Is the Poet Laureate paid?

The Poet Laureate traditionally receives an honorarium from HM The Queen. Carol Ann Duffy donated her annual honorarium to The Poetry Society to found a new award, The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, which was presented annually throughout her term as Laureate from 2009-2019.

The Poet Laureate’s current annual honorarium is circa £6,000.

Historically, the Poet Laureate received a gift of wine from the monarch. In 1790 Henry Pye asked if he could be paid a salary and the ‘butt of canary wine’ was discontinued until the 20th century.

Tell us about the sherry

By tradition, the Poet Laureate receives a barrel of wine, often referred to as the ‘butt of sack’ or the ‘butt of canary wine’ – now its modern equivalent, a barrel of sherry. The gift had been discontinued since 1790 but was reinstated in 1984 at the appointment of Ted Hughes.

Each of the subsequent Poet Laureates, Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy, also received a barrel of sherry and the same offer will be made to the incoming Laureate in 2019. This works out as 720 bottles, and delivery is usually spread out over the ten years of the Laureate’s tenure, an average of 72 bottles a year.

No longer the gift of the monarch, since 1984 the Laureate’s sherry has been a gift from the Sherry Producers of Spain as a goodwill gesture to celebrate the cultural and trading links between Britain and Spain. The Poet Laureates are invited to Jerez to select their sherry from a wide variety on offer, and usually design their own labels.