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A sinecure (from Latin sine, without, and cura, care) means an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. 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.
A sinecure is not necessarily a figurehead, which generally requires active participation in government, albeit with a lack of power. A sinecure, by contrast, has no real day-to-day responsibilities, but may have de jure 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 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.
List of sinecures
In the United Kingdom
- Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
- Lord President of the Council
- Lord Privy Seal
- First Secretary of State
- Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Lord Clerk Register
- Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds
- Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead
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