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A sinecure ( // or // ; from Latin sine = "without" and cura = "care") is an office – carrying a salary or otherwise generating income – that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medieval church, where it signified a post without any responsibility for the "cure [care] of souls", the regular liturgical and pastoral functions of a cleric, but came to be applied to any post, secular or ecclesiastical, that involved little or no actual work. Sinecures have historically provided a potent tool for governments or monarchs to distribute patronage, while recipients are able to store up titles and easy salaries.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists such as musicians, painters, and sculptors. It can also refer to the right of bestowing offices or church benefices, the business given to a store by a regular customer, and the guardianship of saints. The word "patron" derives from the Latin: patronus ("patron"), one who gives benefits to his clients.
A sinecure is not necessarily a figurehead, which generally requires active participation in government, albeit with a lack of power.
A sinecure can also be given to an individual whose primary job is in another office, but requires a sinecure title to perform that job. For example, the Government House Leader in Canada is often given a sinecure ministry position so that he or she may become a member of the Cabinet. Similar examples are the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the British cabinet. Other sinecures operate as legal fictions, such as the British office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, used as a legal excuse for resigning from Parliament.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, more commonly known as the Government House Leader, is the Cabinet minister responsible for planning and managing the government's legislative program in the House of Commons of Canada.
The Cabinet of Canada is a body of ministers of the Crown that, along with the Canadian monarch, and within the tenets of the Westminster system, forms the government of Canada. Chaired by the prime minister, the Cabinet is a committee of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and the senior echelon of the Ministry, the membership of the Cabinet and ministry often being co-terminal; as of November 2015 there are no members of the latter who are not also members of the former.
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. Originally, its holder was responsible for the monarch's personal (privy) seal until the use of such a seal became obsolete. The office is currently one of the traditional sinecure offices of state. Today, the holder of the office is invariably given a seat in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.
Sinecure, properly a term of ecclesiastical law for a benefice without the cure of souls, arose in the English Church when the rector had no cure of souls nor resided in the parish, the work of the incumbent being performed by a vicar.[ citation needed ] Such sinecure rectories were expressly granted by the patron. They were abolished by parliament under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act of 1840.[ citation needed ]
A benefice or living is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The Roman Empire used the Latin term beneficium as a benefit to an individual from the Empire for services rendered. Its use was adopted by the Western Church in the Carolingian Era as a benefit bestowed by the crown or church officials. A benefice specifically from a church is called a precaria such as a stipend and one from a monarch or nobleman is usually called a fief. A benefice is distinct from an allod, in that an allod is property owned outright, not bestowed by a higher authority.
The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.
A rector is, in an ecclesiastical sense, a cleric who functions as an administrative leader in some Christian denominations. In contrast, a vicar is also a cleric but functions as an assistant and representative of an administrative leader. The term comes from the Latin for the helmsman of a ship.
Other ecclesiastical sinecures were certain cathedral dignities to which no spiritual functions attached or incumbencies where by reason of depopulation and the like, the parishioners disappeared or the parish church was allowed to decay. Such cases eventually ceased to exist.
A cathedral is a church that contains the cathedra of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a diocese, conference, or episcopate. Churches with the function of "cathedral" are usually specific to those Christian denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and some Lutheran and Methodist churches. Church buildings embodying the functions of a cathedral first appeared in Italy, Gaul, Spain and North Africa in the 4th century, but cathedrals did not become universal within the Western Catholic Church until the 12th century, by which time they had developed architectural forms, institutional structures and legal identities distinct from parish churches, monastic churches and episcopal residences.
The term is also used of any office or place to which salary emoluments or dignity, but no duties are attached. The British civil service and the royal household, for example, were loaded with innumerable offices which, by lapse of time, had become sinecures and were only kept as the reward of political services or to secure voting power in parliament.[ citation needed ] They were prevalent in the 18th century, but were gradually abolished by statutes during that and the following centuries.[ citation needed ]
Dignitas is a Latin word referring to a unique, intangible, and culturally subjective social concept in the ancient Roman mindset. The word does not have a direct translation in English. Some interpretations include "dignity", which is a derivation from "dignitas", and "prestige" or "charisma".
Below is a list of extant sinecures by country.
The House of Lords of the United Kingdom, in addition to having a legislative function, historically also had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachment cases, and as a court of last resort within the United Kingdom. In the latter case the House's jurisdiction was essentially limited to the hearing of appeals from the lower courts. Appeals were technically not to the House of Lords, but rather to the Queen-in-Parliament. By constitutional convention, only those lords who were legally qualified heard the appeals, since World War II usually in what was known as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords rather than in the chamber of the House.
Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom are technically not permitted to resign their seats. To circumvent this prohibition, MPs who wished to step down were instead appointed to an "office of profit under the Crown", which disqualifies them from sitting in Parliament. For this purpose, a legal fiction is maintained where two unpaid offices are considered to be offices of profit: Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds and Steward of the Manor of Northstead. Although the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 lists hundreds of offices that are disqualifying, no MP has lost his seat by being appointed to an actual office since 1981.
The Leader of the House of Commons is generally a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons.
The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest ranking among those Great Officers of State which are appointed regularly in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the Prime Minister. The Lord Chancellor is outranked only by the Lord High Steward, another Great Officer of State, who is appointed only for the day of coronations. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prior to the Union there were separate Lord Chancellors for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a ministerial office in the Government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In the United Kingdom, there are several Secretaries to the Treasury, who are Treasury ministers nominally acting as secretaries to HM Treasury. The origins of the office are unclear, although it probably originated during Lord Burghley's tenure as Lord Treasurer in the 16th century. The number of secretaries was expanded to two by 1714 at the latest. The Treasury ministers together discharge all the former functions of the Lord Treasurer, which are nowadays nominally vested in the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. Of the Commissioners, only the Second Lord of the Treasury, who is also the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a Treasury minister.
The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Acts of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third-highest-ranked Great Officer of State, below the Lord High Steward and the Lord High Chancellor.
In the United Kingdom the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inherit their positions or are appointed to exercise certain largely ceremonial functions or to operate as members of the government. Separate Great Officers of State exist for England and for Scotland, and formerly for Ireland. Many of the Great Officers became largely ceremonial because historically they were so influential that their powers had to be resumed by the Crown or dissipated.
Alastair Robertson Goodlad, Baron Goodlad is a British Conservative politician who served as the British High Commissioner to Australia from 2000 until 2005.
The Chief Whip is a political office in some legislatures whose task is to administer the whipping system that tries to ensure that members of the party attend and vote as the party leadership desires.
The Chiltern Hundreds is an ancient administrative area in Buckinghamshire, England, composed of three "hundreds" and lying partially within the Chiltern Hills. "Taking the Chiltern Hundreds" refers to the legal fiction used to resign from the House of Commons. Since Members of Parliament are not permitted to resign, they are instead appointed to an "office of profit under the Crown", which requires MPs to vacate their seats. The ancient office of Crown Steward for the Chiltern Hundreds, having been reduced to a mere sinecure by the 17th century, was first used by John Pitt in 1751 to vacate his seat in the House of Commons. Other titles were also later used for the same purpose, but only the Chiltern Hundreds and the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead are still in use.
James Peter Hymers Mackay, Baron Mackay of Clashfern, is a British advocate. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Lord Advocate, and Lord Chancellor (1987–1997). He is an active member of the House of Lords where he sits as a Conservative.
The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that prohibits certain categories of people from becoming members of the House of Commons. It was an updated version of similar older acts, including the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957.
In the United Kingdom there are at least six Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, serving as a commission for the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer. The board consists of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Second Lord of the Treasury, and four or more junior lords to whom this title is usually applied.
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were, in England and Wales, a body corporate, whose full title was Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England. The commissioners were authorized to determine the distribution of revenues of the Church of England, and they made extensive changes in how revenues were distributed. The modern successor body thereof are the Church Commissioners.
Following poor results for the Labour Party in the local elections in England on 4 May 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a cabinet reshuffle the following day.
Gordon Brown formed the Brown ministry after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to begin a new government following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, on 27 June 2007. He took office as Prime Minister, a title he would hold until his resignation on 11 May 2010. In his inaugural cabinet, Brown appointed the United Kingdom's first female Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.
Tony Blair originally formed the Blair ministry in May 1997 after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister, John Major of the Conservative Party, as a result of the Labour Party's landslide victory at the 1997 general election. He would serve as the Prime Minister for three successive ministries and parliamentary terms until his resignation on 27 June 2007. His Cabinet was reshuffled for each new parliament along with a few minor changes during each term.