Lord High Steward

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The Lord High Steward of England - not to be confused with the High Steward, a court function - is the head of the Great Officers of State . Below him stand the Lord High Chancellor (Lord Chancellor) and the Lord High Treasurer (Lord Treasurer).

The incumbent primarily had to perform representative tasks such as chairing the coronation of British monarchs and elevations to the nobility. But he also performed an important judicial function: the chairmanship of trials against members of the nobility. Although initially without a political function, the importance of this position increased in the course of time so that its holder was ultimately one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.

The first Lord High Steward appears to have been Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester , son of Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester . Since then, the office was associated with the title of Earl of Leicester until Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Leicester and Duke of Lancaster became King of England in 1399 as Henry IV . He made his second son Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence Lord High Steward. After his death in 1421, the office remained vacant, and mostly the Lord Chancellor or other members of the high nobility took over the corresponding tasks.

In order to convict a nobleman of criminal offenses, he had to be tried in the House of Lords . To this end, a person present was appointed Lord High Steward, who then directed the proceedings. Criminal proceedings against nobles in the House of Lords were not abolished until 1948.

The title should not be confused with that of Lord Steward of the Household.

Lords High Steward of England 1154–1421

Heinrich IV. Fantasy illustration from the 17th century

Lords High Steward of England at coronations 1422 to date

Lords High Steward of England at trials against members of the nobility from 1422 to the present day

The trial of Lord de Clifford for negligent homicide was the last to be heard in the House of Lords.