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The Rights and Privileges of Peers

Being a "Peer of the Realm" comes with the added bonus of certain rights and privileges to differentiate and elevate these people from and above the rest of society.


  • They have the right to be tried for treason and felony only in the House of Lords (This privilege extends to wives of peers as well).
  • They do not have to serve on ordinary juries (neither do convicted felons, lunatics, or undischarged bankrupts).
  • They cannot be arrested for forty days before and after Parliament is in session.
  • However, a peer is barred from voting in parliamentary elections and from sitting in the House of Commons (again in the company of lunatics and felons). But the principal right of a peer is to a seat in the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords.




The House of Lords


An English peer (unless she is a woman) sits in the upper house of Parliament -- the House of Lords. When a peer dies and his son inherits, one of the rites of passage he must go through is to "take his seat" in the House of Lords -- he shakes the hand of the Lord Chancellor and then literally takes a seat on one of the benches. There are a few more qualifiers: a peer may not take his seat if he is bankrupt, if he is a lunatic, if he is under the age of twenty-one, or if his peerage is not granted in England, Scotland, or Ireland. Finally, he may not take his seat until the monarch has issued a Writ of Summons to him.


Scottish peers, however, are not automatically entitled to a seat in the English House of Lords. Instead, as Scotland and England were, at this time, still separate countries, they were given seats in the Scottish Parliament. The lowest seat that gained a peer membership in the Scottish Parliament was Lord of Parliament. In contrast to English Parliament, where there was only one Baron rank, Scotland has two differing ranks: the Baron rank, which was not a part of the Scottish peerage, and the Lord of Parliament, which was a part of the Scottish peerage. The Lord of Parliament is most akin to the English title of Baron, as it implied both land and a seat in Parliament.


Irish peers, unlike English and Scottish peers, are not barred from voting in general elections or from being elected to the House of Commons. Like Scottish peers, however, Irish peers are not guaranteed a seat in the House of Lords, but most Irish peers also hold an English or Scottish peerage, often of considerably lower rank, which allow them to have a seat in the House of Lords; for example, the Duke of Leinster (Irish) is also Viscount Leinster in the English peerage.


The eldest sons of peeresses in their own right may sit for their mothers in the House of Lords with a Writ of Summons from the King.


The House of Commons


Heirs and younger sons of peers can sit in the House of Commons before they inherit. A commoner is defined as anyone who is not a peer. In fact, not just anyone could join the House of Commons before this century -- you had to "be somebody." Being the son of a peer was "being somebody."


To carry this a bit further, peers usually considered themselves to "own" certain House of Commons seats -- those from the district around their estates, for example -- and often the "election" of their sons or nephews to those seats was mere formality. It is easy to see that with this sort of system, the peers could control House of Commons votes and thereby pretty much control government. This was a major reason for the reforms of the 1830s, and for the "radical" Whigs under Charles James Fox in the 1780s and 90s.

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Political Factions

The political climate in England at this time consisted of various political factions. Unlike our modern 21st century (American) politics, party politics were not polarized and there was much switching from one camp to another.



A Royalist is a supporter of the king, and thereby the monarchy, on principle, extending such support to the Duke of York. They are accused by the Whigs to be traitors to their country and Catholic. Yet many a Royalist fears that the common rabble will turn England into bloody chaos if there is not a strong monarchy, such as happened during the Civil War and the Commonwealth. Absolutist monarchs were the norm in Europe and not frowned upon. The rights parliament demanded however (such as controlling funds, influence on foreign policy, who was a Kings minister etc.) were.


During the time of the Civil War a Royalist would be named Cavalier. The term is old fashioned in 1675 and marks an older generation such as for instance George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. In our time period a Royalist would most aptly name himself a loyalist, though the term was also used by Whigs who claimed they were loyal to the people instead of the crown.


The Court Party


At times some royalists also referred to themselves as "The Court Party." During later years, after our time period, Royalist became known as a Tory.


Currently, a member of the "Court Party" would be one that supported the Ministers of the King and their decisions as they advised the king on matters pertaining to ruling the kingdom. One can support the King and not be in support of his ministers OR the Court Party.


The Country Party


Their key values are civil and political liberty, and they are in fact the political forefathers of such radical revolutionaries as the American Founding Fathers, although in later years many such individuals turned out to be very conservative when under William III they rose to power. Whig is not as much a term the English currently use in era; it is a later word associated with the Country Party.


Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury was one of the leaders of this faction in Parliament. At this point, the group remains informal and is more commonly known as the "The Country Party." They fight against what they see as the King's tendencies to Tyranny and the misuse of funds and influence by ministers to gain personal power. France is the example they abhor. Whigs tend to favour the Dutch political system.

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The Test Act of 1673

The Test Act of 1673 was an Act of Parliament which barred Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists (any Protestant faith other than Anglicanism or Scottish Episcopalian) from holding public office OR commission in the military. It was effective in all areas of the Realm, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.


The Terms


The Act banned anyone from both military and civil office who would not:

  • swear an 'Oath of Supremacy' that the King was the supreme governor of the Church of England (and not the Pope)
  • swear an Oath of Allegiance
  • take communion according to the rite of the Church of England
  • sign a declaration denying the key Catholic tenet of transubstantiation (that the bread and wine in the Mass are the actual body and blood of Christ)

The Outcome of the Test Act


Because of the risk the Test Act posed to anyone who held a public office or military commission, many people took to paying lip service to the Anglican faith and practicing their true faith (Catholicism or non-conforming Protestantism) in the privacy of their own homes. Even a rumor that a person might be Catholic could be his undoing, so many were very careful about maintaining public appearances of Anglicanism.


The Introduction of the Second Test Act


As of 1677 in our game, the Earl of Danby has introduced a Second Test Act which would revise the original Test Act and expand the Test to include the houses of Parliament, thus removing any Catholic or nonconformist from their seats. This has caused quite a bit of stir and a number of debates in Lords and in political circles about the legality of this expansion, as the rights of Peers are ensured by the Magna Carta.

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  • 3 years later...

For SPRING 1678, it is important to note that Danby has fallen and the attainder done in the HoL. He is currently "missing" although the whispers say he was supposed to be with the Dutch. 


The Court Party does not have one figurehead as the leader.


Please be careful not to assume that political events that happened historical have happened the same way here, because we have now deviated quite a bit from the state of things in REAL history!

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