History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

24 April 2012

Privileges of a Peer

Since I’ve been reviewing the laws pertaining to becoming a peer, I thought I’d do a quick post on some of the legalities of being a peer. All of these except the ones directly relating to Parliament also apply to peeresses, and continue to apply to them even after their husbands death (unless they marry a commoner).

Freedom from Arrest, save for treason, felony, or refusing to give surety of the peace (basically to post a sum of money to ensure you don’t carry out whatever act you’ve been threatening to commit). This was why peers could not be thrown into debtor’s prison. This privilege extends to a person succeeding to a peerage who has already been arrested. Which could make for an interesting plot.

Trial by Peers. This is exactly what it sounds like. Accusations of treason or felony (e.g. murder) against a peer could only be tried in front House of Lords.

Freedom of Speech in Parliament. Pretty much self-explanatory.

Immunity from Civil Actions. This was pretty much wiped out by Acts under Anne, William III and George III, so it’s not really going to play into the plots of Georgian or Regency novels.

Exemption from Summons as Witness. This also fell by the wayside.

Knights on Jury. At one time, in any action against a peer, he was allowed to demand knights on the Jury. This too is gone by my period of focus.

Proxies. A peer can give his proxy to another lord of Parliament (this is how they can get out of attending every session).

Protest. This doesn’t mean leading a march in the streets, it means every peer has a right to enter is dissent into the Journals of the House.

Exemption from Jury Service. Self-explanatory.

Access to Sovereign. All peers are supposed to have personal access to the sovereign. Not sure how this works when they’re constantly being banned from court!

Scandalum Magnatum. A special provision made for punishment of those who make false statements concerning prelates, dukes, earls, barons, and other nobles and magnates.

Chaplains. A peer may appoint chaplains to the livings he controls.

Taking the King’s Deer. All of us who grew up loving Robin Hood know this one. Basically it said that any peer going to or coming from Parliament could take one or two deer from the King’s forests. This wasn’t still being practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries

Answering “on honour”. Peers do no swear an oath when called to testify in court. They answer upon their honour. This privilege is not longer in effect, but was during the Georgian/Regency period.


Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Isobel - any privilege entitled Scandalum Magnalatum practically demands to be used in a book.

5:27 PM  

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