The king summoned the lords to give advice on the urgent affairs of the realm. At the opening session of the parliament, he or his lord chancellor or lord keeper explained the specific purposes for which it had been called and thus emphasized that the king's parliament met to transact the king's business and the business of the commonwealth. Parliament applied judicial and legislative remedies to public and private ills. Lords and Commons also devoted a portion of their time to the definition and protection of their own privileges and the privileges of their House.
Unlike the House of Commons, the upper House presented no formal request at the opening of parliament for the privileges generally considered essential for an advisory or legislative body--the right of freedom of speech or debate, freedom from arrest, and access to the sovereign. The claims of privilege that the lords made for themselves and for their House arose out of the proceedings of the House in individual cases. Not until 1621, long after the House of Commons had done so, did the House of Lords appoint a Committee for Privileges.1 In proposing this committee, the earl of Arundel observed that "there are many privileges belonging to us and divers orders which weare anciently observed in this house that by disuse and want of puttinge in practise are now almost lost."2 For remedy, the committee brought in the first draft of the "Remembrances for Order and Decency to be kept in the Upper House of Parliament," the basis of the Standing Orders to which the House continued to add thereafter and which were customarily read early in each parliament.3 The committee also engaged John Selden and William Hakewill to investigate privilege and presented to the House Selden's study of the privileges of the baronage of England.4 A subcommittee was charged to check the journal each week and see that the orders of the House were properly entered.5 Thus, individual cases and the general orders and principles that emerged from them were carefully recorded, while Selden's treatise provided historical background and definition.