Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and the President of the Courts of England and Wales.

Lord Chief Justice
of England and Wales
The Judiciary of England and Wales
The Lord Burnett of Maldon
since 2 October 2017
StyleThe Right Honourable
NominatorJudicial Appointments Commission
AppointerMonarch of the United Kingdom,
on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor[1]
Formation29 November 1880

Until 2005 the Lord Chief Justice was the second-most senior judge of the Courts of England and Wales, surpassed by the Lord Chancellor who normally sat in the highest court. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 changed the roles of judges, creating the position of President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and altering the duties of the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chief Justice ordinarily serves as President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and Head of Criminal Justice, meaning its technical processes within the legal domain, but under the 2005 Act can appoint another judge to these positions.

The equivalent in Scotland is the Lord President of the Court of Session, who also holds the post of Lord Justice-General in the High Court of Justiciary. The equivalent in Northern Ireland is the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, local successor to the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland of the pre-Partition era.

The current Lord Chief Justice is Lord Burnett of Maldon, who assumed the role on 2 October 2017.


Originally, each of the three high common law courts, the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of the Exchequer, had its own chief justice: the Lord Chief Justice, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Chief Baron of the Exchequer. The Court of the King's (or Queen's) Bench had existed since 1234. In 1268 its foremost judge was given the title of (lord) chief justice; previously one of the justices would be considered the senior judge, and fulfil an analogous role.

The three courts became divisions of the High Court in 1875 (though the head of each court continued in post). Following the deaths of Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn and Chief Baron Sir Fitzroy Kelly in 1880, the three divisions were merged into a single division, with Lord Coleridge, the last Chief Justice of Common Pleas, as Lord Chief Justice of England.[2]

The suffix "and Wales", now found in statutes and elsewhere, was of a holder's own motion and to reflect centuries-old reality, appended during the tenure of Lord Bingham of Cornhill. He held this office between 1996 and 2000.

Constitutional Reform Act 2005

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (CRA) made the Lord Chief Justice the president of the Courts of England and Wales, vesting the office with many of the powers formerly held by the Lord Chancellor. While the Lord Chief Justice retains the role of President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, the CRA separated the role of President of the Queen's Bench Division; the changed chief justice role was first held by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers. The CRA provides that the chief justice is chosen by a specially appointed committee convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Lord chief justices of the King's (Queen's) Bench, to 1880

Portrait Lord chief justice From Until Notes
William de Raley12341239
Sir Stephen de Segrave12391241
William of York12411247
Henry of Bath12491251
Sir Gilbert of Seagrave12511253
Henry of Bath12531260
Sir William of Wilton12611263
Nicholas de Turri12651267
Sir Robert de Briwes12686 November 1269
Richard of Staines6 November 12691273
Martin of Littlebury12731274
Ralph de Hengham12741290
Gilbert de Thornton12901296
Sir Roger Brabazon1296March 1316
Sir William IngeMarch 131615 June 1317
Sir Henry le Scrope15 June 1317September 1323
Hervey de StantonSeptember 132321 March 1324
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope21 March 13241 May 1329
Sir Robert de Malberthorp1 May 132928 October 1329
Sir Henry le Scrope28 October 132919 December 1330
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope19 December 133028 March 1332
Sir Richard de Willoughby28 March 133220 September 1332
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope20 September 133210 September 1333
Sir Richard de Willoughby10 September 13331337
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope1337October 1338
Sir Richard de WilloughbyOctober 133821 July 1340
Sir Robert Parning21 July 13408 January 1341
Sir William Scott8 January 134126 November 1346
Sir William de Thorpe26 November 134626 October 1350
Sir William de Shareshull26 October 135024 May 1361
Sir Henry Green24 May 136129 October 1365
Sir John Knyvet29 October 136515 July 1372
Sir John de Cavendish15 July 137214 June 1381Murdered in the Peasants' Revolt
Sir Robert Tresilian22 June 138117 November 1387
Sir Walter Clopton31 January 138821 October 1400
Sir William Gascoigne15 November 140029 March 1413
Sir William Hankford29 March 141312 December 1423
Sir William Cheyne21 January 142420 January 1439
Sir John Juyn20 January 143924 March 1440
Sir John Hody13 April 144025 January 1442
Sir John Fortescue25 January 144213 May 1461
Sir John Markham13 May 146123 January 1469
Sir Thomas Billing23 January 14695 May 1481
Sir William Hussey7 May 14818 September 1495
Sir John Fineux24 November 149523 January 1526
Sir John FitzJames23 January 152621 January 1539
Sir Edward Montagu21 January 15399 November 1545
Sir Richard Lyster9 November 154521 March 1552
Sir Roger Cholmeley21 March 15524 October 1553
Sir Thomas Bromley4 October 155311 June 1555
Sir William Portman11 June 15558 May 1557
Sir Edward Saunders8 May 155722 January 1559
Sir Robert Catlyn22 January 15598 November 1574
Sir Christopher Wray8 November 15742 June 1592
Sir John Popham2 June 159225 June 1607
Sir Thomas Fleming25 June 160725 October 1613
Sir Edward Coke25 October 161316 November 1616
Sir Henry Montagu16 November 161629 January 1621
Sir James Ley29 January 162126 January 1625
Sir Ranulph Crewe26 January 16255 February 1627
Sir Nicholas Hyde5 February 162724 October 1631
Sir Thomas Richardson 24 October 16314 February 1635 Died in office
Sir John Bramston 14 April 163531 October 1642
Sir Robert Heath 31 October 1642October 1645
Sir Henry Rolle 12 October 164815 June 1655
John Glynne 15 June 165517 January 1660 Knighted in 1660
Sir Richard Newdigate 17 January 16601 October 1660
Sir Robert Foster 21 October 16604 October 1663 First Chief Justice after the Restoration; died in office
Sir Robert Hyde 19 October 16631 May 1665 Died in office
Sir John Kelynge 21 November 16659 May 1671 Died in office
Sir Matthew Hale 18 May 167120 February 1676 Formerly Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer 1660–1671
Sir Richard Raynsford 12 April 167631 May 1678
Sir William Scroggs 31 May 167811 April 1681
Sir Francis Pemberton 11 April 16811682 Later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1683
Sir Edmund Saunders 23 January 168319 June 1683 Died in office
Sir George Jeffreys
(Lord Jeffreys from 1685)
28 September 168323 October 1685 Lord Chancellor 1685–1688
Sir Edward Herbert 23 October 168522 April 1687 Later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1687–1689
Sir Robert Wright 22 April 168717 April 1689 Briefly Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in April 1687
Sir John Holt 17 April 16895 March 1710 Died in office
Sir Thomas Parker
(Lord Parker from 1714)
11 March 171015 May 1718 Regent of Great Britain from 1 August to 18 September 1714; later Lord Chancellor 1718–1725, created Earl of Macclesfield in 1721; impeached for corruption in 1725
Sir John Pratt 15 May 171824 February 1725 Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1721
Sir Robert Raymond
(Lord Raymond from 1731)
2 March 172531 October 1733 Previously Attorney General 1720–1724; died in office
Lord Hardwicke 31 October 17338 June 1737 Previously Attorney General 1724–1733; later Lord Chancellor 1737–1756 and created Earl of Hardwicke in 1754
Sir William Lee 8 June 17378 April 1754 Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1754; died in office
Sir Dudley Ryder 2 May 175425 May 1756 Previously Attorney General 1737–1754; died in office
Lord Mansfield
(Earl of Mansfield from 1776)
8 November 17564 June 1788 Previously Attorney General 1754–1756; Lord Speaker in 1783
Lord Kenyon 4 June 17884 April 1802 Previously Attorney General 1782–1783 1783–1784 and Master of the Rolls 1784–1788; died in office
Lord Ellenborough 11 April 18022 November 1818 Previously Attorney General 1801–1802; interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1806
Sir Charles Abbott
(Lord Tenterden from 1827)
2 November 18184 November 1832 Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1827; died in office
Sir Thomas Denman
(Lord Denman from 1834)
4 November 18325 March 1850 Previously Attorney General 1830–1832; interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1834
Lord Campbell 5 March 185024 June 1859 Previously Attorney General 1834 and 1835–1841; briefly Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1841; later Lord Chancellor 1859–1861
Sir Alexander Cockburn, Bt 24 June 185920 November 1880 Previously Attorney General 1851–1852, 1852–1856 and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1856–1859; Courts of the Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer became divisions of a unified High Court in 1875; died in office

Lord chief justices of England (later England and Wales) 1880–present

Portrait Lord chief justice From Until Notes
Lord Coleridge 29 November 188014 June 1894 Previously Attorney General 1871–1873 and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1873–1880; died in office
Lord Russell of Killowen 11 July 189410 August 1900 Previously Attorney General 1886 1892–1894; first Catholic Lord Chief Justice; died in office
Lord Alverstone 24 October 190021 October 1913 Previously Attorney-General 1885–1886 1886–1892 1895–1900 and Master of the Rolls in 1900; in retirement, created Viscount Alverstone in 1913
Sir Rufus Isaacs
(Lord Reading from 1914,
Viscount Reading from 1916,
Earl of Reading from 1917)
21 October 19138 March 1921 Previously Attorney General 1910–1913; later Viceroy of India 1921–1925 and created Marquess of Reading in 1926; first Jewish Lord Chief Justice
Sir Alfred Lawrence
(Lord Trevethin from August 1921)
15 April 19212 March 1922
Sir Gordon Hewart
(Lord Hewart from 24 March 1922)
8 March 192212 October 1940 Previously Attorney General 1919–1922; in retirement, created Viscount Hewart in 1940
Viscount Caldecote 14 October 194023 January 1946 Previously Attorney General 1928–1929 and 1932–1936 and Lord Chancellor 1939–1940
Lord Goddard 23 January 194629 September 1958 Previously a law lord from 1944
Lord Parker of Waddington 29 September 195820 April 1971
Lord Widgery 20 April 197115 April 1980
Lord Lane 15 April 198027 April 1992 Previously a law lord from 1979
Lord Taylor of Gosforth 27 April 19924 June 1996
Lord Bingham of Cornhill 4 June 19966 June 2000 First Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales; Master of the Rolls 1992–1996; Senior Law Lord 2000–2008;
Lord Woolf 6 June 200030 September 2005 Previously a law lord from 1992; Master of the Rolls from 1996 to 2000
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers 30 September 20051 October 2008 Previously a law lord from 1999; Master of the Rolls 2000–2005; later Senior Law Lord 2008–2009 and President of the Supreme Court 2009–2012
Lord Judge 1 October 200830 September 2013 Previously Deputy Chief Justice of England and Wales 2003–2005
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd 1 October 20131 October 2017
Lord Burnett of Maldon 2 October 2017Incumbent

Hereditary peerages created for the Lord Chief Justice

See also

  • Category:Lord chief justices of England and Wales
  • Category:English judges
  • Category:Judges of the Court of Appeal (England and Wales)
  • Master of the Rolls

References and footnotes


  1. "Appointment of new Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales". Press Release. United Kingdom Government. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  2. The Lord Burnett of Maldon (14 November 2019). "What's in a Name? The High Court and its Divisions" (PDF). judiciary.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2020.



    • Campbell, John (1874), Lives of the Chief Justices of England, in four volumes (two additional volumes were a "Continuation by Sir Joseph Arnould – Late Judge of the High Court of Bombay"), 3rd ed. London, John Murray 1874.
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