The Top 10: Shortest Terms in Office

Actually a list of about 67,011 people, including Greg Clark, former President of the Board of Trade, and Lady Jane Grey

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Saturday 22 October 2016 16:37
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. But not President of the Board of Trade
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. But not President of the Board of Trade

This list started when Rich Greenhill noticed the Order in Council by which the Queen ended Greg Clark’s four-day-old appointment as President of the Board of Trade on 19 July. Clark had inherited this old title along with most of the Business, Innovation and Skills department, which forms the core of his Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department, but Liam Fox, appointed to the new post of International Trade Secretary, insisted that the presidency belonged to him.

1. Louis XIX, King of France for less than 20 minutes, 1830. His father, Charles X, abdicated under pressure from the “July Revolution”; Louis in turn abdicated in favour of his cousin Louis Philippe shortly afterwards. Nominated by Iain Walker.

2. Luis II, King of Portugal for 20 minutes in 1908. His father, Carlos I, died immediately when revolutionaries opened fire on the royal family; he died from his wounds shortly afterwards. One of several nominations from Alan Sommerstein.

3. Caninius Rebilus, consul of Rome for about 11 hours on the last day of 45 BC after the unexpected death of Quintus Fabius Maximus and before Julius Caesar took office in the new year. Thanks to Alan Sommerstein.

4. About 67,000 people who held the titular headship of the democratic state of Athens for one day each, once only, between 508 and 322 BC. Alan Sommerstein again.

5. Pat Glass, shadow Education Secretary for two days in June this year, after Lucy Powell’s resignation. She said it had been her “dream job” but “the situation is untenable”. She returned to the front bench as a junior transport spokesperson this month. Another from Iain Walker.

6. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Chancellor of Austria for two days in 1938, in which time he signed the law making Austria a province of Nazi Germany. Alan Sommerstein.

7. Earl Temple, Foreign Secretary for four days in 1783. Appointed when William Pitt the Younger, nephew of his father (George Grenville, Prime Minister 1763-65), became Prime Minister, but then resigned. I don’t know why. Nominated by Mr Memory.

8. John I, King of France for five days in 1316. The five days were his entire life: he was born five months after the death of his father, Louis X (“The Quarreler”), whose brother was regent and, after the five days, became king Philip V. Alan Sommerstein.

9. Zimri, King of Israel for seven days, ninth century BC (1 Kings 16). Chariot commander who murdered King Elah, but the army elected King Omri instead and laid siege to Zimri, who killed himself by setting fire to his palace. Alan Sommerstein.

10. Lady Jane Grey, disputed Queen of England for nine days in 1553. Nominated by, among others, Gaby Hinsliff, who noted that Diane James as leader of Ukip for 18 days this year outlasted her.

Honourable mention for Guy Cudmore, who recorded that the “most ephemeral” UK Prime Minister was George Canning, who died in post in 1827 after four months, 119 days to be precise, and who was succeeded by Viscount Goderich who lasted only 11 days longer, 130 days; and who also nominated William Henry Harrison, who served 31 days as US President in 1841, having caught a chill during his inauguration speech that turned into pneumonia.

Next week: fictional newspapers, such as The Daily Bugle, The Daily Planet and The Daily Beast

Coming soon: punk songs, because punk is 40 years old this year

Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop, is available as an e-book for £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to

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