June 8, 2012
Still a Role for the Barons?
By Lord Norton of Louth
Magna Carta Lecture, Lincoln Cathedral, 8th June 2012
At the time of Magna Carta, the title of Baron was somewhat more encompassing than it is today. The title encompassed all those who held land directly from the king. In the twelfth century, the more senior barons would receive a personal writ of summons to the King’s council, and this body constituted the precursor of the House of Lords. The junior or lesser barons, who held manors, would come to receive a single summons, issued to them as a group in each county. These lesser barons evolved into knights of the shires and their summoning to court was to form the basis of what was later to be the House of Commons.
The title of baron is today one of the five ranks of peerage. I propose to address it, though, in its original usage, as a term encompassing all members of the peerage. I also propose to address it from the perspective of those peers collected in a body that had a role in relation to determining the law of the land. When peers were summoned to the king’s court, it was not in order to make the law, but rather to advise the king in his determination of the law.
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