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The post of Poet Laureate was first held by Ben Jonson in 1616 but it wasn't until the appointment of John Dryden in 1668 that the position became official.

The post was normally held for life except in the case of Dryden who had to give the position up to Thomas Shadwell after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 when the Catholic King James II went into exile and was replaced by the joint rule of the Protestants Mary II and William III.

The post has been held (almost) continuously up until the present day and although originally intended for poets to work as the official chronicler of their times it has been awarded since the 19th century to poets seen as the most talented of their generation.

Previously held for life the position of Poet Laureate is now restricted to a 10-year period. In 2009 Carol Ann Duffy became the first woman to become Poet Laureate.

17th Century 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century 21st Century

17th century

Ben Jonson 1616-1637 Portrait
William D'Avenant 1638-1668 ---
John Dryden 1668-1688 Portrait
Thomas Shadwell 1689-1692 Portrait
Nahum Tate 1692-1715 ---


18th century

Nicholas Rowe 1715-1718 Portrait
Laurence Eusden 1718-1730 ---
Colley Cibber 1730-1757 Portrait
William Whitehead 1757-1785 Portrait
Thomas Warton 1785-1790 Portrait
Henry James Pye 1790-1813 Portrait


19th century

Robert Southey 1813-1843 Portrait
William Wordsworth 1843-1850 Portrait
Alfred Tennyson 1850-1892 Portrait
Alfred Austin 1896-1913 Portrait


20th century

Robert Bridges 1913-1930 Portrait
John Masefield 1930-1967 Portrait
Cecil Day-Lewis 1968-1972 Portrait

John Betjeman

1972-1984 Portrait
Ted Hughes 1984-1998 Portrait
Andrew Motion 1999-2009 Portrait


21st century

Carol Ann Duffy 2009-2019 Portrait
Simon Armitage 2019- Portrait


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