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Speakers of the British House of Commons

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  • Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd, OM, PC
    Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd, OM, PC (born 8 October 1929) is a British politician, who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich and West Bromwich West from 1973 to 2000, initiall...
  • John Simon Bercow
    Speaker of the House of Commons, 2009-
  • George Thomas, 1st Viscount Tonypandy (1909 - 1997)
    Thomas George Thomas 1st and last Viscount Tonypandy, politician: born 29 January 1909; MP (Labour) for Cardiff Central 1945-50, Cardiff West 1950-83; PPS to Minister of Aviation 1951; member, Chairman...
  • Bruce Bernard Weatherill (1920 - 2007)
    Weatherill was Speaker of the House of Commons, 1983-92
  • Henry Pelham, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons (1597 - d.)
    Family and Education bap. 9 June 1597,2 3rd s. of Sir William Pelham† (d.1629) of Brocklesby, Lincs. and Anne, da. of Charles, 2nd Bar. Willoughby of Parham.3 educ. Trin. Camb. 1615; G. Inn 1616...

The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament.

The Speaker presides over the House's debates, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House. Unlike presiding officers of legislatures in many other countries, the Speaker remains strictly non-partisan, and renounces all affiliation with his or her former political party when taking office. The Speaker does not take part in debate nor vote (except to break ties, and even then, subject to conventions that maintain his or her non-partisan status). Aside from duties relating to presiding over the House, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and remains a constituency Member of Parliament (MP). The Speaker has the right and obligation to reside in Speaker's House at the Palace of Westminster.

History

The office of Speaker is almost as old as Parliament itself. The earliest year for which a presiding officer has been identified is 1258, when Peter de Montfort presided over the Parliament held in Oxford. Early presiding officers were known by the title parlour or prolocutor. The continuous history of the office of Speaker is held to date from 1376 when Sir Peter de la Mare spoke for the commons in the "Good Parliament" as they joined leading magnates in purging the chief ministers of the Crown and the most unpopular members of the king's household. Edward III was frail and in seclusion, his prestigious eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, terminally ill. It was left to the next son, a furious John of Gaunt, to fight back. He arrested De la Mare and disgraced other leading critics. In the next, "Bad Parliament", in 1377, a cowed Commons put forward Gaunt's steward, Thomas Hungerford, as their spokesman in retracting their predecessors' misdoings of the previous year. Gaunt evidently wanted a 'mirror-image' as his form of counter-coup and this notion, born in crisis, of one 'speaker', who quickly also became 'chairman' and organiser of the Commons' business, was recognised as valuable and took immediate root after 1376-7.

Throughout the medieval and early modern period, every speaker was an MP for a county, reflecting the implicit situation that such shire representatives were of greater standing in the house than the more numerous burgess MPs. Although evidence is almost non-existent, it has been surmised that any vote was by count of head, but by the same token perhaps the fact so very little is said about actual votes suggests that most decisions, at least of a general kind, were reached more through persuasion and the weight by status of the county MPs. In such a situation, the influence of the speaker should not be underestimated. Sir Thomas More was the first speaker to go on to become Lord Chancellor.

Until the 17th century, members of the House of Commons often continued to view their Speaker (correctly) as an agent of the Crown. As Parliament evolved, however, the Speaker's position grew into one that involved more duties to the House than to the Crown; such was definitely the case by the time of the English Civil War. This change is sometimes said to be reflected by an incident in 1642, when King Charles I entered the House in order to search for and arrest five members for high treason. When the King asked him if he knew of the location of these members, the Speaker, William Lenthall, famously replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

The development of Cabinet government under King William III in the late 17th century caused further change in the nature of the Speakership. Speakers were generally associated with the ministry, and often held other government offices. For example, Robert Harley served simultaneously as Speaker and as a Secretary of State between 1704 and 1705. The Speaker between 1728 and 1761, Arthur Onslow, reduced ties with the government, though the office did remain to a large degree political. The Speakership evolved into its modern form—in which the holder is an impartial and apolitical officer who does not belong to any party—only during the middle of the 19th century.

Over 150 individuals have served as Speaker of the House of Commons. Their names are inscribed in gold leaf around the upper walls of Room C of the House of Commons Library. The three most recent Speakers have been notable for a series of firsts. Betty Boothroyd, elected in 1992, was the first woman Speaker. Michael Martin, elected in 2000, was the first Roman Catholic Speaker since the Reformation. John Bercow, elected in 2009, is the first Jewish Speaker.

By convention Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as "Mr Speaker", and their deputies as "Mr Deputy Speaker". Betty Boothroyd was, at her request, addressed as "Madam Speaker". When Betty Harvie Anderson had served in the 1970s as a Deputy Speaker, on the other hand, she had been addressed as "Mr Deputy Speaker".

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaker_of_the_British_House_of_Commons

House of Commons of England

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House of Commons of Great Britain

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House of Commons of the United Kingdom

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