Yet the first estate rarely played an important role in politics, legislation, and law. Contrary to the anachronistic liberal dreams of nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians, the great aristocracy in the fourteenth century did not accomplish much in politics and legislation. Whenever they bestirred themselves to take an active role, after generating a momentary crisis by impeding the royal administrators and drawing up some sonorous oligarchic reform placing the government in their own hands, they very quickly lost interest. The only issue that could truly engage the House of Lords for a few months was the hateful pursuit of some royal favorite, usually gay. That normally ended in violence and the great men then dispersed to their country estates and resumed their well-tilled behavior of feasting, drinking, hunting, and sex.
Norman F. Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague (60)