Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 3 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LORD HIGH STEWARD. The Lord High Steward of England, who must not be confused with the Lord Steward, ranks as the first of the great officers of state. Appointments to this office are now made only for special occasions, such as the coronation of a sovereign or the trial of a peer by his peers. The history of the office is noteworthy. The household of the Norman and Angevin kings of England included certain persons of secondary. rank, styled dapifers, seneschals or stewards (the prototypes of the lord steward), who were entrusted with domestic and state duties; the former duties were those of purveyors and sewers to the king, the latter were undefined. At coronations, however, and great festivals it became the custom in England and else-where to appoint magnates of the first rank to discharge for the occasion the domestic functions of the ordinary officials. In accordance with this custom Henry II. appointed both Robert II., earl of Leicester, and Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk, to be his honorary hereditary stewards; and at the Christmas festival of 1186 the successors in title of these two earls, with William, earl of Arundel, who held the similar honorary office of hereditary butler, are described as serving the king at the royal banqueting table. Subsequently the earls of Leicester bought out the rights of the earls of Norfolk for ten knights' fees. The last of these earls of Leicester to inherit the hereditary stewardship was Simon V. de Montfort; how he served as steward at the coronation of Eleanor, queen of Henry III., is described in the Exchequer Red Book. The office of steward in France, then recently suppressed, had for some time been the highest office of state in that kingdom, and Simon de Montfort appears to have considered that his hereditary stewardship entitled him to high official position in England; and after his victory at Lewes he repeatedly figures as steward of England in official documents under the great seal. After Simon's death at Eves-ham his forfeited estates were conferred on his son Edmund of Lancaster, who also obtained a grant of the stewardship, but only for life. Edmund was succeeded by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, who received a fresh grant of the stewardship to himself and the heirs of his body from Edward II.; and this earl it was who, during the weak administration of the last-mentioned king, first put forward in a celebrated tract the claim of the steward to be the second personage in the realm and supreme judge in parliament, a claim which finds some slight recognition in the preamble to the statute passed against the Despencers in the first year of Edward III. Earl Thomas was executed for treason, and though his attainder was reversed he left no issue, and was succeeded in the earldom by his brother Henry. The subsequent earls and dukes of Lancaster were all recognized as stewards of England,

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