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Carol Ann Duffy©

The Poet Laureate

The role of Poet Laureate is a special honour awarded by the Sovereign to a poet whose work is of national significance. The title derives from the laurels with which the ancient Greeks traditionally crowned their most celebrated poets. The first official Poet Laureate was John Dryden, appointed by Charles II in 1668 to write poetry in support of the monarchy.

Poets Laureate have marked many royal events, from births, deaths and marriages to investitures and jubilees, although there has been no obligation to do so since the eighteenth century. Today, the Poet Laureate is free to write as little or as much as they choose on anysubject.

Prior to the appointment of Sir Andrew Motion in 1999 the position had been for life, but now the tenure is ten years.

Carol Ann Duffy © Jemima Kuhfeld
Carol Ann Duffy (b.1955)

Duffy was appointed Poet Laureate in 2009, the first Scot and the first woman to hold the post.

The Poet Laureate and the gift of sherry

The Poet Laureate was given a small stipend and a barrel of sherry

The Early Poets Laureate

John Dryden was the first official Poet Laureate

Photograph of the poet Alfred Tennyson facing three-quarters right. He wears an overcoat or cloak over a jacket with high lapels. He wears a pince-nez or eyeglass attached to a string around his neck. Half-length portrait.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 92)

Prince Albert admired his work so much that Tennyson was offered the post of Poet Laureate.

Alfred Austin (1835–1913) was a writer and poet. He wrote for many years for the Conservative paper The Standard, and held the position of Poet Laureate from 1896 until his death in 1913.
Alfred Austin (1835–1913)

Austin was appointed Poet Laureate through the influence of the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury

Photograph of a head and shoulders length portrait of the Poet Laureate and holder of the Order of Merit, John Masefield. He faces three-quarters right and wears a dark jacket, white shirt and tie.
John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

Masefield wrote using simple language, for all readers rather than for the literati

Born in Ireland and brought up in England, Cecil Day-Lewis began to dedicate himself to poetry when at Oxford in the 1920s. During the 1930s he became closely associated with W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice, poets whose espousal of left-win
C. Day-Lewis (1904 – 72)

C. Day-Lewis was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 and began to modernise the role.

John Betjeman was born and brought up in North London. He began writing poetry at school and continued at Oxford, where he made the acquaintance of the poets W.H. Auden and Louis MacNiece. He developed a strong interest in architecture and was a founder m
Sir John Betjeman (1906 – 84)

John Betjeman began writing poetry at school and continued at Oxford

The poet Ted Hughes (1930-98) was born at Mytholmroyd in Yorkshire and studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where in 1956 he met Sylvia Plath, marrying her soon after. His dominant concern with the vitality and violence of nature was tempered by a life
Ted Hughes (1930 – 98)

Ted Hughes wrote poetry in which he explored the natural world and mythical themes

Spring wedding : written to mark the wedding of Prince Charles & Camilla Parker Bowles / Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion (b.1952)

Andrew Motion was introduced to poetry at school, and had his first volume of poetry published at the age of 24

Stephen Raw (b.1952)

The textual artist Stephen Raw has collaborated with Carol Ann Duffy for a number of years

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.