Poet Lauretes of Great Britain

Well I was disappointed in the list for Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates. Not in the poets, but the paucity of the list. So I thought I would review the same list for Great Britain. The appointments began in England under Henry VII in fifteenth century and continue to the present. Here are the names of the poets:

  • Bernard André
  • John Skelton
  • Edmund Spenser
  • Samuel Daniel
  • Ben Jonson
  • William Davenant
  • John Dryden
  • Thomas Shadwell
  • Nahum Tate
  • Nicholas Rowe
  • Laurence Eusden
  • Colley Cibber
  • Thomas Warton
  • Henry James Pye
  • Robert Southey
  • William Wordsworth
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Alfred Austin
  • Robert Bridges
  • John Masefield
  • Cecil Day-Lewis
  • John Betjeman
  • Ted Hughes
  • Andrew Motion
  • Carol Ann Duffy.

What shocked me were the names that are missing. Byron, Scott, Kipling. Browning (him and her) and Keats, Yeats, Coleridge, Shelly and Shakespeare. Why?

Well some poets refused the office. Imagine refusing a position with no duties that paid you money and traditionally rewarded you with a butt of canary or sack or sherry, the equivalent of 720 bottles. Cash payments have been presented as an alternative to wine: in 1952, for example, John Masefield was given £27. He should have insisted on the wine.

Some did refuse despite the wine. Thomas Gray, Walter Scott, Philip Larkin, and Seamus Heaney, have declined the post.

Another reason for the missing names was the tenancy of the position. The post was for life until 1999. Tennyson held the position for an impressive forty-two years. Keats (died at the age of 25), Shelley (died at the age of 29) and Byron (died at the age of 36) simply didn’t live long enough to get a shot at it. However, others baffle me.

Well I have a list of poets to investigate now. And probably some interesting stories.



To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net