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Bash the bishops

The Lords Spiritual have cleverly hung onto House of Lords seats. But their 1909 moment has come

By Iain McLean   April 2010

In 1909, parliament contained 26 Church of England bishops. It still does. So what is the secret to the longevity of our “Lords Spiritual”? Hundreds of years ago, before the Reformation, their predecessors muscled into England’s legislature through a brutal combination of temporal and spiritual power: the church was among the great landowners—and usefully it had the power to send believers to hell.

The nationalisation of the Church of England in 1534 removed the first prop, but not the second: the church, for instance, still controlled things like marriage and schooling. And although the Church of England was disestablished…

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