The Lieutenancy of Kent

by the Lord De L’Isle

The Lord-Lieutenant is The Queen’s personal representative, appointed by her on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day, who will have consulted widely in the county before submitting a name.

The Viscount and Viscountess De L'Isle

The Vice Lord-Lieutenant is also appointed by The Queen, at the suggestion of the Lord-Lieutenant himself: Richard Oldfield succeeded Viscount De L’Isle as Vice Lord-Lieutenant.

Kent is a large county with a population of 1.7 million people, which entitles the county to have 70 Deputy Lieutenants, although currently there are about 64 in post.

The number varies, with a lag between the retirement of a person and the gazetting of a replacement. A Deputy Lieutenant holds the appointment for at least 10 years, but must retire on their 75th birthday.

The Queen has modernised the Monarchy over the 61 years of her reign and the Lord-Lieutenant’s predecessor, Allan Willett, along with a small group of Deputy Lieutenants, modernised the Lieutenancy in line with the contemporary Monarchy. The Lieutenancy aims are to:
Provide a focus for County identity, unity and pride;
Give a sense of stability;
Recognise achievements, success and excellence;
Promote service to others.

In short, our aspiration is to celebrate Kent, its unique history and culture, serve its communities and contribute positively to its future.

Blessing the Waters at Whitstable

Lord De L’Isle assumed office in 2011 as the 31st Lord-Lieutenant and has chosen to continue on the path set by Willett’s reforms, continuing to evolve keeping the Lieutenancy relevant to its role, whilst operating in a slightly different way. He will retire in 2020, on his 75th Birthday, unless The Queen dispenses with his services earlier!

The Lieutenancy dates back to the time of King Henry VIII, when the Lord-Lieutenant’s responsibility was to raise troops for local defence when the nation was under threat of attack and he was responsible for enforcing law and order.

With members of the Reserve Forces and Cadet Movements from all three services,
Army, Navy and Air Force, with medals and certificates in recognition
of their service throughout the County

These two ancient duties now survive in a different form, as in 1921 The Lord-Lieutenant ceased to have responsibility for The Reserve Forces in his County, but remains President of the Kent Committee of the South East Reserve Forces and Cadet Association. Maintaining close relationships with today’s Armed Forces reflects the ancient office’s original responsibility for the maintenance of order and local defence of the County.

The links to Law and Order continue, the Lord-Lieutenant chairing the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Magistrates in Kent whose task it is to recruit and appoint Justices of the Peace. He also retains the ancient office of Master of the Rolls in the County.

So what are the Lord Lieutenant’s other official duties?

Escorting the Queen on a visit to the 5th battalion,
Royal Regiment of Scotland at Howe Barracks

It is the Lord Lieutenant’s duty to host members of the Royal Family and Heads of State when they pay official visits to Kent, as recently, when Queen Elizabeth II visited the 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland at the Howe Barracks in Canterbury.

Presenting honours and awards on behalf of the Crown are another duty of the Lord-Lieutenant, holding Investitures for those awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) and Elizabeth Crosses when required to do so. The Lord-Lieutenant is also involved in the Honours System selection process; assisted by a panel of Deputy Lieutenants.

Deputy Lieutenants come from all walks of life and all parts of Kent and are appointed by the Lord Lieutenant in recognition for their enormous contribution to the County and/or the Nation.

The badge for male deputy lieutenants

They act as the eyes and ears of the Lieutenancy in the community and liaise closely with local authorities and other organisations, taking on a wide variety of public duties. Leading the influential Deputy Lieutenants county wide and providing the means for their individual networks to interlock for the benefit of Kent’s varied communities is the responsibility of the Lord-Lieutenant himself.

Deputy Lieutenants advise members of the Public on:
Events potentially warranting Royal visits;
How to put forward others suitable for honours;
Advising on Wedding Anniversaries warranting a message from The Queen.

Presenting the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Additionally they attend Citizenship Ceremonies in Maidstone and Medway to represent the Lord-Lieutenant at these important occasions for new citizens as well as advising on how community organisations can gain recognition in The Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service Scheme. The Vice Lord-Lieutenant chairs an assessment panel for Kent entries and winners are selected nationally by the Cabinet Office. The Lord-Lieutenant encourages all of you to help promote this award locally, being equivalent of a corporate MBE to the winning organisations.

The Lieutenancy cannot serve either the Crown or county effectively without knowing what is happening across Kent, so we maintain important networks to liaise with key organisations. Between us we have a great deal of expertise, which can be used to assist where necessary, many of us individually are involved with a wide variety of charities and the Lord-Lieutenant is ex-officio Patron or President of many Kent organisations.

Why is this necessary?

One of the things the Lieutenancy can do is speak in an entirely independent way as, like the Monarchy, it is an entirely non- political position, an independent force for good in the County and a constant anchor, particularly in this time of tremendous change.

The Lieutenancy is far from being a merely ceremonial office but the value of its contribution to the life of our county does depend on its usefulness in today’s world. Are ancient offices like this are outdated in the modern world, historical relics that should be consigned to the past?

We would argue that the Lieutenancy costs the taxpayer nothing, yet it strives to support our communities in a positive, totally non-political way and helps foster a sense of continuity and belonging, in an age when we all face rapid, often bewildering and de-stabilising change.

On occasions Lord-Lieutenants are asked to promote or arrange events and Church Services in support of the Queen. Next year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War and the Lieutenancy is assisting in the arrangement of events across Kent to commemorate this.

A book on the fascinating history of the Kent Lieutenancy from Tudor times, to the present day, is currently being completed by Deputy Lieutenant and Association member David McDine. Provisionally entitled Unconquered, and illustrated with some 250 paintings, maps and photographs, it traces the evolution of the office.

The book documents the vital part the Lieutenancy played in countering the Armada and subsequent threats to our Frontline County, to its modern role of celebrating Kent, serving its communities, promoting service to others and providing a focus for county identity, unity and pride.

Many extraordinary characters enliven its pages and as well as the serious historical material it includes many amusing, hitherto unpublished, anecdotes such as one about a Royal visit when the Lord Lieutenant of the day had a uniform malfunction and another when Naval nurses were told to ‘get your bras cleaned’ before a VIP visit!

Sponsored by The Allan Willett Foundation, Unconquered will be the first comprehensive history of any of the county lieutenancies, Kent, as ever, leading the way. Publication is scheduled for early 2014.

Kent is a proud and ancient County that has taken two thousand years to create and has always been in the vanguard of the Nation and we in the Lieutenancy are proud to play our part in celebrating it and helping to keep it great, whilst serving Her Majesty The Queen.

Who are we all and how do you recognise us?

To find out more, click here to visit our website which lists the current members of the Lieutenancy and the districts within which they reside. Our website also shows the recent events with which we have been involved including Royal visits.

Picture Credits: Barry Duffield Photography; Fred Hughes, Kent Lieutenancy.

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