In my defense, I could have sworn the first of July was next week, and that I had plenty of time to research a lovely topic. But I’m now frantically flinging clothes into a suitcase for a trip scheduled this weekend and the calendar page turned and here I am at midnight, unprepared.
So today you get a brief history of the House of Lords, which has only been around in some form for about eight hundred years, give or take a century or so. Right, deep breath. Parliament essentially began in medieval times as a group of advisors to the kings. By the 13th century, these advisors included representatives from various counties, cities, and rural boroughs. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the two houses of Parliament emerged. The representatives—currently elected—met in the House of Commons. The nobility and leaders of the church met as the House of Lords.
By the 15th century, the Lords Temporals, the “peers,” became almost entirely hereditary, no longer appointed by the king. These are the titles most familiar to romance readers: dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Since titles descended only to male heirs, the lords was quite unreasonably all male and still is today.
In the 16th century, good King Henry VIII took out the churches, which removed pretty much all the bishops and Catholic church hierarchy, leaving the Lords Temporal pretty much in charge. I think there’s an entire encyclopedia of novels in this period alone. So, out goes the church and let the merriment begin!
Let’s skip over the nastiness of the Civil War when everyone got thrown out and it was a right wretched mess until 1689 when the Bill of Rights declared Parliament had authority over the king. Yeah, people! We may be down to a few dozen clergymen at this point.
So now we’re up to the time that matters in most of our romance novels, the 18th century. Scotland and England have been battling for centuries but finally, in 1707, they settle down and Scotland sends peers to the House of Lords. It takes until 1800 before they can get it together with Ireland, though. Lots of fun history here should I be writing this at some other time besides midnight.
It's before all the reforms in the mid-1800s that I'm setting my Unexpected Magic series, so a peer is still entitled to sit in the Lords upon inheriting the title. That's no longer true, but I'm not writing contemporary and don't have to worry about today's complications.
Essentially, the Lords supervises the Commons. The Commons does all the work, deciding what their voters want, writing the bills, and the Lords get to sniff at it and decide whether they like the result. So really, one can understand why they spent a lot of time sleeping on the benches and playing cards. But I like my heroes more dynamic, so Lord Ashford gets to meddle in my next book. He probably likes to meddle at midnight, too, but I don't. So I'll leave y'all to tell me how far I went astray in my ramblings. Do any of you ever wonder what our heroes are actually supposed to be doing when our dukes and earls are out making hay or doing whatever it is romance heroes do that get them into so much trouble?