A leading lesbian writer is thought to be on the shortlist for the position of Poet Laureate, the official poet of the monarch.

A poet has been appointed for life since Charles II honoured John Dryden with the title in 1668.

However, since 1999 the post is limited to 10 years.

Bookmaker William Hill has picked Carol Ann Duffy as the most likely candidate.

The Poet Laureate is a member of the royal household and writes verses for court and national occasions such as the monarch’s birthday, royal births and marriages, coronations and military victories.

The Laureate’s original salary was £200 per year plus a butt of canary (a type of wine).

John Betjeman had the tradition revived in 1972, and today’s Poet Laureate continues to receive a barrel of sherry.

The position has always been filled by a male poet, among them Wordsworth, Tennyson, C Day Lewis and Ted Hughes.

Since 1790, the title has been awarded on the advice of the Prime Minister, who submits names for approval by The Queen.

Andrew Motion was appointed in 1999 and has written poems about the 100th birthday and death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 and The Queen’s 80th birthday in 2006.

His term of office expires this year.

Ms Duffy, a 53-year-old single mum, has a reputation for provocative plays, prose and poetry.

Born in Glasgow, she read philosophy at Liverpool University and lives in Manchester where she lectures in poetry at the Metropolitan University.

In October 2000 she was awarded a grant of £75,000 over a five-year period by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

Her work is studied at GCSE and A level.

Her adult poetry collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and Rapture (2005), winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize.

The Hat (2007) is her latest poetry collection for children.

Ms Duffy has had plays performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre in London including Take My Husband (1982), Cavern of Dreams (1984), Little Women, Big Boys (1986) and Loss (1986), a radio play.