Alternative History

The office of the sovereign, be it a monarch or an assembly, consisteth in the end for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety of the people, to which he is obliged by the law of nature...
(Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan, The Second Part, Chapter 30: Of the Office of the Sovereign Representative.)

Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging.
Timeline: Cromwell the Great

Arms of the Protectorate (1653–1659).svg
Standard of the Lord Protector

Charlotte Hastings-Rawle Duchess of Kent.png

Charlotte Hastings-Rawle Duchess of Kent

Since: June 1853

Style (Style of office) His/Hers Highness By the Grace of God and Republic, Lord Protector/Lady Protectress of England, Scotland and Ireland

(Address style) His/Hers/Your Highness the Lord Protector/Lady Protectress

Residence Hampton Court Palace and Manor
Appointer He names his successor or candidate. In case of absence the Senate names his successor or candidate to the Protectorship (1653-1736)
Elected by a joint electoral session of the Commonwealth Parliament (House of Commons and Senate, 1736-1835)

Electoral Assembly composed of senators and delegated-electors votes for Protector (1835 to date)

Term length For life (1653-1736)
Seven year mandate (1736-1767) extended to ten years (1767 to date) both terms with unlimited reelection.
First holder Oliver Cromwell
Formation 1653

The Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland[1] is the title of the head of state of the Commonwealth.

Introduction and history

The 1653 Instrument of Government (the first republican constitution) stated that: Oliver Cromwell, Captain-General of the forces of England, Scotland and Ireland, shall be, and is hereby declared to be, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, for his life.

The replacement constitution of 1657, the Humble Petition and Advice, gave 'His Highness the Lord Protector' the power to nominate his successor. Cromwell chose his son Henry. This was a non-representative and de facto dynastic mode of succession, with royal connotations in both styles awarded, even a double invocation 16 December 1653 "By the Grace of God and Republic Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland" and many other monarchical prerogatives, such as awarding knighthoods.

The Humble Petition and Advice also gave the Lord Protector to choose up to 21 Councillors of the Commonwealth Council of State.

The office and powers of the Protector were extensively reformed by the Constitutional Framework under Richard Cromwell. These reforms made the office of Lord Protector an elective and non-hereditary one. Changes on the length of the mandate of the Lord Protector have been: for life (1653-1736), seven-year mandate (1736-1767) and ten-year mandate (1767 to date).


The Lord Protector is Head of State of the Commonwealth and the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, land and sea, of England, Scotland and Ireland. He or she can dissolve the House of Commons and immediately call for elections, can grant pardons to convicted persons, present bills and money bills for consideration and vote to the Parliament, regulate the armed forces and appointments. The Protector also appoints the judges of the high courts on proposal of the Lord Chancellors.

The Lord Protector names the Lord President and candidates members to the Council, whom the House of Commons votes to approve or reject. Chairs the sessions of the Council and exercises his or her authority on advice of the Council, signs the Orders in Council and Commonwealth Charters. The Protector directs foreign relations along the Secretary of State and the Council of State and appoints ambassadors and receives foreign envoys. Names part of the members of the Senate for a six-year term.

Names the Lord President of Scotland, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of the former crown dependencies and of colonies, dominions and territories. Names the Chancellors of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and the Lord of Man and the Isles. The Protector grants honours, knighthoods and peerage.

Election of the Protector

The Lord Protector had the power to nominate his successor[2] until 1736 when time limits on the duration of the mandate were enacted. The Constitutional Framework, allowed when he was named for life to nominate his successors or in case of absence the Senate named his successor or candidate to the Protectorship. In either case and following custom the House of Commons after the first address of the Protector to the Parliament votes to accept or reject the nomination and proceeds to call for the formal installation and oath.

The Act on the Election of Lord Protector by Parliament (1736) established that the whole Commonwealth Parliament (House of Commons and Senate) assembled as an electoral assembly to elect the Lord Protector on a candidate or list of candidates provided by the Commonwealth Council of State or by the Senate. The rules of election are to be decided by a joint commission of the House of Commons and the Senate. The Lord Protector serves for a mandate of seven years (1736-1767), later ten years (1767 to date) with no limits for the reelection for another mandate.

The Protectors' elections were held usually no more than a month after the death of the previous office holder. However, since the Act of 1736, and following custom, the election of the Protector is held around Midsummer Day (24 June, officially Quarter Day) with a variation of a week or two. This custom has stood regardless of the early death or removal from office of the Protector.

On the installation, Protectors are required to give the following oath (Claim of Rights Act of 1702 wording):

I (name), Solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same".

The Regency Bill of 1761 passed by the Commonwealth Parliament at the death of Campbell set the precedent for filling the office if the Lord Protector died, was incapacitated or removed before the end of his term. In these cases Parliament enacts a special Regency Bill that calls for the meeting of both Houses as prescribed in the Act of 1736 within three months and appoints a Board of Regents (i.e. Commissioners of the Great Seal) to administer the Commonwealth and carry the prescribed State functions of the Protectorship as detailed in the Regency Bill.

The Lord Protector election of 1833 that produced a two-week long deadlock due to a divided House of Commons and multiple candidates pushed for a reform of its election. Previous elections took no more than two days. As a form to take out political pressure and division and potential deadlocks from the House of Commons the Act on the Election of Lord Protector (1834) created an Electoral Assembly whose sole purpose and meeting was to elect any of nominated candidates to the Protectorship. The Assembly was composed of the senators joined by the delegated-electors. The latter elected in regional elections by the members of county councils and borough corporations. A procedure to nominate candidates for Lord Protector was established. The Act of 1834 also consolidated previous similar acts and gained a constitutional status.

Lord Protector's Regalia

An early civic crown

Portrait of Lady Protectress Bridget Wilson-Macmillan (wearing State diadem)

The symbols of office or regalia of the Lord Protector are the ceremonial purple robe, the civic crown or diadem/tiara (added in the late 18th century as part of a Roman Classicism revival fad at that time and the use more republican symbolism after the French Revolution), Commonwealth mace (keep at the House of Parliament), purple cap of maintenance or coronet, and protectorship sash. These besides the Standard of the Lord Protector and Armed Forces Standard that are also State symbols.

Now are days its more usual in everyday protocol and appearance the usage of the insignia of the Lord/Lady Protector (Grand Cross like the design of the Standard of the Lord Protector) as a badge with the option of the protectorship sash in the shoulder or waist that is blue colored, as the Order of the Garter and the National Order and Legion of Merit.

At the installation of the Lord Protector the regalia used are: A robe of purple velvet lined with ermine, a Sword of state and a Scepter, and the Bible, sitting in the "Coronation Chair" or "King Edward's Chair." The regalia of the installation is almost the same one used by previous monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The original regalia of the former kings and queens of England, Scotland and Ireland was either sold off during Oliver Cromwell's tenure or kept at present in the Tower of London Museum and the premises of the Scottish (Edinburgh) and Irish (Dublin) Offices.

Ceremonial and protocol dressing (Lady Protectress and Lord Protector) with detail of the personal insignia of the Lord/Lady Protector

The Protectorship's Peerage and Honours (or British Peerage and Honours)

All British Commonwealth peerages (Peer of the Commonwealth) are given out or created by the Lord Protector. In some cases for Scotland and Ireland, by advice of the Lord President and Lord Lieutenant, can peerages and honours be given out. The peerage can be hereditary or for life (non hereditary).

Though the peerage and honours system has been involved several times in scandals despite several Acts and Orders in Council addressing the problems of sales of orders and medals as part of government patronage.

British peerage is created and granted by letters patent issued by the Lord Protector. The ranks of peerage, with its male and female forms are:

  • Duke/Duchess,
  • Marquess/Marchioness,
  • Earl/Countess,
  • Viscount/Viscountess, and
  • Baron/Baroness

For North America two unique ranks were created in 1671 by Protector Cromwell:

  • Landgrave/Landgravines (equivalent to Earl), and
  • Cassique/Cassica (equivalent to Baron). The title of Cassique is generally, for there have been exceptions, bestowed upon the Chief (Chieftain) or leader of a Native American tribes.

Hereditary or life honours that are is not a peerage are the following:

  • Baronet/Baronetess and
  • Knight/Lady or Dame.

The Commonwealth Honours system consists of:

  • Honours used to recognise merit in terms of achievement and service. Being the most important "The Most Noble Order of the Garter", followed by the "National Order of Merit", the "Order of the Protectorate" or Dunbar medal for the land forces, the "Commonwealth Naval Order" and the "Air Service Order". Scotland and Ireland have their particular honours: Order of the Thistle and Order of Saint Patrick given out to seniority and outstanding services in the civil service, military, academia and industry.
  • Decorations tend to be used to recognise specific deeds.
  • Medals are used to recognise bravery, long and/or valuable service and/or good conduct. The most important one is the Cross of Saint George for military and naval valour, followed by the medals of Order of Merit for courage, geniuses and spiritual authority.

Public Activities of the Lord Protector

The Lord Protector, by custom, opens the first session of each newly elected Commonwealth Parliament and gives the Speech of Intentions where the official policies are outlined. He or she also annually - or in special cases - from the Senate's Lord Speaker Chair addresses senators and members of parliament on the proposal of the annual budget.

Since 1703[3] the Lord Protector heads the Trooping the Colour a ceremony performed by regiments of the British Army. It is held in London annually on a Saturday in June on the Horse Guards Parade by St. James's Park.

During the European Revolutionary Wars the public appearance of the Lord Protector became an official public relations policy to rally the Nation behind the war effort and several of these activities became part of the official agenda of the Protectorship.

From those times he assists to the opening day of the finals of the Professional Tests Series and the national cricket tests of the Lord Protector/Lady Protectress. The opening of the annual Hampton Court Palace Commonwealth Reception in May, a tradition started in 1811 during the postponed celebrations of 150 Year of the Commonwealth. The Lord Protector assists in person in official opening of important public works and buildings.

Lord Protectors of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland

Portrait Name




Political affinity/faction/party
Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper.jpg Oliver Cromwell

(April 1599 – Sept. 1658)

December 1653 - September 1658 Cromwellian
First Lord Protector
Henry Cromwell.jpg Henry Cromwell

(January 1628 – March 1696)

September 1658- March 1696 Cromwellian
Son of Oliver Cromwell created the foundations of the Framework of Government and the religious Settlement,. Incorporated Ireland to the Commonwealth. Due to the full exercise of his powers and influence he is considered one of the Two Lords.
James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch by William Wissing.jpg James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth

(April 1649 – July 1718)

March 1696 - July 1718 Whig
Named by Henry Cromwell as his successor and elected by Parliament. The second of the Two Lords. Fully exercised his powers usually dismissing members of the State Council when they did not conform to his policies or remodeled it according to political support in the House of Commons. Called by his enemies King of Monmouth. War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1715).
William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire

(1672 – 4 June 1729)

July 1718 - June 1729 Whig Junto
As Protector he relinquished most of his duties in the Council of State according to beliefs of Whig in parliamentary rule and supremacy. Under his mandate the Council of State expanded its staff and patronage in the Senate and House of Commons. The Irish coinage crisis (1722-1723).
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (2).jpg Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend

(April 1674 – June 1738)

June 1729 - June 1738 Whig Junto
A typical example of the Whig Hegemony. Supervised and gave patronage to the advancement of the sciences and arts. Promoted the efficiency of county commissioners and shire guardians. Last Protector elected for life. Nicknamed Turnip Townshend because of his strong interest in farming turnips and role in the British Agricultural Revolution.
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville by William Hoare.jpg John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville

(April 1690 – January 1763)

June 1738 -June 1752 Whig
The Act on the Election of Lord Protector by Parliament (1736) established a seven year mandate. The War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48).
3rdDukeOfArgyll.jpg Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll

(June 1682 – April 1761)

June 1752 - April 1761 Scottish Whig
Former Lord President of Scotland. Died in office. The Seven Years' War (1756-1763).
Council of Regents (i.e., Commissioners of the Great Seal) April-June 1761
4thDukeOfBedford.jpg John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford

(Sept. 1710 – January 1771)

June 1761 - June 1768 Patriot Whig -> Patriot Party
During his mandate the Whigs broke up in several factions, the main the Patriots advocating the end of Whig cronyism and pushing for reforms. The British Commonwealth awarded French Canada, renamed Quebec, as part of the peace settlement of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). Established the colonies and Indian territories of Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.
1stMarquessOfStafford.jpg Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford

(August 1721 –Oct. 1803)

June 1768 - June 1778 Tory-Country Coalition
Under his period the office of the Protector regained its prestige and power of arbitration. Also started the official tours in the Home Countries making more public the office of Protector to the eyes of the British. Elected under Act of 1767 that established a ten year mandate.
Grafton3.jpg Augustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton

(Sept. 1735 – March 1811)

June 1778 - June 1788 Radical Reformer --> Radical Alliance [4]
Under his period the major electoral reforms (secret ballot, expansion of franchise, limited female suffrage) were enacted. Continued the official tours of his predecessor and established the Protector's patronage of Arts and Sciences.
1stMarquessOfStafford.jpg Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford

(Aug. 1721 – Oct. 1803)

June 1788 - June 1798 National Reform PU
Leveson-Gower's second non consecutive term. In most of his period had to deal with the French Revolution and the European Revolutionary Wars (1790-1810) and its effects in Europe and the British alliance system.
George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer.jpg George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer

(Sept. 1758 – Nov. 1834)

June 1798 - June 1808,
June 1808 - June 1813[5]
Radical Alliance, later Independent
During his mandate, and being a military man, he assumed full executive powers and usually chaired the Army and Navy commissions of the Council of State. Reelected for a provisional mandate of five years under the Mandate Extension (Temporary) Act of 1808.
BretonPeterson.png Delmar FitzPatrick, 4th Earl of Kingston

(Oct. 1768 – Jan. 1840)

June 1813-June 1823 National and Civic Fusion
Under his term the main political issues were the reconstruction and the political awakening of many groups (women, workers and industrial capitalists) in Northern England and Ireland due to the French Revolution. Despite being of moderate temper he vigorously pushed for the long awaited electoral and local government reforms. Thawed relations with France in the so-called Channel handshake with First Consul Bonaparte in 1821.
Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald.jpg Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald

(Dec. 1775 – Oct. 1860)

June 1823-June 1833 Radical Progressive PU
By excellence the Radical Lord of British lore. He promoted, moved and influenced a large part of the political reforms such as full female suffrage and political and legal rights.
Council of Regents (i.e. Commissioners of the Great Seal) June 1833 In charge of the functions and representation of the office the Lord Protector until a new one is elected. As established by the Regency Bill of 1761 and the Modified Motion of June 1833 that enabled its installation. This was due to the end of the mandate of Lord Cochrane and no successor immediately elected by the end of his tenure.
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell by Sir Francis Grant detail.jpg Sir Steffen Yates

(April 1786 – March 1846)

June 1833-June 1843 Independent Reformer, later Civic PU
Elected as a consensual candidate after a two week long session of the Parliament, Senate and House of Commons, as electoral body. This would lead to the Act on the Election of Lord Protector (1834).
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston Conservative 1858-1862.jpg Lord Philip Cox

(May 1795 – Jan. 1870)

June 1843 - June 1853 Civic PU
Elected by a joint ticket of National Constitutional PU, Civic PU and Municipal Reform PU. First election under new system (Senate and electoral delegates). Nicknamed Mason Cox for his ability to forge and hold together political alliances in the 1830s and 1840s and the Protector election of 1833.
Charlotte Hastings-Rawle Duchess of Kent.png Charlotte Hastings-Rawle Duchess of Kent

(Agos 1800 – April 1873)

June 1853 - June 1863 Radical Progressive PU
Elected as Alliance candidate (Radical Progressive PU and Radical Industrialist PU).

Official Residences

Official residences of the Lord Protector and family are

Picture Residence Residence
HamptonCourtKipKnyff1708.jpg Hampton Court Palace and Manor
Official Residence and reception venue
Windsor, view of the castle from the river, England-LCCN2002696958.jpg Windsor Castle
Official country residence
Banqueting House London.jpg Banqueting House of the New Whitehall Palace
Official receptions, banquets and proclamation building
St James Palace, London 1.jpg Saint James's Palace
London residence and offices. Refurbished under Protector Henry Cromwell
The King's Manor - - 408048.jpg The Protector's Northern Manor. (near the city of York)
Former King's Manor. Official country residence. Under Protector Townshend the building was refurbished and the neighboring terrain was acquired for landscaping the New Park.
Brighton royal pavilion Qmin.jpg Brighton Pavilion. (Brighton)
Official summer residence. Built under Protector Leveson-Gower in the Indo-Saracenic[6] style prevalent in India and the Commonwealth. Premises shared with the local authorities of Brighton and the Museum of Brighton.

See Also

List of Governments of the Commonwealth.

  1. or Lady Protectress if a woman holds office.
  2. Instrument of Government (1653) and Humble Petition and Advice (1657)
  3. War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1715)
  4. As a Political Union (PU) as specified in the Representation of the People Act of 1780
  5. Reelected for a mandate of five years in 1808 by the Mandate Extension (Temporary) Act
  6. Also known as Indo-Gothic, Mughal-Gothic, Neo-Mughal, or Hindoo style