Secretary of State (England)

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England
Secretary of State
Coat of Arms of England (1603-1649).svg
Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of England from 1603 to 1649
Member of Privy Council
Seat Westminster, London
AppointerThe English Monarch
Term length No fixed term
Formation1253–1645
First holder John Maunsell
Final holder George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Richard Foxe, King's Secretary from 1485 to 1487 Bishop Richard Foxe.jpg
Richard Foxe, King's Secretary from 1485 to 1487

In the Kingdom of England, the title of Secretary of State came into being near the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), the usual title before that having been King's Clerk, King's Secretary, or Principal Secretary.

Contents

From the time of Henry VIII, there were usually two secretaries of state. After the restoration of the monarchy of 1660, the two posts were specifically designated as the Secretary of State for the Northern Department and the Secretary of State for the Southern Department. Both dealt with home affairs and they divided foreign affairs between them.

History

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, a Secretary of Queen Elizabeth William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley from NPG (2).jpg
William Cecil, Lord Burghley, a Secretary of Queen Elizabeth

The medieval kings of England had a clerical servant, at first known as their Clerk, later as their Secretary. The primary duty of this office was carrying on the monarch's official correspondence, but in varying degrees the holder also advised the Crown, and by the early fourteenth century, the position was in effect the third most powerful office of state in England, ranking after the Lord Chancellor.

Most administrative business went through the royal household, particularly the Wardrobe. The Privy Seal's warrants increased rapidly in quantity and frequency during the late Middle Ages. The Signet warrant, kept by the Keeper of the Privy Seal, could be used to stamp documents on authority of chancery and on behalf of the Chancellor. [1] During wartime, the king took his privy seal with him wherever he went. Its controller was the Secretary, who served on military and diplomatic missions; and the Wardrobe clerks assumed an even greater importance. [2]

Until the reign of King Henry VIII (1509–1547), there was usually only one such secretary at a time, but by the end of Henry's reign there was also a second secretary. At about the end of the reign of Henry's daughter Elizabeth I (1558–1603), the secretaries began to be called "Secretary of State". After the Restoration of 1660, the two posts came to be known as the Secretary of State for the Northern Department and the Secretary of State for the Southern Department. Both of the secretaries dealt with internal matters, but they also divided foreign affairs between them. One dealt with northern Europe (the mostly Protestant states) and the other with southern Europe. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Cabinet took over the practical direction of affairs previously undertaken by the Privy Council, and the two secretaries of state gained ever more responsible powers.

List of officeholders

Lancaster and York

Tudor

Stuart

Commonwealth & Protectorate

For the subsequent period see:

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References

Citations

  1. Keen 2004, p. 3.
  2. Keen 2004, p. 32.
  3. Pollard, Albert Frederick (1911). "Burghley, William Cecil, Baron"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 816–817.
  4. Archer, Ian W. "Smith, Sir Thomas (1513–1577)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/25906.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. Adams, Simon; Bryson, Alan; Leimon, Mitchell. "Walsingham, Sir Francis (c.1532–1590)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28624.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. Croft, Pauline. "Cecil, Robert, first earl of Salisbury (1563–1612)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4980.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. Yorke, Philip Chesney (1911). "Bristol, George Digby, 2nd Earl of"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 576–577.

Sources

Further reading