Formerly one who received a degree in grammar (i.e. poetry and rhetoric) at the English universities: a poet bearing that honorary title, a salaried officer in the royal household, appointed to compose annually an ode for the king's birthday and other suitable occasions.
Originally the poet appointed by the king or queen of England to write occasional verse to celebrate royal or national events. In return the poet laureate received a stipend. Ben Jonson was the first unofficial poet laureate although Edmund Spenser did receive a pension from Elizabeth I after flattering her in The Faerie Queene. Jonson was succeeded by Sir William D'Avenant but John Dryden became the first official poet laureate in 1668. Traditionally English poets laureate are appointed for life but Andrew Motion, the current laureate, is the first to be appointed for ten years. The requirement to write occasional verse is no longer enforced. See complete list of UK Poets Laureate.