The House of Lords, 1603-1649: Structure, Procedure, and the Nature of Its Business

By Elizabeth Read Foster | Go to book overview

5
THE ASSISTANTS

THE JUDGES

The role of the judges in the House of Lords was debated and defined in the early seventeenth century, sometimes by the judges themselves, sometimes by the peers, sometimes by the king and, less appropriately, by the House of Commons. In the reign of Edward I and for many years thereafter, judges had been summoned in much the same way that other members of the council were summoned -- as full members of the parliament. Just when they assumed a position subordinate to the lords spiritual and temporal is not clear, but this change may have occurred in the reign of Richard II. Certainly the act for placing the lords, passed in the reign of Henry VIII, does not mention the judges. By that time their position in parliament had been transformed, they had lost their vote, and they were referred to as "attendants" or "assistants."1

In the seventeenth century, as in Tudor times, judges were summoned to the upper House by writs of assistance. With others of his council ("nobiscum ac cum ceteris de concilio nostro"), they were to advise the king concerning the difficult and urgent business for which he had called his parliament ("pro quibusdam arduis et urgentibus negotiis").2 Thus, although they were generally regarded as assistants to the peers and prelates of the upper House, the judges were in fact summoned to assist the king 3 -- a point that was not always recognized or accepted.

They sat "in the middest" of the parliament chamber upon the inner side of those woolsacks that lay before the earls' and bishops' benches.4 On ceremonial occasions, they wore "gowns and hoods of scarlet, lined with a white fur called miniver."5 Judges remained bareheaded until the lords gave them leave to cover. They did not speak unless required to do so by the House, a decision reached by majority vote "in case of difference about it." At committees, judges were not to sit or be covered "unless it be out of favor for infirmity, some judge sometimes hath a stool

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The House of Lords, 1603-1649: Structure, Procedure, and the Nature of Its Business
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • PART ONE - THE STRUCTURE OF THE HOUSE 1
  • I - THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE AND THEIR CHAMBER 3
  • 2 - THE PRESIDING OFFICER 28
  • 3 - THE CLERK 44
  • 4 - OTHER OFFICERS OF THE HOUSE 64
  • 5 - THE ASSISTANTS 70
  • 6 - COMMITTEES 87
  • 7 - CONFERENCES 126
  • PART TWO - THE BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 135
  • 8 - PRIVILEGE 137
  • 9 - JUDICATURE 149
  • 10 - LEGISLATION 189
  • PART THREE - THE END OF A PARLIAMENT 203
  • II - CONCLUSION 205
  • ABBREVIATIONS AND SHORT TITLES 211
  • Index 305
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