Clinton and Mandela recommended for ancient English military honour

The honorary title of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports has been reserved for members of the country's nobility since ancient times, but that could be about to change.

The position has remained vacant since the death in 2002 of the Queen Mother, who served as the last warden to the association of 14 ports - including the original five ports of Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings.

Joe Trussler, the speaker of the Cinque Ports and the Mayor of Sandwich, has asked the Queen and the Prime Minister to consider a number of public figures, including Bill Clinton, John Major and Nelson Mandela, for the post.

The Cinque Ports was originally a confederation of five harbours which were responsible for Britain's naval defence. The Domesday Book records the obligation of the ports to supply ships and men to the Crown and keep the Channel free of enemy shipping. The office of the Lord Warden, which can be traced back to 1226, has been occupied by the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt, George V and Winston Churchill. These days, the role is only ceremonial.

Mr Trussler said he recommended Mr Clinton for the post because of his American heritage and his love of golf. He felt that the appointment of the former president of the US would enhance Britain's relations with America, and his love of golf would sit well with the Sandwich landscape. The Royal St Georges Club at Sandwich was the venue for last year's British Open.

"We were asked who we would personally like to see as Lord Warden and I think I caused a bit of a stir when I said Bill Clinton," Mr Trussler said. "I was thinking about what such an appointment would do for the region. He plays golf and the Americans love British history, so he may draw in greater tourism."

Considered England's most ancient military honour, the title of Lord Warden can be given to anyone in the Commonwealth, and has been occupied by Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest serving prime minister.

The list of possible appointees submitted by the Confederation of the Cinque Ports to the Queen and Downing Street also includesthe Duke of York and the Princess Royal. A decision is expected by the end of February.

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