Chief governor of Ireland

  (Redirected from Justiciar of Ireland)

The chief governor was the senior official in the Dublin Castle administration, which maintained English and British rule in Ireland from the 1170s to 1922. The chief governor was the viceroy of the English monarch (and later the British monarch) and presided over the Privy Council of Ireland. In some periods he was in effective charge of the administration, subject only to the monarch in England; in others he was a figurehead and power was wielded by others.


"Chief governor" is an umbrella term favoured by eighteenth-century historians Walter Harris and John Lodge and subsequently used by many historians and statutes.[1] It was occasionally used before then.[nb 1] Chief governors were appointed under various titles, the most common of which were:

  • (Chief) justiciar (13th–14th centuries)
  • (King's) lieutenant (14th–16th century)
  • Lord Deputy (15th–17th centuries)
  • Lord Lieutenant (1660–1922) more formally Lieutenant General and General Governor or Lieutenant-General and Governor-General[4] and colloquially called the Viceroy.[5]

Less common titles include procurator and gubernator, and the temporary title custos or keeper.

Sometimes individuals with different titles served simultaneously, in which case the order of precedence was: lieutenant > justiciar > custos > deputy (lieutenant) > deputy justiciar. The title "Deputy", and later "Lord Deputy", was originally applied to the resident deputy of a non-resident king's lieutenant, when the latter title was an honour bestowed on a favoured English noble. Latterly, such resident deputies were called Lord Justices.

Statute Law Revision Acts passed in the 1890s trimmed formulas such as "the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland" from older acts of parliament, standardising to "the Lord Lieutenant".[6]


In Norman Ireland as in England, a chief justiciar combined executive and judicial functions. The judicial office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland later separated from that of the chief governor. In the fifteenth century, chief governors, especially the Earls of Kildare, began taking initiatives in the Parliament of Ireland contrary to the wishes of the English court. This prompted the passing of Poynings' Law in 1495 to make Irish laws subject to amendment and veto by the Privy Council of England. From 1569 to 1672, much of the land was under martial law and the Lord Deputy had regional deputies in the Lord President of Munster and Lord President of Connaught. From the Williamite Wars till the Constitution of 1782, the Lord Lieutenant was a British noble who came to Ireland only every two years, when Parliament was in session; his main role was to steer legislation through Parliament. Three ex-officio Lords Justices deputised in the Lord Lieutenant's absences. In 1757 the Earl of Kildare (later 1st Duke of Leinster) was one of the Lords Justices and hoped to be made sole Lord Deputy, but was rebuffed.[7]

After the Acts of Union 1800, the Parliament was abolished and political administration was done by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The role of Lord Lieutenant (or Viceroy) was ceremonial and there were calls for it to be abolished. He resided in the Viceregal Lodge throughout his term, but no Irishman was appointed till Viscount FitzAlan in the office's final year. During the Irish War of Independence, Lord French attempted to maintain a more activist role, but was rebuffed. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 created Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland but retained a single Lord Lieutenant for both. When the Irish Free State replaced Southern Ireland in December 1922, the Lord Lieutenant was replaced and separated into the Governor-General of the Irish Free State (abolished in 1936) and the Governor of Northern Ireland (abolished in 1973).



  1. ^ As for example in a 1592 council minute by Robert Cecil,[2] or a 1662 act of the Parliament of Ireland.[3]



  • Connolly, S.J., ed. (24 February 2011). The Oxford Companion to Irish History (2nd ed.). OUP Oxford. s.v. "justiciar", "king's lieutenant", "lord deputy", "lord lieutenant". ISBN 9780199691869.
  • Duncan, Mark (11 February 2015). "Ireland's Lord Lieutenant: '...a fount of all that is slimy in our national life'" (PDF). Century Ireland. Dublin: Raidió Teilifís Éireann (47).
  • Edwards, R. W. Dudley; O'Dowd, Mary (2003). "Irish civil central administration". Sources for Modern Irish History 1534–1641. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521271417.
  • Gray, Peter; Purdue, Olwen (2012). The Irish Lord Lieutenancy: c.1541–1922. University College Dublin Press. ISBN 9781906359607.
  • Morgan, Hiram (Winter 1999). "Overmighty officers: the Irish lord deputyship in the early modern British state". History Ireland. 7 (4): 17–21. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  • Otway-Ruthven, A. J. (1965). "The Chief Governors of Mediaeval Ireland". The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 95 (1/2, Papers in Honour of Liam Price): 227–236. JSTOR 25509592.
  • Richardson, Henry Gerald; Sayles, George Osborne (1963). "Introduction". The administration of Ireland, 1172–1377. Dublin: Stationery Office for the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
    • reprinted in Richardson, Henry Gerald; Sayles, George Osborne (1980). "The Administration of Ireland: Introduction (Reprint)". Analecta Hibernica. Irish Manuscripts Commission (29): i–x, 1–69. JSTOR 25511957.
  • Wood, Herbert (1921–1924). "The Office of Chief Governor of Ireland, 1172–1509". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C. 36: 206–238. JSTOR 25504230.
  • Wood, Herbert (1935). "The Titles of the Chief Governors of Ireland". Historical Research. 13 (37): 1–8. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.1935.tb00065.x. ISSN 0950-3471.


  1. ^ Richardson & Sayles 1963, p.8
  2. ^ Roberts, R A, ed. (1892). "Cecil Papers: November 1592". Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House. 4. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 244. Retrieved 9 May 2017. ...shall make his personal appearance before the lord deputy, or other chief governor or governors, of Ireland, for the time being, and the council...
  3. ^ "14 & 15 Chas II c.9 §§4,13". A Collection of All the Irish and English Statutes Now in Force and Use Relating to His Majesty's Revenue of Ireland. Dublin: James Fleming. 1741. pp. 53, 54. [s.4] such open Key, or Wharf, as the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, or other chief Governor and Governors and Privy Council of this Realm for the time being, shall therefore appoint [...] imprisonment at the Will and Pleasure of the chief Governor or Governors of this Realm for the time being [...] [s.13] that the Lord Deputy, or other chief Governor or Governors of this Realm for the time being, shall have yearly [...] And that the said Lord Deputy, or other chief Governor or Governors of this Realm for the time being, shall also [...]
  4. ^ Madden, R. R. (1845). "Appendix: Privy Council Correspondence During ... 1811, 1812, 1816, 1817". The Connexion Between the Kingdom of Ireland and the Crown of England. Dublin: James Duffy. p. 185.; 1 & 2 William IV c.17 s.1 "WHEREAS his gracious Majesty has been pleased ... to appoint ... one lieutenant general and governor general of that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland, commonly called "The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland": ... Be it therefore enacted ... that it shall ... be lawful ... for his Majesty's said lieutenant general and governor general of Ireland, commonly called the lord lieutenant of Ireland, or for any other chief governor or governors thereof ... to ... appoint ... lieutenants for the several counties ... in Ireland"
  5. ^ Angel, John (1781). A General History of Ireland, in Its Antient and Modern State. 1. Dublin. p. 26. Retrieved 2 November 2016. The king of England sends a viceroy thither to administer the public affairs of Ireland, (whom he represents) who goes by the name of lord lieutenant general and general governor of Ireland
  6. ^ "Statute Law Revision Act, 1890, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision (No. 2) Act, 1890, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision Act, 1892, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision Act, 1893, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision (No. 2) Act, 1893, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision Act, 1894, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.; "Statute Law Revision Act, 1898, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  7. ^ Magennis, Eoin. "Fitzgerald, James". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 19 November 2017.