A Princely Gift

I suppose there are worse things he could be wearing.

A few days ago I discovered the YouTube channel Documentary Base, whose content is what you’d expect. What particularly caught my interest was the series Crown and Country. The Prince Edward writes and presents a historical tour of England’s royal landmarks, one of many documentaries put out by his ill-fated Ardent Productions. This programme is about the same age as I, and now so obscure that its IMDB page looks to be mostly guesswork.

As far as I can decipher there were three series (in the years 1996, 1998 and 2000 – the former typed in the credits as such while the latter two are rendered as MCMXCVIII and MM). The YouTube playlist does not have them in broadcast order – and I think it may even mislabel a few of them, which makes it a little confusing. Series 1 and 2 are differentiated by swapping some of the clips in the opening title sequence montage. Series 3 switches from 4:3 to 16:9, and the title sequence is crudely cropped. The first two series credit the presenter as “Edward Windsor”, the third as “Edward Wessex”.

Technical details aside, the programme is pervaded by an otherworldly quaintness. As with so many films of this type it seems to be designed for international syndication rather than domestic broadcast, and while many specific events and locations are discussed the production itself is curiously timeless. It bulges with luxuriant panning shots of rolling countryside, weathered stone and ornately carved wood panels. The overall tone puts me in mind of Mitchell & Webb’s Sunday afternoon relaxation DVD. There are other curiosities, too, such as the title music which occasionally sounds like the middle eight of the Doctor Who theme.

The parts most interesting to me, as a blogger on heraldry, were the visits to the College of Arms and St George’s Chapel, neither of which get as much screen time as I would like.

In more recent news, the Prince of Wales has launched RE:TV, a channel (or platform, it’s not entirely clear) centered around his environmental projects. I also found this virtual interior tour of Buckingham Palace by interior design blogger Ashley Hicks.

Heraldry in Upstart Crow

Ben Elton’s BBC sitcom Upstart Crow, covering the life of William Shakespeare (David Mitchell), contains some interesting heraldic treasures. A subplot of the series involves the playwright’s attempt to elevate himself to the gentry with the acquisition of a grant of arms. Robert Greene (Mark Heap), Master of the Revels, seeks to deny him this, viewing the Shakespeares as of insufficiently high birth.

Success comes in the third season, Elizabeth I allegedly having been so impressed by Shakespeare’s latest play that she decreed “Only the son of a gentleman could have writ such wit!” and thus elevated the bard’s father accordingly.

There are other armorial treats, though also causes for confusion: At the theatre where Shakespeare and his troupe are seen rehearsing, there is a large cloth of the royal arms at the time – quarterly France & England – hanging in the background. There appear to be multiple versions of this prop used. On some occasions the arms are depicted in the correct tinctures, on others the field colours are swapped so that the fleur de lis are on gules and the lions on azure. There are other curiosities in that same set, for on either side are other shields which also get swapped out at various points. On the right, in seasons 1 and 2, is a shield resembling that of the Dauphin of France, though again with the background tinctures changed, while those appearing on the left are not those I can identify.

The Queen herself (Emma Thompson) appears at Hampton Court Palace in the 2017 special A Christmas Crow. Behind her is a large, colourful relief of the modern-day royal arms, showing quarterings for Scotland and Ireland but not for France, and featuring a unicorn argent as the sinister supporter. These elements would not be brought together until the union of the crowns, which of course occurred at Elizabeth’s death. The specific iteration shown in this episode, with the motto scroll floating in the air, would belong to the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI.



The Green Chair Quartet

The Ways & Means Committee was, and in some countries still is, a subgroup of the national legislature responsible for proposing changes to fiscal policy. In the House of Commons a tradition developed whereby the Chairman of Ways & Means, rather than the Speaker, would preside over the chamber during the annual budget statement. From 1853 the Chairman took on the role of the Speaker’s deputy in general. This was codified by the Deputy Speakers Act of 1855. The Chairman was given his own Deputy in 1902.

The committee itself was abolished in 1967, with full authority over fiscal matters going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the chairmen retained their functions as deputy speakers. Like the main Speaker they do not speak in the chamber except on matters of procedure, nor vote unless to break a tie. Unlike him they remain members of their respective parties and must fight as party candidates at general elections. Traditionally the Speaker was elected at the first sitting day after each general election, whereas the deputies were appointed just after the first State Opening.

The table that I have created shows all of the speakers and their deputies since the beginning of the 45th Parliament in 1970.

The Commons assembled on 29th June and Dr Horace King, member for Southampton Itchen, was elected to a third term as Speaker, having taken office following the death of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster in 1965. On 2nd July he was given Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Conservative, Nantwich) as Chairman and Betty Harvie Anderson (Conservative, East Renfrewshire) as Deputy.

On 12th January 1971 King retired and former Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd was, with a bit of difficulty, elected to replace him. This briefly resulted in an all-blue speakership trio. Ten months later the post of Second Deputy Chairman was established and conferred upon the Labour backbencher Sir Lancelot Mallalieu. Anderson resigned her post at the end of the third session. After the state opening Mallalieu was promoted to replace her and his position given to Oscar Murton, Conservative member for Poole.

Ferris and Mallalieu both retired from the Commons at the general election of February 1974. The short-lived 46th Parliament saw Lloyd re-elected as speaker and Murton promoted to First Deputy, with former Secretary of State for Wales George Thomas becoming chairman. Seemingly no Second Deputy was appointed that time. After the October election Lloyd, Thomas and Murton were restored, with Sir Myer Galpern (Labour, Glasgow Shettleston) becoming Second Deputy. This arrangement persisted until 3rd February 1976 when Lloyd retired and Thomas was elected to replace him. That same day Murton and Galpern were promoted one step each, with Sir Godman Irvine brought in at the bottom.

At the 1979 general election Murton and Galpern both retired from the Commons and were kicked upstairs that summer. Anderson, a backbencher since her resignation, did the same with the unusual title Baroness Skrimshire of Quarter, of Dunipace in the District of Falkirk, but she suffered a fatal asthma attack just a week after her introduction to the Lords. Thomas resumed his place, with Irvine becoming First Deputy under Bernard Weatherill (Conservative, Croydon North East). Richard Cranshaw (Labour, Liverpool Toxteth) was then appointed Second Deputy. Cranshaw vacated the post in February 1981 when he defected to the Social Democratic Party. He was replaced by Ernest Armstrong (Labour, North West Durham). On 28 May 1982 Armstrong was promoted after Irvine’s resignation, with Paul Dean (Conservative, North Somerset) appointed below him.

At the 1983 general election Cranshaw was defeated while Thomas and Irvine both retired. The former two were ennobled. Weatherill then became Speaker and Harold Walker (Labour, Doncaster Central) became Chairman. Armstrong and Dean stayed still.

In 1987 Armstrong retired. Weatherill and Walker remained, with Dean made First Deputy and Betty Boothroyd (Labour, West Bromwich West) Second. In 1992 Weatherill, Walker and Dean all stood down. Boothroyd beat Peter Brooke to the Speaker’s chair. She acquired a new team of Michael Morris (Conservative, Northampton South), Geoffrey Lofthouse (Labour, Pontefract & Castleford) and Dame Janet Fookes (Conservative, Plymouth Drake). They too departed on masse in 1997 – the latter two voluntarily, the former less so.

Their replacements were Alan Haselhurst (Conservative, Saffron Walden), Michael Martin (Labour, Glasgow Springburn) and Michael Lord (Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich). Martin succeeded Boothroyd upon her retirement in 2000, and was himself replaced by Sylvia Heal (Labour, Halesowen and Rowley Regis). This team remained stable for most of the noughties.

Martin resigned in 2009. Haselhurst and Lord both contested the ensuing election, the former getting a measly sixty-six votes and the latter just nine. The winner was outsider John Bercow (Conservative, Buckingham). That knocked off the party balance for the first time in thirty-five years. At the 2010 general election Heal left politics behind and Lord moved upstairs, taking the title Baron Framlingham, of Eye in the County of Suffolk, to avoid the obvious joke.

At the start of the 55th Parliament Bercow was re-elected Speaker, and new rules took effect requiring deputies to be elected a ballot of members rather than appointed in the old manner. Haselhurst was no longer eligible to be Chairman, only First Deputy, so he became Chairman of the Administration Committee instead. Those elected were Lindsay Hoyle (Labour, Chorley), Nigel Evans (Conservative, Ribble Valley) and Dawn Primarolo (Labour, Bristol South). Evans resigned as First Deputy in September 2013, and the next month Eleanor Laing (Conservative, Epping Forest) took his place.

In 2015 Primarolo left for benches redder. Bercow, Hoyle and Laing continued, with Natasha Engel (Labour, North East Derbyshire) taking the junior spot in a rather noncompetitive election. Engel was defeated in the 2017 snap election. Haselhurst stood down, accepting a life peerage the next year. The new Second Deputy was Dame Rosie Winterton (Labour, Doncaster Central).

Some awkwardness ensued in 2019 when another snap election was imposed. Bercow resigned his seat in the 57th House of Commons two days before it was due to dissolve. All three deputies sought to succeed him as Speaker, with Hoyle ultimately prevailing. His former position as Chairman of Ways & Means was left vacant on the one remaining sitting day.

The present parliament assembled on 17th December and Hoyle was swiftly re-instated, but the deputies were not elected until January. Laing was made Chairman, with Winterton becoming First Deputy unopposed and Evans coming back in as second. How long this team will stay together is to be determined.

You may notice that there are some italicised names not yet mentioned. The new arrangements for electing deputies contained a caveat that the old system could still be used to appoint up to three temporary placeholders from among the surviving members of the previous house’s Panel of Chairs so that the Speaker was not left to carry the whole workload alone for the first few days. Haselhurst was kept on in 2010 with Hugh Bayley (York Central). In 2015 the appointments were Sir Roger Gale (Conservative, North Thanet) and George Howarth (Labour, Knowsley). In 2017 they were Howarth and Sir David Amess (Conservative, Southend West). In these instances the documentation of was hard to find, and I really only know who served as temporary deputies from the Speaker thanking them once the permanent deputies were elected. In no case was it made clear which member acted in which particular office, so I have assigned them to the roles for which they would have been eligible to contest in the elections, and according to seniority of service in the house.

For 2019-2020 it was much clearer, with an explicit statement in the appointment motion that Gale would be Chairman, Howarth would be First Deputy and Sir Gary Streeter (Conservative, South West Devon) would be Second.



Farewell to Cottingham Road

Obviously my hair is a lot longer this time, but the suit is the same.

It is a very small proportion of blogs that get serious attention. The same is true of video channels, social network profiles, books, magazines, newspapers and academic journals. For every best seller or household star, there are thousands of obscurities whose volumes fill up discount bins and whose view counts barely break out of single figures. Indeed there are many whose authors just give up or even forget about them, and sit incomplete for eternity. This one was created just shy of five years ago, and this shall be the seventy-fifth published article. A glance of WordPress’s site statistics function shows that there have been 4923 views in total. The mean view count per post is therefore a moderately impressive 66.5, but an inspection of the ranked list shows that the median is a less impressive 6. Factoring in a margin of error for me reading the site myself, I suspect that at least a dozen posts – mostly those talking about student union meetings – actually had no other readers at all. Two articles seriously inflate the mean: The runner up is Interview at Selwyn College, detailing my ill-fated application to matriculate at Cambridge. By far the winner, made just fifty-three weeks ago, is Farewell to Cottingham, discussing my time at The Lawns. Today it is time for the sequel.

All satellite accommodation having closed, the only dwellings available were those in or immediately around the campus. Once again I was slow to investigate options and was primarily concerned with minimizing the expense, so instead of the luxurious newer sites I opted for a Kexgill-owned house with three others on nearby Cottingham Road. In contrast to where I lived before, the history of this house was not well documented, though what sources I can find suggest the road itself dates back to the eighteenth century while the nearby North Hull Estate was constructed between the World Wars, but the construction date of my particular residence and the other student houses adjacent is far from clear. As is to be expected with properties of this nature, a great many fittings and furnishings have been changed over the years to types bought in bulk by the owners, thus obfuscating the property’s true vintage. Buildings like this often have subtle vestigial features which hint at grander days gone by. In our case it was a stained glass window at the top of the staircase. A few dozen metres east of us were houses that had mosaic tile art in their porches. Otherwise they were indistinct from any other undergraduate digs.

The desks, cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and shelves were the same plywood varieties that were seen in the old halls, while the white goods often had panels that were turning yellow. Very little of the flooring in any room was truly flat and very few of the walls were truly straight. In particular my bedroom window had sagged a little on its hinges and did not properly line up with the frame. Full closure required a lot of brute force to lift it up at the same time as pulling it in, the strain of which eventually caused the handle to come off in my hand. The main problem which we experienced in the early months was the cold – even in September it was apparent that there was a sudden drop in temperature upon entering the house. The contract said that Kexgill remotely controlled the central heating for all their properties and so for a while it was assumed that they were leaving it as late as possible before switching it on to save money. As nights got longer and longer we eventually complained and were issued space heaters for our bedrooms. The house was advertised as containing a living room, but on viewing it was clearly a downstairs bedroom with the bed removed. Very little socialising occurred in my time but when it did it was invariably in the kitchen instead. The living room, whose only unique feature was an ironing board (but no iron) was mostly used for storing laundry.

It wasn’t all bad: We had a normal washing machine in the kitchen between four of us, rather than having to use an overstretched institutional launderette with a needlessly complex card payment system. The dryer was less of a boon, as it warped one of my old jumpers until it would have better fitted Mr Tickle. It broke in the spring and a new one was dragged in. The kitchen had further problems: In mid-October the lights broke, forcing me to cook dinner wearing a head torch for a few days. In April the radiator sprang a leak. It was dumped in the bush in the rear garden and a brand new one was fitted in its place. There were also signs of rot or mould having infected one of the storage cupboards. Supposedly this had been treated by spraying the area with bleach, the smell of which lingered for the whole academic year.

The main benefit of the place was that it was barely a two minute walk away from the university’s premises. The result was that I could pop home between lectures, and even access the library at night, without having to carry all the day’s necessary items on an arduous walk or an uncertain bus ride. It was also very close to a large number of food shops, which was especially handy in the last few months.

The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 caused a great upheaval, of course. At a stroke it negated the benefit of proximity to campus, as the university’s physical presence was closed and teaching became purely virtual. From then on the house might as well have been in the next county. The ensuing national lockdown reinforced how little space there was in the property – we had front and rear gardens, but they were a far cry from the large open space at The Lawns. With no access to the library, the lecture theatres or the student union, our house became our whole world – a billet for which it was obviously not prepared. Thankfully I had earlier taken a few steps to alleviate the drabness of the off-white walls, which eased my sanity during the long period of isolation: in October, when the university’s photocopiers were still available, I had printed off family portraits and hung them in my bedroom. In November I bought several rolls of robin-themed Christmas wrap and made wallpaper out of it. Constantly having to adjust the shifting blu-tack was a pain but if I squinted I could almost convince myself that I inhabited a place of greater splendour.

As mentioned on this blog many times before, there is often a lengthy wrap-up period in May-June when academic courses have concluded and students scuttle off home. This time around it started abnormally early due to lockdown, and two of my three housemates jumped ship straight away, returning only briefly weeks later to collect their belongings. In terms of practical space the departure of one’s co-residents is a benefit, as each remaining person controls a greater share of the communal areas. On a theoretical level, though, the space actually diminishes: their rooms disappearing from the map as the doors are forever closed. They also revert to being identified by number rather than by name.

The depersonalisation culminated today in my own departure. It was with heavy heart that I dismantled the decorations I had spent so long erecting, decanted the contents of my shelves into a pile of plastic bags and scrubbed away at the various empty surfaces they uncovered. By the end, as in all such cases, it was as if I had never existed, just like all of those before me.

The future of these houses, as with so much else in 2020, cannot be predicted with confidence. During my stay our rooms were measured for refits, so it is likely that, even if a new cohort eventually move in, they will not inhabit quite the same home that I did. On some level, therefore, the pattern continues.

Rails Go Ever Ever On

Illustration of “Edward’s Day Out” by William Middleton

The Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry’s The Three Railway Engines, first instalment in what would become the world famous Railway Series, was originally published seventy-five years before today. After his death, the franchise he created was carried on by his son Christopher. That can, of course, be said of another great English writer, though sadly his Christopher’s own demise came earlier this year. Present circumstances impede me from coming up with a more comprehensive tribute, but perhaps this could be the basis for a joint effort between Clamavi de Profundis and The Tuggster Intensifies one day:

Rails go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree.
By tunnels where no sun has shone,
Canals that never find the sea;
Ploughed through snow by winter sown,
And past the merry flowers of June,
Over sleepers lain on stone,
And viaducts o’er valleys hewn.

Rails go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet wheels that thundering have gone
Roll at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and smoke have seen,
And horror in the smelter’s place
Look at last on buffer clean,
In cosy sheds they longed to face.

The track goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the line has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary wheels,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many points and switches meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The track goes ever on and on
Out from the yard where it began.
Now far ahead the line has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with pistons worn
To silent sidings will crawl in,
To down for night and sleep ’till dawn.

Still ’round the next bend there may wait
A new branch or secret gate;
And though I long have roamed this isle,
I never could lose cause to smile
Upon the realm my line does span
West of Barrow, East of Mann.

Adapted from The Road Goes Ever On by J. R. R. Tolkien, circa 1937.

UPDATE (22nd October)

Search engine results show that at least one other has thought of this connection before I did – EndlessWire94 on DeviantArt.

Kilnsea Sound Mirror

A year ago I and my parents attempted to reach the sound mirror at Kilnsea, but could not traverse the terrain. Today we made a second attempt, parking rather closer and walking in from the other direction. We found the large concrete concavity surrounded tightly by a primitive fence and dappled with lichen. The land around the fence is dense with weeds and getting to the mirror required a lot of creative stomping. There were some notice boards explaining the features of the landscape but they were few and far between. From some angles the structure appears merely to be a solitary artifice in the middle of nowhere. Still, at least there is no entrance fee.

By Her Majesty’s Commission

A bit quicker there, Norman!

Keen scholars of British politics will know that Parliament has three fundamental components – the monarch, the Lords and the Commons. Most of the time MPs and peers debate in separate chambers, while the monarch merely signs off the the papers which are brought to her. There are, however, special occasions on which it is necessary for all three components to come together. These are done in the chamber of the House of Lords – normally described as the upper house, but in this context more like the middle – with the monarch enthroned at the south end of the room, MPs standing behind the bar at the north, and peers themselves on their usual red benches in between.

The most famous of these is the state opening, which commences a new parliamentary session. The others are prorogation (the end of a session), granting royal assent to new acts (often combined with prorogation), the opening of a new parliament (in which the first state opening is delayed until MPs and peers are sworn) and the approbation of the lower house’s speaker (done on the second day of a new parliament, and/or after the old speaker departs). The state opening gets more attention than the others partly because it unveils the government’s main legislative agenda – and is thus the main battleground for the presence or absence of parliamentary confidence in the ministry – and partly because in modern practice it is the only event which the monarch attends in person.

The Lords and Commons have three-figure memberships with respective quora of just 30 and 40, so the absence of even large numbers of members – especially backbenchers – does not threaten to invalidate such events as these. The Queen is only one person, and thus physically invisible. Fortunately, methods have been devised which allow Her Most Excellent Majesty to be projected into the legislature while her most singular body remains elsewhere. Enter the Lords Commissioners.

The Queen, by letters patent under the Great Seal of the Realm, appoints a team of three to seven privy counsellors (who are nearly always peers) to carry out these parliamentary functions on her behalf.

There are variations depending on the specific type of ceremony, but certain details are common to all: The Leader of the House of Lords announces that, it not being convenient for Her Majesty to be personally present there that day, a commission has been passed appointing several Lords therein named to do whatever is needed on her behalf. The Lord Speaker rises from the woolsack and vacates the chamber along with several other peers. The commissioners, robed and hatted, then file in and sit adjacent on a temporary bench before the steps of the throne. Black Rod is sent to summon the Commons, and then MPs come to the bar of the house, exchanging bows with their lordships (at which point the male commissioners doff their hats with varying levels of synchronisation). A parliamentary clerk reads out the letters patent to verify that the commissioners have the required authority, each one bowing (and doffing) invididually as his name is mentioned. At the end bows are exchanged again while MPs back out.

In one of the most pointless projects ever undertaken, I have gone through the online Hansard archives noting down all the named members of various commissions in the last two hundred years, and put them into a colour-coded spreadsheet. A few explanatory notes first:

  1. Hansard, and thus the spreadsheet, only lists those who physically attended. Archbishops and Lord Chancellors are named in the patent ex officio but do not actually take part are omitted.
  2. On some occasions the record only says that there was a commission, rather than specifying who was in it. For these I obviously have no information to include. Annoyingly there is a huge stretch from 1905 to 1916 about which I can only guess.
  3. I have listed New Parliaments, Approbations, Sessions Opened and Prorogations. Unless combined with the latter I have not listed Royal Assents, for these are not intuitive to locate in the timeline and, when I have found them, they have uniformly declined to mention commissioners by name.

From what information I have managed to gather, a curious tale can be told:

In the nineteenth century it was the norm for all Lords Temporal involved in the commission to be from the governing party, and even for most or all of them to be government ministers, though the leader of the house (perhaps not yet a well-defined office) was not normally among them. In the first half of the century it was reasonably common for the Archbishop of Canterbury to personally attend, but in the second half this tailed off. Very occasionally the Bishop of London appears. There is even one instance, when setting up the fifth UK parliament in 1812, of the Prince Regent’s younger brothers taking part. Their formal political affiliation is unclear.

The World Wars, and the interbellum period, saw an abnormal frequency of complex and confusing multi-party governments, whether confidence-and-supply or full coalition. This is reflected in the composition of the royal commissions, which frequently include peers from more than one party and even a few whom I took to be Crossbenchers. The approbation of Captain Edward Fitzroy as Commons Speaker in 1928 is the first instance I can find of a Labour peer taking part – Kenneth Muir Mackenzie, between terms as a junior government whip. The general election of 1929 saw the Labour Party win a plurality of seats in the Commons for the first time (though the Conservatives won the popular vote), and Ramsay MacDonald formed a minority government which lasted just over two years (Ramsay had earlier governed for nine months in 1924, but in that instance the transition of power occured after the session had already started). The two commissions at the start of that parliament feature Labour’s John Sankey as Lord Chancellor, but flanked by two Conservatives and two Crossbenchers. The absence of other Labour peers may be explained by their small presence in the upper house at the time, but the preference of opposition Conservatives over allied Liberals is not so clear.

By the time of the 1931 general election a three-way coalition had been formed, with senior Conservative and Liberal figures included. This coalition fought the election together and won by an overwhelming landslide. The specifics of this would be too great a digression from the purpose of this article, but the main Labour Party expelled MacDonald and others who remained in his government. They formed a splinter group called the National Labour Organisation. For convenience I have kept Sankey in red here although the party actually fought in green. The commissions for 3rd and 4th November that year both featured Sankey as Lord Chancellor, but that for the new parliament straddled him with three Conservatives plus the Crossbench Sumner, then that for the Speaker’s approbation involved another three Conservatives plus the Liberal Islington. Stanley Baldwin replaced MacDonald as Prime Minister before the 1935 election, and the two commissions beginning that parliament were mostly Conservative, with one Liberal each and once a crossbencher but no Labour peers.

The commission for Douglas Clifton-Brown’s approbation in 1943 (by which time another wartime grand coalition had been formed) involved Lords Crewe and Addison, leaders of the Liberal and Labour parties in the upper house. Curiously, then-Conservative leader Cranborne was left out in favour of his father and predecessor Salisbury.

Attlee’s 1945 landslide saw the beginning of the modern two-party system. The commission opening that parliament was led by Lord Chancellor Jowitt, accompanied by house leader Addison. Salisbury and Cranborne represented the Conservatives (Yes, father and son together!) while Samuel took part as Liberal leader. Oddly the approbation commission the next day had only Jowitt in common, the others being Air Secretary Stansgate (Tony Benn’s father) and one Conservative and two Liberals. The two commissions at the beginning of Attlee’s second term in 1950 approach what would eventually become the norm, with one member each from the Conservative, Liberal and Crossbench factions.

From the 1955 general election until Wilson’s accession in 1964, the commissioners tended to be three Conservative and two Labour. After that a fairly consistent pattern emerged – albeit with occasional substitutions – a royal commission comprised the Lord Chancellor, the Leader of the House, the leaders of the two main opposition parties, and a third peer from the government side chosen seemingly at random. This convention lasted until 1993. In the prorogation commission that year the Chancellor and three leaders attended as before, but instead of the rotating government peer Lord Weatherill was appointed to complete the group. Speaker of the Commons until the year before, he became Convenor of the Crossbenchers. From then on it became the norm to have a crossbencher in the commissions – usually the Convenor, but if (s)he was not a privy counsellor then someone else might act in his stead.

The next change occured followed the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and the establishment in the following year of the elected office of Lord Speaker, separated from the Chancellorship. Lady Hayman took office in July and the next commission took place in November. On that occassion the Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) still led the commission as before and Hayman effectively replaced the crossbench representative. A reshuffle in 2007 saw Falconer replaced by Jack Straw, the first MP to hold that office for centuries. As with the Archbishop of Canterbury the Lord Chancellor continued to be named in the letters patent, but a technicality of the Standing Orders of the House of Lords meant he could not perform prorogations in person. From then on nearly all commissions (exceptions to be specified) were led by the Leader of the House – for which there were precedents in earlier ceremonies when the Chancellor could not attend, or even where the office was vacant for a while – accompanied by the Lord Speaker, the opposition leaders and the convenor – all members thus having different affiliations.

The restriction did not apply to approbations, so Straw was able to lead the commission for John Bercow in 2009, with the Lord Speaker waiting outside the chamber. The other commissions in 2009-10 followed the new pattern. There was no commission in 2011 due to the session being extended. The prorogation ceremony in 2012 saw Lord Shutt of Greetland, on his last day as Deputy Chief Whip, substitute for Lord McNally as Liberal Democrat leader. That of 2013 saw Labour leader Lady Royall of Blaisdon absent, though she was still named in the patent. The commissions of 2014-17 were unremarkable. In 2018 there was again no new session, nor did Bercow resign his speakership as originally promised. The bicorn hats were thus not seen at all that year. In the latter third of 2019, however, the commissioners would be very busy.

Boris Johnson’s attempted five-week prorogation was so controversial that the opposition peers all boycotted the ceremony, including those who would have been commissioners. The procedure was thus performed to a nearly-empty chamber in the small hours of the morning by the minimal quorum of three – Evans of Bowes Park (Leader), Fowler (Speaker) and Hope of Craighead (Convenor). That prorogation was annulled by the Supreme Court, but Johnson was eventually permitted to try again – although only for the usual few days this time. The second attempt went normally with Smith and Newby attending as normal (though Lord Judge had replaced Hope as Convenor).

On the penultimate day of that parliament Bercow finally retired and his deputy Sir Lindsay Hoyle was elected to replace him as Speaker. Following Straw’s precedent a decade earlier, Robert Buckland performed the approbation, though his hat had to be precariously perched upon his wig rather than fitting around it. Lord Dholakia subsituted for Newby, and doffed a few times more than necessary.

Following the snap December general election, the 58th Parliament had to be set up in something of a hurry. For what appears to be the first time in at least two hundred years, both of the normal commissions were performed on the same day – presumably to allow MPs to start swearing in earlier. Both commissions involved the standard lineup, though there was an awkward moment when Evans forgot to turn over the page in her script.

This session is due to run until May 2021, and thus we seem to be in for another doff-free year, which the commissioners themselves may find a relief, though for some viewers at home it is no doubt a disappointment.

* Lord Chancellor
^ Leader of the House of Lords
~ Lord Speaker
  Tory, Conservative, Unionist, National
  Whig, Liberal, Liberal Democrat
  Affiliation unclear
  Social Democratic
-1 The Baroness Royall of Blaison was named in the patent but did not appear in the ceremony and was not mentioned in Hansard.


Date Type 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
12/07/05 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^    
15/12/06 New Parliament Canterbury Erskine* Aylesford Walsingham    
16/12/06 Approbation Erskine* Aylesford Spencer Walsingham    
27/04/07 Prorogation Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^      
22/06/07 Approbation Canterbury Eldon* Aylesford Hawkesbury^    
14/08/07 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Hawkesbury^    
21/01/08 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Aylesford Dartmouth  
04/07/08 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Westmorland Montrose  
19/01/09 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Montrose    
21/06/09 Prorogation Eldon* Canterbury Camden Dartmouth Westmorland  
23/01/10 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Camden Aylesford Dartmouth  
24/07/11 Prorogation Canterbury Eldon* Camden Westmorland Aylesford  
07/01/12 Session Opened Canterbury Eldon* Wellesley Camden Westmorland  
24/11/12 New Parliament York & Albany Cumberland & Teviotdale Eldon* Liverpool^ Westmorland  
02/06/17 Approbation Eldon* Cholmondeley Shaftesbury Bathurst Liverpool^  
14/01/19 New Parliament Harrowby Westmorland Wellington Shaftesbury Liverpool^  
21/04/20 New Parliament Eldon* Canterbury Wellington Westmorland Shaftesbury  
14/11/26 New Parliament Eldon* Wellington Westmorland Liverpool^ Harrowby  
04/02/30 Session Opened Lyndhurst* Bathurst Rosslyn Wellington^ Aberdeen  
26/10/30 New Parliament Lyndhurst* Canterbury Buckingham Rosslyn Bathurst  
27/10/30 Approbation Lyndhurst* Rosslyn Bathurst Ellenborough Melville  
14/06/31 New Parliament Canterbury Brougham & Vaux* Wellesley Grey^ Durham  
15/06/31 Approbation Brougham & Vaux* Richmond Lansdowne Durham    
29/01/33 New Parliament Brougham & Vaux* Grey^ Richmond Lansdowne Auckland  
31/01/33 Approbation Brougham & Vaux* Richmond Lansdowne Albermarle Auckland  
19/02/35 Session Opened Canterbury Lyndhurst* Rosslyn Wharncliffe Jersey  
31/01/37 Session Opened Canterbury Cottenham* Lansdowne Duncannon Melbourne^  
15/11/37 New Parliament Cottenham* Lansdowne Conygham Mulgrave Duncannon  
28/05/39 Approbation Cottenham* Lansdowne Duncannon Shaftesbury Falkland  
07/10/41 Prorogation Lyndhurst* Wellington^ Buckingham & Chandos Shaftesbury Wharncliffe  
02/02/43 Session Opened Lyndhurst* Canterbury Wharncliffe Buccleugh Shaftesbury  
05/09/44 Prorogation Lyndhurst* Wharncliffe Buccleugh Wellington^ Del La Warr Dalhousie
18/11/47 New Parliament Canterbury Cottenham* Lansdowne^ Spencer Auckland  
19/11/47 Approbation Lansdowne^ Langdale Grey Auckland Campbell  
01/08/49 Prorogation Lansdowne^ Minto Clanricarde Saint Germans Campbell  
31/01/50 Session Opened Cottenham* Lansdowne Minto Breadalbane London  
04/11/52 New Parliament St Leonards* Lonsdale Salisbury Montrose Northumberland  
05/11/52 Approbation St Leonards* Salisbury Montrose Eglinton Colchester  
20/08/53 Prorogation Cranworth* Granville Argyll Breadalbane Newcastle  
14/08/55 Prorogation Cranworth* Granville Argyll Stanley of Alderley Harrowby  
29/07/56 Prorogation Cranworth* Harrowby Stanley of Alderley Willoughby D’Eresby Monteagle of Brandon  
30/04/57 New Parliament Cranworth* Harrowby Spencer Stanley of Alderley Argyll  
01/05/57 Approbation Cranworth* Granville^ Harrowby Spencer Argyll  
28/08/57 Prorogation Canterbury Cranworth* Granville^ Harrowby Panmure  
02/08/58 Prorogation Chelmsford* Salisbury Hardwicke De La Warr Beaufort  
13/08/59 Prorogation Campbell* Granville^ Somerset Saint Germans Sydney  
28/08/60 Prorogation Campbell* Somerset Sydney Stanley of Alderley Monteagle of Brandon  
06/08/61 Prorogation Westbury* Granville^ Saint Germans Sydney Monteagle of Brandon  
06/02/62 Session Opened Westbury* Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley    
07/08/62 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans Russell Kingsdown    
05/02/63 Session Opened Westbury* Argyll Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
28/07/63 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans Newcastle Stanley of Alderley Wensleydale  
04/02/64 Session Opened Westbury* Argyll Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
29/07/64 Prorogation Westbury* Saint Germans De Grey Sydney Wensleydale  
07/02/65 Session Opened Westbury* Somerset Saint Germans Sydney Stanley of Alderley  
06/07/65 Prorogation Granville^ Saint Germans Sydney Eversley Wensleydale  
01/02/66 New Parliament Cranworth* Argyll Sydney Bessborough Stanley of Alderley  
02/02/66 Approbation Cranworth* Argyll Sydney Bessborough Dalhousie  
10/08/66 Prorogation Chelmsford* Buckingham & Chandos Malmesbury Bradford Cadogan  
21/08/67 Prorogation Chelmsford* Richmond Bradford Beaufort Devon  
19/11/67 Session Opened Chelmsford* Marlborough Malmesbury Buckingham Cadogan  
31/07/68 Prorogation Cairns* Malmesbury Beaufort Buckingham Devon  
10/12/68 New Parliament Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Ailesbury  
11/12/68 Approbation Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Argyll  
16/02/69 Session Opened Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Sydney Ailesbury  
11/08/69 Prorogation Hatherley* Kimberley Granville Sydney Foley  
08/02/70 Session Opened Hatherley* De Grey Kimberley Bessborough Sydney  
10/08/70 Prorogation Hatherley* Halifax Kimberley Normanby Sydney  
21/08/71 Prorogation Hatherley* Halifax Saint Albans Cowper Cork  
06/02/72 Session Opened Hatherley* Ripon Halifax Sydney Bessborough  
12/02/72 Approbation Hatherley* Halifax Bessborough Cork Eversley  
10/08/72 Prorogation Hatherley* Ailesbury Granville^ Kimberley London  
06/02/73 Session Opened Selborne* Ripon Halifax Kimberley Cork  
05/08/73 Prorogation Selborne* Granville^ Cowper Sydney Bessborough  
05/03/74 New Parliament Cairns* Richmond^ Hertford Beauchamp Bradford  
06/03/74 Approbation Cairns* Richmond^ Beauchamp Skelmersdale    
07/08/74 Prorogation Cairns* Beauchamp Derby Bradford Skelmersdale  
05/02/75 Session Opened Cairns* Malmesbury Hertford Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
13/08/75 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond^ Beauchamp Shrewsbury Hardwicke  
15/08/76 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond^ Hardwicke Hertford Bradford  
14/08/77 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond Salisbury Harrowby Skelmersdale  
17/01/78 Session Opened Cairns* Richmond Hertford Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
16/08/78 Prorogation Cairns* Richmond Northumberland Hertford Skelmersdale  
05/12/78 Session Opened Cairns* Richmond Northumberland Beauchamp Skelmersdale  
15/08/79 Prorogation Cairns* Northumberland Beauchamp Hardwicke Skelmersdale  
07/09/80 Prorogation Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Kimberley Cork  
27/08/81 Prorogation Selborne* Spencer Cork Kenmare Monson  
07/02/82 Session Opened Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Cork Monson  
02/12/82 Prorogation Selborne* Granville^ Kimberley Carrington Monson  
15/02/83 Session Opened Selborne* Carlingford Sydney Cork Monson  
25/08/83 Prorogation Selborne* Derby Sydney Kenmare Monson  
05/02/84 Session Opened Selborne* Sydney Kenmare Monson Carrington  
14/08/84 Prorogation Selborne* Sydney Derby Kenmare Monson  
23/10/84 Session Opened Selborne* Carlingford Kimberley Kenmare Monson  
14/08/85 Prorogation Halsbury* Lathom Waterford Coventry Hardwicke  
12/01/86 New Parliament Halsbury* Cranbrook Iddesleigh Coventry Barrington  
13/01/86 Approbation Halsbury* Cranbrook Iddesleigh Coventry Barrington  
25/09/86 Prorogation Halsbury* Iddesleigh Stanley of Preston Kintore Barrington  
27/01/87 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Cross Kintore Coventry  
16/09/87 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Stanley of Preston Brownlow Lothian  
09/02/88 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Cross Kintore Rosslyn  
24/12/88 Prorogation Halsbury* Coventry Kintore Colville of Culross Esher  
21/02/89 Session Opened Halsbury* Cranbrook Kintore Lathom Cross  
11/02/90 Session Opened Halsbury* Mount Edgcumbe Limerick Cross Knutsford  
25/11/90 Session Opened Halsbury* Lathom Coventry Brownlow Knutsford  
09/02/92 Session Opened Halsbury* Portland Coventry Mount Edgcumbe Cross  
04/08/92 New Parliament Halsbury* Rutland Cross Knutsford Lathom  
05/08/92 Approbation Halsbury* Rutland Cross Knutsford Balfour of Burleigh  
18/08/92 Prorogation Herschell* Kimberley Spencer Ripon Oxenbridge  
31/01/93 Session Opened Herschell* Spencer Kimberley Breadalbane Carrington  
25/08/94 Prorogation Herschell* Kimberley Breadalbane Carrington Chesterfield  
05/02/95 Session Opened Herschell* Spencer Tweedmouth Breadalbane Carrington  
22/04/95 Approbation Herschell* Kimberley Spencer Carrington Kensington  
05/09/95 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Norfolk Limerick Belper  
11/02/96 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Lathom Ashbourne Kintore  
14/08/96 Prorogation Halsbury* Cross Coventry Balfour of Burleigh James of Hereford  
19/01/97 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Pembroke Balfour of Burleigh Kintore  
06/08/97 Prorogation Halsbury* Norfolk Cross Ashbourne    
12/08/98 Prorogation Halsbury* Norfolk Coventry Waldegrave Rathmore  
07/02/99 Session Opened Halsbury* Hopetoun Coventry Balfour of Burleigh James of Hereford  
17/10/99 Session Opened Halsbury* Pembroke Marlborough Coventry Balfour of Burleigh  
30/01/00 Session Opened Halsbury* Cross Hopetoun Kintore Belper  
03/12/00 New Parliament Halsbury* Clarendon Kintore Pembroke Belper  
20/06/05 Approbation Halsbury* Waldegrave Kintore      
15/02/16 Session Opened Buckmaster* Devonshire Lincolnshire Sandhurst Farquhar  
04/02/19 New Parliament Birkenhead* Crawford Donoughmore Farquhar Sandhurst  
05/02/19 Approbation Birkenhead* Crawford Donoughmore Ribblesdale Newton  
28/04/21 Approbation Birkenhead* Lincolnshire Kintore Sandhurst Balfour of Burleigh  
08/01/24 New Parliament Cave* Cromer Shaftesbury Desart Somerleyton  
09/01/24 Approbation Cave* Cromer Desart Fitzalan of Derwent Huntly  
02/12/24 New Parliament Cave* Shaftesbury Kintore Donoughmoure Newton  
03/12/24 Approbation Cave* Donoughmore Kintore Fitzalan of Derwent Finlay  
21/06/28 Approbation Hailsham* Kintore Strachie Muir Mackenzie Darling  
25/06/29 New Parliament Sankey* Stanhope Kintore Atkin Southborough  
26/06/29 Approbation Sankey* Stanhope Kintore Atkin Southborough  
03/11/31 New Parliament Sankey* Sumner Somerleyton Darling Stonehaven  
04/11/31 Approbation Sankey* Londonderry Onslow Stanhope Islington  
26/11/35 New Parliament Hailsham* Stanmore Thankerton Russell of Killowen Rennell  
27/11/35 Approbation Hailsham* Crawford Goschen Stonehaven Rhayader  
09/03/43 Approbation Simon* Salisbury Crewe Fitzalan of Derwent Addison  
01/08/45 New Parliament Jowitt* Salisbury Samuel Addison Cranborne  
02/08/45 Approbation Jowitt* Fitzalan of Derwent Stansgate Stanmore Mottistone  
01/03/50 New Parliament Jowitt* Addison^ Mersey Hardinge of Penthurst Llewellin  
02/03/50 Approbation Jowitt* Addison^ Mersey Swinton Hardinge of Penthurst  
31/10/51 New Parliament Simonds* Mersey Swinton Hall Ismay  
01/11/51 Approbation Simonds* Mersey Swinton Hall Llewellin  
07/06/55 New Parliament Kilmuir* Home Hall Woolton Ogmore  
08/06/55 Approbation Kilmuir* Home Hall Woolton Ogmore  
20/10/59 New Parliament Kilmuir* Hailsham Saint Aldwyn Stansgate Silkin  
21/10/59 Approbation Kilmuir* Hailsham Saint Aldwyn Stansgate Silkin  
27/10/64 New Parliament Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Listowel Rea  
28/10/64 Approbation Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Listowel Rea  
26/10/65 Approbation Gardiner* Dilhorne Listowel Henderson Ogmore  
18/04/66 New Parliament Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Rea Donovan  
19/04/66 Approbation Gardiner* Longford^ Carrington Rea Morris of Borth-y-Gest  
29/06/70 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
30/06/70 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
12/01/71 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Jellicoe^ Listowel Rea Shackleton  
06/03/74 New Parliament Elwyn-Jones* Listowel Windlesham Shackleton Byers  
07/03/74 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Saint Aldwyn Byers  
22/10/74 New Parliament Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Windlesham Byers  
23/10/74 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Champion Listowel Saint Aldwyn Byers  
03/02/76 Approbation Elwyn-Jones* Shepherd^ Listowel Byers Hailsham of Sain Marylebone  
09/05/79 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Soames^ Aberdare Byers Elwyn-Jones  
10/05/79 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Soames^ Aberdare Byers Elwyn-Jones  
15/06/83 New Parliament Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Aberdare Belstead Byers Cledwyn of Penrhos  
16/06/83 Approbation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Aberdare Belstead Byers Cledwyn of Penrhos  
07/11/86 Prorogation Hailsham of Saint Marylebone* Whitelaw^ Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe Diamond Elwyn-Jones  
17/06/87 New Parliament Havers* Whitelaw^ Seear Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos  
18/06/87 Approbation Havers* Whitelaw^ Seear Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos  
15/11/88 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Belstead^ Nugent of Guildford Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
16/11/89 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Belstead^ Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
01/11/90 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Denham Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
22/10/91 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Waddington^ Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
16/03/92 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Aberdare Waddington^ Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
27/04/92 New Parliament Mackay of Clashfern* Caithness Aberdare Seear Cledwyn of Penrhos  
28/04/92 Approbation Mackay of Clashfern* Ferrers Aberdare Cledwyn of Penrhos Jenkins of Hillhead  
05/11/93 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Wakeham^ Richard Seear Weatherill  
03/11/94 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Richard Seear Weatherill  
08/11/95 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Ampthill Jenkins of Hilhead Richard  
17/10/96 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Jenkins of Hilhead Richard Weatherill  
21/03/97 Prorogation Mackay of Clashfern* Cranborne^ Jenkins of Hilhead Ampthill Richard  
07/05/97 New Parliament Irvine of Lairg* Richard^ Jenkins of Hilhead Cranborne Weatherill  
08/05/97 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Richard^ Thomson of Monifieth Cranborne Weatherill  
19/11/98 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Cranborne Rodgers of Quarry Bank Jay of Paddington^ Chalfont  
11/11/99 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Strathclyde Rodgers of Quarry Bank Jay of Paddington^ Weatherill  
23/10/00 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Jay of Paddington^ Mackay of Ardbrecknish Rodgers of Quarry Bank Weatherill  
30/11/00 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Jay of Paddington^ Marsh Strathclyde Rodgers of Quarry Bank  
13/06/01 New Parliament Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Strathclyde Moore of Wolvercote Jenkins of Hillhead  
14/06/01 Approbation Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Moore of Wolvercote Strathclyde Williams of Crosby  
07/11/02 Prorogation Irvine of Lairg* Williams of Mostyn^ Williams of Crosby Strathclyde Molyneaux of Killead  
20/11/03 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Thomson of Monifieth Donaldson of Lymington  
18/11/04 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Blatch Donaldson of Lymington Williams of Crosby  
11/05/05 New Parliament Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Donaldson of Lymington Roper  
12/05/05 Approbation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Strathclyde Roper Donaldson of Lymington  
08/11/06 Prorogation Falconer of Thoroton* Amos^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally  
30/10/07 Prorogation Ashton of Upholland^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Williamson of Horton  
26/11/08 Prorogation Royall of Blaisdon^ Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Williamson of Horton  
22/06/09 Approbation Royall of Blaisdon^ Strathclyde McNally D’Souza Jack Straw*  
12/11/09 Prorogation Hayman~ Strathclyde McNally Royall of Blaisdon^ D’Souza  
08/04/10 Prorogation Royall of Blaisdon^ Hayman~ Strathclyde Shutt of Greetland D’Souza  
18/05/10 New Parliament Strathclyde^ Hayman~ McNally Royall of Blaisdon D’Souza  
19/05/10 Approbation Strathclyde^ Hayman~ McNally Royall of Blaisdon D’Souza  
01/05/12 Prorogation Shutt of Greetland D’Souza~ Strathclyde^ Williamson of Horton Royall of Blaisdon  
25/04/13 Prorogation Williamson of Horton D’Souza~ Hill of Oareford^ McNally -1  
14/05/14 Prorogation Butler of Brockwell D’Souza~ Hill of Oareford^ Royall of Blaisdon Wallace of Tankerness  
26/03/15 Prorogation D’Souza~ Hunt of Kings Heath Laming Newby Stowell of Beeston^  
18/05/15 New Parliament Stowell of Beeston^ D’Souza~ Royall of Blaisdon Wallace of Tankerness Laming  
19/05/15 Approbation Stowell of Beeston^ D’Souza~ Royall of Blaisdon Laming Wallace of Tankerness  
12/05/16 Prorogation Wallace of Tankerness D’Souza~ Stowell of Beeston^ Hope of Craighead Smith of Basildon  
27/04/17 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Hope of Craighead Fowler~ Newby Smith of Basildon  
13/06/17 New Parliament Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Hope of Craighead  
14/06/17 Approbation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Hope of Craighead  
09/09/19 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Hope of Craighead      
08/10/19 Prorogation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Newby Judge Smith of Basildon  
04/11/19 Approbation Robert Buckland* Evans of Bowes Park^ Dholakia Judge Smith of Basildon  
17/12/19 New Parliament Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Judge  
17/12/19 Approbation Evans of Bowes Park^ Fowler~ Smith of Basildon Newby Judge  

UPDATE (March 2020)

I recently came across the Journals of the House of Lords which, unlike Hansard, do list all the commissioners and even describe their seating order. I will not be remaking the spreadsheet though. Firstly I just can’t be bothered, and secondly only certain years of the journals are available online, so the updated recored would have several serious gaps.

Forging the Iron Lady with Terrence Casey

This could be the venue, or it could be the set for an upcoming Ken Loach remake of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Having attended quite a few guest speeches by this point, I expected tonight’s to fit into the familiar mould. I was a little thrown-off, as were the those in charge, to find that the fixed tiers of seats in the lecture hall were folded away at the back wall and instead we were circled around a splatter of smaller tables. In retrospect it felt a misstep to wear a business suit to the occasion.

This was the Annual Norton Lecture, delivered by Professor Terrence Casey of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Trying very hard to minimise his references to Trump or Brexit, he spoke to us about the turbulent politics of the 1970s and the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

As someone who has watched a lot of old documentaries about British politics, as well as listened to a lot of Professor Vernon Bogdanor’s lectures for Gresham College, I was on familiar ground for much of the talk. Casey took us through the story of how the post-war economic consensus broke down through the tenure’s of Heath, Wilson and Callaghan, from the imposition of far-reaching price controls in 1972 to the Winter of Discontent in 1979. There was also the concurrent parliamentary story of the “Who Governs?” election, followed by Wilson’s achievement of a very slim majority, then the pacts with the Liberals when that got worn away.

The more original parts of the lecture (from my perspective at least) were on the backstage parts of the story – how policies were formulated and parties managed. Casey was keen to stress that the Margaret Thatcher of 1970, newly appointed as Secretary of State for Education & Science, was a far cry from the character that exists in public memory now. At that point, the notion of her ever becoming prime minister, let alone the godmother of a new political age, would have been considered farcical. Her emergence as a right-wing firebrand, he said, was more by a series of random chances (such as Callaghan’s decision against an election in 1978, or the backbench resentment of Heath in 1975) than by any divine ordination.

Casey rejected the idea that “Neoliberalism” – a term rarely spoken kindly but rather spat out in contempt by those who use it at all – was thrust upon the unwilling masses in an unethical manner by a nefarious elite. Instead he described it as the natural result of the masses falling out of love with the Keynesian regime that had prevailed before and looking for an alternative solution which the Thatcherite faction – with particular mention of Sir Keith Joseph – provided them. He also noted that whereas the throwing out of what is sometimes called Butskellism occurred quite rapidly after the economic breakdown and industrial unrest of the 1970s, the backlash against Blatcherism ensuing from the 2008 credit crunch took a much longer time to result in any serious change of course from the governments of the nations affected.

In the lengthy question & answer session which followed, I asked Professor Casey the same question which I had put to Paul Danahar ten months ago – When does he last remember politics being normal? He replied that there could never be a clear single cause or moment identified, but that the tide would have been turned by the culmination of many small factors. He also reassured us that although he had singled out the nineteen-seventies and the new tens for the purpose of his speech tonight he was aware of many other much rougher times in public discourse, all of which society survived mostly intact.

Musings on the Garter

Lady Mary Peters by Nedkennedy and her armorial achievement by Heralder (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Earlier this year Dame Mary Peters, Gold Medalist in the Pentathlon at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, was appointed a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Last year the same honour was conferred on Dame Mary Fagan, former Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. The Garter is England’s oldest order of chivalry. Membership is marked by, among other things, a carving of one’s crest atop a stall in the quire of St George’s Chapel Windsor. Here a problem emerges – women don’t have crests!

English heraldry grants crests only to men (“men” includes Queens Regnant), and they are transmissible only through the agnatic line unless by special warrant. This is consistent throughout the armorial traditions of most countries where crests are used at all – Canada being a notable exception, for its heraldic authority was founded relatively recently and is subject to that country’s stringent equality laws. What, then, do Garter ladies put atop their stalls?

Up until this point, the absence of female crests has been worked around by using their coronets instead, though in many cases this leads to a loss of uniqueness. Margaret Thatcher, Mary Soames and Elizabeth Manningham-Buller have been represented by baronial coronets, Lavinia Fitzalan-Howard by a ducal one. Queens Alexandra, Mary and Elizabeth used the royal crown, while the Princess Royal and the Honourable Lady Ogilvy used lesser crowns appropriate to a child or grandchild of the sovereign respectively. It is not just women to whom this applies – many times the Garter has been given to foreign princes (more on them later) to whose native heraldry the crest is unknown, and they too have simply used their crowns or coronets in its place – although Japanese kamon are sufficiently dissimilar that Emperor Akihito had to improvise a little with his chrysanthemum seal.

The challenge that Fagan and Peters present is that they are neither princesses nor peeresses, and thus would not have coronets to put above their shields (or indeed lozenges) either. The solution was to grant them each a badge – a paraheraldic device that is normally worn by the owner’s staff and retainers rather than the owner herself. This is not as revolutionary as may first appear, for in the mists of time the badge may well have been the origin of the crest and they are sometimes used interchangeably. Though a blazon is not readily available, Fagan’s badge shows a blue boar standing on a red cap of maintenance and Peters’s shows a Ulysses butterfly on the dome of Belfast City Hall. Their armorial achievements still omit the helm, torse and mantling which normally go between the crest and the shield.

At this point it is worth a mention of these Marys’ Caledonian counterpart Lady Marion Fraser. In 1996 she was appointed to the Order of the Thistle, essentially Scotland’s equivalent to the Garter, whose members’ crests are similarly displayed at the High Kirk of Edinburgh. As with the Garter, Ladies of the Thistle before Fraser had invariably been peeresses and/or princesses, so could use their coronets instead. Lady Marion was a special exception in receiving a grant to use a helm and crest (A demi-female richly attired holding in her dexter hand at the shoulder a thistle slipped and leaved all Proper and in her sinister hand at the hip a fraise Argent), which are displayed on her stall in the same way as the men’s.

Moving back to the foreign princes, in 1988 King Juan Carlos of Spain was made a Stranger Knight of the Garter. In 1989 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was made a Stranger Lady. As monarchs, they bore the undifferenced royal arms of their respective countries. Beatrix abdicated in 2013 and Juan Carlos in 2014, in favour of their sons Willem-Alexander and Felipe VI. The new king of Spain was admitted to the order himself in 2017, and the Dutch king in 2018. The decision to appoint these two monarchs while their predecessors are still alive means that the royal banners of their countries will now appear twice each in the chapel. Beatrix, reverting to Princess, has since adopted a differenced version of her arms (quartering with the arms of the former Principality of Orange, then surmounting them with an inescutcheon of the arms of her father Prince Bernhard), though it remains to be seen if her Garter banner will be updated. Juan Carlos, still styling himself King (though not The King as with British Queens Dowager) has adopted new external ornamentation but his shield remains the same. The only domestic example of this was Edward VIII, whose honours all merged into the crown upon his accession and were granted anew following his abdication. As Duke of Windsor he differenced the royal arms with a label of three points Argent, the centre bearing the Imperial Crown Proper.


Heraldic Humour – A History

Eight days ago the President of the United States gave an address at the Teen Student Action Summit of the political organisation Turning Point USA. As is often the case for such appearances, he was flanked by projections of the presidential seal. This time, however, something was wrong.

A derivative of the Great Seal, the presidential seal is known less for the rather diminutive escutcheon (Paly of thirteen Argent and Gules, a chief Azure.) than for the much larger supporter – a bald eagle displayed, holding in its dexter talon an olive branch and in the sinister thirteen arrows all Proper – and for the motto of “E Pluribus Unum”, which was considered the effective motto for the whole country until the controversial imposition of “In God We Trust” in 1956. The presidential seal in all its variants is famous worldwide. Even my own letterhead is based on it, though swapping the eagle for my namesake passerine. This very familiarity makes it all the odder for the recent substitution to have gone unnoticed until too late.

The seal which appeared beside the president last week may have looked legitimate at first glance, but on the second there are some glaring differences. The most obvious is that the bundle of arrows has been replaced with a set of golf clubs. The next is that the eagle has two heads pointing in opposite directions. Peering closely at the emblem, it can also be seen that the olive branch has been replaced by a wad of dollar bills and that the motto scroll says “45 es un títere”.

Designed by Charles Leazott, once a loyal Republican who defected after the rise of Donald Trump, the doctored image paints the incumbent as a puppet of the Russian Federation whose primary concern is for his own wealth and leisure.

This is far from the first instance of heraldry being used for satirical purposes. During the American Civil War, H. H. Tilley produced a mock coat of arms for the Confederacy – which had not yet adopted a real state emblem. A cigar-smoking plantation owner and a hand-manacled slave support a shield of cotton, tobacco, and sugar, with three slaves hoeing the fields in base and some of their owners’ characteristic tools in chief. The motto given is “Servitudo Esto Perpetua”. Behind the crest rooster are two flags in saltire. One is clearly the battle flag used by several of the southern armies, the other is a skull and crossbones with the number 290. This latter flag could refer to the CSS Alabama, which was built in secret and known merely as “Hull No. 290” prior to launch.

Going back further to 1814, the Anglo-German publisher Rudolph Ackermann released and Explanation of the Arms of Napoleon Bonaparte. This particularly savage illustration has, for a crest, the world being set on fire and stabbed with French standards. The escutcheon, a montage of eight acts of barbarity attributed to the recently-deposed Emperor, is supported on the dexter by Death holding an hourglass and on the sinister by Satan wearing an iron crown.

Not all heraldic satire is quite so brutal: a 1909 Punch cartoon by Bernard Patridge alludes to the art by citing “an heraldic inversion”, in which the prime minister Herbert Asquith has to stand with his limbs awkwardly spread out to hold Winston Churchill (President of the Board of Trade) and David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) on his shoulders. The drawing was made during the crisis over the “People’s Budget”, the commentary being that Asquith’s prominent ministers were the real protagonists of the government, their nominal leader being in fact subservient.

A famous Gillray cartoon from 1797 shows William Pitt the Younger looming over the House of Commons. Notable is the suggestive positioning of the royal coat of arms (affixed to the canopy above the speaker’s chair to indicate the royal authority of the legislature) between the premier’s legs. The message is that Pitt had no passion beyond the accumulation and exercise of state power.

These armorial parodies continue into the modern day – many being found on Wikimedia Commons, though these do not see much use. A particularly memorable instance comes from 2011, showing the arms of Princess Beatrice of York, the coronets replaced by the unusual hat she wore to the wedding of her cousin the Duke of Cambridge.