General history: Lord Lieutenants

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.

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'General history: Lord Lieutenants', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury, 1797) pp. 231-234. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

Lord Lieutenants

IT seems acknowledged, that the kings of this realm, in antient times, appointed persons of eminent degree to be their Lieutenants in different counties, in case of domestic insurrections, or the prospect of foreign invasions. Thus ROGER DE LEYBORNE was made lieutenant of this whole shire in the latter end of the reign of king Henry III. as Lambarde tells us. (fn. 1)

These temporary lieutenants continued till the reign of king. Henry VIII. when lord lieutenants began to be introduced as standing representatives of the crown, to keep the counties in military order; and accordingly we find them mentioned as known officers in the statute of 4 and 5 Philip and Mary, (fn. 2) though they had not then been long in use; for Camden speaks of them, in the time of queen Elizabeth, as extraor dinary magistrates, constituted only in times of difficulty and danger.

The first permanent lord-lieutenant that has come to my knowledge is—

SIR WILLIAM BROOKE, lord Cobham, knight of the Garter, &c. who was Lord-lieutenant from the 1st year of queen Elizabeth, 1559, to the time of his death, which happened in the 40th year of that reign, anno 1597.

HENRY BROOKE, lord Cobham, succeeded his father in 1598, and continued in this office till his attaint, anno 1 James I. (fn. 3)

EDWARD, lord Wotton, in the 6th year of king James I. He is mentioned in the charter to the city of Canterbury, dated that year. Sir Edward Hoby, knt. was Custos Rotulorum in 1596, and died in the 16th of that reign.

JAMES, duke of Lenox, was appointed Lord-lieutenant by commission under the Great Seal, June 8, anno 18 James I.

PHILIP HERBERT, earl of Montgomery, was Lord-lieutenaut in 1626, being the 2d year of king Charles I.

HENEAGE FINCH, earl of Winchelsea, was constituted Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum on July 10, 1616, and was so in 1667.

CHARLES STUART, duke of Richmond and Lenox, was Lord-lieutenant in 1672, and died the end of that year.

CHRISTOPHER ROPER, lord Teynham, was constituted and appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum on January 1687, anno 3 James II.

VERE FANE, earl of Westmorland, and HENRY, lord viscount Sidney, were joint Lord Lieutenants, being so constituted in 1692. The former died the next year.

DANIEL FINCH, earl of Nottingham, was constituted Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum in May 1702, being the 1st year of queen Anne, and resigned the same on the 17th of April, 1704.

CHARLES FINCH, earl of Winchelsea, was made Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum in 1704. He resigned this office in 1705.

LEWIS WATSON, lord, afterwards created earl of Rockingham, was constituted Lord Lieutenant in 1705, in the room of Charles earl of Winchelsea, the doquet for that purpose bearing date the 16th of April that year. He continued in this office till his death, which happened on March 19, 1724.

JOHN SIDNEY, earl of Leicester, was constituted Lord Lieutenant on May 5, 1724, and at the same time Lionel Cranfield Sackville, duke of Dorset, was appointed Custos Rotulorum. The earl continued in this office till his death, which happened on the 27th of September 1737.

LEWIS WATSON, earl of Rockingham, was sworn in Lord Lieutenant on the 12th of January 1737, and was likewife Custos Rotulorum. He died in December 1745.

THOMAS WATSON, earl of Rockingham, brother to the last mentioned earl was, in his room, made Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum, and died possessed of this office in the February following, 1746.

LIONEL CRANFIELD SAKVILLE, duke of Dorset, was made Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotnlorum in July 1746, and continued so till his death, which happened on the 9th of October 1765.

CHARLES SACKVILLE, duke of Dorset, son of the former duke, was made Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum on the 10th of February following, 1766, and continued in these offices till his death, on January 6, 1769.

JOHN FREDERICK SACKVILLE, duke of Dorset, was constituted Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum in the room of his uncle, the last duke above-mentioned, and still continues to hold these offices.

In anno 13 and 14 of king Charles II. the king's power of issuing these commissions of lieutenancy for the several counties of this realm was confirmed by parliament; and the lieutenants were enabled to arm and array persons within their jurisdictions, as well to suppress insurrections as to repel invasions, in manner as the king should direct, and to give commissions to the officers, and that they might present to the king the names of such as they should think fit to be deputy lieutenants, and upon his approbation of them, should give them deputations; any two of whom, in the absence of the lord lieutenant, or by his direction, might exercise and conduct the persons so armed as aforesaid.

These commissions of deputy lieutenancy were given to but few, and those of the first consideration, till the second year of George II. when, on the new establishment of militia throughout England, they were granted, for the better execution of that service to most of the principal gentlemen of the county.


  • 1. Peramb. p. 359.
  • 2. Blackstone's Comm. vol. i. p. 410.
  • 3. Rym. Fœd. vol. xviii. p. 763.