INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT UNIVERSITY OF ECOLOGY AND POLITOLOGY The Faculty of Philology REPORT Student of the group # 101 Kuzmin Andrey subject: THE HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN “The Rise of Parliament in XIII AD” Moscow, 1999 y. Contents: Introduction 3 Magnum Cartum Liberatum 3 Simon de Monfort and his “Parliamentum” 4 King Edward’s Parliament. 5 Parliament nowadays. 7 a). The Functions of Parliament. b). The Meeting of Parliament. c). The House of Lords. d). The House of Commons. e). Public Access to Parliamentary Proceedings. INTRODUCTION
Parliament plays the leading role in the political life of Great Britain. It passes laws, provides the means of carrying on the work of the government, scrutinizes government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure; debates the major issues of the day. In my wok I try to look at the history of this undoubtedly important body of authority. The events that took place in England in the XIII century turned out to be the main influence on the formation and the rise of Parliament that exists to the very moment. THE GREAT CHARTER – MAGNA CARTA
Richard I’s absence in the Holy Land and the expense of crusade weakened the power of the Crown in England. When his brother John became king, he lacked the money to defend the English lands in France successfully. The meanness and cruelty of his character added to his unpopularity stimulated a heavy disapproval from the point of the Church; the power then belonged to Pope Innocent III. As a result in 1215 on June 15 the army of the Holy Pope supported by barons and leading citizens of London came up to the capital. The Church and the barons had their own, certain intentions. Innocent III wanted the Church to be absolutely independent from the English government and the barons didn’t want to pay any taxes and wanted to have various privileges. On the 15 of June in 1215 the united army of Innocent III and leading barons forced John Lackland to make peace with his enemies on the Island of Runnymade in the Thames*. In the Great Charter or Magna Carta Liberatum, which he sealed there, he promised to keep the Church free and unharmed. He also tried to please the townsmen by granting safe conduct to any foreign merchant visiting England. The most important points that the king agreed to were:
…the English Church shall be free and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. …No scutage or aid (taxes) shall be demanded in our realm without the consent of the great council**.
…No freeman shall be arrested, put in prison, or lose his property, or be outlawed or banished, or harmed in any way…unless he has been judged by his equals under the law of the land. Justice will not be sold to anyone, nor will it be refused or delayed…
After King John had sealed the charter it became a tradition to sign this document by further kings, when receiving the crown, which was abandoned only in 150 years.
The Magna Carta even in later times has been used to prove that in England the subject has certain rights against the government which cannot touch him or his property unless the law allows it. However, in King John’s time these rights only belonged to those of the rank of freeman or above. The villains and serfs who far outnumbered them were not so fortunate. Nevertheless the importance of the document is almost inconceivable as in 1297 on the first Parliament meeting Magna Carta obtained the recognition of the first statute of the British constitution.
After the king’s death caused by next rebellion in 1216 his son, the heir, Henry III (1216-1272) became the leader of the Holy Land. During his long reign the barons continued their struggle to make the king obey the terms of the Great Charter. No external wars took place. SIMON DE MONFORT AND HIS “PARLIAMENTUM”
One of the riots that took place in the period of Henry’s reign was the rebellion of Simon de Monfort, the earl of Leicester. He came out against the king and the intervention of the Catholic Church. This event of AD 1265 was described by a monk Matthew, of Westminster Abbey***. The chronicler was by no means sympathetic to the rebellion. The prominence of the event is because the parliament summoned by Simon was seen, with some exaggeration, by 19th century historians, as the first modern parliament. Trying not to loose his opportunity to gain authority and power, Simon de Monfort and the barons “collected the troops, both of the Londoners, whose army had increased to fifteen thousand men, and of men from other parts in countless numbers, marched with great impetuosity and courage. Accordingly, they encamped at Flexinge, in Sussex, which is about six miles from Lewes, and three days before the battle they addressed a message to the king” where they said that they were ready for war because they wanted to “preserve safety and security” of the country and to defend it from the enemies: “…it is plain from much experience that those who are present with you have suggested to your highness many falsehoods respecting us, intending all the mischief that they can do…”
But the king, as well as his son – “Richard, by the grace of God, king of the Romans, always Augustus, and Edward, the illustrious eldest son of the king of England”, despising this letter from his barons, was eager for war with all his heart, and sent them back the letter of defiance:
“…since you have wickedly attacked our nobles and others our faithful subjects, who have constantly preserved their fidelity to us, and since you still design to injure them as far as in your power, as you have signified to us by your letters, we…defy you, as the enemies of us and them. Witness my hand, at Lewes, on the Twelfth Day of May, in the forty-eighth year of our reign. ”
“As, therefore, God did by no means admit of their coming to agreement, a most terrible battle took place between them, at Lewes, on the fourteenth of May, such as had never been heard of in past ages”. Henry III and his son lost the battle and were taken prisoners. Later Edward, as the price of his release, gave his palatine county of Chester to Simon.
Meanwhile Simon de Monfort called a meeting of barons, knights, and townspeople to help him restore peace and order. This meeting was called PARLIAMENTUM. But it was a flop because dissidence took place among the members, and using it, Edward attacked Simon and his army and defeated them.
The triumph of the earl of Leicester didn’t last long but it was a basis to build the first parliament on. It is wrong from my point of view to deny the importance of the events described above and of the personality of Simon. KING EDWARD’S PARLIAMENT
After his father’s death in 1272 Edward becomes the king of England. He found it easy to keep his barons in order, for he had most of the qualities needed by the successful ruler in the Middle Ages. He was tall, silver-haired and dignified. Only a drooping eye-lid spoiled his handsome appearance. He had courage, determination, and a cool judgement in time of danger. He was a typical English monarch that looked very much like Henry II as they say. He really tried to live up to his motto of‘I keep my promises’. Most important, Edward had the intelligence to see that the barons would remain loyal, if it were in their interest to do so.
He therefore agreed to stand by the terms of the Great Charter. His laws were often as helpful to the barons as to himself. It is true that he ordered an inquiry into the rights of barons to hold their courts. Some could not prove their right and were no longer allowed to act as judges. Yet Edward was wise enough to take no action in such a case as that of William de Warenne, who drew his old rusty sword as the proof that he based his rights on his ancestors who had fought with the Conqueror in 1066.
Edward also realized that the power that barons conclude might be used in a profitable direction–conquer wars. Edward started a row of wars. First he conquers Wales, declares of its autonomy and nominates his son as the Prince of Wales and his earth as Principality of Wales. In AD 1288 Edward defeats Scotland.
Like Simon de Monfort before him, the king came to believe that England was like a body in which all the parts must be made to work together. To help them to agree it was useful to have meetings of the council at which complaints could be heard, laws passed, and taxes approved. These came to be called parliaments from the French word– “parler”, to speak.
Edward copied Earl Simon in inviting not only the leading barons, but also knights and citizens to his parliaments. In this way he was able to persuade the wealthy merchant class, who were profiting from increasing sales of English wool to Flanders, to pay higher taxes. Later, in 1343, parliament became so big that it was easier for the barons and bishops (Lords. Spiritual and Temporal) to meet in one part of the Palace of Westminster and the knights and townsmen (Representatives Of Community– Commons) in another. So began the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Besides there appeared a very good opportunity to summon the parliament –the conflict between Edward and the king of France concerning the right to own Gascony. On this account Edward I summons two archbishops, eighteen bishops, seventy abbots, and seven earls and forty-one barons. In his summons to Spiritual Lords (representatives of the Church) the king said:
“…the king of France fraudulently and craftily deprives us of our land of Gascony, by withholding it unjustly from us. …what affects all, by all should be approved…We command you, strictly enjoining you in the fidelity and love in which you are bound to us, that on the Lord’s day next after the feast of St. Martin, in the approaching winter, you be present in person at Westminster; bringing the dean and chapter of your church, the achdeacons and all the clergy of your diocese…to ordain and provide, along with us and with the rest of the prelates and principal men and other inhabitants of our kingdom, how the dangers and threatened evils of this kind are to be met. ”
Similar summons were sent to barons and to “the representatives of shires and towns”:
“…we strictly require you to cause two knights from your county, two citizens from each city of the same county, and two burgesses from each borough, of those who are especially discreet and capable of laboring, to be elected without delay…”
On one of the first sessions of the brand new institute of authority the first statute of British unwritten constitution was fixed. Very important step was made on the way of achieving advanced level of the government’s system. However some historians say that establishing Parliament was a premature action and avoiding it would have prevented the country from various conflicts.
Edward I, also on one of the first sessions, declared (and emphasized on it) that only the king of the Holy Land possesses the power to create laws and that Parliament controls and supervises the treasury and approves “scutage and aids”. And, actually, these early parliaments, as well as a bit later ones looked nothing like the institution we can observe nowadays. What does it look like? What are its main functions? To this and other questions I’m trying to give answers in the upcoming chapter. PARLIAMENT NOWADAYS
Parliament is made up of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen in her constitutional role. They meet together only on occasions of symbolic importance such as the state opening of parliament, when the Commons are summoned by the Queen to the House of Lords. The agreement of all three elements is normally required for legislation, but that of the Queen is given as a matter of course to Bills sent to her. Parliament can legislate for Britain as a whole, or for any part of the country. It can also legislate for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies and not part of Britain. They have local legislatures which make laws on the island affairs. As there are no legal restraints imposed by a written constitution, Parliament may legislate as it pleases, subject to Britain's obligations as a member of the European Union. It can make or change any law; and can overturn established conventions or turn them into law. It can even prolong its own life beyond the normal period without consulting the electorate. In practice, however, Parliament does not assert its supremacy in this way. Its members bear in mind the common law and normally act in accordance with precedent. The validity of an Act of Parliament, once passed, cannot be disputed in the law courts. The House of Commons is directly responsible to the electorate, and in this century the House of Lords has recognized the supremacy of the elected chamber. The system of party government helps to ensure that Parliament legislates with its responsibility to the electorate in mind. The main functions of Parliament as has been mentioned in the Introduction are: 1. to pass laws;
2. to provide, by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of the government;
3. to scrutinize government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure; and 4. to debate the major issues of the day.
In carrying out these functions Parliament helps to bring the relevant facts and issues before the electorate. By custom, Parliament is also informed before all important international treaties and agreements are ratified. The making of treaties is, however, a royal prerogative exercised on the advice of the Government and is not subject to parliamentary approval.
A Parliament has a maximum duration of five years, but in practice general elections are usually held before the end of this term. The maximum life has been prolonged by legislation in rare circumstances such as the two world wars. Parliament is dissolved and writs for a general election are ordered by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The life of a Parliament is divided into sessons. Each usually lasts for one year - normally beginning and ending in October or November. Ther are 'adjournaments' at night, at weekends, at Christmas, Easter and the late Spring Bank Holiday, and during a long summer break usually starting in late July. The average number of 'sitting' days in a session is about 160 in the House of Commons and about 145 in the House of Lords. At the start of each session the Queen's speech to Parliament outlines the Government's policies and proposed legislative program. Each session is ended by prorogation. Parliament then 'stands prorogued' for about a week until the new session opens. Public Bills which have not been passed by the end of the session are lost. The House of Lords consists of:
1. all hereditary peers and peeresses of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom;
2. life peers created to assist the House in its judicial duties (Lords of Appeal or 'law lords'); 3. all other life peers; and
4. the Archbiships of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, and the 21 senior bishops of the Church of England.
The House of Commons consists of 651 Members of Parliament (MPs) directly elected by voters in each of Britain's 651 parliamentary constituencies. At present there are 62 women, three Asian and three black MPs. Of the 651 seats, 524 are for England, 38 for Wales, 72 for Scotland and 17 for Northern Ireland.
Proceedings of both Houses are normally public and visitors can watch the proceedings from the galleries of both chambers. The minutes and speeches are published daily in Hansard House of Commons, and Hansard House of Lords the official report of debates. Each daily report also includes the answers to parliamentary questions put down for a written reply. The House of Commons also publishes a Weekly Information Bulletin which gives details about parliamentary affairs. Both Houses have information offices which prepare a variety of publications and answer enquiries from the public. And there is television and The Parliamentary Channel and, of course, government information on the web. The records of the Lords from 1497 and the Commons from 1547, together with the parliamentary and political papers of a number of former members of both Houses, are available to the public through the House of Lords Record Office. The proceedings of both Houses of Parliament may be broadcast on television and radio, either live or, more usually, in recorded or edited form. BBC Radio 4 is obligated to broadcast an impartial day-by-day account of proceedings when Parliament is in session. A weekly programme covers the proceedings of the select committees on departmental affairs. Many other television and national and local radio programs cover parliamentary affairs. Complete coverage is available on cable television. Also, most national and regional newspapers have parliamentary correspondents. Several national daily newspapers present a daily summary of the previous day's proceedings. * - Themes (old brit. Ver. – Thames) ** - 25 overkings *** - further being quoted USED LITERATURE AND OTHER SOURCES:
The Medieval Source Book Electronic version. Edited by Andrew Kenneth. http: //msb. uk/index. html (currently idle)
British History. http//britannia. com © 1995, 1996, 1997 Britannia Internet Magazine, LLC Documentary: http: //www. britannia. com/history/docs/…
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