Little Bits of History

March 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2017

1649: The House of Lords is abolished by the House of Commons in England. England then, and the UK now, had a bicameral parliament. The upper house was the House of Lords while the lower house was the House of Commons. The Lords were hereditary titles passed from noble father to his legal heirs. The medieval practice of entitlement or “titles” began by decree with a Writ of Summons beginning in 1265 and by 1388 by Letters Patent. Titles were passed by primogeniture or to the eldest son of the prior title holder. There was a long standing attempt to reform the House of Lords, begining in 1539.

The House of Lords is made up of two distinct groups. The first is the Lords Spiritual (today these are archbishops and bishops of the Church of England) and Lords Temporal who are, as the name implies, not religious entities but peers of the realm. The English Civil War was a battle for power to run the nation with the Royalist or Cavaliers led by King Charles I, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and Charles II pitted against the Parliamentarians or Roundheads led by the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux, Thomas Fairfax, and Oliver Cromwell. The third wave of war from 1649-51 had Charles II fighting the Rump Parliament, the residual members who survived Thomas Pride’s purge of 1648.

On this day the House of Commons passed an act which declared the House of Lords to not only be useless, but dangerous. They therefore decided to abolish the upper house and any meeting of the Lords altogether. This was never recognized by either the Lords nor the King and so was never enacted. The Lords Temporal resumed meeting in 1660 which restored the monarchy and the Clergy Act of 1661 readmitted the Lords Spiritual to the House.

Today, there are 1,461 seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom with 811 of them in the upper house and 650 in the lower. The Lord Speaker is Lord Fowler who took up the post in September 2016. Baron Fowler, currently politically non-affiliated but previously a member of the Conservative party, has been a member of parliament since 1970.  John Bercow is the Speaker of the House of Commons and has been since June 2009. He, as is necessary as part of the job, is non-partisan but was also a Conservative party member prior to his current position. They meet at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, London and along with Queen Elizabeth II as Queen in Parliament are the legislative body of Great Britain’s government.

The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it. – Walter Bagehot

The House of Lords is like a glass of champagne that has stood for five days. – Clement Attlee

A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both. – Benjamin Disraeli

The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians. – Tony Benn

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