The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4
House of Lords.
This part of our venerable constitution may be called the parent stock, from whence sprung the other branch already described, being the successors of the ancient barons; to which have been added many new families raised to the peerage by the various monarchs that have filled the throne since the conquest.
The seats in this house are not elective, but hereditary, and consequent upon the dignity of the peers.
The Scotch peers take precedence of English peers of the same rank created since the union in . The Irish peers, in like manner, take precedence of the British peers of the same rank, created since the union in . Irish peers, since that period, rank according to the dates of their patents among the peers of the united kingdoms. Before the respective unions of Scotland and Ireland to England, the English peers, without any regard to the dates of their patents, took precedence of all others subject to the king.
The clerks and officers of the lords' house of parliament consist of the speaker, who is the lord chancellor; a deputy speaker, who is usually the vice chancellor; a chairman of committees; a clerk of the parliaments, who may be a member of the lower house, and has a salary of including the usual deduction of fees and taxes; a clerk-assistant; a reading-clerk and clerk of the private committees, united in the same person; counsel to the chairman of committees; a clerk of the journals; a copying clerk, and other clerks of the office; gentleman usher of the black rod, who attends the other house with summonses, &c. from the lords, to call them to hear the royal assent given to bills, the king's speech, &c. &c.: a yeoman-usher; a serjeant at arms; a receiver of the fees; about or door-keepers; a house-keeper; a keeper of the state-room, and a necessary woman.
Peers on their introduction to the house, both on their original accession to a title, and their advancement to a higher ; also all bishops at their consecration, and upon every future promotion, pay the following fees:--
The house of lords, in conjunction with the king and commons, have the power, not only of making and repealing all laws, but of constituting the supreme judicature of the kingdom. The lords here assemble to take cognizance of treason and high crimes committed by the peers and others; they try all who are impeached by the commons, and acquit or condemn, without taking an oath, only laying their right hand upon their breast, and saying,
They receive appeals from other courts, and even sometimes reverse the decrees of Chancery; but from this highest tribunal there lies no appeal.
This, therefore, being a court of justice in the proper sense of the word, it is open at all times to the public, except when any very important question is in debate, and the house is likely to be uncomfortably crowded; at which times a note from some lord is necessary to gain admission. But there are no accommodations for the people, as in the commons; no galleries or benches besides what are occupied by the lords within the bar; the people, therefore, when fatigued, seat themselves on the floor, which is covered with matting. It is not necessary to describe the forms of proceeding in this house: they are similar to those pursued in the commons, only that the lords do not retire when the house is divided on any question.
The speaker has no chair, as in the commons, but is seated on a large woolsack, covered with red cloth, with no support for the back, nor any table to lean against in front. This is a most preposterous and almost cruel custom.
At the upper end of the room, which is somewhat less than the house of commons, is the throne, upon which is seated the king on solemn occasions, in his robes, with the crown on his head, and adorned with all the ensigns of majesty. On the right hand of the throne is a seat for the heir apparent, and on the left another for the next person of the royal family. Below the throne on the king's
|right hand, are the seats of the archbishops, and a little below them the bench of bishops. Before the throne are broad seats, stuffed with wool; on the of which, next the throne, sits the lord chancellor, or keeper of the great seal, as before mentioned; on the other sit the lord chief justice, the master of the rolls, and the other judges who attend occasionally to be consulted on points of law.
The benches for the lords spiritual and temporal are covered with red cloth.
There is a bar across the house, at the end opposite the throne, at the outside of which sits the king's gentleman usher, called the black rod, from a wand he carries in his hand. Under him is the yeoman, who waits at the inside of the door, a crier without, and a serjeant-at-mace, who always attends the lord chancellor.
When his majesty is present with the crown on his head, the lords sit uncovered, and the judges stand till the king gives them leave to sit. In his absence, the lords at their entrance do reverence to the throne, as is done by all who enter the presence chamfer, by bowing.
When his majesty has so signified, the judges may sit, but must not be covered till the lord chancellor, or keeper, informs them that the lords permit them to be so.
The Painted Chamber, an apartment so called, between the house of lords and the house of commons, is often used for conferences of the houses, or their committees, there being a gallery of communication for the members of the house of commons to come up without being crowded. In this room the parliaments were formerly opened; and it is said to have been the bed-chamber of Edward the Confessor.