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Carol Ann Duffy © Jemima Kuhfeld

Carol Ann Duffy © Jemima Kuhfeld

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 (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

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)

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

John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

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

C. Day-Lewis (1904 – 72)

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

Sir John Betjeman (1906 – 84)

John Betjeman began writing poetry at school and continued at Oxford

Ted Hughes (1930 – 98)

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

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