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Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

Becoming a Poet Laureate is a great accomplishment. Unlike others, the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom lasts a lifetime. The most recent Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, is the first female to serve in the Royal Household under this honor during the 340+ year history.

Consultant in Poetry Timeline

  • Edmund Spenser 1591-1599. He's best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I.
  • Samuel Daniel 1599-1619. Best known for his many sonnets.
  • Ben Jonson 1619-1637. Known for his lyric poems. However, he also wrote many great plays during his life.
  • William Davenant 1638-1668. Seen as one of the rare figures in English theater having his career spanning before and after the English Civil War and during the Interregnum.
  • John Dryden 1668-1689. Another famous theater writer. He is best known for Marriage à la Mode.
  • Thomas Shadwell 1689-1692. Known for his comedies and satire plays. However, wrote several smaller stand-alone poems as well.
  • Nahum Tate 1692-1715. Known as a lyricist and for rewriting Shakespeare's plays. His most original work is Panacea, a poem on Tea (1700).
  • Nicholas Rowe 1715-1718. Known for his modern editing of William Shakespeare's plays, his own original plays, and his occasional dabble in verse writing.
  • Laurence Eusden 1718-1730. Much of his original work is lost; however, he also wrote many translations and gratulatory poems.
  • Colley Cibber 1730-1757. At the time, the move to make Cibber Poet Laureate was seen as political and not because of his artistic writing. He wrote several adaptions of Shakespeare, but was often criticized by Alexander Pope for mutilating it.
  • William Whitehead 1757-1785. Officially the second choice for Poet Laureate after Thomas Grey declined the position. He avoided domestic politics during his reign and wrote many poems still found in collections today.
  • Thomas Warton 1785-1790. Best known for his The History of English Poetry (1774–81) made up of three volumes which includes a collection of poetry from the 11th century to the 16th century.
  • Henry James Pye 1790-1813. The first Laureate to receive a fixed salary. He's often referred to as the worst Poet Laureate in history and referred to as the "poetaster."
  • Robert Southey 1813-1843. A Lake Poet from the Romantic school. His most famous work is probably his nursery rhyme What are Little Boys Made "of?"
  • William Wordsworth 1843-1850. Best known for helping launch the romantic era with co-authoring "Lyrical Ballads."
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson 1850-1892. Remains one of the most popular English language poets in the world. He reigned over much of Queen Victoria's crown.
  • Alfred Austin 1896-1913. Much of his best poetry is about the love of nature.
  • Robert Bridges 1913-1930. Much of his work is with a religious/faith tone and stands apart from his peers in uniqueness.
  • John Masefield 1930-1967. Best known for his poetry "The Everlasting Mercy" and "Sea-Fever", he also wrote several great children's books.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis 1967-1972. Much of his early poetry focuses on his praise of communism while his later poems denounce it.
  • Sir John Betjeman 1972-1984. Described himself as a "poet and hack". His poems are often humorous in nature.
  • Ted Hughes 1984-1998. Was married to Sylvia Plath. He has a definitive 1,333 page collection of poetry which was published in 2003.
  • Andrew Motion 1999-2009. During his tenure, he claimed that many of his duties were damaging to his work. He stepped down from the post in 2009.
  • Carol Ann Duffy 2009-. She is the first Scot, first woman, and first openly gay Poet Laureate.