Dryden Made First Poet Laureate
The 13th of April 1668 AD
There had been many poets laureate of a sort before John Dryden , but he was the first to be appointed by letters patent. A similar post, that of versificator regis, had existed in medieval times, the greatest of that ilk being Geoffrey Chaucer . In Tudor England poets to the crown again existed apparently on a somewhat ad hoc basis, Edmund Spenser their finest representative.
Dryden was appointed by Charles II in April 1668, his payment the customary butt of sack, a little over 100 gallons of sherry. Until recent times the post was an appointment for life, though strangely the first official poet laureate was the only one dismissed from his post, William and Mary dispensing with his services in 1688 for his refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to them. These days the role lasts for 10 years.
One of the great literary figures in our history, Dryden – poet, satirist, playwright - graced the office until his removal.. In later years the post has been held by some of the finest of our writers: Southey ; Wordsworth , Tennyson , John Masefield , Betjeman . Unfortunately not every appointee is remembered with such esteem: Laurence Eusden, for example, and Colley Cibber, who both served in the 18th century, are largely forgotten by all bar a few academics. Time will tell into which group Carol Ann Duffy , appointed in 2009, falls.
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