The Right Honourable
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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 post colonial empire of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, some other Commonwealth realms, the Anglophone Caribbean, Mauritius and occasionally elsewhere.
"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 or other written documents.
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 having to recall constituency names in direct replies, the use of "the honourable lady/gentleman/member" 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 already spoken. Similarly, those in their own party are referred to as "my (right) honourable friend", the use of right depending on whether they are Privy Councillors. Other honorifics used in addition for those members in relevant professions (for example, "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.
Australians holding certain hereditary peerages in the grades of Baron, Viscount and Earl also use the Right Honourable title. The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart are styled the Rt Hon. 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 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 (Minister of External Affairs), Member of Parliament, Senator and diplomat
- Martial Asselin (1992) — federal cabinet minister, Member of Parliament, Senator (Speaker of the Senate) and Lieutenant Governor of Quebec
- Ellen Fairclough (1992) — federal cabinet minister and Member of Parliament; first woman in Canadian politics ever appointed to cabinet
- Jean-Luc Pépin (1992) — federal cabinet minister and Member of Parliament
- Alvin Hamilton (1992) — federal cabinet minister and Member of Parliament
- Don Mazankowski (1992) — Deputy Prime Minister, federal cabinet minister and Member of Parliament
- Jack Pickersgill (1992) — federal cabinet minister, Member of Parliament and senior civil servant
- Robert Stanfield (1992) —federal Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament, provincial MLA and Premier of Nova Scotia
- Herb Gray (2002) — Deputy Prime Minister, federal cabinet minister, and Member of Parliament; the longest-serving MP in Canadian history
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] - Prime Minister of Canada
- Sir John Rose (1886)—federal cabinet minister
- Sir John Sparrow David Thompson (1894)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada
- Sir Samuel Henry Strong (1897)[C 2] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1897)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada
- Sir Richard John Cartwright (1902)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance)
- Sir Henri Elzéar Taschereau (1904)[C 2] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
- Sir Charles Tupper (1907)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada and Premier of Nova Scotia
- Sir Charles Fitzpatrick (1908)[C 2] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Lieutenant Governor of Quebec
- Sir Robert Laird Borden (1912)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada
- Sir George Eulas Foster (1916)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Trade and Commerce), Senator
- Sir Louis Henry Davies (1919)[C 2] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Premier of Prince Edward Island
- Sir Lyman Poore Duff (1919)[C 3] - Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Administrator of Canada (acting Governor General of Canada)
- Arthur Lewis Sifton (1920)—Premier of Alberta and federal cabinet minister
- Arthur Meighen (1920)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada and Senator
- 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] - Prime Minister of Canada and civil servant
- William Stevens Fielding (1923)—federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance) and Premier of Nova Scotia
- Francis Alexander Anglin (1925)[C 2] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
- 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] - Prime Minister of Canada and member of the House of Lords
- Sir George Halsey Perley (1931)—federal cabinet minister and diplomat
- Ernest Lapointe (1937)—federal cabinet minister (Attorney General of Canada)
- Vincent Massey (1941)[C 4] - Governor General of Canada and diplomat
- Raoul Dandurand (1941)—federal cabinet minister, Senator and Speaker of the Senate
- Louis St. Laurent (1946)[C 5] - Prime Minister of Canada
- 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] - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Administrator of Canada (acting Governor General of Canada)
- John George Diefenbaker (1957)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada
- Georges-Philéas Vanier (1963)[C 6] - Governor General of Canada and diplomat
- Lester Bowles Pearson (1963)[C 1] - Prime Minister of Canada and diplomat
- 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 Duncan Wallace McMullin (1980)—court of appeal justice
- Sir Geoffrey Winston Russell Palmer (1985)—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
- Peers below the rank of marquess, namely earls, viscounts, and barons, and their spouses. Peers who are dukes are styled "The Most Noble" or "His Grace" and marquesses are styled "The Most Honourable". If such latter peers holding either of the two highest titles in the peerage become Privy Counsellors, they retain their higher styles.
- 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 ex officio. The style is added to the name of the office, not the name of the person:
- The Lord Mayor of London
- The Lord Mayor of Cardiff
- The Lord Mayor of Belfast
- The Lord Mayor of York
- The Lord Lyon King of Arms
- The Lord Provost of Edinburgh
- The Lord Provost of Glasgow
All other Lord Mayors are "The Right Worshipful"; other Lord Provosts do not use an honorific. By the 1920s, a number of city mayors, including that of Leeds, were unofficially using the prefix "The Right Honourable" and the matter was consequently raised in Parliament. The Lord Mayor of Bristol at present still uses the prefix "Right Honourable", 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 King George V. The Chairman of the Greater London Council, the body that replaced the LCC in 1965, was similarly granted the prefix, but 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 (technically a committee of the Privy Council) are appointed to the Privy Council, as are certain other senior ministers in the government and leaders of the major political parties. The Privy Council thus includes all current and former members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, excepting 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, the suffix "PC" should be added after the name (according to Debrett's Peerage (2015)). This is not however considered correct by Who's Who (2002).
"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
- "Mental Capacity Bill".
- "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
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- "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.
- 'The Prefix "The"'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 8–9. A & C Black, London, 2002.
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- "Viscount and Viscountess".
- "Baron and Baroness".
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- "Right Honourable".
- 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.
- Kidd, Charles, Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage 2015 Edition, London, 2015, Forms of Addressing Persons of Title, pp.56-60, p.60
- 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."Privy Counsellors and Crown Appointments". Debrett’s. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "Privy counsellors". Debretts. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- ' Privy Counsellors'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 72–73. A & C Black, London, 2002.