The Lords Spiritual are members of the House of Lords who have an ecclesiastical position, such as the Bishops of London and Durham. Prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Tudor era, the majority of members of the House of Lords were Lords Spiritual, including abbots and priors. After the completion of the Dissolution, only archbishops and bishops were allowed to attend. The political uncertainly of the English Civil War led to the Lords Spiritual being excluded from the Lords as an entity. However, with the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, this was reversed and the 1661 Clergy Act paved the way for their legal return.
There are 26 Lords Spiritual today (out of a total of 720 Lords), comprising of the five most senior prelates (the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester). The other 21 Lords Spiritual are the longest serving bishops within the Church of England. A Lord Spiritual serves for only as long as he holds his office. All of the Lords Spiritual are men as at the moment the Church of England has not consecrated any women bishops.
The Lords Spiritual only represents the Church of England. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1871, as was the Church of Wales in 1920. The Church of Scotland has no member in the House of Lords as it has no archbishops or bishops.
Lords Spiritual are not meant to show any form of political partisanship and they sit as cross-benchers.