This duality continued even after the 1707 union into Great Britain, although the “English” version is the standard one used internationally, with the Scottish version being purely for internal purposes. Though the first, second and fourth quarters of the shield have chopped and changed much over the centuries, the third quarter of both shields has consistently been Azure a harp Or stringed Argent. This represented the Kingdom of Ireland since its creation in 1542, though its usage in other capacities can be traced back much further. Prior to 1603 Ireland was not referenced in the English royal arms. What is a little perplexing to those interested in this subject is that neither James nor his successors ever created a distinct Irish arrangement of the shield as he had English and Scottish ones. Instead it seems that Ireland (both before and after the 1801 union) used either the same arrangement as in England or the harp alone.

One might have expected some other curious heraldist to have come up with such illustrations by now – for the interpolation is fairly simple – but I could not find any, so set about performing the thought experiment myself. After a few hours of cutting and splicing Sodacan’s familiar pictures I had produced Irish arrangements not just of the royal arms in their present state, but for every other variation that has occurred since the union of the crowns.

There were some aesthetic challenges here, the most prominent of which is that the harp in the fourth quarter has to be significantly smaller than that in the first to fit the curve of the shield, though that would be alleviated if the instrument would face right rather than left (as in the Guiness logo). It also produces some interesting colour combinations – especially in the 1714 version where the impalement of England & Scotland lines up perfectly with that of Brunswick & Lüneburg.

Readers will note that I have only made shields here, not full achievements. That is largely because I was unsure what the other elements would be. While the crowns, supporters, mottos and crests for England and Scotland solidified long before their personal union and have been consistent ever since despite numerous changes to the shield, those of Ireland are much less clear. A crest was designed for James I (A tower triple towered Or from the portal a hart springing Argent attired and unguled also Or) but it was not much used, and neither supporters nor motto were granted at all. Occasionally depictions can be found which copy those pieces from the English achievement, but this is the result of artistic fancy rather than official sanction. I would hesitate to put the Order of St Patrick around the shield, since it was only instituted in 1783 and became dormant in 1974, never achieving the same prominence as the Garter or Thistle nor appearing much in heraldic art. Certainly the present Republic of Ireland uses the shield alone and the achievement of the government of Northern Ireland from 1924-1972 is of sufficiently different appearance and origin to be ruled out as any indication of what to use here.

On a different note, the YouTube channel Terrier55Stepney recently put out a video documenting another visit to the Talyllyn Railway. Fifteen minutes in the camera points at a framed page of drawings and blazons for Sudrian heraldic devices. I mentioned this before but this time I could see the whole page (though the legibility of the handwriting remains a difficulty). I hope to have illustrated at least some of them fairly soon.

The Deputies That Weren’t

In the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle it was announced that Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State since 2019, had been appointed Deputy Prime Minister. This would appear to be the latest in a long though intermittent line of appointments to that title. On closer inspection, however, the line may not be as long as once thought. A year ago the Wikipedia page listed eight people as having held the post, with a footnote about a possible ninth. By last month, that had been revised to just three official title-holders, supplemented by alternate lists of many more unofficial ones.

The main sources for these were Vernon Bogdanor’s 1995 book The Monarchy and the Constitution, Jonathan Kirkup & Stephen Thornton’s 2015 article ‘Everyone needs a Willie’: The elusive position of deputy to the British prime minister, Rodney Brazier’s 2020 book Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain, and the Lord Norton of Louth’s 2020 book Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. The latter has been much advertised on his lordship’s blog in recent months. The differences in the lists that they give shows that there is much scholarly dispute over who can be canonically considered a deputy prime minister in this country. In addition to those who were thought to have the title but actually didn’t, there are several listed as not having the title but still performing essentially the same function.

Different authorities have different criteria for who should be counted – Bogdanor lists those who chaired the cabinet in the prime minister’s absence and chaired numerous cabinet committees, Kirkup & Thornton use a five point checklist:

  • Styled as Deputy Prime Minister in Hansard or the Gazette
  • Designated as such by the Prime Minister
  • Recognised as such by their cabinet colleagues
  • Listed second in the cabinet hierarchy
  • Answered Prime Minister’s Questions

Clement Attlee, generally considered the trope maker and codifier, was Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955, a period which included the 1940-1945 wartime coalition government. Churchill had him appointed Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1940, then Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in 1942, then Lord President of the Council in 1943. He deputised for Churchill in parliamentary questions and cabinet meetings, with many sources saying he essentially ran all domestic business of the government while Churchill focused on the war. Curiously the time period usually given for his tenure as DPM begins only in February 1942. The Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield asserts that George VI’s minute for that reshuffle just said “Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs” and that it was Churchill who wrote “Deputy Prime Minister” on a separate paper. Bogdanor also asserts that Attlee was never formally given the latter title by the King.

Herbert Morrison was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons through most Attlee’s premiership from 1945 to 1951, switching to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the last few months. He is counted by Bogdanor, Kirkup & Thornton and Norton but not by Brazier.

Sir Anthony Eden was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during Churchill’s peactime ministry of 1951 to 1955. He is considered by all the lists to have functioned as DPM, though the King did not formally appoint him as such.

R. A. Butler is counted by all, though there is dispute as to when he took office. Under Eden and Macmillan he held several overlapping posts: Lord Privy Seal (1955-59), Leader of the House of Commons (1955-61), Chairman of the Conservative Party (1959-61), Secretary of State for the Home Department (1957-62) and First Secretary of State (1962-63). Brazier considers him to have been DPM beginning in 1955 but Norton believes he only started in 1962. Both agree he ceased when Douglas-Home replaced Macmillan in 1963.

George Brown became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1960 and remained so throughout Wilson’s first two governments, resigning after the general election of 1970. From 1964 to 1966 he was First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, then he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs until 1968. It could be a typo, but Brazier apparently still considered him to have been DPM after that despite him no longer being in government.

Michael Stewart was First Secretary of State from 1966 to 1968 then Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs from 1968 to 1970, succeeding Brown in both offices. He is counted by Bogdanor as well as Kirkup & Thornton to have been DPM in the last two years.

Curiously none of the authors consider Barbara Castle (First Secretary of State 1968-70) to be worthy of inclusion.

Reginald Maudling had been appointed by Heath as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party in 1965. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department following the party’s election victory in 1970. He resigned both posts in 1972. Bogdanor and Brazier consider him to have been DPM for two years.

William Whitelaw was Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1991, being created Viscount Whitelaw roughly halfway through this period. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1979, then Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords from 1983 to 1988. All the lists include him as DPM while he was in government, but are clear that he did not actually hold the formal title.

Sir Geoffrey Howe is widely considered to have been DPM from a reshuffle in 1989 until his famous resignation in 1990. He held the posts of Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. When I commented on Norton’s blog suggesting his inclusion the noble lord replied:

Sir Geoffrey Howe was offered the title, but as he explained in his autobiography:
Charles Powell then contacted him to tell him that Buckingham Palace ‘had had a little difficulty in accepting the official description “Deputy Prime Minister” . They were proposing to follow the precedent of Eden with Churchill and use the form of words: “Sir Geoffrey will act as Deputy Prime Minister”.

Michael Heseltine, it seems, is the first to be definitively appointed Deputy Prime Minister. He held the title from 1995 to 1997 as well as being First Secretary of State.

John Prescott was the second canonical incumbent. He had been elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1994 and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister after the general election of 1997, resigning both posts in 2007. For his first four years in government he was Secretary of State for Environment, Transport & the Regions. Thereafter he was First Secretary of State.

It is another curiosity that none of the lists include anyone for Gordon Brown’s premiership, even though the Lord Mandelson (First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Council 2009-2010) was widely considered to be DPM for the last eleven months of New Labour.

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats throughout their coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015, was the third canonical DPM. He was also appointed Lord President of the Council and Minister for Political & Constitutional Reform. He regularly stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.

William Hague was First Secretary of State through the same period. He was the second Conservative in the cabinet hierarchy and answered Prime Minister’s Questions when both of his superiors were absent. He was the senior member of Cameron’s shadow cabinet and so probably would have been DPM had the party won outright in 2010.

George Osborne was First Secretary of State and second in the cabinet ranking during Cameron’s second government of 2015 to 2016. He answered Prime Minister’s Questions in Cameron’s absence.

Theresa May did not appoint a DPM for FSoS during her first ministry. Most seem to have assumed that Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer) was deputy by default. When she missed PMQs on 7 December it was David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, who stood in for her.

Damian Green was appointed First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office in June 2017 but had to resign in scandal in December. He was second in the cabinet ranking and deputised at PMQs.

David Lidington was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from January 2018 to July 2019. He was second in the cabinet ranking throughout despite not holding either of the usual titles. He again deputised at PMQs during this period.

Dominic Raab was appointed First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs in July 2019. He resigned both posts this month in favour of Deputy Prime Minister, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and Secretary of State for Justice. Bizarrely many press sources called this a demotion. He took charge of the government last year when Boris Johnson was in intensive care, and has deputised at PMQs many times, including last week. He would appear to be the fourth canonical DPM, having the title in Hansard as well as in government publications (no Gazette mention yet). Oddly the cabinet rankings until recently had him below the Chancellors of the Exchequer (Sajid Javid, then Rishi Sunak) and the most recent list of cabinet committees showed he wasn’t chairing any of them.

One might reasonably be wondering at this point as to the constitutional distinction between Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State. Put simply, the latter actually exists in law. Every time a new first secretary is appointed there will be an order in council recording it, in the same way as for all the other secretaries of state. The office commands a salary in its own right and so an incumbent does not need to hold a sinecure in conjunction. This is in contrast to Deputy Prime Minister, which has no legal existence and is, in effect, simply a courtesy title given by the actual Prime Minister. Every holder of the title has simultaneously held at least one other ministerial office.

There is, though, one way in which First Secretary of State is like the Deputy Prime Minister and unlike the other secretaries of state. As I commented to Norton last year:

The main difference between the First Secretary of State and all the others is that he is a minister without a ministry. While there is an Order in Council to appoint a new First Secretary of State each time, there has never been a statutory instrument to establish a corresponding First Department. For this reason there is a little similarity with the title of Deputy Prime Minister in that leaving the position vacant has the same practical effect as abolishing it (indeed the press often don’t know which term to use), because the role cannot be proven to exist if it is not occupied.