The Right Honourable

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The Right Honourable (The Rt Hon. or Rt Hon.) is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and to certain collective bodies in the post colonial empire of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, some other Commonwealth realms, the Anglophone Caribbean, Mauritius and occasionally elsewhere.

Collective entities

"The Right Honourable" is added as a prefix to the name of various collective entities such as:

  • 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 (of the House of Commons/Commons House) in Parliament Assembled[1] (the House of Commons) (archaic, now simply The Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom, etc.);[2] and
  • The Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (the former 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 collective 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 or other written documents.

In the House of Commons, Members of Parliament refer to members as "the honourable member for ... (constituency)" but as "the right honourable member for ..." if they are Privy Councillors but now hold no ministry. To save having to recall constituency names in direct replies, the use of "the honourable lady/gentleman/member" or "the Minister (often, for department)/Chancellor/Prime Minister" is available to refer to members not in their own party (or coalition) where the person referred to has already spoken. Similarly, those in their own party are referred to as "my (right) honourable friend", the use of right depending on whether they are Privy Councillors. Other honorifics used in addition for those members in relevant professions (for example, "honourable and reverend",[3] "honourable and gallant"[4] and "honourable and learned"[5]) are now rare in the Commons.

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. Provided they are Commonwealth citizens, foreign judges appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are entitled to the honorific as well, although the appellation may be ignored in the judge's home country.


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.

In 1972 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declined appointment to the Privy Council. The practice was resumed by Malcolm Fraser in 1975, but Bob Hawke declined the appointment in 1983. 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. In 2001, Sir Robert May was elevated to the UK peerage as Baron May of Oxford, which carries with it the style The Right Honourable.

Australians holding certain hereditary peerages in the grades of Baron, Viscount and Earl also use the Right Honourable title. The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart are styled the Rt Hon. The style (which has no connection with the Privy Council) attaches to the title of Lord Mayor, not to their names, and is relinquished upon leaving office.

Living Australians holding the title The Right Honourable Reason Formerly
Doug Anthony, AC, CH Member of the Privy Council Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Ian Sinclair, AC Member of the Privy Council Former Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
Sir Ninian Stephen, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, QC Member of the Privy Council Former Governor-General of Australia
Sir William Heseltine, GCB, GCVO, AC Member of the Privy Council Former Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Robert May, Baron May of Oxford, OM, AC Life Peer Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government
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


In Canada, L'Honorable and le Très Honorable are used in French by the federal government. Only occupants of the most senior public offices are styled The Right Honourable. Formerly, this was by virtue of their appointment to the British Privy Council. Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Since then, individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:

The style 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. It has been granted to the following individuals:

Governors General also use the style His/Her Excellency during their term of office. Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and of the Senate of Canada receive the honorific The Honourable. "Right Honourable" does not apply to any official at the provincial level. 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 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:

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 As Prime Minister.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 As Chief Justice of Canada
  3. Duff did not become Chief Justice until 1933
  4. Massey became Governor General over a decade later. He was made "Right Honourable" while serving as Canada's High Commissioner to London.
  5. Tupper was appointed when he was no longer Prime Minister and St. Laurent was appointed when he was a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King.
  6. As Governor General of Canada


Members of the Privy Council of Ireland were entitled to be addressed as The 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.

New Zealand

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 The Right Honourable.[12][13] Senior New Zealand Judges are also often appointed as Privy Councillors.

In her resignation honours, the former prime minister Helen Clark did not recommend the appointment of any new Privy Councillors, and at present Winston Peters is the sole Privy Councillor in the New Zealand parliament. Privy Councillors recently retired from parliament include Clark, the former Speaker of the House Jonathan Hunt, and the former prime minister Jenny Shipley.[14] In 2009 it was announced that the new Prime Minister John Key had decided not to make any further recommendations to the Crown for appointments to the Privy Council.[15]

In August 2010, the Queen of New Zealand announced that, with immediate effect, individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:[12]

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.[16]

The living New Zealanders holding the style "The 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:

United Kingdom

The prefix is customarily abbreviated to "The" in many situations, but never for Privy Counsellors.[17] The following persons are entitled to the style in a personal capacity:

The following persons are entitled to the style ex officio. The style is added to the name of the office, not the name of the person:

All other Lord Mayors are "The Right Worshipful"; other Lord Provosts do not use an honorific. By the 1920s, a number of city mayors, including that of Leeds, were unofficially using the prefix "The Right Honourable" and the matter was consequently raised in Parliament. The Lord Mayor of Bristol at present still uses the prefix "Right Honourable", without official sanction.[24][25] 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.[26] The Chairman of the Greater London Council, the body that replaced the LCC in 1965, was similarly granted the prefix,[27] but was abolished in 1986.

Privy Counsellors are appointed for life by the Monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister. All members of the British Cabinet (technically a committee of the Privy Council) are appointed to the Privy Council, as are certain other senior ministers in the government and leaders of the major political parties. The Privy Council thus includes all current and former members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, excepting those who have resigned from the Privy Council. The First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also so appointed.

In order to differentiate peers who are Privy Counsellors from those who are not, the suffix "PC" should be added after the name (according to Debrett's Peerage (2015)[28][29][30]). This is not however considered correct by Who's Who (2002).[31]


Scottish feudal barons are styled "The Much Honoured".


"Right" in this context is an adverb meaning "To a great extent or degree".

See also


  3. A use in the Commons in 1898 Hansard. HL Deb 02 May 1898 vol 57 c43 Retrieved 6 May 2014
  4. A use by either House of Parliament in 2005 Hansard. HL Deb 14 March 2005 vol 670 cc399-468GC Retrieved 30-03-2013
  5. "Mental Capacity Bill".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 12.0 12.1 "Rules for the Grant, Use and Retention of the Title “The Right Honourable” in New Zealand" (23 September 2010) 124 New Zealand Gazette 3251 at 3285
  7. "The title "The Honourable" and the Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "The Privy Council". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2009-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Honours Q and A" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Use of the title 'The Right Honourable' in New Zealand, 2 August 2010". The Queen's Printer. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 'The Prefix "The"'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 8–9. A & C Black, London, 2002.
  12. "Earl and Countess".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Viscount and Viscountess".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Baron and Baroness".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Privy Council members". Privy Council Office. Retrieved 15 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Right Honourable".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Citation needed
  18. The Title of Lord Mayor – Use of the Prefix "Right Honourable", in The Times, July 7, 1932, p. 16
  19. "Lord Mayor of Bristol". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 26 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Royal Guests of L.C.C. The Queen At The County Hall, Honour For Chairman". The Times. 1 June 1935. p. 16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. The London Gazette: no. 43613. p. 3195. 30 March 1965.
  22. Kidd, Charles, Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage 2015 Edition, London, 2015, Forms of Addressing Persons of Title, pp.56-60, p.60
  23. Debrett's recommends the use of the post-nominal letters "PC" in a social style of address for a peer who is a Privy Counsellor."Privy Counsellors and Crown Appointments". Debrett’s. Retrieved 15 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Privy counsellors". Debretts. Retrieved 24 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. ' Privy Counsellors'. In Titles and Forms of Address, 21st ed., pp. 72–73. A & C Black, London, 2002.

External links