The Right Honourable
The Right Honourable (The Rt Hon. or Rt Hon.) is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and to certain collective bodies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, some other Commonwealth realms, the Anglophone Caribbean, Mauritius and occasionally elsewhere. Examples are 'The Right Honourable David Cameron MP' (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), 'The Right Honourable Stephen Harper MP' (Prime Minister of Canada) and 'The Right Honourable John Key MP' (Prime Minister of New Zealand).
"The Right Honourable" is added as a prefix to the name of various collective entities such as:
- 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 (the House of Commons) (archaic, now simply The Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom, etc.); 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 was correctly otherwise referred to simply as "Miss Widdecombe" before she left parliament at the 2010 election.
In the House of Commons, Members of Parliament refer to members as "the honourable member for ... (constituency)" but as "the right honourable member for ..." if they are Privy Councillors but now hold no ministry. To save recalling places in direct replies, the use of "the honourable lady/gentleman, or the Minister (often, for department)/Chancellor/Prime Minister" is available to refer to members not in their own party (or coalition) where the person referred to has spoken. Similarly, those in their own party are referred to as "my (right) honourable friend", right depending on if they are Privy Councillors. Other honorifics used in addition for those members in relevant professions ("honourable and reverend", "honourable and gallant" and "honourable and learned") are now rare in the Commons.
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. Provided they are Commonwealth citizens, foreign judges appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are entitled to the honorific as well, although the appellation may be ignored in the judge's home country.
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.
In 1972 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declined appointment to the Privy Council. The practice was resumed by Malcolm Fraser in 1975, but Bob Hawke declined the appointment in 1983. 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. In 2001, Sir Robert May was elevated to the UK peerage as Baron May of Oxford, which carries with it the style The Right Honourable.
- The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. The style (which has no connection with the Privy Council) attaches to the title of Lord Mayor, not to their names and is relinquished upon leaving office.
In Canada, L'Honorable and le Très Honorable are used in French by the federal government. Only occupants of the most senior public offices are styled The Right Honourable. Formerly, this was by virtue of their appointment to the British Privy Council. Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Since then, Individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:
- the Governor General of Canada
- the Prime Minister of Canada
- the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
The style may also be granted for life 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:
- Paul Joseph James Martin (1992)—cabinet minister
- Martial Asselin (1992)—federal cabinet minister and Lieutenant Governor of Quebec
- Ellen Fairclough (1992)—federal cabinet minister; first woman in Canadian politics ever appointed to cabinet
- Jean-Luc Pépin (1992)—federal cabinet minister
- Alvin Hamilton (1992)—federal cabinet minister
- Don Mazankowski (1992)— Deputy Prime Minister
- Jack Pickersgill (1992)—federal cabinet minister
- Robert Stanfield (1992)—Opposition Leader, Premier of Nova Scotia
- Herb Gray (2002)— Deputy Prime Minister
Governors General also use the style His/Her Excellency during their term of office. Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and of the Senate of Canada receive the honorific The Honourable. "Right Honourable" does not apply to any official at the provincial level. 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 Councillors. These were the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the Hon. Sir John Abbott and the Hon. Sir Mackenzie Bowell.
Several prominent Canadians 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:
- Sir John A. Macdonald (1879)[C 1]
- Sir John Rose (1886)—federal cabinet minister
- Sir John Sparrow David Thompson (1894)[C 1]
- Sir Samuel Henry Strong (1897)[C 2]
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1897)[C 1]
- Sir Richard John Cartwright (1902)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance)
- Sir Henri Elzéar Taschereau (1904)[C 2]
- Sir Charles Tupper (1907)[C 1]
- Sir Charles Fitzpatrick (1908)[C 2]
- Sir Robert Laird Borden (1912)[C 1]
- Sir George Eulas Foster (1916)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Trade and Commerce), Senator
- Sir Louis Henry Davies (1919)[C 2]
- Sir Lyman Poore Duff (1919)[C 3]
- Arthur Lewis Sifton (1920)—Premier of Alberta
- Arthur Meighen (1920)[C 1]
- Charles Doherty (1920)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Justice)
- Sir William Thomas White (1920)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance)
- William Lyon Mackenzie King (1922)[C 1]
- William Stevens Fielding (1923)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance) and Premier of Nova Scotia
- Francis Alexander Anglin (1925)[C 2]
- Sir William Mulock (1925)—federal cabinet minister (Labour and Postmaster General), Chief Justice of Ontario, acting Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
- George Perry Graham (1925)—federal cabinet minister (Defence) and Senator
- R.B. Bennett (1930)[C 1]
- Sir George Halsey Perley (1931)—federal cabinet minister and diplomat
- Ernest Lapointe (1937)—federal cabinet minister
- Vincent Massey (1941)[C 4]
- Raoul Dandurand (1941)—federal cabinet minister
- Louis St. Laurent (1946)[C 5]
- James Lorimer Ilsley (1946)—federal cabinet minister and Chief Justice of Nova Scotia
- Clarence Decatur Howe (1946)—federal cabinet minister
- Ian Alistair Mackenzie (1947)—federal cabinet minister and Senator
- James Garfield Gardiner (1947)—federal cabinet minister and Premier of Saskatchewan
- Thibaudeau Rinfret (1947)[C 2]
- John George Diefenbaker (1957)[C 1]
- Georges-Philéas Vanier (1963)[C 6]
- Lester Bowles Pearson (1963)[C 1]
- As Prime Minister.
- As Chief Justice of Canada
- Duff did not become Chief Justice until 1933
- Massey became Governor General over a decade later. He was made "Right Honourable" while serving as Canada's High Commissioner to London.
- Tupper was appointed when he was no longer Prime Minister and St. Laurent was appointed when he was a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King.
- As Governor General of Canada
Members of the Privy Council of Ireland were entitled to be addressed as The Right Honourable, even after the Privy Council ceased to have any functions or to meet on the creation of the Irish Free State in December 1922. Nevertheless, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, like some of his counterparts in Great Britain, retained the use of the honorific style as a result of its having been conferred separately by legislation; in 2001 it was removed, as a consequence of local government law reform.
In New Zealand, the Prime Minister and some other senior cabinet ministers were customarily appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and thus styled The Right Honourable. Senior New Zealand Judges are also often appointed as Privy Councillors.
In her resignation honours, the former prime minister Helen Clark did not recommend the appointment of any new Privy Councillors, and at present Winston Peters is the sole Privy Councillor in the New Zealand parliament. Privy Councillors recently retired from parliament include Clark, the former Speaker of the House Jonathan Hunt, and the former prime minister Jenny Shipley. In 2009 it was announced that the new Prime Minister John Key had decided not to make any further recommendations to the Crown for appointments to the Privy Council.
- the Governor-General of New Zealand
- the Prime Minister of New Zealand
- the Chief Justice of New Zealand
- the Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
This change was made because the practice of appointing New Zealanders to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom had ceased. However, the change had little immediate effect, as all but two of the holders or living former holders of the offices granted the style had already been appointed to the Privy Council.
The living New Zealanders holding the style "The Right Honourable" as a result of membership of the Privy Council are:
- Sir Ronald Keith Davison (1978)—chief justice
- Sir Ivor Lloyd Morgan Richardson (1978)—court of appeal justice
- Sir Duncan Wallace McMullin (1980)—court of appeal justice
- Sir Geoffrey Winston Russell Palmer (1985)—prime minister
- Robert James Tizard (1985)—deputy prime minister
- Sir (Johann) Thomas Eichelbaum (1989)—chief justice
- Jonathan Lucas Hunt (1989)—cabinet minister
- Sir Michael Hardie Boys (1989)—governor general
- Helen Elizabeth Clark (1990)—prime minister
- Michael Kenneth Moore (1990)—prime minister
- James Brendan Bolger (1991)—prime minister
- Sir Donald Charles McKinnon (1992)—deputy prime minister
- Sir William Francis Birch (1992)—cabinet minister
- Sir Thomas Munro Gault (1992)—supreme court justice
- Sir John Steele Henry (1996)—court of appeal justice
- Sir Edmund Walter Thomas (1996)—supreme court justice
- Dame Jenny Shipley (1998)—prime minister
- Winston Peters (1998)—deputy prime minister
- Sir Douglas Arthur Montrose Graham (1998)—cabinet minister
- Paul Clayton East (1998)—cabinet minister
- Sir Kenneth James Keith (1998)—court of appeal justice
- Sir Peter Blanchard (1998)—supreme court justice
- Sir Andrew Patrick Charles Tipping (1998)—supreme court justice
- Wyatt Beetham Creech (1998)—deputy prime minister
- Dame Sian Seerpoohi Elias (1999)—chief justice
- Simon David Upton (1999)—cabinet minister
The living New Zealanders holding the style "The Right Honourable" for life as a result of the 2010 changes are:
- Sir Anand Satyanand (2010)—former Governor-General
- John Key (2010)—Prime Minister
- Sir Lockwood Smith (2010)—former Speaker of the House of Representatives
- Sir Jerry Mateparae (2011)—Governor-General
- David Carter (2012)—Speaker of the House of Representatives
The following persons are entitled to the style in a personal capacity:
- Peers who are earls, viscounts, or barons, and their wives
- Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom
- Members of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland
The following persons are entitled to the style by virtue of their office. The style is added to the name of the office, not the name of the person, as for example "The Right Hon. the Lord Mayor of London".
- The Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- The Lord Mayors of London, Cardiff, Belfast, and York
- The Lord Lyon King of Arms
All other Lord Mayors are "The Right Worshipful"; other Lord Provosts do not use an honorific. By the 1920s, a number of cities, i.e. Leeds, were unofficially using the prefix "The Right Honourable" and the issue was thus consequently raised in Parliament. Interestingly, the Lord Mayor of Bristol still uses this prefix today without official sanction. 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. The Chairman of the Greater London Council, the body that replaced the LCC in 1965, was similarly granted the prefix. The office was abolished in 1986.
Privy Counsellors are appointed for life by the Monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister. All members of the British Cabinet (which is technically a committee of the Privy Council) are appointed to the Privy Council, as well as some other senior ministers in the government and all leaders of the major political parties. The Privy Council of the day thus includes all current and former members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, with the exception of those who have resigned from the Privy Council. The First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also so appointed.
In order to differentiate peers who are Privy Counsellors from those who are not, sometimes the suffix "PC" is added after the name. This is not considered correct by A & C Black, publishers of Who's Who. However, Debrett's recommends the use of the post-nominal letters "PC" in a social style of address for a peer who is a Privy Counsellor.
Peers who are marquesses are styled "The Most Honourable", while dukes are styled "The Most Noble" or "His Grace". If such peers become Privy Counsellors, they retain their higher styles. Scottish feudal barons are styled "The Much Honoured". These prefixes are customarily abbreviated to "The" in many situations, but never for Privy Counsellors.
"Right" in this context is an adverb meaning "To a great extent or degree".
- A use in the Commons in 1898 Hansard. HL Deb 02 May 1898 vol 57 c43 Retrieved 6 May 2014
- A use by either House of Parliament in 2005 Hansard. HL Deb 14 March 2005 vol 670 cc399-468GC Retrieved 30-03-2013
- A use in 2005 again in the Lords Hansard. HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc1441-76. Retrieved 30-03-2013
- "Rules for the Grant, Use and Retention of the Title “The Right Honourable” in New Zealand" (23 September 2010) 124 New Zealand Gazette 3251 at 3285
- "The title "The Honourable" and the Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "The Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "Honours Q and A" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- "Use of the title 'The Right Honourable' in New Zealand, 2 August 2010". The Queen's Printer. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
- "Privy Council members". Privy Council Office. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- Citation needed
- The Title of Lord Mayor – Use of the Prefix "Right Honourable", in The Times, July 7, 1932, p. 16
- "Lord Mayor of Bristol". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
- "Royal Guests of L.C.C. The Queen At The County Hall, Honour For Chairman". The Times. 1 June 1935. p. 16.
- The London Gazette: . 30 March 1965.
- ' Privy Counsellors'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 72–73. A & C Black, London, 2002.
- "Privy Counsellors and Crown Appointments". Debrett’s. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "Privy counsellors". Debretts. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- 'The Prefix "The"'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 8–9. A & C Black, London, 2002.