LIEUTENANT, one who takes the place, office and duty of and acts on behalf of a superior or other person. The word in English preserves the form of the French original (from lieu, place, tenant, holding), which is the equivalent of the Lat. locum tenens, one holding the place of another. The usual English pronunciation appears early, the word being frequently spelled lieftenant, lyeftenant or luftenant in the 14th and 15th centuries. The modern American pronunciation is lewtenant, while the German is represented by the present form of the word Leutnant. In French history, lieutenant du roi (locum tenens regis) was a title borne by the officer sent with military powers to represent the king in certain provinces. With wider powers and functions, both civil as well as military, and holding authority throughout an entire province, such a representative of the king was called lieutenant général du roi. The first appointment of these officials dates from the reign of Philip IV. the Fair (see Constable). In the 16th century the administration of the provinces was in the hands of gouverneurs, to whom the lieutenants du roi became subordinates. The titles lieutenant civil or criminel and lieutenant général de police have been borne by certain judicial officers in France (see Châtelet and Bailiff: Bailli). As the title of the representative of the sovereign, “lieutenant” in English usage appears in the title of the lord lieutenant of Ireland, and of the lords lieutenant of the counties of the United Kingdom (see below).

The most general use of the word is as the name of a grade of naval and military officer. It is common in this application to nearly every navy and army of the present day. In Italy and Spain the first part of the word is omitted, and an Italian and Spanish officer bearing this rank are called tenente or teniente respectively. In the British and most other navies the lieutenants are the commissioned officers next in rank to commanders, or second class of captains. Originally the lieutenant was a soldier who aided, and in case of need replaced, the captain, who, until the latter half of the 17th century, was not necessarily a seaman in any navy. At first one lieutenant was carried, and only in the largest ships. The number was gradually increased, and the lieutenants formed a numerous corps. At the close of the Napoleonic War in 1815 there were 3211 lieutenants in the British navy. Lieutenants now often qualify for special duties such as navigation, or gunnery, or the management of torpedoes. In the British army a lieutenant is a subaltern officer ranking next below a captain and above a second lieutenant. In the United States of America subalterns are classified as first lieutenants and second lieutenants. In France the two grades are lieutenant and sous-lieutenant, while in Germany the Leutnant is the lower of the two ranks, the higher being Ober-leutnant (formerly Premier-leutnant). A “captain lieutenant” in the British army was formerly the senior subaltern who virtually commanded the colonel’s company or troop, and ranked as junior captain, or “puny captain,” as he was called by Cromwell’s soldiers.

The lord lieutenant of a county, in England and Wales and in Ireland, is the principal officer of a county. His creation dates from the reign of Henry VIII. (or, according to some, Edward VI.), when the military functions of the sheriff were handed over to him. He was responsible for the efficiency of the militia of the county, and afterwards of the yeomanry and volunteers. He was commander of these forces, whose officers he appointed. By the Regulation of the Forces Act 1871, the jurisdiction, duties and command exercised by the lord lieutenant were revested in the crown, but the power of recommending for first appointments was reserved to the lord lieutenant. By the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, the lord lieutenant of a county was constituted president of the county association. The office of lord lieutenant is honorary, and is held during the royal pleasure, but virtually for life. Appointment to the office is by letters patent under the great seal. Usually, though not necessarily, the person appointed lord lieutenant is also appointed custos rotulorum (q.v.). Appointments to the county bench of magistrates are usually made on the recommendation of the lord lieutenant (see Justice of the Peace).

A deputy lieutenant (denoted frequently by the addition of the letters D.L. after a person’s name) is a deputy of a lord lieutenant of a county. His appointment and qualifications previous to 1908 were regulated by the Militia Act 1882. By s. 30 of that act the lieutenant of each county was required from time to time to appoint such properly qualified persons as he thought fit, living within the county, to be deputy lieutenants. At least twenty had to be appointed for each county, if there were so many qualified; if less than that number were qualified, then all the duly qualified persons in the county were to be appointed. The appointments were subject to the sovereign’s approval, and a return of all appointments to, and removals from, the office had to be laid before parliament annually. To qualify for the appointment of deputy lieutenant a person had to be (a) a peer of the realm, or the heir-apparent of such a peer, having a place of residence within the county; or (b) have in possession an estate in land in the United Kingdom of the yearly value of not less than £200; or (c) be the heir-apparent of such a person; or (d) have a clear yearly income from personalty within the United Kingdom of not less than £200 (s. 33). If the lieutenant were absent from the United Kingdom, or through illness or other cause were unable to act, the sovereign might authorize any three deputy lieutenants to act as lieutenant (s. 31), or might appoint a deputy lieutenant to act as vice-lieutenant. Otherwise, the duties of the office were practically nominal, except that a deputy lieutenant might attest militia recruits and administer the oath of allegiance to them. The reorganization in 1907 of the forces of the British crown, and the formation of county associations to administer the territorial army, placed increased duties on deputy lieutenants, and it was publicly announced that the king’s approval of appointments to that position would only be given in the case of gentlemen who had served for ten years in some force of the crown, or had rendered eminent service in connexion with a county association.

The lord lieutenant of Ireland is the head of the executive in that country. He represents his sovereign and maintains the formalities of government, the business of government being entrusted to the department of his chief secretary, who represents the Irish government in the House of Commons, and may have a seat in the cabinet. The chief secretary occupies an important position, and in every cabinet either the lord lieutenant or he has a seat.

Lieutenant-governor is the title of the governor of an Indian province, in direct subordination to the governor-general in council. The lieutenant-governor comes midway in dignity between the governors of Madras and Bombay, who are appointed from England, and the chief commissioners of smaller provinces. In the Dominion of Canada the governors of provinces also have the title of lieutenant-governor. The representatives of the sovereign in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are likewise styled lieutenant-governors.