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Lords Spiritual in United Kingdom

The 26 Lords Spiritual, also called Spiritual Peers are, in Great Britain, archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Church who are given seats in the House of Lords. These are the archbishops of Canterbury (the Primate of all England) and York, and 24 of the bishops.


The bishops of London, Durham and Winchester are invariably members of the House of Lords; the other bishops are called according to seniority. Suffragan bishops are not eligible for the Upper House. On his retirement from his bishopric the Lord Spiritual ceases to be a member of the House of Lords. The Lords Spiritual are not peers of the realm, but only Lords Spiritual of Parliament. They have no right to demand trial by the House of Lords as peers, but are amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts of law. Although the Lords Spiritual of the Upper House are distinct from the Lords Temporal, they do not vote separately, but jointly, forming for purposes of legislation one estate. The prelates vote on every subject brought before the Lords, except in trials for high treason and other cases of a criminal nature. On such occasions they never attend or vote; this, however, is in deference to those canon laws which forbid them from participating in matters of blood, and not owing to any Parliamentary requirement. The Spiritual Lords cannot vote or even take their seats in the House unless robed in their ecclesiastical vestments, with rochet, lawn sleeves and mortar-board cap complete. The distinction between peers of the realm and the Lords Spiritual of Parliament also extends to the families of the latter, courtesy titles not being accorded to them.

House of Lords reform

Under the 2011 Coalition Government draft proposal for Lords reform, the Lords would be either 80% elected and 20% appointed, or 100% elected. In the former case there would be 12 Church of England bishops in the reformed Upper House. The total of 12 bishops would include the five “named Lords Spiritual” (the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester, entitled as they are to sit ex officio) plus seven other “ordinary Lords Spiritual” (diocesan bishops chosen by the church itself through whatever device it deems appropriate). The reduction from 26 to 12 bishops would be achieved in a stepped fashion: up to 21 bishops would remain for the 2015–2020 period and up to 16 for the 2020–2025 period. The ordinary Lords Spirituals’ terms would coincide with each “electoral period” (i.e., the period from one election to the next), with the church able to name up to seven to serve during each electoral period.

See also

  • House of Lords
  • Lord Bishop
  • House of Lords Reform
  • Lords

Further Reading

  • “Overview of Lords Stages and differences from Commons Stages with illustrative photograph”. UK Cabinet Office. 2009.
  • House of Lords Reform Draft Bill
  • Davies, Michael. (2003) Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, 19th ed.
  • Owen, Peter. (2007) “Choosing Diocesan Bishops in the Church of England.”

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  • Article Name: Lords Spiritual
  • Author: International
  • Description: The 26 Lords Spiritual, also called Spiritual Peers are, in Great Britain, archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Church [...]

This entry was last updated: April 14, 2013


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