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The Right Honourable

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The Right Honourable (abbreviated as The Rt Hon.) is an honorific prefix that is traditionally applied to certain people in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Anglophone Caribbean and other Commonwealth Realms, and occasionally elsewhere.


People entitled to the prefix in a personal capacity are:

  • Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and the Privy Council of Northern Ireland.
    • This includes the current and all former Prime Ministers of the UK, all current and former members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, a committee of the Privy Council, with the exception of those who have resigned from the Privy Council;
  • Barons, viscounts and earls (including life peerages) (marquesses are "The Most Honourable" and dukes are "The Most Noble" or "His Grace", and, if Privy Counsellors, retain these higher styles. Scottish Feudal Barons and Lairds are "The Much Honoured"); and
  • The holders of certain offices in Canada, including the Governor General, Prime Minister and Chief Justice.

In order to differentiate peers who are Privy Counsellors from those who are not, sometimes the suffix PC is added to the title.

In addition, some people are entitled to the prefix in an official capacity, i.e. the prefix is added to the name of the office, not the name of the person:

  • The Lord Mayors of London, Cardiff, Belfast and York; and of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart; and
  • The Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

All other Lord Mayors are "The Right Worshipful", other Lord Provosts do not use an honorific.

Corporate entities

The prefix is also added to the name of various corporate entities, e.g.:

  • 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 (now usually the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom etc.) in Parliament Assembled (the House of Commons); and
  • The Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (the 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 corporate 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 and other written documents: for example, the Rt Hon. Ann Widdecombe MP is otherwise referred to simply as "Miss Widdecombe".

In the House of Commons, members refer to each other as "the honourable member for ..." or "the right honourable member for ..." depending on whether or not they are Privy Councillors. Members usually refer to those in their own party as, "My (right) honourable friend", and to those in other parties as "the (right) honourable lady / gentleman"

When a married woman holds this style, she uses her own given name in her style. So, when[Margaret Thatcher was made a Privy Councillor her formal style changed from "Mrs Denis Thatcher" to "The Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher".

The remaining members of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland are entitled to be styled The Right Honourable.

Outside the United Kingdom

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.


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. There has never been an Australian Privy Council.

In 1972 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declined appointment to the Privy Council, but the practice was resumed by Malcolm Fraser in 1975. In 1983 Bob Hawke declined the appointment, and the appointment of Australians to the Privy Council was abolished in 1986. 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.

The only living Australians holding the title The Right Honourable for life are:

  • Doug Anthony, former Deputy Prime Minister
  • Sir Zelman Cowen, former Governor-General
  • Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister
  • Ian Sinclair, former Leader of the National Party and Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Sir Ninian Stephen, former Governor-General
  • Reginald Withers, former Senator, Minister, and Lord Mayor of Perth.

The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart are styled The Right Honourable, but the style (which has no connection with the Privy Council) attaches to the title of Lord Mayor, and not to their names, and is relinquished upon leaving office. Reginald Withers holds the title Right Honourable for life by virtue of being a member of the Privy Council, not by virtue of being former Lord Mayor of Perth.


In Canada, members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada receive the honorific The Honourable, with only the occupants of the most senior public offices being made The Right Honourable, as they used to be appointed to the UK Privy Council.

L'Honorable and le Très Honorable are used in French by the federal government, but the Office québécois de la langue française (the Quebec government body setting standards for the French language in Quebec) considers them improper loan expressions and advises the use of Monsieur and Madame (Mr. and Ms.) instead.

Individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:

  • the Governor General of Canada
  • the Prime Minister of Canada
  • the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

(Governors General also use the style His/Her Excellency during their term of office.)

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 (mostly politicians) 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)1
  • Sir John Rose (1886) - federal cabinet minister
  • Sir John Sparrow David Thompson (1894)1
  • Sir Samuel Henry Strong (1897)4 -
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1897)1
  • Sir Richard John Cartwright (1902) - federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance)
  • Sir Henri Elzéar Taschereau (1904)4
  • Sir Charles Tupper (1907)1
  • Sir Charles Fitzpatrick (1908)4
  • Sir Robert Laird Borden (1912)1
  • Sir George Eulas Foster (1916) - federal cabinet minister (Minister of Trade and Commerce), Senator
  • Sir Louis Henry Davies (1919)4
  • Sir Lyman Poore Duff (1919)6
  • Arthur Lewis Sifton (1920) - Premier of Alberta
  • Arthur Meighen (1920)1
  • 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)1
  • William Stevens Fielding (1923) - federal cabinet minister (Minister of Finance) and Premier of Nova Scotia
  • Francis Alexander Anglin (1925)4
  • 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)1
  • Sir George Halsey Perley (1931) - federal cabinet minister and diplomat
  • Ernest Lapointe (1937) - federal cabinet minister
  • Vincent Massey (1941)3
  • Raoul Dandurand (1941) - federal cabinet minister
  • Louis St. Laurent (1946)2
  • 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)4
  • John George Diefenbaker (1957)1
  • Georges-Philéas Vanier (1963)5
  • Lester Bowles Pearson (1963)1
  1. - As Prime Minister.
  2. - Tupper was appointed when he was no longer Prime Minister and St. Laurent was appointed when he was a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King.
  3. - Massey became Governor General over a decade later. He was made "Right Honourable" while serving as Canada's High Commissioner to London.
  4. - As Chief Justice of Canada
  5. - As Governor General of Canada.
  6. - Duff did not become Chief Justice until 1933.

Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Since then, the style may be granted for life only 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
  • Martial Asselin (1992) - federal cabinet minister and Lieutenant Governor of Quebec
  • Ellen Fairclough (1992) - federal cabinet minister
  • Jean-Luc Pépin (1992) - federal cabinet minister
  • Alvin Hamilton (1992) - federal cabinet minister
  • Don Mazankowski (1992) - federal cabinet minister
  • Jack Pickersgill (1992) - federal cabinet minister
  • Robert Stanfield (1992) - Opposition Leader, Premier of Nova Scotia
  • Herb Gray (2002) - federal cabinet minister


Members of the Privy Council of Ireland were entitled to be addressed as The Right Honourable until the Privy Council was abolished with the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922; nevertheless, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, like his counterparts in the United Kingdom, retained the usage of the honorific after this time as a result of a separate conferring of the title by law; in 2001 the honorific was removed as a consequence of local government law reform. The Lord Mayor of Cork has never been entitled to the title.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister and some other senior cabinet ministers have customarily been appointed to the UK Privy Council and styled The Right Honourable. Senior Judges are also often appointed as Privy Counsellors.

The former Prime Minister Helen Clark did not recommend any new Privy Counselors. At present, there are no Privy Counselors in the New Zealand parliament. Privy Counsellors recently retired include former Prime Minister Helen Clark, the former Speaker of the House, Jonathan Hunt, and former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, appointed in 1990. Winston Peters was defeated at the election.

The Republic of Turkey

The President of the Council of State of the Republic of Turkey, is also styled with the prefix "The Right Honourable".

The Council of State of the Turkish State was transformed from the "Supreme Council for Judicial Regulations (Meclis-i Vala-i Ahkam-ı Adliye)" of the Imperial Ottoman State, and thus imported with it the various titles and honorifics of the era.

See also

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The Right Honourable. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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