Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports: Wikis

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Flag of the present Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Admiral Lord Boyce

The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports is a ceremonial official in the United Kingdom. The post dates from at least the 12th century but may be older. The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was originally in charge of the Cinque Ports, a group of five port towns on the south coast of England. Today the role is a sinecure and an honorary title. The title is one of the higher honours bestowed by the Sovereign. It has often been held by members of the Royal Family or Prime Ministers, especially those who have been influential in defending Britain at times of war.

The Lord Warden was solely responsible for the return of all writs to the Crown, along with the collection of taxes and the arrest of criminals. His court was held in St James's church, near Dover Castle, and there he exercised jurisdiction broadly equivalent to that of Chancery. He also had a "lieutenant's powers of muster", and the Constableship of Dover Castle, later added to the Warden's office, enabled him to keep a garrison and administrative staff, including the Clerk and the Lieutenant of the Castle.

The Coat of Arms of the Cinque Ports first appeared in 1305, second amongst the earliest English known heraldic emblems, predating even the coat of arms of the City of London. The Coat of Arms of the Cinque Ports displays three ships' hulls and three Lions passant guardant con-joined to these hulls, all in gold. These may originally have been Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or (for England) dimidiating Gules three ships' hulks in pale Or. The Coat of Arms of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports is set out on a red and blue background and traditionally represents the 14 'Corporate' Members.

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Creation and appointment of the Lord Warden

The creation and appointment of the Lord Warden, once the most powerful appointment of the realm, by the Sovereign was instituted principally after the portsmen sided with the Earl of Leicester against King Henry III, in the Second Barons' War, and was intended to provide some central authority over the Cinque Ports, which were essentially otherwise independent of the King's sheriffs. It was combined with the office of Constable of Dover Castle. However from 1708 Walmer Castle at Deal was to be preferred as the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Lord Warden also holds the office of Admiral of the Cinque Ports with a maritime jurisdiction extending to the middle of the English Channel, from Redcliffe near Seaford, in Sussex to Shoe Beacon in Essex.

The courts of Brodhull and Guestling were established to protect the privileges of the Cinque Ports by the portsmen themselves. From the 15th Century these courts had been largely replaced by the Lord Warden's Court at Dover. From the 16th Century the principal business of the courts was the installation the Lord Warden and the court is now only occasionally summoned. The office continued to be a powerful one. In 1550 the Mayor and Jurats of Dover refused to accept a Royal Writ because it was not accompanied by a letter of attendance from the Lord Warden. The member ports' parliamentary representatives were appointed by the Lord Warden at first; this influence continued until the 19th century.

At the installation of a new Lord Warden, the Speaker of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports instructs the Lord Warden: "to undertake the duties of the Ancient and Honourable Office and to uphold the Franchises, Liberties, Customs and Usages of the port."

The office of Speaker has traditionally rotated between the affiliate townships every year dating from at least 1550. Inaugurations are begun on 21 May, and membership is ordained through a longstanding maritime tradition of a principle of the prevailing winds coming from west to east.

All Freemen of the Ports originally held the title "Baron of the Cinque Ports". The traditional title, which bears no relationship with those lords in command of castles, otherwise referred to as Barons, is now reserved for Freemen elected by the Mayor, Jurats, and Common Council of the Ports to attend a Coronation, also now only in an honorary capacity.

The position of Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports is the most ancient military honour available in England. Of the 158 holders of the office, only three have to date been commoners.

List of Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports

The first authoritative list of Cinque Ports Confederation Members was produced in 1293 when Stephen of Pencester was Warden. The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports is appointed for life, but in the earliest of records this was not the case. The office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports has been traced from the year 1226 from the appointment William de Averanch, although he was not the first incumbent of this office. The longest term of office was that of William Brook, Lord Cobham, who presided at the court for 40 years.

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12th Century

13th Century

14th Century

15th Century

16th Century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

21st century

Further reading

  • Body, Edward (1992) The Cinque Ports and Lords Warden : a history in verse and prose, Larkfield : Kent Messenger, ISBN 0-900893-13-3
  • Brentnall, Margaret (1972) The Cinque Ports and Romney Marsh, London : Gifford, ISBN 0-7071-0223-5

External links


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