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The Peerage is a system of titles in the United Kingdom, which represents the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system. The term is used both collectively to refer to the entire body of titles, and individually to refer to a specific title. All modern British honours, including peerage dignities, are created directly by the British monarch, taking effect when letters patent are affixed with the Great Seal of the Realm. The Sovereign is considered the fount of honour, and as "the fountain and source of all dignities cannot hold a dignity from himself",[1] cannot hold a peerage (although the British Sovereign uses the Style "Duke of Lancaster"). If an individual is neither the Sovereign nor a peer, he is a commoner. Members of a peer's family who are not themselves peers (including such members of the Royal Family) are also commoners; the British system thus differs fundamentally from continental European ones, where entire families, rather than individuals, were ennobled.

The inheritance of and the privileges associated with a peerage are regulated by Parliament, which also advises the monarch on the selection process. Some, but not all, peers have the right to sit in the House of Lords, and certain other personal privileges are also afforded to all lords and ladies.

The modern peerage system is a vestige of the custom of English kings in the 12th century and 13th century, in summoning wealthy individuals (along with church officials and elected representatives for commoners) to form a Parliament.[clarification needed] The economic system at the time was manorialism (or feudalism), and the burden or privilege of being summoned to Parliament was related to the amount of land one controlled (a "barony"). In the late 14th century, this right (or "title") began to be granted by decree, and titles also became inherited with the rest of an estate under the system of primogeniture. Non-hereditary positions began to be created again in 1867 for Law Lords, and 1958 generally.[clarification needed]


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