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Lord High Treasurer: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord High Treasurer bears a white staff as his symbol of office.

The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer is an old English (after 1707, British) government position. The holder of the post is third highest of the Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Chancellor and above the Lord President of the Council. The Lord High Treasurer functions as the head of Her Majesty's Treasury.

Since the 17th century the office has been often held not by a single person but by a board of several individuals known as Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, a practice that become permanent after the resignation of Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury in 1714.

In modern times, by convention, the Prime Minister serves as the "First Lord of the Treasury," and the Chancellor of the Exchequer serves as the "Second Lord of the Treasury." Other members of the Government (usually whips in the House of Commons) are appointed to serve as the junior Lords Commissioners.



The English Treasury seems to have come into existence around 1126, during the reign of Henry I, as the financial responsibilities were separated from the rest of the job that evolved into Lord Great Chamberlain. The Treasury was originally a section of the Royal Household with custody of the King's money. In 1216, a Treasurer was appointed to take control of the Treasury in Winchester. The Treasurer was also an officer of the Exchequer, and supervised the royal accounts. By Tudor times, the Lord High Treasurer had achieved a place among the Great Officers of State, behind the Lord Chancellor and above the Master of the Horse.

During the sixteenth century, the Lord High Treasurer was often considered the most important official of the government, and became a de facto Prime Minister. Exemplifying the power of the Lord High Treasurer is William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, who served in the post from 1572 to 1598. During his tenure, he dominated the administration under Elizabeth I.[1]

The modern commissioners

A rarely-varied system has evolved since then. Today, the First Lord of the Treasury is as a rule the Prime Minister, and the Second Lord of the Treasury is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has inherited most of the functional financial responsibilities.

The next highest ranking commissioners are the Secretaries to the Treasury. They are the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is also of Cabinet rank and is the senior deputy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who ranks alongside Ministers of State; the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who rank alongside Parliamentary Under-Secretaries; the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury who has no actual responsibilities in the Treasury but is instead the Government Chief Whip in the House of Commons; and finally the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury who must be distinguished from the other secretaries, as he is not a politician but the department's senior civil servant, considered second in rank among all civil servants to the Secretary to the Cabinet.

After the secretaries rank the "Junior Lords of the Treasury" who, though theoretically members of the Treasury Board, in practice serve as Government Whips under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip).


  1. ^ Loades, D., The Cecils: Privilege and Power behind the throne, The National Archives, 2007.

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LORD HIGH TREASURER, in England, once the third great officer of state. The office was of Norman origin and dated from 1216. The duty of the treasurer originally was to act as keeper of the royal treasure at Winchester, while as officer of the exchequer he sat at Westminster to receive the accounts of the sheriffs, and appoint officers to collect the revenue. The treasurer was subordinate to both the justiciar and the chancellor, but the removal of the chancery from the exchequer in the reign of Richard and the abolition of the office of justiciars in the reign of Henry III., increased his importance. Indeed, from the middle of the reign of Henry III. he became one of the chief officers of the crown. He took an important part in the equitable jurisdiction of the exchequer, and was now styled not merely king's treasurer or treasurer of the exchequer, but lord high treasurer and treasurer of the exchequer. The first office was conferred by delivery of a white staff, the second by patent. Near the end of the 16th century he had developed into an official so occupied with the general policy of the country as to be prevented from supervising personally the details of the department, and Lord Burleigh employed a secretary for this purpose. On the death of Lord Salisbury in 1612 the office was put in commission; it was filled from time to time until 1714, when the duke of Shrewsbury resigned it; since that time it has always been in commission (see Treasury). The Scottish treasury was merged with the English by the Act of Union, but the office of lord high treasurer for Ireland was continued until 1816.

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