THE HOUSE OF LORDS. (Page 268.)
THE Plate represents his Majesty meeting the parliament at the opening of a session. The King on this occasion wears the coronation robes, which are crimson velvet, trimmed with white ermine spotted with black. The coronation diadem is on his head, and the sceptre in his right hand. He is seated on the throne.
On his right the Prince of Wales is seated in a chair of state; and on his left are chairs of state for his six younger sons, the Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Cambridge, and Sussex. On each side are ranged the great officers of state, the Lord Chamberlain, the Master of the Horse, the Lord Steward of the Household, &c. The figure in the view, immediately on the right of the King, is one of the great officers of state bearing the Cap of Maintenance; that immediately on the left is the Lord Chamberlain with a white staff in his hand; and the next to him is another great officer bearing the sword of state. All the Heralds are also among the King's attendants. The Lord Chancellor's place is a little advanced on the right of the King.
The peers are robed, and standing; as they always are when his Majesty is present in parliament, until he signifies his permission for them to sit. The archbishops and bishops are on the right of the throne; the dukes, marquisses, earls, and viscounts, on the left, in succession; and the barons stand across the House below the table, and on the left below the fireplace. The four figures on the left of the view, with their backs to the spectator, and black patches in their wigs, as well as the four on the right of the plate, are the Judges, in their dress of ceremony. The figures with their backs to the spectator are the House of Commons; the figure in the centre being the Speaker, in his dress of state. On his right is the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. The Commons stand below the bar, which is a dwarf partition running across the room, at the bottom, dividing off about one-fifth of its length. Ladies are permitted to be present (by peers' orders) in the manner the Plate represents. A few strangers are also admitted below the bar, standing behind the Commons; a space (on the right of the plate) being raised two steps above the floor, and enclosed with a rail, for the foreign ministers and other foreigners of distinction.
The robes of the peers are scarlet cloth trimmed with white ermine and gold lace, and lined with white silk. The Lord Chancellor's robes, on state occasions, are of black figured damask silk ornamented with gold lace. The different ranks of the peers are distinguished by the number of broad gold laced stripes on each side of the slash on the right side of the robe: a duke having four before the arm and four behind; a marquis, four before and three behind; an earl, three before and three behind; a viscount, three before and two behind; and a baron, two before and two behind. The Commons (except the Speaker) have no dress of state.
The House of Lords is a very handsome, but not a splendid room. It was formerly the Court of Requests, and used merely as a passage to the old House of Lords, which was deemed insufficient after the Union. The tapestry and other ornaments were removed from the old house. The canopy of state is very accurately represented in the Plate: it is of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold and silver; the arms of the united kingdom, over the chair, being embroidered in silk, and the supporters in silver. The throne is an armed chair, elegantly carved and gilt, and ornamented with crimson velvet and silver embroidery. The chair is covered, and its back turned to the House, except when his Majesty is present, or when bills are passed by commission.
Before the throne, with an interval of several feet, is a woolsack, in the centre, which is the seat of the Lord Chancellor, or Lord Speaker, when the King is not present. There are two other woolsacks, extending from the latter down the room. On these are seated the Judges when they attend, to afford legal advice to the House, which they do at any time upon order; and also two Masters in Chancery, who are in constant attendance upon the House, being their messengers to the Commons. Below these woolsacks is a table, on which are laid bills in progress before the House, and all petitions and other papers received by the House. On each side, and across the room at the foot, are rows of seats with backs, for the peers. The woolsacks, table, and seats, are covered with fine crimson baize. The walls are decorated with that beautiful and interesting tapestry representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It was made by order of the Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral and Commander in Chief on that glorious day. The Earl sold it to James the First. The design was drawn by Cornelius Vroom*, and executed by Francis Spiering. It was not, however, put up until the year 1650. The story is divided into compartments by broad frames of wainscot; and the heads, which form a border to each design, are portraits of the several gallant officers who commanded in the English fleet on this memorable occasion. The whole floor is covered with matting. The House is lighted by three brass branches pendant from the roof; and sconces (of bronze, and of a peculiarly elegant form,) fixed to the walls.
When the House is in its usual sittings, all the space above the Lord Chancellor's woolsack is deemed out of the House, and members of the House of Commons and peers' sons are permitted to stand there. The mace of the Lord Chancellor, and the great seal, in a purse or bag of state richly ornamented with gold and silver embroidery and the royal arms, are placed on the woolsack, while the House is sitting. The Commons, as a house, enter by large folding doors at the bottom of the room. The door for the Lords is at the upper end, and is that which appears on the right of the Plate. At that end of the House is the King's robing-room. When bills are passed by a commission, which is always directed to the great officers of state, the three who are present, of whom the Lord Chancellor is always one, take their seats in their robes upon a bench immediately before the throne, with their hats on; and the Commons being sent for, the Speaker and the members, with the officers of the House, are introduced by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. The commission being read by one of the clerks at the table, and afterwards the titles of the bills, the royal assent is pronounced by the Clerk of the Crown, who, after bowing three times to the Lords Commissioners, if it be a money bill, says, Le Roy remercie ses loyaux sujets, accepte leur benevolence et ainsi le veut. For a public bill of a general nature, the words are, Le Roy le veut; and if it be a private bill, Soit fait comme il est desirée. But in case the King should refuse the bill, the answer is, Le Roy s'avisera.
When bills are brought up from the Commons, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod announces at the bar a message from the House of Commons; upon which the Lord Chancellor puts the question whether the messengers shall be called in; which being ordered, he comes down to the bar of the House bearing the bag of state, containing the great seal, when the Commons are introduced with three bows, and the member who brings up the bill reads the title of it at the bar, and then gives it to the Lord Chancellor, who, from the woolsack, informs the House of the purport of the message. Three Lords are considered as sufficient to constitute a House; and prayers are always read by the junior Bishop before they proceed to business, except it be on a Committee of Privileges, when prayers are read afterwards.
* Vroom had a hundred pieces of gold for his labour. The arras itself cost 1628 pounds sterling.