by which the Queen
summons the son of a lord
to sit in the House of Lords
. Before the 1999 reform the House of Lords
was made up mainly of hereditary peer
s, and while the title-holder himself might be old and doddery, or completely uninterested in politics
, he might have a son
who was an active politician
. The son could of course stand for election to the House of Commons
, but this is precarious and, voters being voters, temporary; so from time to time a government
has found it expedient to get one of their bright stars permanently into the legislature
. Since 1958 it has been possible to create life peer
s, but if the politician is the son of a peer
and will eventually inherit
his permanent ticket to the Lords, a writ in acceleration
in effect speeds up that process.
At least two future prime ministers received this favour, the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Derby. If you're confused by British titles of nobility, you'll be a lot more confused if you carry on to my next paragraph, so go and read Lord first.
Devonshire was born Lord Cavendish of Hardwick in 1720. On his father's accession to the dukedom in 1729, Cavendish of Hardwick became Marquess of Hartington. It is important to note that these are courtesy titles: Hartington was styled by them, but did not actually hold them. His father was The Duke of Devonshire, The Marquess of Hartington, and The Baron Cavendish of Hardwick. The father was referred to by his senior title, Duke, and his son was referred to by his father's second title, Marquess. But Lord Hartington was still a commoner, could sit in the House of Commons, and was not eligible for the House of Lords. In 1751 Hartington was summoned to the Lords by a writ in acceleration, in his father's barony. That is, although Lord Hartington ranked as a marquess and was styled by that higher title, the seat he was called on to take was a lower available one. But I am sure he would continue to have been styled (referred to) as his higher courtesy title, Lord Hartington, rather than Lord Cavendish of Hardwick. In 1755 his father died and Hartington inherited the three titles and the ordinary hereditary right to sit in the House. He was prime minister 1756-1757.
Lord Derby was known as the Hon. Edward Stanley when he was elected MP in 1822. From 1834 he was styled Lord Stanley, because his father had become Earl of Derby (and Baron Stanley) and the son therefore used the courtesy title Lord Stanley. In 1844 he was summoned by a writ in acceleration, so he moved from the Commons to the Lords under the same name. In 1851 he inherited the earldom, and was prime minister 1852, 1858-1859, and 1866-1868. In those days prime ministers could be lords, though this has not happened for a hundred years and would no longer be allowed.
The actual form for summoning the prospective lord is gloriously ornate:
Elizabeth the Second by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith To Our right trusty and well beloved Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil of Essendon in Our County of Rutland Chevalier
Greeting Whereas Our Parliament for arduous and urgent affairs concerning Us the state and defence of Our United Kingdom and the Church is now met at Our City of Westminster We strictly enjoining command you upon the faith and allegiance by which you are bound to Us that considering the difficulty of the said affairs and dangers impending (waiving all excuses) you be personally present at Our aforesaid Parliament with Us and with the Prelates Nobles and Peers of Our said Kingdom to treat and give your counsel upon the affairs aforesaid And this as you regard Us and Our honour and the safety and defence of the said Kingdom and Church and dispatch of the said affairs in nowise do you omit Witness Ourself at Westminster the twenty-ninth day of April in the forty-first year of Our Reign.
And getting the Lord Chancellor
to issue the writ is equally ornate. This is a modern instance, and is another example of acceleration of a lower title than the courtesy title
: here the son of a marquess is styled as a viscount but summoned as a baron.
Right Trusty and Well-beloved Counsellor We greet you well!
Ornate forms from www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199899/ldselect/ldprivi/106i/106i07.htm
OUR WILL AND PLEASURE is that you make or cause to be made forthwith One Writ of Summons under Our Great Seal to be directed to Our Right Trusty and Well-beloved Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil (commonly called Viscount Cranborne) eldest son and heir apparent of Our Right Trusty and Entirely-beloved Cousin Robert Edward Peter, Marquess of Salisbury, to be personally present with Us and the Prelates, Nobles and Peers of Our Realm at Our Parliament at Westminster and to sit in his father's Barony of Cecil, of Essendon in the County of Rutland.
AND for so doing this shall be your Warrant.
GIVEN at Our Court at Windsor the twenty-ninth day of April 1992; In the Forty-first year of Our Reign.
By Her Majesty's Command. To Our Right Trusty and Well-beloved Counsellor James Peter Hymers, Baron Mackay of Clashfern, Our Chancellor of Great Britain.