History of the office of the Lord-Lieutenant

In England the office of Lord-Lieutenant is military in origin and dates from the reign of Henry VIII. The County Lieutenancies of Middlesex, Essex, Surrey and Kent used to cover the area now known as Greater London but in 1889 a separate ‘London’ Lieutenancy was established.

Originally the Sheriff was responsible for maintaining order and using the military measures necessary for defence of his local area. However, in Tudor times, Henry VIII allowed some noblemen to raise local armies to resist invasions. These were the first Lord-Lieutenants.

Later in the 16th century a more formal system of lieutenancies was introduced ‘for the suppressing of any commotion, rebellions or unlawful assemblies’. It is from this post that the modern day Lord-Lieutenants evolve.

Following the Restoration in 1660 the Lord-Lieutenants passed out of the track of constitutional storms but it was only in 1921 that they lost the power to call on able-bodied men to fight. Nevertheless, duties connected with the Armed Forces of the Crown, and in particular the Volunteer Reserve Forces and Cadets remain an important part of today’s role.

Today the Lord-Lieutenant is an honorary office appointed by the Crown, under letters patent, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and holds the office until retirement at not later than the age of 75.

Until recently most appointments to the Lieutenancy have been from individuals with a Service background but there is now a move towards appointing people from civilian backgrounds thus making their composition more representative of the community. At the same time the work of the Lieutenancy is extending into other areas – in particular into youth work, volunteer schemes, charities and business.

For more information about past Lord-Lieutenants of London click here.

The London Lieutenancy was established in 1889 with the creation of the County of London by the Local Government Act 1888. The Act also led to the ending of the Tower Hamlets Lieutenancy. The Greater London Lieutenancy replaced the London Lieutenancy in 1965 as a result of changes to Local Government in England and the London Government Act 1963. This Act abolished the counties of London and Middlesex, also ending the Middlesex Lieutenancy, and created London’s thirty two Borough Councils.

The City of London was unaffected by the changes since 1889 and continues to have has its own Commission of Lieutenancy instead of a single Lord-Lieutenant. The head of the Commission is the Lord Mayor of the City of London.


London 1889 – 1965 and Greater London 1965 – Present

First Lord-Lieutenant of London - 1st Duke of Westminster

First Lord-Lieutenant of London – 1st Duke of Westminster

1889 – 99  1st Duke of Westminster

1900 – 12  1st Duke of Fife

1912 – 44  Marquess of Crewe

1944 – 49  7th Duke of Wellington

1949 – 50  Field Marshal Earl Wavell

1950 – 56  Field Marshal 1st Viscount Alanbrooke

1957 – 66  Field Marshal 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis

1966 – 73  Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer

1973 – 78  Marshal of the Royal Air Force The Lord Elworthy

1978 – 85  The Baroness Phillips

1986 – 98  Field Marshal The Lord Bramall

1998 – 08  The Lord Imbert

2008 – 15  Sir David Brewer

2015 –       Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE