"the House of Peers"
Queen Anne addressing the House of Lords (c.1708-14)
Public DomainQueen Anne addressing the House of Lords (c.1708-14) - Credit: Peter Tillemans
Oliver Cromwell
Public DomainOliver Cromwell - Credit: Caspar de Crayer

This is the ceremonial name of the British House of Lords which occupies the upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Commons occupying the lower chamber. The two bodies operate independently but share responsibility for passing laws, with the upper chamber providing oversight of the lower. This two-tier system originates from the fourteenth century when the Lords consisted of Lords Spiritual (bishops, archbishops, abbots and priors) and Lords Temporal (noblemen). After the suppression of the monasteries in 1539, Lords Spiritual, other than bishops, were excluded, giving dominance to the nobility and thereby the principle of heredity. In 1649, the narrative present, the House of Lords was abolished by the revolutionary Oliver Cromwell, who declared that it was “useless and dangerous to the people of England.” It was re-established in 1660.