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Lord High Steward

leicester and dignity

STEWARD, LORD HIGH, OF ENGLAND, one of the antient great officers of state. Under the Norman kings and the early kings of the line it seems to have been an office. Hugh Grentmesnell held the office in the reign of Henry II., and it passed with his daughter and co-heir in marriage to Robert de Bellomont, who was earl of Leicester. Robert's son held it, on whose death without issue it passed to the husband of his sister, the elder Simon de Montfort, who had also the dignity of earl of Leicester. From him it passed to his son, the second Simon de Montfort, who was slain at the battle of Evesham in 1265. This high dignity then reverted to the crown, but was immediately granted to Edmund, king Henry the Third's younger son, together with Montfort's earldom of Leicester, in whose descendants, the earls of Lancaster and Leicester, it continued, and in the person of Henry the Fourth, who was duke of Lancaster, was absorbed into the regal dignity.

From this time no person has been in vested with this high dignity as an heri table possession, or even for his own life, or during good behaviour. It is only conferred for some special occasion, and the office ceases when the business which required it is ended ; and this occasion has usually been when a person was to be tried before the House of Peers. On this occasion there is a lord high steward created, who presides, and when the pro ceedings are closed, breaks his wand, and dissolves the court ; but if the trial take place during the session of parlia ment, though a lord steward is appointed, it is not considered as his court, for he has no judicial functions and only votes with the rest as a peer, although he pre sides.