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The following is a list of people who served as the Head of State for the Commonwealth of Britain from the downfall of the House of Stuart, in 1649. Charles Stuart and his predecessors had been monarchs before 1649, until the English Civil War overthrew Charles and put the Commonwealth in place.

From 1649 until 1653, the country had no official Head of State. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell took charge as Lord Protector, which he remained until his death. The Lord Protector position officially lasted until 1760, though the occupant of that office ceased to be the country's Head of State around 1720.

Lords Protector

  1. Oliver Cromwell 1653 - 1658
  2. Richard Cromwell 1658 - 1686
  3. Edward Seymour 1686 - 1712
  4. John Trevor 1712-1717
  5. Isaac Newton 1717-1727

Newton in most respects was the last Lord Protector to hold any serious political power. From c.1700 the office of Speaker had become more powerful, to the point where from c.1720 to about 1780, the Speaker was de facto Head of State, if not officially holding that position. During this period, the Head of State role was not a formal position.


The following Speakers are considered to have acted as a Head of State. This period ended with the Constitution Act of 1779, which established the position of Head of State as a formal title.

  1. Spencer Compton 1715-1732
  2. John Gale 1732-1753
  3. Arthur Onslow 1753-1768
  4. William Cromwell 1768-1779

Heads of State

The position of Head of State, though official, was effectively chosen on an ad hoc basis, usually for life, by Parliament, which effectively meant the Speaker. It wasn't until the Reform Act of 1834, creating the office of President, that Britain received a permanent, stable office to fill the Head of State role.

  1. William Cromwell 1779-1794
  2. Alexander Holmes 1794-1821
  3. Robert Southey 1821-1834


The Reform Act created the office of President of Britain and a democratic system of electing same. The office has continued to the present day. See:List of Presidents of Britain'

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