De Montfort's Parliament


De Montfort's Parliament

De Montfort's Parliament was an English parliament of 1265, instigated by Simon de Montfort, a baronial rebel leader. Although this gathering did not have the approval of king Henry III, and the members convened without royal approval, most scholars believe this was the first gathering in England that can be called a parliament in the dictionary sense of the word.

Contents

The parliament

Simon De Montfort's army had met and defeated the royal forces of at the Battle of Lewes on May 14, 1264. The rebels captured the king's son and heir Prince Edward, and the subsequent treaty led to a parliament being called in 1265 to agree to a constitution formulated by De Monfort.

De Montfort sent out representatives to each county and to a select list of boroughs, asking each to send two representatives. This was not the first such gathering in England, but what distinguished it was that De Montfort insisted the representatives be elected. The knights representing counties who had been summoned to some earlier Parliaments had not been required to be chosen by election.

This was also the first parliament at which both knights (representing shires or counties) and burgesses (representing boroughs) were present, thereby substantially broadening representation to include new groups of society. It was also the first time that commoners attending Parliament were required to be elected.

De Montfort's Parliament was summoned on 14 December 1264. It first met on 20 January 1265 and was dissolved on 15 February 1265. Henry III rejected the new Parliament and resumed his war against De Montfort, who was killed later that year. This first parliament was held in a field near Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, known as Parliament Piece. It is now a protected site which cannot be built upon.

Sequel

After this Parliament it took some time for the knights and burgesses to become a regular part of the composition of Parliament. The next time they were summoned was for the 1st Parliament of King Edward I of England in 1275. The Model Parliament of 1295 is sometimes seen as the start of regular attendance by commoners, but the institutional development was gradual. See Duration of English Parliaments before 1660 for notes of which Parliaments included commoners, before they became an invariable part of Parliament from 1320.

The right to vote in Parliamentary elections for county constituencies is believed to have been uniform throughout the country, from the first election of knights of the shire to this Parliament. Most of the members of this and future parliaments were elected from individual boroughs. The list of boroughs which had the right to elect a member grew slowly over the centuries as monarchs gave out more Royal Charters, but the last charter was given to Newark in 1674.

Until legislation in 1430 limited the franchise to all those who owned the freehold of land that brought in an annual rent of at least 40 shillings (Forty Shilling Freeholders), Seymour suggested "it is probable that all free inhabitant householders voted and that the parliamentary qualification was, like that which compelled attendance in the county court, merely a "resiance" or "residence qualification". As women could not own land, they were automatically excluded from any voting rights on the county level. In the Boroughs, the franchise varied and individual boroughs had varying arrangements.

See also

References

  • Electoral Reform in England and Wales, by Charles Seymour (David & Charles Reprints 1970) originally published in 1915, so out of copyright
  • The Statutes: Revised Edition, Vol. I Henry III to James II (printed by authority in 1876)

External links


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