Clerks of the Privy Council

A provisional list compiled by J C Sainty, April 2004


The clerks of the privy council were appointed by the crown and entered office on taking an oath at the council board. In the course of time there came to be a distinction between clerks in ordinary and clerks extraordinary. In the case of clerks in ordinary appointments were embodied in letters patent under the great seal which granted them the office with a salary at the receipt of the exchequer; clerks extraordinary, on the other hand, received no patent and no salary.

In 1540 one clerk was appointed with a salary of £30 (APC 1540-42, p. 4; LP, xvi, 107(3)). In 1543 two were appointed with salaries of £20 and £10 (APC 1542-7, p. 188; LP, xviii(1), 623(41, 65). In 1547 three clerks were appointed with salaries of £50, £40 and 40 marks (CPR 1548-9, pp. 2-4). In 1553 salaries of £50 were provided for all three clerks (CPR 1553-4, p. 283; CPR 1554-5, p. 189) and this remained the salary for clerks in ordinary thereafter. Until 1594 there were never more than three salaried clerks at any one time. In that year a salary was provided for a fourth clerk (C 66/1410, gt. to Ashley 2 Jan. 1594) and this remained in principle the established number thereafter although there seem to have been times during the reign of James I when it rose as high as five.

During the reign of Elizabeth I three clerks were appointed without salary who may regarded as the precursors of the later clerks extraordinary: Cheke (1576), Ashley and Rogers (1587). As the case of Cheke indicates the unsalaried clerks participated in the business of the council on the same basis as the salaried (APC 1578-80, pp. 4-5). The term extraordinary seems first to have been applied to Thomas Edmondes appointed in 1599 (APC 1598-9, p. 740). The number of extraordinaries was never fixed and fluctuated considerable. Because they were unpaid it is not always possible to establish their periods of service precisely.

In the list grants were for life and the salaries £50 unless otherwise stated.


Acts of Privy Council
C 66
Chancery Patent Rolls
Calendar of State Papers
Calendar of Treasury Books
Chamberlain Letters
The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. N.E. McClure (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1939)
Calendar of State Papers
Dictionary of National Biography
E 403/1693-1755
Exchequer: pells issue books 1597-1643
E 403/2259-2291
Exchequer: tellers views of payments issues 1569-1608
Gentleman's Magazine
Hist. Relation
N. Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of State
Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714.
6 vols. Oxford 1857.
History of Parliament
LC 2/2
Lord Chamberlain: funeral of Henry VIII
LC 2/3/1
Lord Chamberlain: coronation of Edward VI
LC 2/4/1
Lord Chamberlain: funeral of Edward VI
LC 2/4/2
Lord Chamberlain: funeral of Mary I
LC 2/4/3
Lord Chamberlain: coronation of Elizabeth I
LC 2/4/4
Lord Chamberlain: funeral of Elizabeth I
Letters and Papers of Henry VIII
F. Boase, Modern English Biography
PC 2
Privy Council Registers
Privy Council Registers (reproduced in facsimile)
Royal Kalendar
T 53
Treasury warrants relating to money

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