Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom

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The Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, also referred to British Poet Laureate, is an honorary position appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom on the advice of the Prime Minister. The role does not entail any specific duties, but there is an expectation that the holder will write verse for significant national occasions.[1][2] The position has been held by Carol Ann Duffy since May 2009.[3] The United Kingdom also has a "Children's Laureate", currently Chris Riddell. Various poets, including Thomas Gray, Walter Scott[4] Philip Larkin,[5] and Seamus Heaney[6] have declined the post.


The role was entitled the Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of England until the Acts of Union 1707, when it became the Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The present title, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, has been used since the Acts of Union 1800.

The post was traditionally held for life, with John Dryden being the only holder to have been dismissed, in 1688, due to his refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to the new king, William III. From Andrew Motion in 1999, the appointment has been for 10 years.[7]

In 1992 Ted Hughes published Rain Charm for the Duchy, a collection of his Laureate works, including poems celebrating important royal occasions. The book also contained a section of notes, throwing light on the context and genesis of each poem.[8]

In May 2009 Carol Ann Duffy became the first woman, the first Scot and the first openly gay person to be appointed to the position.[9]

Calderdale's Young Person's Poet Laureate[edit]

In 2014, Calderdale Libraries and Calderdale's Adult Poet Laureate Gez Walsh, began a search for Calderdale's Young Poet Laureate. On October 2, the finalists (Joel Duncan (19), Natasha Eyers (18) and Katie Hazel(13)) gathered in Halifax Town Hall where the poet laureate for young people was Joel Duncan.[citation needed]

Role and rewards[edit]

The position of Poet Laureate is an honorary one that entails no specific duties, although there is an expectation that the holder will write verse to commemorate significant national occasions.[1][2] An annual honorarium is provided, currently £5,760.[2] The holder is also traditionally rewarded with a butt of canary or sack, approximately 477 litres (105 imperial gallons), of sherry,[1][3] the equivalent of 720 bottles.[10] Cash payments have been presented as an alternative to wine: in 1952, for example, John Masefield was given £27 (equivalent to £694 in 2015).[11][12]

Medieval England[edit]

Under the title versificator regis:

Tudor England[edit]

Poet Laureate Portrait Birth Alma mater Appointed Notable poetry Death
Bernard André 1450
Toulouse, France
by Henry VII 1522
John Skelton c. 1460
possibly Diss, Norfolk
University of Cambridge 1513/1514
by Henry VIII
"Speke, Parrot"
"The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe"
21 June 1529
Edmund Spenser Edmund Spenser oil painting.JPG c. 1552
Pembroke College, University of Cambridge by Elizabeth I "Epithalamium"
"The Shepheardes Calender"
"The Faerie Queene"
13 January 1599

1599 to present[edit]

Poet Laureate Portrait Birth Alma mater Appointed Notable poetry Death
Samuel Daniel Samuel Daniel.png 1562
Near Taunton, Somerset
Magdalen Hall, University of Oxford 1599
by Elizabeth I
"The Complaint of Rosamond"
Epistles to Distinguished Persons
14 October 1619
Beckington, Somerset
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson by Abraham van Blyenberch.jpg c. 11 June 1572
Westminster, London
Westminster School
(Did not attend university)
by James I
"On My First Son"
"To Penshurst"
"To Celia"
6 August 1637
Westminster, London
William Davenant
(also D'Avenant)
William Davenant.jpg late February, 1606
Lincoln College, University of Oxford
(Did not graduate)
by Charles I
"A Discourse upon Gondibert, an heroick poem"
"A Panegyric to his Excellency the Lord General Monck"
"Poem, Upon His Sacred Majesties Most Happy Return to His Dominions"
7 April 1668
John Dryden John Dryden portrait.jpg 9 August 1631
Aldwincle, Northamptonshire
Trinity College, University of Cambridge 1668
by Charles II
Dismissed by William III and Mary II in 1688
"Astraea Redux"
"Annus Mirabilis"
"Absalom and Achitophel"
12 May 1700
Thomas Shadwell ShadwellT.jpg c. 1642
Stanton Hall, Norfolk
Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge 1689
by William III and Mary II
"Dear Pretty Youth"
"Love in their little veins inspires"
"Nymphs and Shepherds"
19 November 1692
Chelsea, London
Nahum Tate Ntate.jpg 1652
Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College, Dublin 1692
by William III and Mary II
"Panacea, a poem on Tea" 30 July 1715
Southwark, London
Nicholas Rowe Nicholas Rowe from NPG.jpg 20 June 1674
Little Barford, Bedfordshire
Middle Temple 1715
by George I
"A Poem upon the Late Glorious Successes of Her Majesty's Arms"
Poems on Several Occasions
"Ode for the New Year MDCCXVI"
6 December 1718
Laurence Eusden Eusden.JPG 6 September 1688
Spofforth, North Yorkshire
Trinity College, University of Cambridge 1718
by George I
"The Origin Of The Knights Of The Bath" 27 September 1730
Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Colley Cibber Colley Cibber.jpg 11 June 1671
No formal education 1730
by George II
12 November 1757
William Whitehead Whitehead.jpg early February, 1715
Clare College, University of Cambridge 1757
by George II
(on the refusal of Thomas Gray)
"On Ridicule"
"The Enthusiast"
"The Je Ne Scai Quoi"
14 April 1785
Thomas Warton Thomaswarton.jpg 9 January 1728
Basingstoke, Hampshire
Trinity College, University of Oxford 1785
by George III
(on the refusal of William Mason)
"The Triumph of Isis"
"To the River Lodon"
21 May 1790
Henry James Pye Henry James Pye by Samuel James Arnold.jpg 20 February 1745
Magdalen College, University of Oxford 1790
by George III
(on the refusal of William Hayley)
Poems on Various Subjects
11 August 1813
Pinner, Middlesex
Robert Southey Robert Southey - Project Gutenberg eText 13619.jpg 12 August 1774
Balliol College, University of Oxford 1813
by George III
(on the refusal of Walter Scott)
"God's Judgement on a Wicked Bishop"
"The Inchcape Rock"
"After Blenheim"
"Cataract of Lodore"
21 March 1843
William Wordsworth William Wordsworth - Project Gutenberg eText 12933.jpg 7 April 1770
Cockermouth, Cumberland
St John's College, University of Cambridge 1843
by Queen Victoria
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
"The Prelude"
"Tintern Abbey"
The Lucy poems
"The World Is Too Much with Us"
23 April 1850
Grasmere, Cumberland
Alfred, Lord Tennyson Alfred Tennyson..jpg 6 August 1809
Somersby, Lincolnshire
Trinity College, University of Cambridge 1850
by Queen Victoria
(on the refusal of Samuel Rogers)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
"Tears, idle tears"
"Crossing the Bar"
In Memoriam A.H.H.
6 October 1892
Haslemere, Surrey
Alfred Austin Alfredaustin.jpg 30 May 1835
Headingley, Leeds
University of London 1896
by Queen Victoria
(on the refusal of William Morris)
"The Season: a Satire"
"To England"
2 June 1913
Ashford, Kent
Robert Bridges Robert Bridges.jpg 23 October 1844
Walmer, Kent
Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford 1913
by George V
"The Evening Darkens Over"
The Testament of Beauty
21 April 1930
John Masefield John Masefield.jpg 1 June 1878
Ledbury, Herefordshire
King's School, Warwick
(Did not attend university)
by George V
"The Everlasting Mercy"
"Reynard The Fox"
12 May 1967
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Cecil Day-Lewis 27 April 1904
Ballintubbert, Queen's County, Ireland
Wadham College, University of Oxford 1968
by Elizabeth II
"Newsreel" 22 May 1972
Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire
John Betjeman John Betjeman statue.jpg 28 August 1906
Hampstead, London
Magdalen College, University of Oxford 1972
by Elizabeth II
"The Conversion of St Paul"
19 May 1984
Trebetherick, Cornwall
Ted Hughes Ted-Hughes-March1993.jpg 17 August 1930
Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire
Pembroke College, University of Cambridge 1984
by Elizabeth II
(on the refusal of Philip Larkin)
Moortown Diary
Tales from Ovid
Birthday Letters
28 October 1998
Andrew Motion Andrew Motion, April 2009.jpg 26 October 1952
University College, University of Oxford 1 May 1999
by Elizabeth II
Retired on 1 May 2009
"The Letter" Still alive
Carol Ann Duffy Carol Ann Duffy at Humber Mouth 2009 (3646825708).jpg 23 December 1955
University of Liverpool 1 May 2009
by Elizabeth II
The World's Wife Still alive


  1. ^ a b c "The Monarchy Today > The Royal Household > Official Royal posts > Poet Laureate". Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Big Question: What's the history of Poet Laureates, and does the job still mean anything?". The Independent. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Scottish writer Duffy is first female Poet Laureate". The Herald Scotland. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "Poet laureate". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Ryan, Kay. "Philip Larkin profile". The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  6. ^ Staff. "Interview with Seamus Heaney". Telegraph. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Carol Ann Duffy was officially declared as Britain's first female Poet Laureate on May 1st 2009". The Poetry Society. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Rain Charm for the Duchy, Ted Hughes". Faber.co.uk. 22 June 1992. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Duffy reacts to new Laureate post". BBC News. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Mark Brown, arts correspondent. "Poems, palaces and butts of sherry: exhibition brings poets laureate to life | UK news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  11. ^ Michie, God Save The Queen p. 319 (1952)
  12. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  13. ^ Nimmo, William (1880). "Chapter X. Battle of Bannockburn (1314)". The History of Stirlingshire (Third ed.). Retrieved 30 April 2012. 

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