lord high steward

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lord high steward. Originally purely a household officer, the task of the steward, or seneschal, was to place dishes on the royal table, but like many comparable offices it gathered other duties and rose in prestige. Eventually, as lord high steward, he performed at coronations and presided over the trial of peers. The lord steward, at first the deputy, retains the household responsibilities and remains an officer of the court. In the 12th cent. the office of lord high steward belonged to the Bigods, earls of Norfolk, but was taken over by de Montfort as earl of Leicester. After his death at Evesham, the office was given to Edmund Crouchback, Henry III's son, and then merged with the crown. It therefore became necessary to make temporary appointments for particular occasions. At the trial of Lord Stafford in 1680, Lord Chancellor Finch was created lord high steward so that he could preside; in 1760, at the trial of Lord Ferrers for murder, Sir Robert Henley was hastily given a peerage and appointed. In Scotland, the office became hereditary in the 12th cent. in the Stewart family, who became monarchs in the 14th cent.

J. A. Cannon