Lords Commissioners of the Treasury

In the United Kingdom there are at least six Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, serving as a commission for the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer. The board consists of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Second Lord of the Treasury, and four or more junior lords[1] to whom this title is usually applied.

Strictly they are commissioners for exercising the office of Lord High Treasurer[1] (similar to the status of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty exercising the office of Lord High Admiral until 1964, when the Queen resumed the office). This office has continually been in commission since the resignation in 1714 of Charles, Duke of Shrewsbury, who was appointed to the office by Queen Anne on her deathbed.[2]

Until the 19th century, this commission made most of the economic decisions of Great Britain (England, before the Act of Union 1707). However, starting during the 19th century, these positions became sinecure positions, with the First Lord serving almost invariably as Prime Minister, the Second Lord invariably as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the junior lords serving as whips in Parliament.

As an office in commission, technically all Lords Commissioners of the Treasury are of equal rank, with their ordinal numbers connoting seniority rather than authority over their fellow Lords Commissioners. However, from at least the reign of Queen Anne, de facto power has rested with the top-numbered Lords.