19 March 1649: The House of Lords is abolished

Two days after abolishing the monarchy, Parliament did away with the House of Lords on this day in 1649.

“The House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the people of England.” Not words uttered in the endless debates to reform the upper chamber over the last two decades, but a line from an Act of Parliament to get rid of the House of Lords altogether in 1649.

At the start of that year, King Charles I was beheaded. He had fallen out with the Commons in spectacular fashion over tax revenues in the preceding decades and lost the First and Second English Civil Wars that followed. On 17 March, the monarchy was abolished.

But there was still the small matter of the House of Lords. Although its power and size had been greatly diminished with the Bishops Exclusion Act of 1642, there were still enough royal sympathisers to be a thorn in the side of the victorious Parliamentarians. So, the upper chamber had to go.

Two days later, by Act of Parliament, the House of Lords was dissolved – but not, as it turned out, for long. The Parliamentarians argued among themselves in the years that followed, and in 1660, the future Charles II seized his chance to grab the throne.

Charles offered up a host of concessions to Parliament in his Declaration of Breda. Parliament responded by offering to forget the whole thing. The English republic had never existed and Charles had, in fact, been king all along since his father's death.

With the return of the king came the return of the House of Lords, along with many of the powers it had enjoyed before the wars. And that's how things more or less stood for the next 250 years.

Since 1911, there have been numerous attempts to reform the unelected upper chamber, with marginal degrees of success. 

Recommended

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021
24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement
This day in history

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement

On this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer made their engagement official in front of the world's press at Buckingham Palace.
24 Feb 2021
24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down
This day in history

24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down

On this day in 1809, celebrated playwright Richard Sheridan was effectively ruined when the Drury Lane theatre went up in smoke.
24 Feb 2021

Most Popular

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why
Gold

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why

In a world awash with money-printing, a currency backed by gold would have great credibility. And China – with designs on the yuan becoming the world’…
21 Apr 2021
“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?
Bitcoin

“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?

Dogecoin – a cryptocurrency created as a joke – has risen by more than 9,000% this year alone. Saloni Sardana looks at how something that began as an …
19 Apr 2021
House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue
Property

House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue

The latest UK house price data shows no letup in the country’s booming property market, with the biggest yearly rise since 2014. And there’s no end in…
22 Apr 2021