Page images


The issuing of a writ of summons to parliament always constitutes the person to whom it is ad. dressed a Peer of the Realm ; and, although it was anciently issued to those only who held lands per baroniam, yet it was subsequently adopted as a mode of creating dignities, and for the first time, it is supposed, by Henry III.

The issuing of such a writ, and the consequent sitting in parliament, creates a dignity in fee, descendible to the heirs-general of the person summoned. One instance, however, is known, in which the descent was specially limited to the heirs male. The following is the usual form of a writ of summons to parliament :-“ Rex, &c. dilecto et fideli nostro —quia super quibusdam arduis negotiis, nos et regnum nostrum, ceterosque proceres et magnates, de eodem regno tangentibus, quæ sine vestrâ et eorum præsentiâ nolumus expediri, parliamentum nostrum tenere et vobiscum super hiis colloquium habere volumus et tractatum, vobis mandamus, in fide et homagio quibus nobis tenemini, firmiter injungentes quod sitis ad nos apud Westmonasterium — die mensis proximi futuro, vel saltem infra terminum diei subsequentis ad ultimum, nobiscum super dictis negotiis tractaturi et vestrum consilium impensuri; et hoc nullo modo omittatis. Teste me ipso," &c. * • To our well beloved and trusty

Inasmuch as we are desirous to hold our parliament, and to confer and consider with you on certain important affairs affecting us, The above is the usual form of writs of this nature, but they are liable occasionally to slight variations. They are sealed with the great seal of England, and addressed to each individual peer. The temporal barons were generally styled by their baptismal and surnames only, except where there existed more than one baron of the same name, when some additional distinction, most commonly derived from their place of residence, was inserted. A single writ of summons, without proof of sitting in parliament under it, does not constitute an hereditary dignity, nor is it necessary for proof of more than one summons being adduced, if the proof of sitting be clear. The house of Lords resolved, in a case, where a writ of summons had been issued, though the person died before the meeting of parliament, “That the direction and delivery of the writ did not make him a baron or noble until he came to parliament, and there sat according to the commandment of the writ, for until that, the writ did not take effect.”—(See CLAIMS TO PEERAGES.)

our kingdom, and the other peers and nobles, (which matters we are unwilling to determine without your and their presence,) we command you by the faith and homage you bear towards us, positively enjoining you to appear before us at Westminster on the day of the month of

-next ensuing, or before the termination of the subsequent day at the farthest, in order to confer with us on the aforesaid business, and to give your advice ; and this on no account omit. Witness ourself, &c.



“Dost thou so hunger for my empty chair,
That thou wilt needs invest thee with mine honours
Before thy hour be ripe ?"

2nd Part of Henry IV. act 4, scene 4. The practice of summoning the eldest son of a peer in his father's barony has been frequently resorted to as an expedient for temporarily increasing the house of Peers without eventually adding to its numbers. Its origin is usually traced to the 22nd year of Edward the Fourth's reign.

The writ of summons to an heir-apparent in a barony belonging to his father neither denudes the father of the dignity, nor creates a new peerage; for precedence is regulated by the date of the original creation, and the title is not descendible to the heirs of the body of the person summoned, in any manner different from the course by which the superior titles of the father would ultimately descend.

Thus, the daughter of a peer, who was summoned in his father's barony, but who died without male issue, vitá patris, has no claim to her parent's barony, although it was created by writ. But if a peer thus summoned leave a son, the latter is entitled to a writ, in consequence of being the heirapparent to the grandfather's peerage, and at the same time the issue male of the eldest son's body; for the effect and intention of such additions to the house of Peers is only temporary, a purpose which would be defeated if the summons were to create any separation of the one barony from the other dignities of the family.

When, however, a writ of summons is issued to the eldest son of a peer, by the name of a barony which his father does not really possess, although it was supposed to be vested in him, then such a writ operates as a new creation, and the barony is descendible to all the lineal heirs, male and female, of the person so summoned in error. From this it results, that the sitting of a peer in the house of Lords, under the belief that he was entitled to a certain rank and precedence, does not prevent an inquiry as to whether that belief was erroneous or not. It likewise proves, that the grounds upon which a writ was issued have no subsequent influence on the title, when once the summons has taken effect.


The first instance of a peerage being created by letters patent under the great seal, occurred in the Ilth year of Richard the second's reign, and, there. fore, all baronies existing previous to that year are presumed to have been created by writ.

The delivery of the letters patent without any ceremony is sufficient to constitute a peer. Annuities were sometimes granted to newly made barons, in order to enable them the better to support the dignity of their titles, but it is hardly necessary to observe that this practice has long since fallen into desuetude.

Creation by letters patent is perfect and complete as soon as the great seal is affixed, in consequence of a clause inserted in all patents of this nature. Thus no sitting in parliament is necessary to perfect the creation, and the title will descend in all cases, provided the great seal has been actually affixed during the lifetime of the individual to whom the patent was granted; but this is essential, and if omitted, the completion of all other forms is of no avail, nor is any creation held to have taken place.

Unless the course of descent by which it is intended that the dignity should pass is specifically laid down in the patent, the grant is void. The usual provision is, that it should descend to the heirs male of the body of the first peer, but instances occur of a limitation to the second son; to issue by a particular wife; to the heirs general of the body of the first peer ; to the issue male of a father, grandfather, &c.

In the creation of peerages by letters patent, precedence cannot be given before peers of the like degree whose titles were granted previous to the date of the said patent.

Nothing but an act of parliament can alter the course of descent in a peerage, without at the same time changing the precedence of all successors, and causing them to rank according to the date of that alteration. An act of parliament, however, limited the descent of all the dignities of the celebrated duke of Marlborough (in default of issue male) to his sister and the heirs male of her body; and though this occurred subsequent to the creation of the title, yet the precedence was unchanged. The case, however, is without precedent, and the example has never since been followed.

TENURE. Our present scale of dignities was introduced into

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »