The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record or Government gazettes of the Government of the United Kingdom, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published.
The London Gazette claims to be the oldest surviving English newspaper and the oldest continuously published newspaper in the UK, having been first published on 07 November 1665 as The Oxford Gazette. This claim is also made by the Stamford Mercury (1712) and Berrow’s Worcester Journal (1690), because The Gazette is not a conventional newspaper offering general news coverage. It does not have a large circulation.
Other official newspapers of the UK government are The Edinburgh Gazette and The Belfast Gazette, which, apart from reproducing certain materials of nationwide interest published in The London Gazette, also contain publications specific to Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.
In turn, The London Gazette carries not only notices of UK-wide interest, but also those relating specifically to entities or people in England and Wales. However, certain notices that are only of specific interest to Scotland or Northern Ireland are also required to be published in The London Gazette.
The London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes are published by TSO (The Stationery Office) on behalf of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. They are subject to Crown copyright.
The London Gazette was first published as The Oxford Gazette on 07 November 1665. Charles II and the Royal Court had moved to Oxford to escape the Great Plague of London, and courtiers were unwilling to touch London newspapers for fear of contagion. The Gazette was “Published by Authority” by Henry Muddiman, and its first publication is noted by Samuel Pepys in his diary. The King returned to London as the plague dissipated, and the Gazette moved too, with the first issue of The London Gazette (labelled No. 24) being published on 05 February 1666. The Gazette was not a newspaper in the modern sense: it was sent by post to subscribers, not printed for sale to the general public.
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office took over the publication of the Gazette in 1889. Publication of the Gazette was transferred to the private sector, under government supervision, in the 1990s, when HMSO was sold and renamed The Stationery Office.
In time of war, dispatches from the various conflicts are published in The London Gazette. People referred to are said to have been mentioned in despatches. When members of the armed forces are promoted, and these promotions are published here, the person is said to have been “gazetted”.
Being “gazetted” (or “in the gazette”) sometimes also meant having official notice of one’s bankruptcy published, as in the classic ten-line poem comparing the stolid tenant farmer of 1722 to the lavishly spending faux-genteel farmers of 1822:
Man to the plough / Wife to the cow
Girl to the yarn / Boy to the barn
And your rent will be netted.
Man tally-ho / Miss piano
Wife silk and satin / Boy Greek and Latin
And you’ll all be Gazetted.
Notices of engagement and marriage were also formerly published in the Gazette.
Gazettes, modelled on The London Gazette, were issued for most British colonial possessions.
The London Gazette is published each weekday, except for bank holidays. Notices for the following, among others, are published:
- Granting of royal assent to bills of the Parliament of the United Kingdom or of the Scottish Parliament.
- The issuance of writs of election when a vacancy occurs in the House of Commons.
- Appointments to certain public offices.
- Commissions in the Armed Forces and subsequent promotion of officers.
- Corporate and personal insolvency.
- Granting of awards of honours and military medals.
- Changes of names or of coats of arms.
- Royal proclamations and other declarations.
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office has digitised all issues of the Gazette, and these are available online.
The official Gazettes are published by The Stationery Office. The content, apart from insolvency notices, is available in a number of machine-readable formats, including XML (delivery by email/FTP) and XML/RDFa via Atom feed.