Role and history of the Nottinghamshire Lieutenancy

The office of Lord-Lieutenant has existed for well over four hundred years.

Each county has a Lord-Lieutenant who is the local representative of Her Majesty The Queen in that county. In Nottinghamshire this includes the City of Nottingham, as well as all of the boroughs and districts in the surrounding county area.

The Lord-Lieutenant's first and foremost duty is to uphold the dignity of the Crown. He 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.

Main duties:

  • 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)
  • representing Her Majesty The Queen at the ceremony which is intended to celebrate the significance of becoming a British citizen and welcome new citizens into the community.

Lord-Lieutenants are appointed by the Monarch to serve until they reach the age of 75 years.

History of the Nottinghamshire Lieutenancy

The Office of H.M. Lieutenant for a County or Counties is generally accepted to have begun in 1547 as a temporary military post when the military functions of the Sheriff were transferred to him and he became responsible for the county bodies of the trained bands. The trained bands had their origins in the Fyrd of Anglo-Saxon times and were the pre-cursors of the Militia of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

he Lieutenancy was not initially a cut and dried system and only gradually developed, indeed it was not until after the Restoration that the move toward a Lord Lieutenant in each County took place. Before that, senior noblemen, usually absentee, tended to hold multiple Lieutenancies, and later appointed Deputies to serve locally.

The early Commissions were not for life, and only lasted for the event of crisis for which they were originated. Some were appointed more than once or were superseded and later reappointed and the starting date of the successor is not therefore necessarily the cessation date of the predecessor. After 1588 the Commissions were retained instead of being lapsed, although a change of Sovereign could result in a change of Lord-Lieutenant. The Authority for the appointment varied from time to time between the Sovereign and Parliament via the Privy Council.

A means of communication

His active duties were mainly to do with the raising and training of the forces of the Crown. However, by whatever name called from time to time, the Lord-Lieutenant was also responsible for the selection and administration of the Justices of the Peace. Therefore since the early years of the 18th Century the Lord-Lieutenant has normally, but not invariably, been the leading Justice under the title of Custos Rotulorum - Keeper of the Rolls. Thus it evolved that the Lieutenancy was not only the arm for raising troops, but also a means of communication between the Government and the country, working through the Deputy Lieutenants in the former case and through the Justices in the latter.

Matters proceeded roughly in this way until the Cardwell reforms of the Armed Forces in the latter half of the 19th Century, when military matters were revested in the Crown and exercised through the Secretaries of State. However to this day the Lord-Lieutenants are Presidents or Vice-Presidents of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve Association appropriate to their County, and they continue, although now with the assistance of a committee, to recommend to the Lord Chancellor candidates for appointment as Justices of the Peace. Like the Sovereign he represents, however, the Lord-Lieutenant stands, first and foremost, not for anything political but for the general social life of his County and his duties are mostly, but not entirely, of a ceremonial nature. Unless informed that the visit is of a private nature and that his attendance will not be necessary, the Lord-Lieutenant is required to meet and attend the Sovereign and other members of the Royal Family on visits to his County.

An honorary office

In present times, a Lord-Lieutenant is an honorary officer appointed by the Crown by Letters Patent under the Great Seal on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. He is the permanent representative of the Crown in the County for which he is appointed and his appointment does not now lapse with the demise of the Sovereign.

Since April 1 1974, he is officially appointed as "Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of ... and in the County of..." although less formally known as the "Lord-Lieutenant of." Prior to that date, he was officially appointed as "Her Majesty’s Lieutenant of and in etc," and the title Lord Lieutenant (unhyphenated) was a mere colloquialism. The title is now hyphenated and the plural is "Lord-Lieutenants."

Since April 1 1974, the Crown may appoint one or more Lieutenants in addition to the Lord-Lieutenant where the size or needs or other circumstances of a County require. The Lord-Lieutenant may appoint one of them to act also as Vice Lord-Lieutenant.

There are no post nominal letters denoting the Office of Lord-Lieutenant.

The Lord-Lieutenant appoints the Clerk of the Lieutenancy. The duties include:

  • publishing in the London Gazette and other media if required the names and dates of commission of newly appointed Vice Lord-Lieutenants and Deputy Lieutenants
  • obtaining confirmation annually that the Vice Lord-Lieutenant and all Deputy Lieutenants are still residentially qualified
  • preparing the commissions of the Vice Lord-Lieutenant and the Deputy Lieutenants
  • undertaking all the necessary clerical and staff work in connection with the functions of the Lieutenancy, including a wide variety of activities and ceremonial duties, both military and civil, with which the Lieutenancy is involved. 

The County records show the existence early in the reign of Charles I of a Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants in Nottinghamshire. On April 20 1628 William Earl of Newcastle "Lieutenant of this County" sent to the Court of Quarter Sessions accounts signed by Gervase Clifton, Bart., H. Wasteneys, Bart., and William Cooper Esq., his Deputy Lieutenants of moneys collected and levied from the County by the said Earl the whole time of his Lieutenancy for provision of soldiers and not expended by him which accounts were ordered to be filed.

The Reverend Dr. J. C. Cox, the well-known Derbyshire antiquary, says that during the Long Parliament (November 3 1640) there was trouble about the right of the Crown to issue Commissions of Lieutenancy and later also between Charles I and his people. The point however was definitely settled after the Restoration by an Act of 1662 for "ordering the Forces in the several Counties of this Kingdom" which empowered the King to issue Commissions of Lieutenancy and defined the powers of the Lieutenants in respect of military affairs and authorised them to recommend to His Majesty names of suitable persons for appointment as Deputy Lieutenants.

An act of 1786 authorised the constitution by the Crown of Lieutenants for the Counties, Ridings and places thereinafter mentioned and the appointment of Deputy Lieutenants on nomination by the Lieutenant and also the appointment of Clerks to the Lieutenancy. Amongst the Counties names were the County of Nottingham with the Town and County of Nottingham.

The Lord-Lieutenant had much to do with the armed forces in 1715, 1745 and during the war with the American Colonies and France.

According to the Reverend Dr. Cox during part of the 16th Century the Deputy Lieutenants were styled Commissioners, but from 1570 they were styled Deputy Lieutenants. In the reign of James I they were expected to help in training in Trained Bands, the predecessors of the militia, and in the first year of Charles I they were asked by the King to help in bringing recusants before the Assizes if "obstinate and wilful", and to find mariners for the Navy, while in 1640 they helped to quarter soldiers.

After the year of 1756 when the militia were reorganised they had greater responsibilities in connection with that body of troops.

For more information about Lord-Lieutenants, visit the website of The British Monarchy.

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