The Peerage of the United Kingdom is one of the five Peerages in the United Kingdom. It comprises most peerages created in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the Acts of Union in 1801, when it replaced the Peerage of Great Britain. New peers continued to be created in the Peerage of Ireland until 1898 (the last creation was the Barony of Curzon of Kedleston).
The House of Lords Act 1999 reformed the House of Lords. Until then, all peers of the United Kingdom were automatically members of the House of Lords. However, from that date, most of the hereditary peers ceased to be members, whereas the life peers retained their seats. All hereditary peers of the first creation (i.e. those for whom a peerage was originally created, as opposed to those who inherited a peerage), and all surviving hereditary peers who had served as Leader of the House of Lords, were offered a life peerage to allow them to continue to sit in the House should they wish.
Peers in the Peerage of Scotland and Peerage of Ireland did not have an automatic seat in the House of Lords following the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800, though the law permitted a limited number to be elected by their fellows to serve in the House of Lords as representative peers. Some peerages of the United Kingdom were created to get around this obstacle and allow certain Scottish and Irish peers to enjoy the automatic right to sit in the House of Lords.
The ranks of the peerage are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron.
The last non-royal dukedom was created in 1900, and the last marquessate was created in 1936. Creation of the remaining ranks, except baronies for life, mostly ceased once Harold Wilson's Labour government took office in 1964, and only thirteen (nine non-royal and four royal) people have been created hereditary peers since then. These were:
Marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons are all addressed as 'Lord X', where 'X' represents either their territory or surname pertaining to their title. Marchionesses, countesses, viscountesses and baronesses are all addressed as 'Lady X'. Dukes and duchesses are addressed just as 'Duke' or 'Duchess' or, in a non-social context, 'Your Grace'.
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