England: Peers of the Realm: 1688

11 Dec 1688 - 11 Dec 1688 Earl of Rochester
12 Dec 1688 - 28 Dec 1688 Marquess of Halifax

After the flight of King James II from London was discovered, twenty-nine lords spiritual and temporal met in the Guildhall on 11 Dec 1688 to set up a provisional government in the absence of the King. The Lords assumed power in the emergency and issued a declaration, which proclaimed that they resolved "to preserve, as much as in us lies, the peace and security of these great and populous Cities of London and Westminster, and the parts adjacent..." As a provisional government, the Lords took up measures to secure the public order, mostly in the capital. By virtue of their right as Peers they issued orders in the name of "the Lords Spiritual and Temporal", orders which from the start were intended to be "legal commands", carrying the force of law. The provisional government set up by the lords ceased to function on the afternoon of 15 Dec 1688, on the morrow of James's announced return to the capital (16 Dec 1688). With the King back at Whitehall, the Peers deemed the emergency to be over.

After the King's enforced removal from London (18 Dec 1688) a number of Peers assembled at St. James's Palace on 21 Dec 1688 in response to the summons issued by the Prince of Orange. The Peers' meetings continued thereafter in the House of Lords at Westminster on 22, 24, 25, and 28 Dec 1688. Wishing not to rely on the advice of the Lords alone in the matter of summoning a Convention, the Prince also summoned (23 Dec 1688) a number of members of Charles II's parliaments and common councilmen, who met with him at St. James's Palace on 26 Dec 1688.

On 24 Dec 1688, in the aftermath of the King's departure, the Lords prepared two addresses to Orange, which were approved on 25 Dec 1688. The addresses asked the Prince to summon a convention and to assume the administration of affairs "untill the meeting of the intended Convention, the 22d of January next." The members of the Commons also came up with the similar resolutions on 26 Dec 1688.

On 28 Dec 1688 the last meeting was held. The Lords assembled at St. James's Palace and the Prince of Orange made a speech announcing that he agreed to accept the functions as a civil administrator "to secure the peace of the nation, untill the meeting of the Convention in January next."


In the resolutions cited in the Lords Journal, the body describes itself in several different ways, as, e.g., "We, the Lords of the Realm", "We, the Peers of the Realm", the latter being the most frequent one, and without further mention of the source of their authority give numerous orders. The introduction to an order made during the meeting of 22 Dec 1688 in the House of Lords "We, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, assembled in this extraordinary conjuncture" became routine. The Marquess of Halifax was quite properly referred to as their Chairman.


As the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to preside, the Earl of Rochester was voted into the chair and presided at the first meeting of the Lords (11 Dec 1688).

On 12 Dec 1688 the Marquess of Halifax, the senior of the commissioners sent by James II to the Prince of Orange, was voted into the chair on the motion of the Earl of Mulgrave. He presided over the nine remaining sessions through 28 Dec 1688.

[1] "A kingdom without a king. The journal of the provisional government in the revolution of 1688", by Robert Beddard (Oxford, 1988).
Last updated on: 13 Mar 2010 01:49:00