About the Lieutenancy | Oxfordshire County Council

About the Lieutenancy

How the Lieutenancy works, and its history.

Tim Stevenson

The Lord-Lieutenant represents Her Majesty The Queen in the County of Oxfordshire

The Lieutenancy has evolved to play an increasing and significant role in serving The Queen in the county, championing Oxfordshire’s identity and promoting the interests of its people and organisations. In Oxfordshire the Lieutenancy’s aim is to support and add value to Oxfordshire’s communities regardless of political, religious, ethnic background or age group.

Its role

The Lieutenancy has to learn and understand as much as it can about what is happening across the county. As The Queen’s representative, and within the established systems, the role of the Lord-Lieutenant is to reward and recognise individual and institutional effort and to celebrate the various elements of the cultural, historical, artistic and spiritual life of the county’s community in such a way as to encourage a sense of identity and civic pride in the county as well as to promote what can best be described as 'societal glue'.

The role of the Lieutenancy is entirely non-political and the Lord-Lieutenant and all his Deputies are unpaid. Following the example of The Queen, they remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters – both locally and nationally.

The office of the Lord-Lieutenant, the permanent representative of The Crown in a county, dates from Tudor times. Its holder was originally concerned mainly with supporting the monarch, protecting the county, being responsible for maintenance of order and for defence through the county militia.


Lord-Lieutenants are appointed by The Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. In Oxfordshire, as in other counties, the Lord-Lieutenant is the representative of The Queen. His duties include greeting and accompanying Royalty and Heads of State during official visits to the County and making presentations of honours and awards on behalf of the crown.

The Lord-Lieutenant and his Deputies also perform duties connected with the armed forces of the Crown and, in particular, the volunteer reserve forces. The Lord-Lieutenant chairs the County’s Magistrates Advisory Committee.

The Lord-Lieutenant supports community initiatives in Oxfordshire through his personal links with people from a wide range of backgrounds and his knowledge of organisations in the County. He works to ensure that community projects are able to access appropriate networks of support and advice.


The first Lord-Lieutenants were appointed by King Henry VIII in the 1540s. The King was concerned about invasion from England’s enemies, which included at various times Scotland, France and Spain. He appointed Lord-Lieutenants in the counties who could raise and be responsible for militia within their respective counties. The militia not only included standing armies but also yeomen and volunteers.

The first Lord-Lieutenant in Oxfordshire was Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, a brother-in-law of Henry VIII. However, it wasn’t until 1586 when Queen Elizabeth I, in light of an impending invasion from Spain, appointed Lord-Lieutenants more widely. By the time Spain attempted to invade with its Armada in 1588, a Lord-Lieutenant had been appointed in almost every county.

With the exception of the English Interregnum, between 1649 and 1660, when there was no monarch, there has been a Lord-Lieutenant in Oxfordshire ever since.

The title ‘lieutenant’ originated during the time of Henry VIII; the Lord-Lieutenant’s role was literally to ‘stand in for’ The King, in the battlefield and elsewhere. Important parts of the role were to act as an unpaid recruiting sergeant for The King and to play a major part in keeping law and order by both appointing and managing magistrates. The Lord-Lieutenant was also responsible for looking after state documents in his county and informing The King of what was going on.

The fact that throughout 150 years the role was dominated by military men and in Oxfordshire by the Dukes of Marlborough says much about what was long thought to be an appropriate CV. In the 18th century, all but one Lord-Lieutenant was a peer and in the 19th century all were peers. Today, and with a changed role, Lord-Lieutenants are increasingly drawn from a widening variety of different backgrounds.

Surviving aspects of these roles

Aspects of these roles have survived through to the present-day role of Lord-Lieutenants:

  • They are The Queen’s representative in the county, and from that flows much of what they do – including as necessary acting as her eyes and ears;
  • Links with the military remain strong and important – mainly in an ambassadorial role, but in particular strongly supporting the reserve and cadet forces and major military bases in the county;
  • The Magistrates Advisory Committee is combined for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and as such the Lord-Lieutenant is joint Chair of this combined committee, which has overall responsibility for the appointment and disciplining of magistrates
Last reviewed
17 October 2017
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