A writ in acceleration, commonly called a writ of acceleration, was a type of writ of summons that enabled the eldest son and heir apparent of a peer with multiple peerage titles to attend the British or Irish House of Lords, using one of his father's subsidiary titles. This procedure could be used to lower the average age of the house, and increase the number of capable members in a house that drew on a very small pool of talent (a few dozen families in its early centuries, a few hundred in its later centuries), without increasing the effective size of the peerage and thereby diluting the exclusivity of noble titles.
The procedure of writs of acceleration was introduced by King Edward IV in the mid 15th century. It was a fairly rare occurrence, and only 98 writs of acceleration were issued in over 400 years. The last writ of acceleration was issued in 1992 to the Conservative politician and close political associate of John Major, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne, the eldest son and heir apparent of the 6th Marquess of Salisbury. He was summoned as Baron Cecil of Essendon and not as Viscount Cranborne, the title he used by courtesy. The procedure of writs of acceleration was abolished through the House of Lords Act 1999, along with the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords.
A writ of acceleration was granted only if the title being accelerated was a subsidiary one, and not the main title, and if the beneficiary of the writ was the heir apparent of the actual holder of the title; thus the elder peer was always at least a viscount. The heir apparent was not always summoned in his courtesy title; rather, almost every person summoned to Parliament by virtue of a writ of acceleration was summoned in one of his father's baronies. For example, William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, heir apparent of William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire, was summoned as Baron Cavendish of Hardwick. It was not possible for heirs apparent of peers in the Peerage of Scotland and Peerage of Ireland to be given writs of acceleration after 1707 and 1801, respectively, as holders of titles in these peerages were not automatically guaranteed a seat in the British House of Lords.
An heir apparent receiving such a writ took the precedence within the House of Lords owing to the title accelerated. For example, when Viscount Cranborne was accelerated to the barony of Cecil (created 1603), he took precedence ahead of all barons in Parliament created after that date.
If an accelerated baron dies before his father, the barony passes to his heirs if any (according to the remainder governing the creation of the barony), else to his father. For example, Charles Boyle, Viscount Dungarvan, the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Burlington, was summoned to Parliament in 1689 in his father's barony of Clifford of Lanesborough, but predeceased his father. His son, the Earl's grandson, was granted a writ of attendance to the Lords in the barony.
Acceleration can affect the numbering of holders of peerages. In the example above, the 1st Earl of Burlington was also the 1st Baron Clifford of Lanesborough. His son Charles was, by virtue of the writ of accelaration, summoned to Parliament as Baron Clifford of Lanesborough, but predeceased his father. On the death of the 1st Earl of Burlington, Charles' son thus became the 2nd Earl of Burlington, but 3rd Baron Clifford of Lanesborough (the accelerated barony had indeed passed to him on his father's death).
Several issues of writs of acceleration may be especially noted.
In 1628 James Stanley, Lord Strange, heir apparent of William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, was summoned to the House of Lords in the ancient Barony of Strange (created in 1299), a title assumed by his father. However, the House of Lords later decided that the sixth Earl's assumption of the Barony of Strange had been erroneous. Consequently, it was deemed that there were now two Baronies of Strange, the original one created in 1299 and the new one, created "accidentally" in 1628 (see the Baron Strange for more information).
Another noteworthy writ of acceleration was issued in 1717 to Charles Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, heir apparent of Charles Paulet, 2nd Duke of Bolton. He was meant to be summoned in his father's junior title of Baron St John of Basing, but was mistakenly summoned as Baron Pawlett of Basing. This inadvertently created a new peerage. However, the Barony of Pawlett of Basing became extinct on his death, while the Dukedom was passed on to his younger brother, the fourth Duke.
The summons of Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory to the English House of Lords in 1666, as Baron Butler, of Moore Park, may also represent an error for a writ of acceleration in his father's peerage of Baron Butler, of Lanthony (cr. 1660).
|Writs of Acceleration to the English, Later British, House of Lords|
|Date||Person summoned||Summoned as||Succeeded as||Notes|
|1482||Thomas FitzAlan, Lord Maltravers||Baron Maltravers||Earl of Arundel (1487)|
|5 February 1533||Henry FitzAlan, Lord Maltravers||Baron Maltravers||Earl of Arundel (1544)|
|5 February 1533||George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford||Viscount Rochford||Never succeeded||Only son of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire; brother of Anne Boleyn|
|17 February 1533||Francis Talbot, Lord Talbot||Baron Talbot||Earl of Shrewsbury (1538)|
|4 October 1544||John Paulet, Lord St John of Basing||Baron St John of Basing||Marquess of Winchester (1572)|
|5 January 1553||John Dudley, Earl of Warwick||Earl of Warwick||Earl of Warwick (1553)|
|5 January 1553||George Talbot, Lord Talbot||Baron Talbot||Earl of Shrewsbury (1560)|
|1 March 1553||Francis Russell, Lord Russell||Baron Russell||Earl of Bedford (1555)|
|14 August 1553||Thomas Radclyffe, Viscount FitzWalter||Baron FitzWalter||Earl of Sussex (1553)|
|23 January 1559||Henry Hastings, Lord Hastings||Baron Hastings||Earl of Huntingdon (1560)|
|23 January 1559||Henry Stanley, Lord Strange||Baron Strange||Earl of Derby (1572)|
|5 May 1572||William Paulet, Lord St John of Basing||Baron St John of Basing||Marquess of Winchester (1576)|
|January 1581||John Russell, Lord Russell||Baron Russell||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, but predeceased his father.|
|28 January 1589||Gilbert Talbot, Lord Talbot||Baron Talbot||Earl of Shrewsbury (1590)|
|28 January 1589||Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange||Baron Strange||Earl of Derby (1593)|
|31 January 1604||William Howard, Lord Howard of Effingham||Baron Howard of Effingham||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, but predeceased his father.|
|31 January 1604||Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert||Baron Herbert||Earl of Worcester (1628)||created Marquess of Worcester in 1642|
|8 February 1610||Thomas Clinton, Lord Clinton de Say||Baron Clinton||Earl of Lincoln (1572)|
|8 February 1610||Theophilus Howard, Lord Howard de Walden||Baron Howard de Walden||Earl of Suffolk (1626)|
|February 1621||William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp||Baron Beauchamp||Earl of Hertford (1621)||restored to the forfeit title of Duke of Somerset in 1660|
|10 February 1624||John Paulet, Lord St John of Basing||Baron St John of Basing||Marquess of Winchester (1628)|
|28 March 1626||Algernon Percy, Lord Percy||Baron Percy||Earl of Northumberland (1632)|
|1 April 1626||Spencer Compton, Lord Compton||Baron Compton||Earl of Northampton (1630)|
|22 May 1626||Edward Montagu, Lord Kimbolton||Baron Montagu of Kimbolton||Earl of Manchester (1642)|
|February 1628||Henry Ley, Lord Ley||Baron Ley||Earl of Marlborough (1629)|
|7 March 1628||James Stanley, Lord Strange||Baron Strange||Earl of Derby (1642)||See introduction|
|23 April 1628||Hon. Edward Conway||Baron Conway de Ragley||Viscount Conway (1631)|
|3 November 1640||Charles Howard, Viscount Andover||Baron Howard of Charlton||Earl of Berkshire (1669)|
|3 November 1640||Ferdinando Hastings, Lord Hastings||Baron Hastings||Earl of Huntingdon (1643)|
|3 November 1640||Hon. Thomas Wentworth||Baron Wentworth||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Cleveland, but predeceased his father.|
|3 November 1640||Montagu Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby||Baron Willoughby de Eresby||Earl of Lindsey (1642)|
|27 November 1640||John Carey, Viscount Rochford||Baron Hunsdon of Hunsdon||Earl of Dover (1666)|
|11 January 1641||Henry Pierrepont, Lord Pierrepont||Baron Pierrepont||Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull (1643)||created Marquess of Dorchester in 1645|
|26 January 1641||Robert Rich, Lord Rich||Baron Rich||Earl of Warwick (1658)|
|14 May 1641||Oliver St John, Lord St John of Bletso||Baron St John of Bletso||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Oliver St John, 1st Earl of Bolingbroke, but predeceased his father.|
|9 June 1641||George Digby, Lord Digby||Baron Digby||Earl of Bristol (1653)|
|14 January 1678||Henry Howard, Earl of Arundel||Baron Mowbray||Duke of Norfolk (1684)|
|22 October 1680||Robert Leke, Lord Deincourt||Baron Deincourt||Earl of Scarsdale (1681)|
|1 November 1680||Hon. Conyers Darcy||Baron Conyers||Earl of Holderness (1689)|
|11 July 1689||Charles Berkeley, Viscount Dursley||Baron Berkeley||Earl of Berkeley (1698)|
|11 July 1689||Robert Sidney, Viscount L'Isle||Baron Sydney of Penshurst||Earl of Leicester (1698)|
|16 July 1689||Charles Boyle, 3rd Viscount Dungarvan||Baron Clifford||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, but predeceased his father|
|16 July 1689||Charles Granville, Lord Lansdown||Baron Granville||Earl of Bath (1701)|
|3 March 1690||Peregrine Osborne, 2nd Viscount Dunblane||Baron Osborne||Duke of Leeds (1712)|
|19 April 1690||Robert Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby||Baron Willoughby de Eresby||Earl of Lindsey (1701)||created Marquess of Lindsey in 1706 and Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven in 1715|
|5 March 1705||James Berkeley, Viscount Dursley||Baron Berkeley||Earl of Berkeley (1710)|
|28 December 1711||James Compton, Lord Compton||Baron Compton||Earl of Northampton (1727)|
|29 December 1711||Charles Bruce, Viscount Bruce of Ampthill||Baron Bruce of Whorlton||Earl of Ailesbury (1741)|
|28 January 1713||Peregrine Osborne, Viscount Osborne||Baron Osborne||Duke of Leeds (1729)|
|4 March 1715||Richard Lumley, Viscount Lumley||Baron Lumley||Earl of Scarbrough (1721)|
|16 March 1715||Peregrine Bertie, Marquess of Lindsey||Baron Willoughby de Eresby||Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven (1723)|
|12 April 1717||Charles Paulet, Marquess of Winchester||Baron Pawlett of Basing||Duke of Bolton (1722)||See introduction|
|8 November 1718||Anthony Grey, Earl of Harold||Baron Lucas of Crudwell||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, but predeceased his father.|
|24 May 1723||Hon. Charles Townshend||Baron Townshend||Viscount Townshend (1738)||As his father was already Lord Townshend, Charles was styled Lord Lynn after the barony's territorial designation of Lynn Regis|
|11 June 1733||John Hervey, Lord Hervey||Baron Hervey||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, but predeceased his father.|
|17 January 1734||John Poulett, Viscount Hinton||Baron Poulett||Earl Poulett (1743)||As his father was already Lord Poulett, John was styled Lord Hinton after the barony's territorial designation of Hinton St George|
|22 January 1750||Henry Hyde, Viscount Cornbury||Baron Hyde||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Henry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon, but predeceased his father.|
|13 June 1751||William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington||Baron Cavendish of Hardwick||Duke of Devonshire (1755)|
|15 May 1776||Francis Osborne, Marquess of Carmarthen||Baron Osborne||Duke of Leeds (1789)|
|30 November 1798||Robert Hobart, Lord Hobart||Baron Hobart||Earl of Buckinghamshire (1804)|
|25 February 1799||George Granville Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower||Baron Gower||Marquess of Stafford (1803)||created Duke of Sutherland in 1833.|
|29 June 1801||Thomas Pelham, Lord Pelham of Stanmer||Baron Pelham of Stanmer||Earl of Chichester (1805)|
|15 June 1801||George Legge, Viscount Lewisham||Baron Dartmouth||Earl of Dartmouth (1801)|
|15 November 1803||Robert Jenkinson, Lord Hawkesbury||Baron Hawkesbury||Earl of Liverpool (1808)|
|16 October 1804||George Ashburnham, Viscount St Asaph||Baron Ashburnham||Earl of Ashburnham (1812)|
|12 March 1806||George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford||Baron Spencer of Wormleighton||Duke of Marlborough (1817)|
|4 November 1806||Alexander Hamilton, Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale||Baron Dutton||Duke of Hamilton (1819)|
|11 April 1807||Charles Montagu-Scott, Earl of Dalkeith||Baron Scott of Tyndale||Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1812)|
|11 April 1807||George Gordon, Marquess of Huntly||Baron Gordon||Duke of Gordon (1827)|
|12 March 1812||Hugh Percy, Earl Percy||Baron Percy||Duke of Northumberland (1817)|
|5 January 1822||George Cholmondeley, Earl of Rocksavage||Baron Newburgh||Marquess of Cholmondeley (1827)|
|22 November 1826||George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower||Baron Gower||Duke of Sutherland (1833)||At the time of the writ of acceleration, he was heir apparent of George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Marquess of Stafford, who was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833|
|15 January 1833||Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge||Baron Paget of Beaudesert||Marquess of Anglesey (1854)|
|15 January 1833||Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock||Baron Howland||Duke of Bedford (1839)|
|15 January 1833||George Grey, Lord Grey of Groby||Baron Grey of Groby||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of George Grey, 6th Earl of Stamford, but predeceased his father.|
|8 January 1835||George Pratt, Earl of Brecknock||Baron Camden||Marquess Camden (1840)|
|2 July 1838||Francis D'Arcy-Osborne, Marquess of Carmarthen||Baron Osborne||Duke of Leeds (1838)|
|5 July 1838||George Brudenell-Bruce, Earl Bruce||Baron Bruce of Tottenham||Marquess of Ailesbury (1856)|
|28 February 1839||Hugh Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington||Baron Fortescue||Earl Fortescue (1841)|
|16 August 1841||Henry Fitzalan-Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey||Baron Maltravers||Duke of Norfolk (1842)|
|8 September 1841||William Lowther, Viscount Lowther||Baron Lowther||Earl of Lonsdale (1844)|
|4 November 1844||Edward Smith-Stanley, Lord Stanley||Baron Stanley||Earl of Derby (1851)|
|8 April 1853||George Byng, Viscount Enfield||Baron Strafford||Earl of Strafford (1860)|
|11 July 1856||Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne||Baron Wycombe||Marquess of Lansdowne (1863)|
|6 May 1859||Charles Bennett, Lord Ossulston||Baron Ossulston||Earl of Tankerville (1859)|
|5 December 1859||Hugh Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington||Baron Fortescue||Earl Fortescue (1861)|
|9 July 1863||Ferdinand Seymour, Earl St Maur||Baron Seymour||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset, but predeceased his father.|
|William Eliot, Lord Eliot||Baron Eliot||Earl of St Germans (1877)|
|26 February 1874||George Byng, Viscount Enfield||Baron Strafford||Earl of Strafford (1886)||Byng had been in the Commons until defeated at the general election the previous month|
|5 September 1876||William Keppell, Viscount Bury||Baron Ashford||Earl of Albemarle (1891)|
|12 April 1880||William Amherst, Viscount Holmesdale||Baron Amherst||Earl Amherst (1886)|
|22 July 1877||Henry Percy, Earl Percy||Baron Lovaine||Duke of Northumberland (1899)|
|6 June 1896||Henry Manners, Marquess of Granby||Baron Manners||Duke of Rutland (1906)|
|9 January 1941||Roundell Palmer, Viscount Wolmer||Baron Selborne||Earl of Selborne (1942)||Had resigned from the Commons two months earlier|
|21 January 1941||Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne||Baron Cecil of Essendon||Marquess of Salisbury (1947)||Sitting in the Commons at the time the writ was issued|
|16 January 1951||Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, Lord Willoughby de Eresby||Baron Willoughby de Eresby||Earl of Ancaster (1951)|
|29 April 1992||Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne||Baron Cecil of Essendon||Marquess of Salisbury (2003)||Created a life peer as Baron Gascoyne-Cecil in 1999|
|Writs of Acceleration to Irish House of Lords|
|Date||Person summoned||Summoned as||Succeeded as||Notes|
|13 July 1608||Henry O'Brien, Lord Ibrickane||Baron Ibrickane||Earl of Thomond (1624)|
|8 August 1662||Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory||Earl of Ossory||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, but predeceased his father.|
|8 August 1662||Charles MacCarty, Viscount Muskerry||Viscount Muskerry||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Donough MacCarty, 1st Earl of Clancarty, but predeceased his father.|
|Charles Boyle, Viscount Dungarvan||Viscount Dungarvan||Never succeeded||Heir apparent of Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork, but predeceased his father.|
|30 October 1665||William Brabazon, Lord Brabazon||Baron Brabazon of Ardee||Earl of Meath (1675)|
|4 October 1711||Michael Burke, Lord Dunkellin||Baron of Dunkellin||Earl of Clanricarde (1722)|
|9 March 1715||Chaworth Brabazon, Lord Brabazon||Baron Brabazon of Ardee||Earl of Meath (1715)|
|23 March 1736||James Hamilton, Lord Paisley||Baron Mountcastle||Earl of Abercorn (1744)|
When it had been decided that the eldest son of a peer should become a member of the House of Lords, the alternative to a writ of acceleration was to create a completely new peerage. For example, in 1832 Edward Smith-Stanley, Lord Stanley, son and heir apparent of Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, was given a new peerage as Baron Stanley, of Bickerstaffe. Two years later he succeeded his father in the Earldom. This was in contrast to his son, Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who in 1844 was summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in the aforementioned title of Baron Stanley, of Bickerstaffe.
Other examples of new peerages being created for heirs apparent include the barony of Butler in the peerage of England, 1666, for Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, eldest son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, who sat in the English House of Lords by virtue of this title, although he had been accelerated to the Irish House of Lords as Earl of Ossory.
Similarly, after his career in the House of Commons was ended by a defeat in the 1974 general election, Lord Balniel was given a life peerage as Baron Balniel, of Pitcorthie in the County of Fife, enabling him to sit in the House of Lords before succeeding his father, David Lindsay, 28th Earl of Crawford in 1975.
By contrast, after retiring from the House of Commons in 1992, George Younger, 4th Viscount Younger of Leckie was conferred a life peerage as Baron Younger of Prestwick, of Ayr in the District of Kyle and Carrick, there being no peerage held by his father other than the viscountcy. For reason both that his father was a baron and that he had no other peerages, John Wyndham, 1st Baron Egremont could not be sent to House of Lords by writ of acceleration, but was created Baron Egremont in 1964, by which title he continued to be known after succeeding as 6th Baron Leconfield in 1967.
Eldest sons of peers who had not received a writ of acceleration or a new peerage were eligible to stand for election to the House of Commons. It was far more common for eldest sons of peers to sit in the House of Commons than to receive a writ of acceleration or a new peerage. Before the 20th century, it was generally very easy for such men to find a constituency willing to elect them if they had any inclination for politics.
In the peerage of the Ancien Régime of France, a similar procedure was possible: the resignation of peerage. Any lay peer—all of them dukes—could resign his peerage to his heir, thus allowing the heir to enjoy all privileges of peerage, such as presence in Parliament. The eldest peer was almost always granted a brevet allowing him to keep the honors and precedence of the resigned peerage. In many cases, the procedure of resignation was only used to grant heirs, often around the time of their wedding, new titles: as both men had now the honors of a duke but only one similarly named dukedom could exist at any time, one of the two took a new title (such as duc de Chaulnes and duc de Picquigny, or duc de Saint-Simon and duc de Ruffec). This procedure was different from the use of a courtesy title by the eldest son of a peer holding multiple dukedoms (such as the duc de Luynes, also duc de Chevreuse). From 1755, the royal authorization for these resignations was no longer granted; the king chose instead to grant brevets of precedence to the heirs rather than to their fathers after resignation. The first one of these brevet dukes was Louis-Léon de Brancas, eldest son of the Duke of Villars, brevetted Duke of Lauragais in 1755.