The Lord Privy Seal or Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal is one of the traditional sinecure offices in the British Cabinet. Originally, its holder was responsible for the monarch's personal ("privy") seal (as opposed to the Great Seal of State, which is in the care of the Lord Chancellor).

Though one of the oldest offices in government anywhere, since it has no particular function today the office has generally been used as a kind of Minister without Portfolio. Since the end of the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher, the position of Lord Privy Seal has frequently been combined with that of Leader of the House of Lords. The jocular clarification that the office holder is neither a lord, nor a privy, nor a seal, though sometimes credited to Edward Heath, was attributed by him to Ernest Bevin. This pithy comment echoes that of Voltaire on the Holy Roman Empire – namely that it was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire; similar observations have been made about the Indian Civil Service.

The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State, beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain.

The office also existed in Japan with similar responsibilites. The Lord Privy Seal, or Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (jp: Nadaijin), was responsible for the keeping of the Imperial Seal of Japan. The office was established in 1885, after the Meiji constitution established a cabinet. The Office of the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal was established separately from the Cabinet in the Imperial Court. The Lord Keeper also acted as an advisor to the emperor and was responsible for the administration of imperial documents such as rescript and edicts. Petitions to the emperor and the court were also handled by the Lord Keeper's office, as well as the responses.

After the start of Emperor Showa's reign in 1925, the office and position of the Lord Keeper became increasingly important, at the expensive of the office of the prime minister. Political infighting within the Diet of Japan further boosted the power of the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord Keeper was able to strictly control who was allowed to have an audience with the emperor, as well as the flow of information. This made Lord Keeper Marquis Kido Koichi in effect even more powerful than the prime minister. After Japan lost World War II, the Office of the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal was officialy abolished on November 24, 1945 [1].

British Lords Privy Seal, 1307-Present

Japanese Lord Keepers Privy Seal

See also