Kings in the Middle Ages would often consult their tenants-in-chief before making important decisions. These men were usually called to appear before the king during religious festivals (Christmas, Easter, Whitsun). Some of the men who attended these meetings were given specific jobs to perform for the king, for example, to act as treasurer. Some kings tended to ignore the advice of the barons. When this led to bad decisions the barons became angry. This is one of the reasons why the barons rebelled against King John and made him sign the Magna Carta.
Henry II was another king who tended to ignore the advice of his barons. Under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, the barons rebelled. After the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Simon de Montfort took control of the council which had now become known as Parliament (parler was Norman French for talk). The following year Simon de Montfort expanded Parliament by inviting representatives from the shires and towns to attend the meetings.
In 1275 Edward I called a meeting of Parliament. As well as his tenants-in-chief, Edward, like Simon de Montfort before him, invited representatives from every shire and town in England. As well as his tenants-in-chief, Edward invited representatives from every shire and town in England. These men were elected as representatives by the people living in the locality. When the representatives arrived they met in five different groups: (1) the prelates (bishops and abbots); (2) the magnates (earls and barons); (3) the inferior clergy; (4) the knights from the shires; (5) the citizens from the towns.
At these meetings Edward I explained about his need for money. Eventually the representatives agreed that people should pay the king a tax that amounted to a fifteenth of all their movable property. It was also agreed that a custom duty of 6s. 8d. should be paid on every sack of wool exported. As soon as agreement was reached about taxes, groups 3, 4 and 5 (the commons) were sent home. The representatives then had the job of persuading the people in their area to pay these taxes. The king then discussed issues such as new laws with his bishops, abbots, earls and barons (the lords).
After this date, whenever the king needed money, he called another Parliament. Henry VIII enhanced the importance of Parliament by his use of it during the English Reformation. In 1547 the king gave permission for members of the commons to meet at St. Stephen's Chapel, in the Palace of Westminster. In the 15th century the House of Lords was the Upper House and the House of Commons the Lower House. Membership of the House of Lords was made up of the Lords Spiritual (two Archbishops, 24 Diocesan Bishops) and the Lords Temporal which were divided into three groups: hereditary peers, peers granted peerages by the sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, and the Law Lords, who are recruited from the ranks of Britain's High Court Judges.
In 1834 the chapel and most of the Old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire. The new Palace of Westminster was designed by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin. The House of Lords is slightly smaller than the House of Commons and only seats 250 members. However, Barry and Pugin made the interior more impressive than the commons with the seats upholstered in red leather. The chamber is dominated by an ornate royal throne where the sovereign sits during the opening of Parliament.
The Labour Party, when elected to power in 1997, promised to introduce legislation that would make the House of Lords an elected second chamber. However, Tony Blair, the prime minister changed his mind and instead called for a fully appointed House of Lords. On 4th February, 2003, the House of Lords voted for this measure (335 votes to 110) but it was defeated in the House of Commons (323 votes to 245) . Twenty-five members of the government, including four Cabinet ministers, voted against the proposal for a fully appointed House of Lords.