Q: Why is the Master of Queens’ called President?
A: At Cambridge, you never ask Why, you ask Since When?
Q: Since when has the Master of Queens’ been called President?
At other colleges
The head of the following Cambridge College is called Provost:
- 1441 King’s College
The heads of the following Cambridge Colleges are called President:
- 1448 Queens’ College
- 1885 Hughes Hall
- 1954 New Hall (now Murray Edwards College)
- 1965 Clare Hall
- 1965 Lucy Cavendish College
- 1965 Wolfson College
The heads of the following Cambridge Colleges are called Principal:
- 1871 Newnham College
- 1976 Homerton College
The head of the following Cambridge College is called Mistress:
- 1873 Girton College
The head of the following Cambridge College is called Warden:
- 1979 Robinson College
From the above list, it can be seen that the only ancient colleges not to call their head Master were King’s and Queens’ (founded by a husband and wife). This led to a bogus theory that it would have been inappropriate to refer to a Master of King’s, as it might be disrespectful to the monarch. Since people were happy with Masters at Jesus College and Christ’s College, the theory about King’s and Queens’ seems likely to be a fabrication for the benefit of the tourists.
At many colleges who call their head a Master, there is also someone called President, but in this case the President is not head of the College, but the Fellow who presides in the S.C.R. Of course, at Queens’, the President cannot preside in the S.C.R. because he is not a Fellow. I trust this is clear.
At Queens’, it is customary to address the President as Master in the vocative sense, but as President in all other cases. You need to be a linguist to understand this.