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The UK has 98 Lord-Lieutenants and their original job was to raise a small volunteer army for the King. Lord-Lieutenants were appointed by the Sovereign in a few areas of Scotland from about 1715, and by the 19th century permanent Lieutenancies were based in each county.

The Lord-Lieutenant appointed a Vice Lord-Lieutenant and several Deputy Lieutenants, and their duties included being prepared to defend their areas in the event of invasion, threat or civil uprising. They directed volunteer forces and were empowered to raise and command local militia units. After 1802 the Lord-Lieutenant was an ex-officio member of the police committee and the local authority, but the Local Government Act of 1889 abolished these functions. In 1921 Lord-Lieutenants finally lost the right to call upon men to fight when needed. Since then the role of Lord-Lieutenants became more ceremonial.

Yet the traditional links with the military have been preserved through the association with the Armed Forces, the Territorial Army and other Reserve and Cadet Forces. Strong links have also been developed with the emergency services and a wide variety of voluntary organisations. 

The fundamental principle concerning the office of Lord-Lieutenant is that he/she is His Majesty's representative in his/her county and consequently it is his/her foremost duty to uphold the dignity of the Crown.

The main duties include:

  • arranging visits by members of the royal family, and receiving and escorting royal visitors as appropriate
  • presenting medals and awards on behalf of The King to individuals, voluntary groups and business organisations
  • participating in civic, voluntary and social events within the county
  • liaising with local units of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Royal Air Force and their associated Cadet Forces
  • representing His Majesty The King at the ceremony which marks the significance of becoming a British citizen and welcome new citizens into the community.

Lord-Lieutenants are appointed by the Monarch to serve until they reach the age of 75 years.