The Right Honourable (abbreviation: Rt Hon. or variations) is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and collective bodies in the United Kingdom, the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. The term is predominantly used today as a style associated with the holding of certain senior public offices in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, Australia.
Right in this context is an adverb meaning 'very' or 'fully'. Grammatically, The Right Honourable is an adjectival phrase which gives information about a person. As such, it is not considered correct to apply it in direct address, nor to use it on its own as a title in place of a name; but rather it is used in the third person along with a name or noun to be modified.[a]
Right may be abbreviated to Rt, and Honourable to Hon., or both. The is sometimes dropped in written abbreviated form, but is always pronounced.
According to the British government, the following persons are entitled to be styled Right Honourable:
Privy counsellors are appointed by the sovereign on the advice of the prime minister, and remain members for life unless they resign or are expelled. In practice, membership of the privy council is granted to:
A large proportion of the former and current prominent politicians of the United Kingdom are thus entitled to be styled Right Honourable.
No new appointments have been made to the Privy Council of Northern Ireland since 1971, but surviving appointed members remain entitled to the style. Non-British Commonwealth-citizen judges appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are also entitled to the style, although the appellation may be ignored in the judge's home country.
It is the current practice of the House of Lords and the College of Arms to apply the style Right Honourable to privy counsellors only.
All holders of a substantive peerage below the rank of marquess are entitled to be styled Right Honourable,[b] as are their wives and widows. However, a peer's heir who uses a courtesy title is not accorded the corresponding style. Peers above the rank of earl are entitled to different styles: dukes and duchesses are styled The Most Noble or His or Her Grace, and marquesses and marchionesses are styled as The Most Honourable.
In order to differentiate peers who are also members of the Privy Council—and therefore entitled to a style in both capacities—from peers who are not, the post-nominal letterscan be used to identify the privy counsellors.[c] This applies to peers of all rank, as a holder of a dukedom or marquessate who becomes a Privy Counsellor retains their higher style and so could not be identified without the letters. In practice, in contexts where there might be confusion, official publications use the style Right Honourable exclusively to identify privy counsellors.
The lord mayors of London, Cardiff, Belfast and York; and the lord provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow are all entitled to be styled Right Honourable while in office. The lord mayors of Belfast and Cardiff are so entitled by an explicit grant from the sovereign, and the others through ancient custom. The style is used with the name of the office, not the personal name of the office-holder, e.g. "The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London" or "The Right Honourable the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh".
Other lord mayors may be styled Right Worshipful, and other lord provosts do not use a style. By the 1920s, a number of city mayors, including the Lord Mayor of Leeds, were unofficially using the style Right Honourable, and the matter was consequently raised in parliament. The Lord Mayor of Bristol at present still uses the style Right Honourable, without official permission. In guidance issued in June 2003, the Crown Office recommended that the lord provosts of Aberdeen and Dundee be styled Right Honourable in the same manner as those of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Chairman of the London County Council (LCC) was granted the style in 1935 as part of the celebrations of the silver jubilee of King George V. The Chairman of the Greater London Council (GLC), the body that replaced the LCC in 1965, was similarly granted the style until the GLC was abolished in 1986.
Right Honourable is also used as a style by the Lord Lyon King of Arms in office, preceding his title rather than his personal name, as with other applications ex officio.
In the chamber of the House of Commons, members are not permitted to address each other directly, nor to name other members, but must instead address the speaker and refer to other members indirectly. This practice is intended to enforce a polite tone to maintain order and good honour. Members generally refer to one another as "my honourable friend" if in the same party, and "the honourable gentleman/lady/member" otherwise. If needed, constituencies ("the honourable member for ...") or ministerial offices (e.g. "my honourable friend the prime minister") can be used for clarity.[d]
Referring to one another as honourable is merely a courtesy used within the House, and is not a style used outside the chamber. However, when a member is in fact entitled to be styled Right Honourable (in practice always through membership of the Privy Council), they are referred to as such in the chamber. Further embellishments are traditionally applied to clergy (reverend), military officers (gallant) and barristers (learned), a practice recommended to be abolished following a 2010 report of the Modernisation Committee but in practice continued. In summary:
Right Honourable is added as a prefix to the name of various collective entities, including:
Further information: Canadian honorifics
In Canada, occupants of only the three most senior public offices are styled as Right Honourable (Le/La très honorable in French). Formerly, this was by virtue of their appointment to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. However, Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Currently, individuals who hold, or have held, one of the following offices are awarded the style of Right Honourable for life:
The Right Honourable is not to be confused with His or Her Excellency, used by governors general during their term of office, or The Honourable, used only while in office by provincial premiers and cabinet ministers, and for life by senators and members of the King's Privy Council for Canada (chiefly cabinet ministers, as well as other figures such as party leaders or provincial premiers who may be appointed from time to time).
The title may also be granted for life by the Governor General to eminent Canadians who have not held any of the offices that would otherwise entitle them to the style. This has been done on two occasions: to eight prominent political figures to mark the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 1992,[f] and to longtime Member of Parliament Herb Gray upon his retirement in 2002.
|Justin Trudeau||Ottawa, Ontario||Prime Minister||December 25, 1971||November 4, 2015|
|Stephen Harper||Toronto, Ontario||Former Prime Minister||April 30, 1959||February 6, 2006|
|Paul Martin||Windsor, Ontario||Former Prime Minister||August 28, 1938||December 12, 2003|
|Jean Chrétien||Shawinigan, Quebec||Former Prime Minister||January 11, 1934||November 4, 1993|
|Kim Campbell||Port Alberni, British Columbia||Former Prime Minister||March 10, 1947||June 25, 1993|
|Brian Mulroney||Baie-Comeau, Quebec||Former Prime Minister||March 20, 1939||September 17, 1984|
|Joe Clark||High River, Alberta||Former Prime Minister||June 5, 1939||June 4, 1979|
|Mary Simon||Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec||Governor General||August 21, 1947||July 26, 2021|
|Julie Payette||Montreal, Quebec||Former Governor General||October 20, 1963||October 2, 2017|
|David Johnston||Sudbury, Ontario||Former Governor General||June 28, 1941||October 1, 2010|
|Michaëlle Jean||Port-au-Prince, Haiti||Former Governor General||September 6, 1957||September 27, 2005|
|Adrienne Clarkson||Hong Kong||Former Governor General||February 10, 1939||October 7, 1999|
|Edward Schreyer||Beausejour, Manitoba||Former Governor General||December 21, 1935||January 22, 1979|
|Richard Wagner||Montreal, Quebec||Chief Justice||April 2, 1957||December 18, 2017|
|Beverley McLachlin||Pincher Creek, Alberta||Former Chief Justice||September 7, 1943||January 7, 2000|
Over the years, a number of prominent Canadians became members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and thus were entitled to use the style 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 included all but three of Canada's early prime ministers (Alexander Mackenzie, John Abbott, and Mackenzie Bowell), who governed before the title was used domestically.
Previously in New Zealand the prime minister and some other senior cabinet ministers were customarily appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and thus styled Right Honourable.
In her resignation honours, the former prime minister Helen Clark did not recommend the appointment of any new privy counsellors. In 2009 it was announced that her successor, John Key, had decided not to make any further recommendations to the Crown for appointments to the Privy Council.
In August 2010, the Queen of New Zealand announced that, with immediate effect, individuals who hold, and those persons who after the date of the signing of these rules are appointed to, the following offices are awarded the style Right Honourable for life:
This change was made because the practice of appointing New Zealanders to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom had ceased. However, the change had little immediate effect, as all but two of the holders or living former holders of the offices granted the style had already been appointed to the Privy Council.
The living New Zealanders holding the style Right Honourable as a result of membership of the Privy Council are:
The living New Zealanders holding the style The Right Honourable for life as a result of the 2010 changes are:
|Sir Anand Satyanand||Former Governor-General||2 August 2010|
|Sir John Key||Former Prime Minister|
|Sir Lockwood Smith||Former Speaker of the House of Representatives|
|Sir Jerry Mateparae||Former Governor-General||31 August 2011|
|Sir David Carter||Former Speaker of the House of Representatives||31 January 2013|
|Dame Patsy Reddy||Former Governor-General||28 September 2016|
|Sir Bill English||Former Prime Minister||12 December 2016|
|Jacinda Ardern||Prime Minister||26 October 2017|
|Trevor Mallard||Former Speaker of the House of Representatives||7 November 2017|
|Dame Helen Winklemann||Chief Justice||14 March 2019|
|Dame Cindy Kiro||Governor-General||21 October 2021|
|Adrian Rurawhe||Speaker of the House of Representatives||24 August 2022|
During the periods of its existence, the Prime Minister of Kenya was styled Right Honourable. The prime ministers of Namibia and Uganda are both currently styled with the same honorific. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda are also entitled to the title.
The Prime Ministers of Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago are styled as Right Honourable. The Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation was also styled as such.
The president and Prime Minister of Nepal are formally styled Right Honourable (Nepali: सम्माननीय, romanized: Sam'mānanīya). It can also be spelled in English as The Rt. Hon’ble.
In Australia, the lord mayors of Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney are entitled to be styled Right Honourable while in office.
Historically, a number of Australians were entitled to the style as members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Appointment to the Australian equivalent of the Privy Council, the Federal Executive Council, does not entitle a person to the style. Typical appointees to the Imperial Privy Council included senior politicians and judges at state and federal level. Malcolm Fraser in 1976 was the most recent prime minister to accept appointment to the Privy Council and thus to be styled Right Honourable. Of his 21 predecessors, only four were not members of the Privy Council – Alfred Deakin (declined appointment), Chris Watson (never offered), Arthur Fadden (accepted after leaving office), and Gough Whitlam (declined appointment). The last Governor-General to be entitled to the style was Sir Ninian Stephen, who left office in 1988. The last active politician to be entitled to the style was Ian Sinclair, who retired in 1998. The few Australian recipients of British peerages were also entitled to the style.
Present-day Australian governments no longer recommend Australians for elevation to the peerage or appointment to the Privy Council. However, some present-day Australian citizens either hold hereditary peerages (e.g. Malcolm Murray, 12th Earl of Dunmore) or have been awarded life peerages on the recommendation of the UK government (e.g. Trixie Gardner, Baroness Gardner of Parkes).
|Living Australians holding the style The Right Honourable||Reason||Formerly|
|Ian Sinclair, AC||Member of the Privy Council||Former Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives|
|Sir William Heseltine, GCB, GCVO, AC||Member of the Privy Council||Former Private Secretary to the Sovereign|
|Trixie Gardner, Baroness Gardner of Parkes, AM, JP||Life peer||Former Councillor on the Westminster City Council|
|Malcolm Murray, 12th Earl of Dunmore||Earl of Dunmore||Former Member of the House of Lords|
|Robert Fiennes-Clinton, 19th Earl of Lincoln||Earl of Lincoln|
|Simon Abney-Hastings, 15th Earl of Loudoun||Earl of Loudoun|
|George Dawson-Damer, 7th Earl of Portarlington||Earl of Portarlington|
|Keith Rous, 6th Earl of Stradbroke||Earl of Stradbroke|
|Francis Grosvenor, 8th Earl of Wilton||Earl of Wilton|
|Nicholas St John, 9th Viscount Bolingbroke, 10th Viscount St John||Viscount Bolingbroke|
|Charles Cavendish, 7th Baron Chesham||Baron Chesham|
|James Lindsay, 3rd Baron Lindsay of Birker||Baron Lindsay of Birker|
|David Campbell, 7th Baron Stratheden and Campbell||Baron Stratheden|
Members of the Privy Council of Ireland were entitled to be styled Right Honourable, even after the Privy Council ceased to have any functions or to meet on the creation of the Irish Free State in December 1922. Nevertheless, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, like some of his counterparts in Great Britain, retained the use of the honorific style as a result of its having been conferred separately by legislation; in 2001 it was removed, as a consequence of local government law reform.
In Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) the British practice was followed with Ceylonese members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom were styled Right Honourable and were referred to as Mahamanya in Sinhala. Ceylonese appointees to the privy council included D. S. Senanayake and Sir John Kotelawala.
... earls, viscounts, and barons are 'right honourable', ...
Dr Joseph John Morrow CBE QC LLD DL FRSE, The Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms.
Anyone believing they have a better claim to the dignity of the Barony of Cartsburn should write to the Rt Hon Lord Lyon at H.M. New Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT within 40 calendar days ...
The Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the head of Lyon Court, is the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland ...
My hon. and reverend Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) ...
... as raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood).
My right hon. and gallant Friend, who made such a great speech earlier ...
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is eligible for his booster.
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