chapter  4
8 Pages


The crown still exercised a certain power to discriminate in the choice of those nobles who should be summoned to Parliament. However, customary practice and the identification of peerage (nobility) with the right to be summoned to the Lords (see p. 12) continued to narrow the King's freedom of choice. Henry VIII in particular respected the parliamentary rights of hereditary nobles. By doing so he gave additional impetus to the process whereby lordship of Parliament was recognised as the insignia of peerage [doc. 5]. But within the crown's now strictly circumscribed initiative, it could still exclude individuals for specific disabilities, such as minority, poverty, lunacy, royal detention or the priority of royal service elsewhere' [doc. 5]. In addition, it had always enjoyed considerable discretion in the choice of the actual men who should serve as lords spiritual. The twenty-seven abbots and priors traditionally summoned were only 10 per cent of the existing regulars, and Henry VIII felt free to add two more early in his reign. Furthermore, in pre-Reformation England, the Pope consecrated the King's choice to vacant bishoprics as a matter of course. Even Thomas Cranmer was appointed in this collaborative way in 1533. Under the royal supremacy prelates were chosen by the King without reference to any foreign authority, and, upon Edward VI's accession in 1547, they were instructed to seek reappointment like any other royal official.