A most proper authority on all things Regency

Peers and Peerage

Peer Law
Succession when a Peer Dies
Contested Peerages
Number of Peers
Introduction of a New Peer - Fees for Promotion
Introduction of a New Peer to the House of Lords
Table of Precendency Among Men
Parliamentary Robes
Female Peerage

Peerage Law

These were the laws of England for English peerages. After the union with Scotland, the laws applied to peerages of Great Britain, (Scotland and England.) However, the Scottish peerages established before that time were allowed to follow the rules set up at their inception and some do so to this day. After 1707, there were no more Scottish peerages or English peerages created. They were peerages of Great Britain. After 1800 it changed to Imperial or Peerages of the UK.

In England, a man could not designate his heir except when he was the one for whom the peerage was created and the Regent/King was open to giving him a say in naming his successor.

 

Nelson was allowed to name his brother when he was ennobled because his only legitimate child was a daughter.

Admiral Lord Collingwood was not given that choice nor was his patent changed to allow one of his daughters to bear the title and give it to her son. The acquisition of the title just cost him money he could ill afford for the necessary fees and stamps for recording the award.

Females were generally excluded from inheriting peerages and, therefore, it was generally impossible for a son to inherit through his mother.

The exception is when the mother would have inherited the barony if she were alive. If she is alive she would inherit instead of her son.

If a barony was established by a man's attendance in the House of Lords ( peerage by writ) some centuries ago instead of by patent, it could be inherited by his daughters if he had no sons. Daughters inherited equally so if there were more than one, none of them actually possessed the title and the barony went into abeyance. The abeyance continued until only one claimant remained or until one claimant could present the best case. was only one person who was thought to have the best claim on it. Some baronies were in abeyance for 400 years before a claimant succeeded in making it active again. Today, there is a time limit of one hundred years. If a peerage is not brought out of abeyance in a century, it becomes extinct.

A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire By John Burke 1832 (google book)

The Baronetage of England, or the history of the English baronets. 1803 (google book)

The Peerage of the British Empire as at Present Existing: Arranged and Printed from the Personal Communications of the Nobility : to which is Added a View of the Baronetage of the Three Kingdoms By Edmund Lodge, Anne Innes, Eliza Innes, Maria Innes. 1832 (google book)

A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom, for M.D.CCC.XXVI. By John Burke. 1826 (google book)

British Nobility on Wikipedia

A Manual of Dignities, Privilege, and Precedence: Including Lists of the Great Public Functionaries, from the Revolution to the Present Time By Charles Roger Dod 1844 (google book)

If a man had only daughters when created a peer, he could ask that the title go to his eldest daughter's son, or even to one of his daughters. This was allowed for the Duke of Marlborough, but not for Viscount Nelson.

This is possible only when the peerage is created and there is a strong possibility that the man would not have a male heir. This is the only exception to a man not being able to inherit through his mother if she cannot inherit it first.

The general rule is that in England, no one could chose who the heir was to be. Most peerages were tail male. Readers expect tail male peerages and any others better have a good explanation tacked on.

A man could not put conditions on his heir restricting his accession to the peerage before he fulfilled the conditions. The decent of a peerage was laid out in the original grant and had to be strictly followed.

There was no legal adoption and a child "adopted" by a peer could not inherit a peerage. If the peer died without a will the child was out in the cold.

The land was often severed from the title at such a time and followed its own laws

No peer could sign a paper assigning his peerage to another no matter how many villains try to force him to do so. A man could not sign away a peerage nor his future interest in one. If a father wanted the second son to be the heir, he would have to kill his oldest son. When the father died the oldest son would be the peer whether he could be found or not. If he could not be found, he would have to be legally declared dead. The court and College of Arms and Committee on Privilege required more than just a tepid belief that the man must be dead because he had not come home.

Peers had some special privileges. The main one was the right to sit in the House of Lords, unless they were Roman Catholic , a minor, a female or a lunatic. They could not be arrested for debts. They had to advance the peerage as an affirmative defense. They did not have to sit on juries (This made sense as the House of Lords was in effect the supreme court and the last court of appeal). If arrested for a crime, they were allowed to be tried by the House of Peers. Their wives also claimed these privileges, except for sitting in the House of Lords. It was against the law to libel or slander a peer or to strike him.

A peeress in her own right had all of these rights of peerage except the right to sit in the House of Lords. She also did not have the privilege of Franking as that was a privilege of Parliament.

The peers had to pay taxes and were as subject to the criminal law as the poorest man. Theoretically, all peers were equal in that a duke did not have more privileges than a baron.

Peers of the British isles had many fewer privileges than their continental counterparts. Unlike the French aristocracy, the peers did not like to stay at court but usually preferred the country seat. The power of the peers did not lie in any extraordinary powers which they possessed but in the power of what they possessed.

To put it bluntly, many peers had the power to give patronage. The land the peers owned covered city blocks and country parishes. The peers controlled hundreds of livings -advowsons- which gave the right to appoint clergymen or to sell the right to appoint a clergyman. This right meant he was in a position to give employment to x number of men. The same was true of the seats in House of Commons. Because the seats had not been apportioned for far too long, there were places which had a seat and only 5 voters and other places with thousands of voters and no seat. Some of the seats were controlled by a peer and he could help or hinder a man who wanted to get into politics. There were no secret ballots.

Other peers worked in various ministries in government. Each ministry had a number of patronage spots- a stamp collector ( a stamp was a tax), for instance, who was paid 250 a year to do the job but whose clerks did all the work.

Peer Law
Succession when a Peer Dies
Contested Peerages
Number of Peers
Introduction of a New Peer - Fees for Promotion
Introduction of a New Peer to the House of Lords
Table of Precendency Among Men
Parliamentary Robes
Female Peerage

 

   
Home | Regency Links | Regency Research Books | Ask Nancy | Calling Cards