The Right Honourable

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The Right Honourable (abbreviated "The Rt Hon." or "The Right Hon.") is an honorific prefix which, in local contexts, is traditionally applied to certain classes of people in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Realms.



People entitled to the prefix in a personal capacity are:

In order to differentiate peers who are Privy Counsellors from those who are not, sometimes the suffix PC is added to the title.

In addition some people are entitled to the prefix in an official capacity, i.e. the prefix is added to the name of the office, but not the name of the person:

All other Lord Mayors and Lord Provosts are "The Right Worshipful".

Corporate entities

The prefix is also added to the name of various corporate entities, e.g.:

  • The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal (of the United Kingdom &c.) in Parliament Assembled (the House of Lords);
  • The Right Honourable the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses (now usually the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom &c.) in Parliament Assembled (the House of Commons); and
  • The Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (the 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 corporate 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 only used on the front of envelopes and other written documents: e.g. The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP is otherwise referred to simply as "Mr Blair".

In the House of Commons, members refer to each other as "the honourable member for ..." or "the right honourable member for ..." depending upon whether or not they are Privy Counsellors. However the title "the honourable member" is only a parliamentary term and is not used outside the House.

When a married woman holds this style, she uses her own given name in her style. So, when Mrs. Denis Thatcher was made a Privy Counsellor, she didn't become The Right Honourable Mrs. Denis Thatcher or The Right Honourable Mrs. Thatcher, but became The Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher.

Outside the United Kingdom

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.


The Irish Privy Council was abolished with the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922; nevertheless the Lord Mayor of Dublin, like his counterparts in the United Kingdom, retains the usage of the honorific; the Lord Mayor of Cork has never been entitled to the title. The remaining members of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland are entitled to be styled The Right Honourable.


In Canada, members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada receive the honorific The Honourable, with only the occupants of the most senior public offices being made The Right Honourable, as they used to be appointed to the British Privy Council.

L'Honorable and le Très Honorable are used in French by the federal government, but the Office québécois de la langue française (the Quebec government body setting standards for the French language) considers them improper loan expressions and advises the use of Monsieur and Madame (Mr. and Ms.) instead.

Although these appointments have ceased, the following public servants are awarded the style The Right Honourable for life:

(Governors General also use the style His/Her Excellency during their term of office.)

Several prominent Canadians (mostly politicians) 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 - As Prime Minister.

2 - Tupper was appointed when he was no longer Prime Minister and St. Laurent was appointed when he was a cabinet minister under Mackenzie King.

3 - Massey became Governor General over a decade later. He was made "Right Honourable" while serving as Canada's High Commissioner to London.

4 - As Chief Justice of Canada

5 - As Governor General of Canada.

6 - Duff did not become Chief Justice until 1933.

Canadian appointments to the British Privy Council were ended by the government of Lester Pearson. Since then, the style may only 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:


In Australia some Premiers of the Australian colonies in the 19th century were 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. There has never been an Australian Privy Council - the equivalent body in Australia is the Federal Executive Council.

In 1972 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declined appointment to the Privy Council, but the practice was resumed by Malcolm Fraser in 1975. In 1983 Bob Hawke declined the appointment, and the appointment of Australians to the Privy Council was abolished shortly thereafter. The last Governor-General to be entitled to the style was Ninian Stephen. The last serving politician to be entitled to the style was Ian Sinclair, who retired in 1998.

The only living Australians holding the title The Right Honourable for life are:

The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart are styled The Right Honourable, but the style (which has no connection with the Privy Council) attaches to the title of Lord Mayor, and not to their names, and is relinquished upon leaving office.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister is customarily appointed to the British Privy Council and is styled The Right Honourable. However, the current Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has not recommended any new Privy Counsellors.

The Governor-General is also usually a Privy Counsellor, but the current Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, is not. In any case the Governor-General as a plenipotentiary representative is entitled to the style "Excellency".

At present there are only three Privy Counsellors in the New Zealand Parliament, all appointed by previous Prime Ministers: Helen Clark (appointed by Jim Bolger upon becoming Leader of the Opposition in 1993), Speaker of the House Jonathan Hunt (appointed by Geoffrey Palmer in recognition of long service in 1989) and Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First (appointed by Jim Bolger upon becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer in 1996). A fourth, former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley (appointed upon becoming Prime Minister in 1997), stepped down from Parliament at the 2002 election.

See also

External links


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