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Lord President of the Commonwealth Council of State
Timeline: Cromwell the Great


Arms of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth


OlderPittThe Younger

Incumbent
William Pitt the Younger

Since: 1788

Style His Highness the Lord President
Seat Palace of Whitehall,
Appointer Named by the Lord Protector
Term length At Lord Protector's pleasure
Formation 1653

Let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action. (W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 2, line 18.)

The Commonwealth Council of State is the direct advisor to the Lord Protector and acts as the executive of the country's government in place of the King and the Privy Council. It directs domestic and foreign policy and ensures the security of the English Commonwealth. Also in a state of war the Lord Protector-in-Council has supreme executive powers.

It was formerly known as Council of State (1649-1653) and Protector's Privy Council (1653-1660).

Functions and role

The chief role of the Council of State in brief words is coordinating authorities and advising the Lord Protector in the exercise of his executive powers. The members of the Council (13 to 21) are nominated by the Protector and approved by Parliament.

By custom and convention the Council of State issues: Orders in Council (by Order of the Lord Protector and Council, Lord Protector exercises authority on advice of the Council), Orders of Council (by Order of the Council, secondary legislation drafted by the Council for government regulations and appointments) and Commonwealth Charters (special status granted to corporation and incorporated bodies). All above mentioned deal with a wide variety of matters and issues.

Foreign relations are dealt by the Council’s (Foreign) Secretary of State under instructions Council and advises the Lord Protector.

The Council of State delegates part of its executive and administrative powers in Scotland and Ireland by means of two separate councils. Its Isle of Mann and Channel Islands Affairs Committee deals with legislation and executive orders of the said territories.

Meetings and procedures of the State Council

The State Council meets at large on a regular basis, usually once or twice a week to discuss the most important issues of government policy, and to make decisions. Its full member meetings are chaired by the Lord President of the Council, with or without the Lord Protector attending them. The State Council has numerous committees which focus on particular areas of government and coordinates their work. There may be permanent committees or ad hoc committees set up for a short duration to look at particular issues.

Ingo Jones plan for a new palace at Whitehall 1638

New Palace of Whitehall

The New Palace of Whitehall, with over 1500 rooms, functions as the administrative center of the Council and also has the venue for the state and ceremonial meetings of the Lord Protector. A large staff of secretaries, clerks, courier, archivists,and accountants provide the necessary administrative services. Civilian courtiers that serve as secretaries, advisors or agents of the Protector and Council, are also part of the staff. However, the transactions or matters discussed or verbatim reports of the full sessions of the Council are not available nor published and are kept in secret. To its meetings or committees the Council can invite or demand the assistance of other state officials. It usual to for the Lord Chancellors to attend meetings and the committees when the Council is dealing with constitutional or legal matters.

Somerset House. Strand

Somerset House (National Building or Publick Offices)

The National Building or Publick Offices, is a large Neoclassical building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Strand Bridge[1]. Somerset House, is more commonly called, functions as an accommodation of the various administrative offices and the National Board of Public Works. Also serves as complementary venue for state and ceremonial meetings or events.

The committees

Council of State had several standing and ad hoc committees and commissions. The main ones are:

  • Treasury commissioners (members named Lords Commissioners of the Commonwealth's Treasury)
  • Board of Customs
  • Board of Excise
  • National Estate Board
  • Army Council
  • Admiralty Committee
  • Navy Commission
  • Board of Ordnance
  • Commissariat
  • Council for Foreign Plantations
  • Council of Trade
  • Committee for the Business of the Law
  • Committee of Public Peace
  • National Board of Works (established as an independent section of the National Estate Board)
  • Indian Affairs Department

Administration of the Home Countries

The Council of State delegates part of its executive and administrative powers in Scotland and Ireland by means of two separate councils and a Committee of the Isle of Mann and Channel Islands.

The Council of State for Scotland with nine members (starting 1655), named by the Council of State and at least half of its members must be scotsmen. The Lord President chairs the Council. The seat of Council and main government offices are at Palace of Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh, Scotland). In addition to ensuring the continuance of the Union and the establishment of good government, the Council were directed to encourage the preaching of the Gospel; encourage the growth of Universities and schools; purge the burghs of disaffected magistrates; administer justice; to approximate the judicial system to that of England; encourage trade and foster the revenue. Important measures of the Council are the ones that allowed The burghs to elect their own magistrates and Justice of the Peace courts were set up in all of Scotland.

The Irish Council of State (or Irish Council) with six members and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (named by the Protector-in-Council) administers the island. The seat of Council and main government offices are at Dublin Castle.

The Isle of Mann and Channel Islands Affairs Committee deals with legislation and executive orders of the said territories.

Lord President

The role of the President of the Council of State (usually addressed as "Lord President") was originally intended to simply preside over the Council of State. However, its role became more powerful as successive Acts of Parliament delegated to it the power to issue ordinances and designations with the the approval of the Lord Protector. Initially these acts provided the means to administer all overseas dominions, colonies and territories. From 1651 to 1658 Parliament had limited the chair of the Council to one month.

Portrait Name
(Born-Died)
Mandate
(Start-End)
Political
affinity/faction/party
Commonwealth
Parliament
Legislature
Henry Lawrence[2]
(1600 - 1664)
December 1653 - November 1658 Cromwellian 1st (1654-1655),
2nd (1656-1656)
JohnLambert
John Lambert
(1619 - 1685)
November 1658 - July 1672 Cromwellian 3rd (1659-1662),
4th (1662-1665),
5th (1665-1668),
6th (1668-1672)
Edward Montagu
Lord Edward Montagu 1st Earl of Sandwich
(1619 - 1687)
July 1672 - March 1678 Cromwellian (Civil/Court party) 7th (1672-1677), 8th (1677-1682)
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley-Cooper 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
(1621 - 1695)
March 1678 - 1682 Cromwellian (Civil/Court party) 8th (1677-1682)
William, Lord Russell, by Gerard Soest
William Russell, Lord Russell
(1639 - 1703)
1682-1687 Whig 9th (1682-1687)
Somers
John Somers, 1st Baron Somers
(1651 - 1716)
1687-1691 Whig 9th (1682-1687),
10th (1687-1692)
James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch by William Wissing
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
(1649 - 1718)
1691-1695 Moderate Whig 10th (1687-1692), 11th (1692-1697)
John Churchill
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
(1650-1722)
1695 - 1700 Moderate Whig 11th (1692-1697)
Appletons' Penn William Older
William Penn the Younger
(the Old Radical)
(1644 - 1718)
1700 -1703 Dissident Whig 12th (1697-1702),
13th (1702-1703),
14th (1703-1708)
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax
(1661 - 1715)
1703 - 1706 Whig Junto 14th (1703-1708)
RobertHarley1710
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
(1661 - 1724)
1706 - 1708 Tory and Country-Whig Coalition 14th (1703-1708)
Appletons' Penn William Older
William Penn the Younger
(The Old Radical)
(1644 - 1718)
1708 -1712 Dissident Whig 15th (1708-1712),
16th (1712-1717)
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury
(1660 - 1730)
1712-1722 Whig Junto 16th (1712-1717),
17th (1717-1722)
Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt by Jonathan Richardson
Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet
(1688–1740)
1722-1724 Tory 18th (1722-1727)
James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde by Michael Dahl
James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde
(1665–1745)
1724-1730 Irish Whig 18th (1722-1727),
19th (1727-1732)
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, Whig, 1721-1742
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford
(1676–1745)
1730-1743 Whig 19th (1727-1732),
20th (1732-1737),
21th (1737-1743)
Henry Pelham Whig 1743-1754
Henry Pelham
(1694–1754)
1743-1754 Whig 22th (1743-1748),
23th (1748-1753),
24th (1753-1759)
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764) by William Hoare of Bath
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke,
(1690–1764)
1754-1759 Whig 24th (1753-1758)
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham by Richard Brompton
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham,
(1708–1778)
1759-1763 Patriot Whig --> Patriot Party 25th (1758-1763)
John Stuart3rd Earl of Bute Tory 1762-1763
John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute,
(1713–1792)
1763-1768 Tory-Country Coalition 26th (1763-1768)
Franz Josef I Liechtenstein
Alexander Cromwell,
(1726–1796)
1768-1769 Patriot 27th (1768-1773)
Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford Tory1770-1782
Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford,
(1732–1792)
1769-1778 Tory-Country Coalition 27th (1768-1773)
28th (1773-1778)
Franz Josef I Liechtenstein
Alexander Cromwell,
(1726–1796)
1778-1788 Radical Reformer --> Radical Alliance 29th (1778-1783)
30th (1783-1788)
OlderPittThe Younger
William Pitt the Younger,
(1759–1806)
1788-1806 National Reform PU -> National Unity Coalition (National Reform and Radicals) 1803 31th (1788-1793)
32th (1793-1798)
33th (1798-1803)
34th (1803-1806)
Henry Addington, First Viscount Sidmouth
Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth,
(1757–1844)
1806-1806 National Unity Coalition (National Reform and Radicals) 34th (1803-1806)


  1. OTL Waterloo Bridge
  2. Lord President of the Protector's Privy Council

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