Blida Department of English: Free Stand to Stand Free
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Post by bilinda on Thu May 10, 2012 8:49 pm

The Origin of the British parliament

The Feudal System:

Feudalism was introduced to England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
Feudalism is a French word meaning “feu” which the Normans used to refer to a
land held in return for duty or service to a lord. The basis of feudal society
was holding of land and its main purpose was economic. The central idea was
that all land was owned by the king but it was held by others called vassals in
return for service and goods. The king gave large estates to his main nobles in
return for a promise to serve him in was for forty days. The nobles also had to
give him part of their land produce.

King John and Magna Charta:

After the death of King Richard in 1199, john his brother became the
king. John made himself unpopular with three most important groups of people:
the nobles, the merchants, and the church. He made the nobles pay more than was
asked from them, and sometimes he took their lands. What made the situation
more complicated was the invasion of Normandy by the French king in 1204. The
latter event made the nobles lose their lands there. In 1215 King John was
forced to sign a new agreement called Magna Carta. Magna Charta marks the
beginning of parliament.

The agreement means the great charter, and was an important symbol of political
freedom. The king promised all “free men” protection from his officers and the
right to a fair and legal trial. Magna Charta marks a clear stage in the
collapse of English feudalism. Feudalism was based on links, but the nobles
acted as one class. They established a committee of twenty four lords to make
sure that King John kept his promises. The latter was not a feudal thing to do.

Henry III and De Montfort:

After the death of King John in 1216, his son became a king. Henry III
became involved in expensive wars. The king’s heavy spending of money and his
foreign policy upset the nobles. Once again they (the nobles) acted as a class
under the leadership of Simon De Montfort Earl of Leicester. In 1258 they took
over the government and elected a council of nobles De Montfort called it
“parliament” a French word meaning “a discussion meeting”. This parliament took
control of treasury and forced King Henry to get rid of his foreign advisers.

Edward I and the Creation of the House of Commons:

In 1272 Henry died and his son Edward I took the throne. Edward I
brought together the first real parliament. Simon De Montfort council had been
called parliament, but it included only the nobles. It had been able to make
political decisions, to make statutes. But Edward I was the first to create a
“representative” institution which could provide the money he needed. This
institution became known as “the House of Commons”. Unlike the House of Lords,
it contained a mixture of gentry (knights and other wealthy men).

Tudor’s Parliament:

The Tudor monarchs did not like governing through parliament. Henry V II
had used parliament only for law making. He seldom called it together, and then
when he had a particular job for it. Henry VIII had used it first to raise
money for his military adventures, and then for his struggle with Rome. His aim
was to make sure that the powerful members from the shires and towns supported
him, because they had a great deal of control over popular feelings. He also
wanted to frighten the priests and bishops into obeying him.

Perhaps Henry V III himself did not realize that by inviting parliament
to make new laws for reformation he was giving it a level of authority it never
had before. Tudor monarchs were certainly not more democratic than earlier
kings, but by using parliament to strengthen their policy, they actually
increased parliament’s authority. Parliament strengthened its position again
during Edward V I‘s reign by ordering the New Prayer book to be used in all
churches, and forbidding the catholic mass. When the catholic queen Mary came
to the throne she succeeded in making parliament cancel all the new reformation

Only two things persuaded Tudor monarchs not to rid of parliament all
together: they needed money, and they needed the supports of merchants and

During the century power moved from the House of Lords to the House of
Commons. The reason for this was simple. The members of parliament (MPs) in the
commons represented richer and more influential classes than the Lords. The old
system of representation in the commons, with two men from each “borough” or
town, remained the rule, however, during the sixteenth century the size of the
commons doubled, as a result of the inclusion of welsh and of more English

Until the end of Tudor’s period parliament was supposed to do three
things: agree to the taxes needed, make the laws which the crown suggested, and
advises the crown, but only when asked to do these things. MPs: were given
important rights: freedom of speech, freedom from fear of arrest, and freedom
to meet and speak to the monarch.

The Stuart’s parliament:

At this age parliament quarreled with the king several times. Those
problems were caused by the House of Commons. In return for money they demanded
political power.

James I tried to rule without parliament as much as possible. To pay the
debts Elizabeth left, he asked parliament to raise taxes. Parliament agreed but
in return insisted on the right to discuss James’s home and foreign policy but
James I refused declaring that he is a divine king. Parliament disagreed and
was supported by the law. James I could rule without parliament from 1610 to
1621 but after that he called it back.

Charles I, his son, also quarreled with parliament and dissolved it, but
his need for money forced him to recall it. Each time he did so he quarreled
with it. Parliament decided to make Charles I agree to certain “parliamentary
rights” and in 1628 this happened in return for money he badly needed, these
rights known as the Petition of Rights. Charles I dissolved parliament the
following year. At 1642 civil war happened between the king and his supporters
(cavaliers), and parliament (roundheads). At the end victory was for the

Republic Britain and restoration:

After the execution of Charles I in 1649 Britain became Republic from
1649 to 1660. Cromwell now got rid of the House of Lords and the Anglican
Church. Disagreement between the army and parliament resulted in parliament’s
dissolution in 1653, and Cromwell governed Britain alone as “Lord Protector”.


Cromwell died and Charles II (the son of Charles I) became the king.
After the coming of the king parliament remained weak but could pass an act in
1673 that prevented any catholic from holding public office. Fear of Charles II
in the Catholic Church, resulted in the first political parties in Britain. The Whigs
who were against the ruling of Charles II brother who was catholic were opposed
by another by another group nicknamed TORIES who were natural inheritors of the
“royalist” position. The Whigs were not against the crown but they believed
that its authority depended upon the consent of the people. As natural
inheritors of the parliamentarian values twenty years earlier, they felt
tolerant towards the new protestant sects which Anglican Church so disliked. These
two parties, the Whigs and the Tories, became the basis of Britain’s two party
parliamentary system of government.

The Whigs were against the coming of James II but the Tories supported
his coming, but later on they hated his policy. Long after, they convinced his
daughter and her husband to take the place of the king.

In 1680 two of the most important theorists: Algernon Sidney and John Locke
had argued that government was based upon the consent of the people, and that
the powers of the king should be limited. The logical conclusion was that “the
consent of the people” was represented by parliament. In 1688 these theories
were fulfilled. The power of the parliament over monarch was written into the
Bill of Rights in 1689. The king was now unable to raise taxes, keep an army
without the agreement of parliament, or to act against MP for what he said or
did in parliament.

The Act of Union:

The parliament of Great Britain following the treaty of 1707 acts of
parliament passed in the parliament of England and the parliament of Scotland created
a new kingdom of great Britain, and dissolved both parliaments replacing them
with a new parliament of great Britain based on the former home of the English parliaments.
The parliament of Great Britain would later become the parliament of the United
Kingdom in 1801.

I made the summary from An Illustrated History of Britain. I hope it will help u. Smile

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Post by sassy86 on Sun May 13, 2012 10:44 am

Very instructive Smile Thanks a lot

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