The Right Honourable: Wikis


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The Right Honourable (abbreviated as The Rt Hon.) is an honorific prefix that is traditionally applied to certain people in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Anglophone Caribbean and other Commonwealth Realms, and occasionally elsewhere. Examples of this are The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.



People entitled to the prefix in a personal capacity are:

In order to differentiate peers who are Privy Counsellors from those who are not, sometimes the suffix PC is added to the title.

In addition, some people are entitled to the prefix in an official capacity, i.e. the prefix is added to the name of the office, not the name of the person:

^1 The Lord Mayor of Bristol uses the prefix without official sanction.[1][2]

The Chairman of the London County Council (LCC) was granted the style in 1935 as part of the celebrations of the silver jubilee of George V.[3] The Chairman of the Greater London Council, the body that replaced the LCC in 1965, was similarly granted the prefix.[4] The office was abolished in 1986.

Collective entities

"The Right Honourable" is also added as a prefix to the name of various collective entities, e.g.:

  • The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal (of the United Kingdom etc.) in Parliament Assembled (the House of Lords);
  • The Right Honourable the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses (of the House of Commons / Commons House) in Parliament Assembled [1] (the House of Commons) (archaic - now simply The Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom etc. [2]); and
  • The Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (the former Board of Admiralty)
  • The Right Honourable the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations (the Board of Trade)

See also the collective use of "Most Honourable," as in "The Lords of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council" (the Privy Council).

Use of the honorific

The honorific is normally used only on the front of envelopes and other written documents: for example, the Rt Hon. Ann Widdecombe MP is otherwise referred to simply as "Miss Widdecombe".

In the House of Commons, members refer to each other as "the honourable member for ..." or "the right honourable member for ..." depending on whether or not they are Privy Councillors. Members usually refer to those in their own party as, "My (right) honourable friend", and to those in other parties as "the (right) honourable lady / gentleman"

When a married woman holds this style, she uses her own given name in her style. So, when Margaret Thatcher was made a Privy Councillor her formal style changed from "Mrs Denis Thatcher" to "The Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher".

Outside the United Kingdom

Generally within the Commonwealth, ministers and judges are The Honourable unless they are appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, in which case they are The Right Honourable. Such persons generally include Prime Ministers and judges of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand, and several other Commonwealth prime ministers.



In Australia some Premiers of the Australian colonies in the 19th century were appointed members of the UK Privy Council and were thus entitled to be called The Right Honourable. After Federation in 1901, the Governor-General, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Prime Minister and some other senior ministers held the title. There has never been an Australian Privy Council.

In 1972 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declined appointment to the Privy Council, but the practice was resumed by Malcolm Fraser in 1975. In 1983 Bob Hawke declined the appointment, and the appointment of Australians to the Privy Council was abolished in 1986. The last Governor-General to be entitled to the style was Sir Ninian Stephen. The last politician to be entitled to the style was Ian Sinclair, who retired in 1998.

The only living Australians holding the title The Right Honourable for life are:

The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart are styled The Right Honourable, but the style (which has no connection with the Privy Council) attaches to the title of Lord Mayor, and not to their names, and is relinquished upon leaving office. Reginald Withers holds the title Right Honourable for life by virtue of being a member of the Privy Council, not by virtue of being former Lord Mayor of Perth.


In Canada, members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada receive the honorific The Honourable, with only the occupants of the most senior public offices being made The Right Honourable, as they used to be appointed to the UK Privy Council.

L'Honorable and le Très Honorable are used in French by the federal government, but the Office québécois de la langue française (the Quebec government body setting standards for the French language in Quebec) considers them improper loan expressions and advises the use of Monsieur and Madame (Mr. and Ms.) instead.

Individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:

(Governors General also use the style His/Her Excellency during their term of office.)

Before the style Right Honourable came into use for all prime ministers, three prime ministers did not have the style as they were not UK Privy Counsellors. These were the Hon Alexander Mackenzie, the Hon. Sir John Abbott and the Hon. Sir Mackenzie Bowell.

Several prominent Canadians (mostly politicians) have become members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and have thus been entitled to use the title Right Honourable, either because of their services in Britain (e.g. serving as envoys to London) or as members of the Imperial War Cabinet or due to their prominence in the Canadian Cabinet. These include:

1 - As Prime Minister.

2 - Tupper was appointed when he was no longer Prime Minister and St. Laurent was appointed when he was a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King.

3 - Massey became Governor General over a decade later. He was made "Right Honourable" while serving as Canada's High Commissioner to London.

4 - As Chief Justice of Canada

5 - As Governor General of Canada.

6 - Duff did not become Chief Justice until 1933.

Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Since then, the style may be granted for life only by the Governor General to eminent Canadians who have not held any of the offices that would otherwise entitle them to the style. It has been granted to the following individuals:


Members of the Privy Council of Ireland were entitled to be addressed as The Right Honourable until the Privy Council was abolished with the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922; nevertheless, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, like his counterparts in the United Kingdom, retained the usage of the honorific after this time as a result of a separate conferring of the title by law; in 2001 the honorific was removed as a consequence of local government law reform. The Lord Mayor of Cork has never been entitled to the title.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister and some other senior cabinet ministers have customarily been appointed to the UK Privy Council and styled The Right Honourable.[5] Senior Judges are also often appointed as Privy Counsellors.

The former Prime Minister Helen Clark did not recommend any new Privy Counsellors. At present, there are no Privy Counsellors in the New Zealand parliament. Privy Counsellors recently retired include former Prime Minister Helen Clark, the former Speaker of the House, Jonathan Hunt, and former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.[6] Winston Peters was defeated at the election. In 2009 it was announced that Prime Minister John Key had decided not to make any further recommendations to the British Prime Minister for appointments to the Council.[7]

The living New Zealanders holding the title The Right Honourable for life are:

The Republic of Turkey

The President of the Council of State of the Republic of Turkey, is also styled with the prefix "The Right Honourable" [3].

The Council of State of the Turkish State was transformed from the "Supreme Council for Judicial Regulations (Meclis-i Vala-i Ahkam-ı Adliye)" of the Imperial Ottoman State, and thus imported with it the various titles and honorifics in such era.

See also


  1. ^ The Title of Lord Mayor - Use of the Prefix "Right Honourable", The Times, July 7, 1932, p.16
  2. ^ "Lord Mayor of Bristol". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "Royal Guests of L.C.C. The Queen At The County Hall, Honour For Chairman". The Times: p. 16. 1 June 1935. 
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 43613, p. 3195, 30 March 1965.
  5. ^ "The title "The Honourable" and the Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  6. ^ "The Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  7. ^ "Honours Q and A". 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 

External links


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