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The Prime Minister: Guardian of the Nation

CEO Tinh Phung
The position of Prime Minister, or "Lord Protector" in English, has been historically used in the British constitutional law to refer to the head of state. It is also a special title reserved for Prime...

The position of Prime Minister, or "Lord Protector" in English, has been historically used in the British constitutional law to refer to the head of state. It is also a special title reserved for Prime Ministers of England associated with the national church. Occasionally, it has been used to refer to individuals temporarily holding other positions of power, such as a regent in the absence of a reigning king.

The Royal Prime Ministers

The title "Prime Minister" was initially used by princes or other military leaders who held positions of protecting and safeguarding the nation in a governing council, typically when the English monarch was a child or unable to rule. This was a different approach compared to continental regencies, which involved a division of powers.

There are several notable cases in England:

  • John, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, shared the title of Prime Minister to Henry VI from December 5, 1422, to November 6, 1429.
  • Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, served as Prime Minister to Henry VI on three occasions: from April 3, 1454, to February 1455; from November 19, 1455, to February 25, 1456; and from October 31, 1460, to December 30, 1460.
  • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was the "Protector of the Realm" from May 10, 1483, to June 26, 1483, during the reign of the young King Edward V (one of the Princes in the Tower) before being invited to the throne as Richard III.
  • Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, served as Prime Minister from February 4, 1547, to October 11, 1549, in the early years of the reign of the young Edward VI.

In Scotland:

  • John Stewart, Duke of Albany, was the "Regent and Prime Minister of the Kingdom" from July 12, 1515, to November 16, 1524, for James V of Scotland.
  • James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault, was the "Regent and Prime Minister of the Kingdom" from January 3, 1543, to April 12, 1554, for Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Commonwealth Era under Cromwell

The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland

  • Style: Emphasizing religious piety
  • Residence: Whitehall Palace
  • Nomination: Hereditary
  • Commencement: December 16, 1653
  • First Prime Minister: Oliver Cromwell
  • Last Prime Minister: Richard Cromwell
  • Abolition: May 25, 1659

Lord Protector The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland was a title held by the head of state and head of government during the Commonwealth period (commonly known as the Interregnum), following the initial phase when the Council of State held executive power. This title was held by Oliver Cromwell (from December 1653 to September 1658) and later by his designated successor and son, Richard Cromwell (from September 1658 to May 1659), in a period now known as the Protectorate Era.

According to the 1653 constitution (the republican constitution), it states that: "Oliver Cromwell, the Lord General of the forces of England, Scotland, and Ireland, shall and is hereby declared to be the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging for his life."

The subsequent 1657 Instrument of Government, Humble Petition, and Advice provided the "High Court of Parliament" with the power to choose its own successor. Cromwell chose his eldest living son, Richard, who had little political experience. This was a non-hereditary and practical form of succession, with regal significance in both styles bestowed (even a dual invitation from December 16, 1653, to September 3, 1658, "By the Grace of God and the Sanctuary of the Prime Minister of England, Scotland, and Ireland") and various royal prerogatives, such as the conferment of knighthoods.

Richard Cromwell, who succeeded his father upon his death in September 1658, held the position for only 8 months before resigning in May 1659. He was succeeded by the second phase of the Commonwealth rule until the Restoration of the monarchy under the exiled heir, Charles II, in May 1660.

Prime Ministers (1653-1659)

Prime Minister Lifespan Term in Office
Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell - (1599-04-25) April 25, 1599 - September 3, 1658 (aged 59)
Lord Protector Richard Cromwell - (1626-10-04) October 4, 1626 - July 12, 1712 (aged 85)

Post-Cromwell Era

Since the Restoration, this title has not been used in any similar manner as described above. In 1811, George, Prince of Wales, was appointed as the regent, titled "Prince Regent of the Royal Regiment of Special Services." George exercised royal powers, akin to previous Prime Ministers, but the association with the republican regime made the title unpopular.

Prime Minister of the Church

The term "Prime Minister" has also been used as an expression for the Latin term "Advocatus" referring to a temporary (king-like) head who acted as the protector of the main interests of a part of the church, comparable to the French title of "vidame."

In Fiction

In Mary Shelley's novel "The Last Man," England becomes a republic with the head of state elected as the Prime Minister. This title is held by Lord Raymond and Ryland.

In the final episode of the TV series "The New Statesman," titled "The Irresistible Rise of Alan B'Stard," after B'Stard's National Freedom Party overwhelmingly wins a special by-election debating Britain's membership of the European Economic Community but he refuses to stand for a seat, he briefly considers using the title of Prime Minister before being allowed to become a non-parliamentary Prime Minister.

References

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