The post of British Poet Laureate goes back to 1616 when King James the First gave poet Ben Jonson a pension. When Jonson died in 1637 his pension transferred to William Davenant. The post was made an official royal appointment in 1668 when John Dryden got the job. His task was to compose birthday poems for members of the royal family. This was later enlarged to include poems for national occasions. The job was for life with the prime minister nominating a range of successors and the reigning sovereign doing the choosing.
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