Conclusions in England (UK)

Once we have developed all the points of our work, we must add the general conclusions that we obtain from our study of the medieval parliament in England and we will present them following the expository scheme of the index: first, we see everything related to the historical context, followed by the regulatory framework; thirdly, the topic on the internal aspects of the organ and a final section on exceptionalism or its absence within the English space.
Regarding the historical context, it is worth highlighting its tripartite development within the thirteenth century with the reign of John I, Henry III and Eduardo I, which has allowed us to know the political evolution of the Kingdom of England as a means to know the changes that occurred within the monarchy and the elites to give rise to two noble revolts that crystallized in their respective constitutional changes.

Finally, we see how during these reigns the Plantagenet dynasty lived its worst moments and all this due to the loss of the Angevino Empire, which had endowed it with great power, wealth and prestige, not forgetting the unusual weakness of John I and Henry III, never known by the founder of the dynasty in England Henry II. Juan I and Enrique III, not ceasing to try to recover those territories, moved away from a nobility more concerned with English affairs than with continental ones and hoarded the royal power by exploiting the English counties for an issue that did not concern anyone but themselves and it was their loneliness that ended up forcing a noble rebellion, which fed on the provincial and local sectors forcing the reform of the kingdom. Eduardo I took the witness of his grandfather and his father and was much more conciliatory, which allowed him to reinforce the real authority lost by his predecessors and carried out reforms, but from the real perspective, without yielding an iota of sovereignty.

As for the creation of the constitutional corpus, we have pointed out numerous legal texts, which were supporting the creation of parliament and it has been said, and we share it, that from the Magna Carta, through the Oxford and Westminster Provisions to the different statutes Edwardians, what was sought was to temper and soften the rigor of the prevailing Norman feudal system that had been brought by the conquerors and, therefore, retake the old principles of the old Anglo-Saxon law, much more egalitarian. Similarly, the origins of the parliament must be sought in the “common council of our kingdom” enshrined in the letter, in that search for consensus among the English state forces to make a policy representative of the interests of the community.

Knowing who can reach pacts with the king is important and therefore, the generation of the kingdom community and its origin must see them in the great council of 1225, who was the creator of the pact because he clarified who could decide, at a special moment as it is a minority of a monarch and the emergency situation for a war against France, which involved joining everyone’s efforts to save the kingdom. In addition, within this great pact, the maximum “quod omnes tangit” is of vital importance for the call of the representatives of the counties and of the cities and in that ideological baggage brought by the Church, it is necessary to emphasize the formation of the presumption within the powerful that they could not reach that consensus without giving representativeness to all social sectors that mostly suffered royal impositions.

Likewise, we must discard the myth of the model parliament, since we have seen that because of the tax interests of the kings and the needs of support of the nobles, as well as the ecclesiastical maxim, the knights and bourgeois were called before the parliament and although its presence is important, even more so is the attainment of political power by the parliament although only for We do not want to forget the political marginalization of the peasantry in a historical moment in which they had no right but quite the opposite, their deprivation of liberty and dependence, prevented their political development and their prostration continued until the 19th century.

We do not want to forget the political marginalization of the peasantry in a historical moment in which they had no right but quite the opposite, their deprivation of liberty and dependence, prevented their political development and their prostration continued until the 19th century.

If we write about the third leg of these conclusions, the internal organization of the parliament, we must highlight, above all, the representation between two groups, the lords and the commons, which form two economically and socially differentiated groups in the Middle Ages, which results after all in political inequality, so it is likely that many representatives of the commons did not influence the king, but for this we must see in the long term the events of the seventeenth century when The Bill of Rights (1689) was approved being the parliament of medieval origin its center of reaction against the royal tyranny. The parliamentary functions were also very precarious in the Middle Ages, but it was undoubtedly the fiscal control, at the end of the availability of money by the king, which resulted in the pressure capacity of the parliament to the crown, being decisive, in this point, the Commons as the majority force of the tributaries. Likewise, a ceremonial and a lavishness that benefited the king and



At this point we have developed the most outstanding points of the medieval parliament in the Kingdom of England by comparing them with other medieval assemblies in other states, especially in the kingdom of France, so that we can decide if the origin of the parliamentary systems is in England, as an exceptional aspect or if on the contrary, was the general tonic throughout Europe.

First, there is a letter dated in the year 1225 in which a citizen of Caen wrote to Henry III, a conversation he had heard between the son of the city bailío and the teacher Nicolás, an official of Brother Guérin, a former counselor of the French king Philip II Augustus. In the course of the conversation, the two men compared the French king’s rule with that of the English monarch, arguing the following: “Philip took advice from a very small group of confidants, Brother Guérin and Barthelemy de Roye, his great chamberlain, but if the king of England wanted to make war, he had to take advice from many men and as a consequence the royal council already knew the warning before he was willing. ” Also, an English chronicler of the fifteenth century, Sir John Fortescue showed that the kingdom of England was governed by “dominium politicum et regale”, that is, public and royal authority while France was governed only by the “dominium regale” , that is, royal supremacy35. In the end these two fragments give us the key, the difference between the two kingdoms: the English king could not vary taxes and laws without consensus with parliament while in France all the power was in at the hands of the prince, who could change the politics of the kingdom according to his free will.

Anyway, the origin of the parliament was a pan-European trend around the year 1200, and even, some historian has described the period as the proto-parliamentary era. In almost all the kingdoms of Europe the representatives of the cities were called, above all, to provide the monarch with more liquidity with the allocation of services. The European change, therefore, occurred in the representation, when the “ayuium” and “consilium” went from being a feudal obligation to a right of the whole community, that is, it was transferred from the magnates to the regional and local authorities.

Let’s look at the process in England by comparing it with other European kingdoms. In
England had demands to keep liberties to alleviate the royal abuses, but it also took place in the Crown of Aragon, in Germany in 1220 or in Hungary with the Golden Bull of 1222. In addition, in England there was political debate, but also in Catalonia in 1180 or in the kingdom of León in the courts of 1188 and regarding the fiscal powers of parliament, Alfonso IX de León (1188-1230) in 1203 and Jaime I of Aragon (1213-1276) in 1236 had to submit to the Cuts on this topic. As for the arrival of the representatives of the provinces and the cities we know that in England between 1254-1265 it had already occurred, but it also took place in the kingdom of Portugal in 1253 and perhaps in Leon in 1188. Even the name of parliament, recorded in an English chronicle in 1236 is before in France (1220). In England, the barons were imposed on the king between 1258-1261, but this aspect also took place in Catalonia around 1283 when the nobles imposed themselves on Peter III.

The functions

Once we have analyzed the social groups that made up the parliament, we must synthesize the parliamentary functions in the Middle Ages in order to know what was done in an assembly of this type although some elements have already been described in previous explanations. Let’s start with some basic annotations to clarify concepts. The first thing that we must keep in mind is that a medieval parliament is not democratic at all, it is not voted in any case, despite controlling royal activity. The organ of governmental power is the royal council, which is where the monarch dispatches state affairs with his officers. The institution meets when the ministers must give an account of what is happening in the kingdom and also when the king has a need, usually of a fiscal nature, and decides to summon it. Within the parliamentary game, the king exposes his fiscal needs and negotiates with

the representatives the amount to donate for the community of the kingdom and then go on to develop their complaints and their possible solution, therefore the initiative is always from the king and his political preponderance is constantly underlined.

Historians have highlighted seven functions of the medieval parliament: the discussion of state affairs such as foreign policy, the adoption of laws, the imposition of new taxation, the hearing of petitions, issues related to justice as criminal and civil causes, matters of personal promotion and issues related to feudal law such as homage32. Of all this, we will deal with the four most important issues, the law, taxation, claims and finally, the statute of the delegates.

As for the legislation, theoretically, if a regulation was established concerning the alteration of the Common Law, it should be presented in the form of a Statute and therefore the consensus with the parliament should be sought, but if the law did not affect the entire kingdom , an Ordinance was created only with the king’s mandate. The parliament also served as a court of law, behind the jurisprudence taught by the king.

If we analyze taxation, a fundamental part of the parliamentary functions we must emphasize that from Eduardo I the concessions of services (pecuniary amount granted to the king in an extraordinary way) were increasing highlighting the period of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The assessments were of two types: indirect and direct. As for the former, it consisted of taxing import and export duties, and their demand by the king should be authorized with the consent of parliament.

These indirect rates began to be limited in time, but later sequences were established to grant them to the king. Direct taxes consisted of taxing the fifteenth or tenth part of all the real estate of the population. Recall that the privileged were exempt from paying direct taxes and not, indirect valuation, so that within the fiscal functions of parliament, it is the common ones who had the most to gain or lose with the measures. Then, the parliament had to decide how many tenths or tenths it should grant on each occasion, on who and how many quotas should be collected. Even so, sometimes other direct taxes such as the poll tax were imposed in 1391.

As for the petitions presented in parliament, they were of two types: singular and common. The former owe their name to an individual or group that made a request to the monarch on any subject, whether the parliament met or not. These singular requests passed to the hands of specialized Judges, who analyzed them and if there was no problem, they solved the demand, but if not, it was raised to the royal council and the king himself to be treated in person.

The common petitions were generated by the parliamentary commons themselves, who were in parliament and the matter was treated as “complaints made by the common people.” All of them passed to the royal council and the king treated them personally and responded to them in the parliament itself, giving rise to numerous statutes.


In this great block we discuss the most outstanding aspects of the internal development of the medieval parliament, starting with an analysis of the representatives summoned to a parliament in the Middle Ages, as well as the functions and functioning of the organ and finally, we write a little history compared between the medieval parliament in England and the French parliaments.

This part is very important because it shows us how the day to day lived within the institution and what were the steps of the ceremonial and the development of the pomp, which today characterizes the British Parliament. It is, therefore, the most social part of the work, which leads us to fully introduce ourselves into the internal aspects of the parliament, leaving aside the typical political development of the same already commented above.

Since the reign of Henry III and, above all, of his son Eduardo I, the feudal assemblies of notables cease to exist and their powers are transferred to an institution, the parliament that gathers the three estates of the kingdom, that is, according to chroniclers , all types and conditions of free men, hinting at the position in which the peasantry remains. The three estates are, according to the typical tripartite division of feudal society: the barons, those who fight; clerics, those who pray, and the commons, those who work.

All representatives were summoned by the monarch and there was no other possibility of attending parliament, but it was through a royal decree (in English, “writ”) stipulating the name of the summoned, the reason and the date. In the case of lay and ecclesiastical magnates, given their position, the order contained their name directly, but in the case of the commons, as well as the low clergy, the monarch sent the decree to the sheriff and the archbishop respectively to proceed to the launch of the election in county / diocesan assemblies of a certain number of representatives.

According to his presence in parliament, let’s start with the king’s officers, known in the chronicles as “curials.” At the center of the parliamentary activity were the king’s officers highlighting above all the “Justicia,” “Treasurer” and “Chancellor” among others, who were part of the Royal Council, once they had sworn to give good advice. to the king, protect their interests and impart impartial justice. Normally they were lay and ecclesiastical magnates appointed by the monarch. Within the council the king was the one who commanded and imposed the political decisions to follow and his officers were to support and advise him faithfully: the king legislated, imposed and judged in the council.

Being the political body of the kingdom, its presence in parliament to account for the state of the kingdom was very necessary and there was a constant tension between both bodies; since its inception, the council was formed by a few hand-picked by the king and parliament by the entire community of the kingdom challenging the authority and interests of the royal officers. Recall that the parliament did not cease in its intention to control the royal officers or their appointment, but after the defeat of Evesham in 1265, the king was the one who had the singing voice.

The “oratores” like all social sectors was a very heterogeneous group and has traditionally been divided into two: the high clergy, in the English case, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops and the priors and the abbots; and the low clergy with the Archdians, the deanes and finally the parish priests.

Starting with the high clergy, it is worth mentioning their ambiguous relationship with the parliament, since on one hand, their position was spiritual because they were the head of the English Church, but on the other, they had an unquestionable political preponderance, since they were also ministers of the king in some cases and barons possessing a large amount of land mostly. That is why the claims they made in parliament were of two types, preserving the freedom of the Church and preserving the economic interests of the privileged. The archbishops and bishops were very interested in parliamentary politics, but not the abbots whose number dropped from 72 to 27 between the reign of Edward I and that of Edward III.

History of the British Parliament

In 1258, the conflict period between the king and the magnates since 1230 culminated in a final crisis and a new beginning. After more than twenty years of complaints and protests, attempts to influence the king’s government and even the continued refusal to guarantee the imposition of new taxes had proved the political insufficiency of parliament and the limitations of the Magna Carta.

It was, therefore, to make the parliamentary body an institution of a political type, capable of influencing the daily politics of the royal council. With all these problems, the only solution that appeared before the eyes of the barons was the profound reform of the kingdom, that is, the assignment of political influence to the parliament, and that was to establish the baronial control of the kingdom’s government.

We find three reformist initiatives: political supervision, the provision of justice and legal reform of the kingdom. And it is that the critics with Enrique only saw a way to satisfy their requests: the de facto appropriation of the royal authority, that is to say of his power, not of his person although Simón de Montfort got both. We have two important legal provisions: the Oxford Provisions and the Westminster Provisions, which mark the climax of the Kingdom Reform28.

Normally, the rebellion of the barons is studied more as we have already analyzed, than the reform movement, but to understand the development of parliamentarism is an inexcusable part to deal with.

The meetings crystallized in the Provisions of Oxford, the first parliamentary regulation in history. The twenty-four arranged for the election of a council formed by fifteen barons, which would replace the monarch’s government, so that he had the capacity to appoint the highest officers of the kingdom. It is certainly an answer to the previous weakness of the parliament: its inability to influence the day-to-day life of the royal council.

They also give parliament a clear place within the new political scheme in England: it would be convened three times a year, on October 6, February 3 and June 1. In this parliament the fifteen baron advisors, elected to the monarch, would account for the state of the kingdom and everything that affects the general affairs of the English population. (See Annex, text 3.1). In addition, the kingdom community would elect twelve representatives to ensure in parliament for compliance with Government commitments In this way, although the social regime of the parliament was reduced to twelve commissioners, it went from being a place of confrontation to entering into the articulation of the government of the kingdom. (See Annex, text 3.2).

Once we have developed the most important points of the Oxford Provisions, in conclusion, we can affirm the loss of any political initiative by the king, which was transferred to parliament. However, between 1258 and 1261, more reforms continued to be approved: two that have to do with the political improvement in the counties, The Ordinance of Sheriffs and Ordinances of the Magnates, which, intended to end the misuse of royal officers giving greater power to the Justicia nobiliary, impose the law of the Magna Carta and match the requirements of the royal and noble sheriffs.

In addition, a new legal code was approved, the Provisions of Westminster in 1259. They are very interesting because a good number of legislative initiatives were included in a single act, which brought up Anglo-Saxon law in an attempt to temper the prevailing Norman feudalism They are not ad hoc laws, as they had been done until then, it is an act that is recorded in writing with numerous freedoms of the feudal type, let’s not forget it. It is here that we find the omnipresence of the “gentry” and the bourgeois because it is a reform whose main beneficiaries are the inhabitants of the counties, so that the barons extended the benefits of institutional and legal change to all free men, with what we can imagine how the maxim of the “quod omnes tangit” had penetrated, since it is about involving the gentlemen and the inhabitants of the cities of the reformist process.