A sinecure (/ˈsɪnɪkjʊər/ or /ˈsaɪnɪkjʊər/; from Latin sine = "without" and cura = "care") is an office – carrying a salary or otherwise generating income – that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medieval church, where it signified a post without any responsibility for the "cure [care] of souls", the regular liturgical and pastoral functions of a cleric, but came to be applied to any post, secular or ecclesiastical, that involved little or no actual work. Sinecures have historically provided a potent tool for governments or monarchs to distribute patronage, while recipients are able to store up titles and easy salaries.

A sinecure is not necessarily a figurehead, which generally requires active participation in government, albeit with a lack of power.

A sinecure can also be given to an individual whose primary job is in another office, but requires a sinecure title to perform that job. For example, the Government House Leader in Canada is often given a sinecure ministry position so that he or she may become a member of the Cabinet. Similar examples are the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the British cabinet. Other sinecures operate as legal fictions, such as the British office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, used as a legal excuse for resigning from Parliament.


Tizian 109
Girolamo and cardinal Marco Cornaro investing Marco, abbot of Carrara, with his benefice, Titian, ca 1520

Sinecure, properly a term of ecclesiastical law for a benefice without the cure of souls, arose in the English Church when the rector had no cure of souls nor resided in the parish, the work of the incumbent being performed by a vicar. Such sinecure rectories were expressly granted by the patron. They were abolished by parliament under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act of 1840.

Other ecclesiastical sinecures were certain cathedral dignities to which no spiritual functions attached or incumbencies where by reason of depopulation and the like, the parishioners disappeared or the parish church was allowed to decay. Such cases eventually ceased to exist.[1]

The term is also used of any office or place to which salary emoluments or dignity, but no duties are attached. The British civil service and the royal household, for example, were loaded with innumerable offices which, by lapse of time, had become sinecures and were only kept as the reward of political services or to secure voting power in parliament. They were prevalent in the 18th century, but were gradually abolished by statutes during that and the following centuries.

Below is a list of extant sinecures by country.[2]

Current usage

United Kingdom

Positions associated with the Cabinet

Positions associated with resignation from the House of Commons

Positions associated with the Whips' Office

Ceremonial and honorary positions



See also



  1. ^ Cf. M. Guasco, Storia del clero, Laterza (1997), p.20
  2. ^ As extracted from Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2002) Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. Vol.14.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sinecure". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2002) Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. Vol.14, "Ecclesiastical Law", (see also current updates)
  • Smith, W. (1880). A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities: Being a Continuation of the 'Dictionary of the Bible'. J.B. Burr Pub. Co. pp. "Sinecure".
  • Definition on Enciclopedia Treccani (in Italian)
  • Maurilio Guasco, Storia del clero, Bari:Laterza (1997), p. 20 (in Italian)
Auditor of the imprests

Auditor of the Imprests was a profitable office of the Exchequer, responsible for auditing the accounts of officers of the English crown to whom money was issued for government expenditure, from 1559 to 1785.

Chairman of the Conservative Party

The Chairman of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom is responsible for party administration, overseeing the Conservative Campaign Headquarters, formerly Conservative Central Office. When a woman holds the office, it is titled Chairwoman of the Conservative Party.

When the Conservatives are in government, the officeholder is usually a member of the Cabinet holding a sinecure position such as Minister without Portfolio. Deputy or Vice Chairmen of the Conservative Party may also be appointed, with responsibility for specific aspects of the party (most notably local government, women or youth). The Conservative Party is currently co-chaired by James Cleverly and Ben Elliot, who were appointed on 24 July 2019. Helen Whately and Paul Scully serve as Deputy Chairs.

The role was created in 1911 in response to the Conservative party's defeat in the second 1910 general election. The position is not subject to election, as it is given by the party leader.

Chiltern Hundreds

The Chiltern Hundreds is an ancient administrative area in Buckinghamshire, England, composed of three "hundreds" and lying partially within the Chiltern Hills. "Taking the Chiltern Hundreds" refers to the legal fiction used to resign from the House of Commons. Since Members of Parliament are not permitted to resign, they are instead appointed to an "office of profit under the Crown", which requires MPs to vacate their seats. The ancient office of Crown Steward for the Chiltern Hundreds, having been reduced to a mere sinecure by the 17th century, was first used by John Pitt in 1751 to vacate his seat in the House of Commons. Other titles were also later used for the same purpose, but only the Chiltern Hundreds and the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead are still in use.

Government House Leader (Ontario)

The Ontario Government House Leader is the provincial cabinet minister responsible for planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The position is not legally entitled to cabinet standing on its own, so all Government House Leaders must simultaneously hold another portfolio (or be specifically designated as a minister without portfolio).

House Leaders at the federal level are often granted sinecure assignments to give them cabinet standing while allowing them to focus exclusively on house business. This has not been the case at the provincial level. In recent years, John Baird and Dwight Duncan have served as Government House Leaders while simultaneously holding the high-profile Minister of Energy position.

The current Government House Leader is Paul Calandra (as of June 20, 2019).

Government Legal Department

The Government Legal Department (previously called the Treasury Solicitor's Department) is the largest in-house legal organisation in the United Kingdom's Government Legal Service.

The Department is headed by the Treasury Solicitor. This office goes back several centuries. The office was enshrined in law by the Treasury Solicitor Act 1876, which established the Treasury Solicitor as a corporation sole (an office with perpetual succession). Employees of the department exercise legal powers which are vested in the corporation sole.

The department is a non-ministerial government department and executive agency. The Treasury Solicitor reports to the Attorney General for England and Wales. The department employs more than 1,900 solicitors and barristers to provide advice and legal representation on a huge range of issues to many government departments.


Ihtisab, or ihtisap was a type of tax on markets in the Ottoman Empire; the muhtasib or ihtisap ağasi - the ihtisab collector - had a broader role in regulating and taxing markets under the authority of the kadı.The ihtisab was seen as a source of substantial income; people would "buy" the position of ihtisap ağasi from the bey, in order to collect the market tax. This was a form of tax farming, parallel to iltizam and the earlier establishment of feudal monopolies to collect revenue from other economic activity, such as salt production. Hence the only people who became muhtasibs were those who could afford to buy their way into the sinecure. Ihtisab also involved some price controls and other market regulation; traders may have had to bribe the muhtasib in order to be permitted to continue using commercially viable prices, but the exact nature of regulation is unclear. Traders would also have had to pay a Bac-i pazar fee, although the relative prices varied.In the later empire, damga resmi (a charge on hallmarks, and stamp duty) was considered to be part of ihtisab. In the early 19th century, before the tanzimat reforms, the difficulty of enforcing ihtisab led the Ottoman government to establish a series of monopolies, called ved-i vahit, to ease collectionIhtisab was eventually replaced by temettu vergisi, a tax on merchants' profits, which was introduced as part of the tanzimat-era tax reforms in 1839. Mahmut II aimed to create a fairer system of taxes based on ability to pay, and which was based on an extensive census across the empire in the 1830s. The new taxes were first introduced in Bursa and Gallipoli before rollout across the rest of the empire; temettu vergisi was enforced by muhassils, who were salaried government officers rather than feudal lords, although the title ihtisap ağasi was retained; their role in the regulation of commerce evolved into that of a municipal official.

Ineligibility Clause

The Ineligibility Clause (sometimes also called the Emoluments Clause, or the Incompatibility Clause, or the Sinecure Clause) is a provision in Article 1, Section 6, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution that makes each incumbent member of Congress ineligible to hold an office established by the federal government during their tenure in Congress; it also bars officials in the federal government's executive and judicial branches from simultaneously serving in either the U.S. House or Senate. The purpose of the clause is twofold: first, to protect the separation of powers philosophy (upon which the federal frame of government is built); and second, to prevent Congress from conspiring to create offices or increase federal officials' salaries with the expectation that members of Congress would later be appointed to these posts.

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 to whom this title is usually applied.

Strictly they are commissioners for exercising the office of Lord High Treasurer (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.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.

Manor of Northstead

The Manor of Northstead is a former medieval estate in North Yorkshire, England. The manor house no longer exists, and the land has since been redeveloped and forms part of modern-day Scarborough, in the area of Peasholm Park and Scarborough Open Air Theatre. The ancient title of the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead persisted beyond the manor, however, being used since the nineteenth century as a sinecure post which plays a role in the procedure for effecting resignation from the British House of Commons.

Master of Work to the Crown of Scotland

The Master of Works to the Crown of Scotland was responsible for the construction, repair and maintenance of royal palaces, castles and other crown property in Scotland. The main buildings were; Holyroodhouse; Edinburgh Castle; Stirling Castle; Linlithgow Palace; and Falkland Palace. The position was roughly equivalent to that of Surveyor of the King's Works in the English Royal Household. The emergence of the position reflected a shift in responsibility from the masons, or administrators in holy orders, to designers with little hands-on knowledge of stonemasonry. Earlier holders of the office were often courtiers: James Hamilton of Finnart was the king's kinsman; John Scrymgeour was a heraldic expert; while William Schaw, an administrator, was a key figure in the development of Freemasonry, itself a 'craft' having little to do with building. Later holders filled a role similar to that of architects in the modern sense. Some Masters were craftsmen; Robert Robertson, who was master of work at Stirling Castle after the execution of the aristocrat Hamilton of Finnart, was a carpenter. During the reign of James V there was also a Principal Master Wright or carpenter, John Drummond of Milnab, and as well as building works he was concerned with the artillery and its logistics.

In the 15th century, a Master of Works would be appointed to oversee an individual construction project, such as a new palace, or a rebuilding of an old one. Thus the exchequer records identify several postholders who might be regarded as accountants rather than architects. In the 16th century, during the reign of James V, the appointment of a Principal Master of Works began, with overall responsibility for all the king's works. The appointment was usually for life. Following the death of James Smith in 1714, the post became a sinecure, with a salary of £400, and the post declined in importance. In 1808 Robert Reid was named Architect and Surveyor to the King in Scotland, and he became Master of Works following the death of James Brodie in 1824. However, in 1831 the Scottish Office of Works was merged with the English Office of Works, and when Reid retired in 1840, he was not replaced. The Office of Works was later reconstituted as the Ministry of Works.

Master of the Rolls in Ireland

The Master of the Rolls in Ireland was a senior judicial office in the Irish Chancery under English and British rule, equivalent to the Master of the Rolls in the English Chancery. Originally called the Keeper of the Rolls, he was responsible for the safekeeping of the Chancery records such as close rolls and patent rolls. The office was created by letters patent in 1333, the first holder of the Mastership being Edmund de Grimsby. As the Irish bureaucracy expanded, the duties of the Master of the Rolls came to be performed by subordinates and the position became a sinecure which was awarded to political allies of the Dublin Castle administration. In the nineteenth century it became a senior judicial appointment, ranking second within the Chancery behind the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The post was abolished by the Courts of Justice Act 1924, passed by the Irish Free State established in 1922.

Minister for the Cabinet Office

The Minister for the Cabinet Office is a position in the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom. The office has no statutory footing or recognition, and is unpaid. Every individual who has held the office has therefore also been appointed to a sinecure office to secure a seat at cabinet and a salary.

Minister without portfolio

A minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister who does not head a particular ministry. The sinecure is particularly common in countries ruled by coalition governments and a cabinet with decision-making authority wherein a minister without portfolio, while he or she may not head any particular office or ministry, still receives a ministerial salary and has the right to cast a vote in cabinet decisions. In some countries where the executive branch is not composed of a coalition of parties and, more often, in countries with purely presidential systems of government, such as the United States, the position of minister without portfolio (or an equivalent position) is uncommon.

No Sinecure

"No Sinecure" is a short story by E. W. Hornung, and features the gentleman thief A. J. Raffles, and his companion and biographer, Bunny Manders. The story was first published in Scribner's Magazine in January 1901. The story was also included as the first story in the collection The Black Mask, published by Grant Richards in London, and Charles Scribner's Sons in New York, both in 1901.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury is a junior ministerial position in the British Government. However, the office is now attached to the Treasury in name only. The holder is usually the Government Chief Whip in the House of Commons. The office can be seen as a sinecure, allowing the Chief Whip to draw a government salary, attend Cabinet, and use a Downing Street residence.

The incumbent as of July 2019 is Mark Spencer MP.

Secretary to the Treasury

In the United Kingdom, there are several Secretaries to the Treasury, who are Treasury ministers nominally acting as secretaries to HM Treasury. The origins of the office are unclear, although it probably originated during Lord Burghley's tenure as Lord Treasurer in the 16th century. The number of secretaries was expanded to two by 1714 at the latest. The Treasury ministers together discharge all the former functions of the Lord Treasurer, which are nowadays nominally vested in the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. Of the Commissioners, only the Second Lord of the Treasury, who is also the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a Treasury minister (the others are the Prime Minister and the Government Whips).

The Chancellor is the senior Treasury minister, followed by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who also attends Cabinet and has particular responsibilities for public expenditure. In order of seniority, the junior Treasury ministers are: the Financial Secretary to the Treasury; the Economic Secretary to the Treasury; the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury; and the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Office currently not in use).

One of the present-day secretaries, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, formerly known as the 'Patronage Secretary', is not a Treasury minister but the Government Chief Whip in the House of Commons. The office can be seen as a sinecure, allowing the Chief Whip to draw a government salary, attend Cabinet, and use a Downing Street residence.

Sir William Ashburnham, 2nd Baronet

Sir William Ashburnham, 2nd Baronet (1 April 1678 – 7 November 1755) was a British politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1710 and 1741.

Ashburnham was the eldest surviving son of Sir Denny Ashburnham, 1st Baronet of Broomham and his wife Anne Watkins, daughter of Sir David Watkins. In 1697, he succeeded his father in the baronetcy. He married Margaret Pelham, daughter of Sir Nicholas Pelham on 7 June 1701.Ashburnham was appointed to a sinecure post as Chamberlain of the Exchequer in 1710 and held the post until his death. At the 1710 general election he was returned unopposed as Member of Parliament for Hastings on the family interest but did not stand in 1713. He was returned as MP for Seaford at the 1715 general election but resigned his seat in 1717 when he was granted another sinecure post as Commissioner of the Alienation Office. He returned to parliament as MP for Hastings at the 1722 general election and held the seat at the elections of 1727 and 1734. In 1735 he was appointed receiver of fines. In 1741 he resigned his seat in parliament through ill health but retained his government posts until his death.Ashburnham died on 7 November 1755 and was buried at Guestling in Sussex. His marriage was childless and he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his younger brother Charles.

Taunton Grammar School

Taunton Grammar School was an English grammar school in Taunton, Somerset, founded by Bishop Richard Foxe in 1522. It was sometimes called Bishop Foxe's School. The current Bishop Fox's School traces back to Taunton Grammar School.

The founder, Richard Fox, was both Bishop of Winchester and Lord Privy Seal, and he gave the school an endowment in the shape of a small manor near Chard. In the late 18th century this was producing an income of some £40, enough to pay a schoolmaster but little more. On Foxe's instructions, the mastership of the school was to be in the gift of the Warden of New College, Oxford "for ever".One of the school's masters, James Upton, was appointed in 1706 at the instigation of Lord Poulett and built the school up to the point of being a leading provincial grammar school, with over two hundred boys.

In 1818 a writer on schools was puzzled to note that although the school had fine buildings, including a school-room "of vast dimensions", it had had "no scholars" for many years. In 1820 The Gentleman's Magazine reported that The endowed Grammar-school at Taunton, which has been held as a sinecure for the last 25 years, is about to be restored as an efficient Seminary for the children of the townsmen, under the care and management of the assistant preacher of the parish.

The school was closed in 1870. Its building survives today as Taunton's Municipal Hall.

Title of honor

A title of honor or honorary title is a title bestowed upon individuals or organizations as an award in recognition of their merits.

Sometimes the title bears the same or nearly the same name as a title of authority, but the person bestowed does not have to carry out any duties, possibly except for ceremonial ones. In some cases, the title is bestowed posthumously.

Some examples of honorary titles from various areas are:

Academician – Honorary title (academic)

Colonel (title)

Fellow of an academic, artistic, or professional society

Freeman of the City of London

Hero of the Russian Federation

Honorary degree or position, such as honorary Professor

Knight, Dame, or Companion of an honorific order

New Knowledge Worker of Korea

People's Artist

Honorary counselors (neuvos) in Finland, such as valtioneuvos (Counselor of State) and vuorineuvos (Counselor of Mining)Some historical honorary titles may be bought, just like certain nobility titles. This has long been a matter of fraud, both outright and indirect.

Some honorary titles serve as positions of sinecure and honorary retirement.


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