House of Lords

The most ancient element of parliament, the House of Lords, has remained the most baffling obstacle to reform over the last two decades, confusing almost everyone with its blend of fact and fantasy, romance and exploitation, comedy and dignity. The whole style of the high Victorian building was calculated to play on past glories. Stained - glass windows shed a red light, while the barons of the Magna Carta look down like saints from the walls, conveying the atmosphere of a grand private chapel which sanctifies the most banal interventions. On the red sofas a few old men fiddle with their deaf-aids, whisper and sometimes sleep, and sitting on a big red pouf stuffed with wool, called 'the Woolsack', is a muttering old man in a wig who turns out to be the Lord High Chancellor of England,... the holder of the most ancient lay office in the kingdom, older than the Norman Conquest.

... So the Lords remain for the time being with their irrational membership. In two decades the hereditary peerage has declined rather more rapidly than expected, as ancient titles disappear through lack of heirs. The Dukedom of Leeds has become extinct and the Duke of Portland is without an heir. There are nine fewer Marquesses since 1961, and two more have no heirs.

A.Sampson. The Changing Anatomy of Britain.


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