William Stubbs.

The constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 online

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hand ; by the 15 Vict. 0. 23, this period has been reduced to thirty-five days
after the proclamation appointing a time for the first meeting of parliament ;
May, Treatise on the Law, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, p. 44.

' Stow's London, ed. Str^pe^ bk. vi. p. 47.

» Flor. Wig. A.D. 1 102. * Mon. Angl. vi. 1348.

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XX.] The Palace of Westminster. 383

ceased to follow the king^: there the annual audits of the'Y®"^™*""

^ ' ster becomes

exchequer were already settled. Although Henry II held his the usual
more solemn councils in a more central place, and where there parliaments.
was more room for the camps of the barons to be collected
round him, he frequently met both clergy and baronage there;
the clergy in the abbey, the barons in the hall, found their
proper council chamber. From the beginning of the reign of
Henry III the custom seems to have acquired the sanctity of
law ; he rebuilt the abbey and added largely to the palace, and
by his devotion to the memory of the Confessor professed him-
self, if he did not prove himself, the heir of the national tradition.
So well established was the rule, that in the troubled times which
followed the legislation of Oxford, the king avoided Westminster,
thinking himself safer at S. Paul's or in the Tower, and the
barons refused to attend the king at the Tower according to his
summons, insisting that they should meet at the customary place

at Westminster and not elsewhere *. The next reign saw the Westmin-

. . ° ster the seat

whole of the administrative machinery of the government per- of govern-

manently settled in and around the palace ; and thus from the
very first introduction of representative members the national
council had its regular home at Westminster. There, with a few
casual exceptions, to be noticed hereafter, all the properly con-
stituted parliaments of England have been held.

413. The ancient palace of Westminster, of which the most Inteiwt of

the old par-
important parts, having survived until the fire of 1834 and theiiament

construction of the New Houses of Parliament, were destroyed

in 1852, must have presented a very apt illustration of the

history of the Constitution which had grown up from its early

simplicity to its full strength within those venerable walls '. It

was a curious congeries of towers, halls, churches, and chambers.

As the administrative system of the country had been developed

largely from the household economy of the king, the national

palace had for* its kernel the king's court, hall, chapel, and

chamber. It had gathered in and incorporated other buildings

* Art. 17. ' Ann. Dunst. p. 117.

• See Brayley and Britton, History of the Ancient Palace of West-
minster, and Smith's Antiquities of Westminster.

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384 Constitutional History. [chap.

Historical that stood around it: successive generations had added new

interest of . , .

Westmin- wings, built towers, and dug storehouses. As time went on,
every apartment changed its destination : the chamber became
a council room, the banquet hall a court of justice, the chapel a
hall of deliberation ; but the continuity of the historical building
was complete, the changes were but signs of growth and of the
strength that could outlive change. Almost every part of the
palace had its historical hold on the great kings of the past.
In the Painted Chamber Edward the Confessor had died ; the
little hall or White Hall was believed to be the newly fashioned
hall of his palace ; the Great Hall, the grandest work of sove-
reign power, was begun by "William Eufus and completed by
Eichard II. The chapel of S. Stephen was begun by Stephen,
rebuilt by Ed ward. I, and made by Edward lH the most perfect

Plan of the example of the architecture of his time. The ancient Exchequer
buildings stood east and west of the entrance of the Great Hall;
the Star Chamber in the south-eastern corner of the court that
extended in front of the Hall. The King's Bench was held at
the south end of the Hall itself. The more important of the
parliamentary buildings lay south and east of the Hall. To the
south-east, and at right angles with the Hall, the church of
S. Stephen ran down to the river : at right angles to the church,
separated from the Great Hall by a vestibule, was the lesser or
Wliite Hall ; south and east of the White Hall and parallel with
S. Stephen's chapel, was the Painted Chamber, or Chamber of
S. Edward ; and at right angles to it again was the king's Great
Chamber, the White Chamber, or Chamber of the Parliament.
Beyond this was the Prince's Chamber \ which reached to the
limit of the palace buildings southwards, and looked on the
river. Of these buildings the King's Chamber, or Parliament
Chamber', was the House of Lords from very early times until

* Probably the small chamber south of the White Chamber (Foedera, ii.
1 1 22), where Stratford in 1340 received the Great SeaL The 'Prince*
must have been Edward the Black Prince, who after the parliament of 137 1
called the burghers into his own chamber, and obtained a grant of tunnage
and poundage firom them. It was afterwards the * Robing Room.*

' Brayley and Britton, p. 401 ; the old house of lords or chamber of
parliament, and the princess chamber, were pulled down in 1833 ; ibid,
p. 421.

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XX.] The Palace of Westminster. 385

the union with Ireland, when the peers removed into the lesser The old

, housefl of

or White Hall, where they continued until the fire. The parliament.

house of commons met occasionally in the Painted Chamber, but

generally sat in the Chapter House or in the Refectory of the

abbey, until the reign of Edward VI, when it was fixed in

S. Stephen's chapel \ The Painted Chamber, xmtil the accession

of Henry Vil, was used for the meeting of full parliament, and

for the opening speech of the Chancellor ; it was also the place

of conference between the two houses. After the fire of 1834,

during the building of the new houses, the house oi lords sat

in the Painted Chamber, and the house of commons in the

White Hall or Court of Requests. It was a curious coincidence

certainly that the destruction of the ancient fabiic should follow

so immediately upon the great constitutional change wrought by

the reform act, and scarcely less curious that the fire should

have originated in the burning of the ancient Exchequer tallies,

one of the most permanent relics of the primitive simplicity of

administration ^.

The work of parliament was not always carried on within The abbey

the walls of the palace. The neighbouring abbey furnished oc- time of

casionaUy both lodging and meeting rooms for the estates. Of

the monastic buildings the refectory, the infirmary, and the

chapter house, were, after the church itself, most signally

marked by historical usage. The refectory was a frequent place

of meeting for the barons under Henry m ; there in 1244 they

bearded the king and the pope'; and at a later period the

commons fi'equently sat there. The infirmary or chapel of

S. Elatharine was at one time the regular place of session for the

bishops^. In the chapter house, in 1257, Henry III confessed

his debt to the pope ' ; the parliament of Simon de Montfort

assembled there ', and it afterwards came to be regarded as the

^ In 1548 ; Brayley and Britton, p. 361.

' The tallies had been in use until 1826 ; Brayley, &c. p. 425.

» M. Pariu, p. 639.

^ M. Paris, p. 640. They met in the chapel of S. John the Erangelist ;
bat the chapel of S. Kathanne was the place were consecrationB were most
fineqnenUjr performed.

• See above, vol. ii. p. 70.

* liber de Antiqnis Legibiis, p. 71.

VOL. m. C C

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386 Consiitutional History, [chap.

OocsBioiua ' ancient and accustomed house' of the commons. The proper
Biackfirian. home of convocation was in the lady chapel of S. Paul's. On
one or two occasions, when the condition of the palace or other
reasons compelled it, the parliament was held at Blackfriars.
This was the case in 131 1^ when the Ordinances were pub-
lished, and likewise for a few days in 1449 '• l^chard U held
his revolutionary parliament of 1397 in a great wooden building
erected in the court before Westminster Hall *. Almost every
exception to the rule has some historical significance.
Oooasions 414. Most of these exceptions were owing to circum-

^Si^ti^ents stances, sanitary or political, which made it necessary or ad-
a dist^m'^* ^^^^0 to Summon the estates to some place distant from
from Lon- i^^^qji^ j^q^ to multiply instances, it may suffice to mention
the cases, occurring after the incorporation of the commons, in
which the parliaments met away from Westminster, and such
only as concern true and full parliaments from 1295 onwards.
Far the largest number of these exceptional sessions were held
at York during the long struggle with the Scots, when the
presence of the king and barons was imperatively required in
At York, the north. Edward I in 1298; Edward II in 1314, 1318, 1319,
and 1322; Edward HE twice in 1328, in 1332, 1333, 1334 and
1335, held sessions at York*. In 1464 Edward IV summoned
the estates to the same place: the great hall of the arch-
North- bishop's palace was the scene of the short session ^ Next in
point of distinction to York come Northampton and Lincoln, at
each of which four parliaments have sat. The central position
of Northampton had made it a favourite council ground with
Henry IE ; Edward 11 held his first parliament there in 1307 ;
Edward m followed the example in 1328 and 1338 ; and in
1380 the parliament which voted the famous poll tax met at
the same place * ; the lords sat in a great chamber, the commons
Linooln. in the new dormitory of the priory of S. Andrew ^. The four

parliaments of Lincoln belong to the years 1301, 1316, and


* See voL ii. p. 338. ■ Rot. Pail v. 171.

* Annales Ricardi. p. aop ; Brayley, p. 283.

* Vol. ii. pp. 148. 338, 343, 344, 351.

* Rot. ParL v. 409. • See above, voL ii. pp. 315, 371, 378, 448.
» Rot. ParL iii 88.

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XX.] Parliaments out of London. 387

1327 '; the first session of 1316 was opened in the hall of the
deanery, and the lords sat in the chapter house of the cathedral
and at the convent of the Carmelites *. Three parliaments were Pkriiamenti
held at Winchester, one in 1330, when Edmund of Woodstock Sr^™****^
was beheaded, one in 1393, and a third in 1449 when the plague
was at Westminster. Besides these a supplementary great
council was held at Winchester in 1371*. Bury S. Edmund's St. Bd- s
witnessed two famous sessions, one in 1296, when archbishop
Winchelsey produced the bull clericis laicos ; the other in 1447
marked by the death of duke Humfrey; the parliament was
opened in the refectory of the abbey *. Leicester saw three par- Leioeeter,
liaments, one under Henry Y in 1414, when the lords sat in
the great hall of the Grey Friars, and the commons in the in-
firmary of the same convent : another session was held there in
1426, Hhe parliament of bats,' when the lords sat in the great
hall of the castle, and the commons in a lower chamber; a third
session was held by prorogation in I45o^ At Coventry in 1404 Coventry,
the unlearned parliament sat in the great chamber of the prior's
house ; and in 1459, ^^ ^^^ chapter house, the Lancastrian party
attainted the duke of York '. Beading had two sessions, one in Reading,
1453, when Henry VI was insane, the other in 1467, when the
plague was raging : on the first occasion the refectory was used,
on the second a great chamber in the abbey ''. There were two SaUsboiy,
parliaments at Salisbury, one in 1328 and one in 1384; the
latter in the great hall of the bishop's palace ^. Gloucester alsoQloaoerter
was the seat of parliament in 1378, when John of Gaunt feared where.
to meet the Londoners, and in 1407 ; in 1378 the lords sat in
the great hall of the abbey, the commons in the chapter house ;
in 1407 the commons occupied the refectory*. Carlisle, Notting-
ham, Cambridge, and Shrewsbury, each saw one session; Carlisle
witnessed the famous parliament of 1307 ; at Nottingham in

* See above, vol. li. pp. 150, 339, 340, 370. ' Rot. Pari. i. 350.
' See above, vol. ii. pp. 37a, 422, 484.

* See above, voL ii. p. 130 ; iii. P- 135 ; B^. Pari. v. laS.

* See above, pp. 81, 103, 150 ; Bot. ParL iv. 15, 16, 395 ; v. 19a.

* See above, pp. 46, 180 ; Bot. Pari iii. 545 ; v. 345.
' See above, p. 163, Bot Pari. v. 327, 619.

• See above, vol. ii. pp. 371, ^67 ; Bot. ParL iii. 166.

' See above, vol. ii. p. 446 ; iii. 60 ; Rot. Pari. iii. 3 a, 608.

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C C 2

388 Constitutional History, [chap.

parliaments 1 336 Edward III obtained supplies for beginning the French
minster. war; the commission of government in 1388 held a legislative
session at Cambridge ^, and at Shrewsbury in 1 398 Eichard II
carried into execution his scheme of absolute government. The
inference from this long list is that the liberties of England
were safest at Westminster.
The choice 415. Within the prescriptive or customary limits the deter-
meet^ ^ mination of the time and place for holding parliaments was left
by the king to the king himself ; the constitutional law being amply satisfied
incounci -^^ ^^ annual session. As the greater development of the
executive functions of the royal council agrees in point of time
with the recognised development of the representative system, the
choice of time and place as well as the preparation of financial
and legal agenda was almost from the first a part of the business
of the council. The order for affixing the great seal to the writs
of summons was given by sign manual or writ of privy seal to the
clerk of the crown in chancery who issued the writs. The advice
of the council is specified in the writ of summons from the forty-
sixth year of Edward HI *. Until the presence of the commons
had come to be recognised as an •integral part of parliament, the
baronial council was often summoned alone, and when the
demand for money arose, the commons were called in and a
parliament summoned by the regular writs. Accordingly, during
the reign of Edward II, we may, in many cases, by comparing
the date of the baronial summons to council with the date of

^ The Cambridge pariiament is said to have been held at Barnwell, whwe
the king lodged ; C(K>per, Annals of Cambridge, i. 135. The parliament of
1447 which met at S. Edmund's was in the first instance summoned to

' 'Quia de avisaroento oonsilii nostri, &c.*; Coke, 4 Inst. p. 4; Lords'
Report, iv. 653. The earlier writs begin generally ' Quia super diyersis et
arduis negotiis, &c.'; ib. p. 318, &c. The notes 'per breve de private
sigillo' ; ib. pp. 64, 205, &c. ; or * per ipsum regem et consilium,' pp. 397,
416, &c., often appear in the margin of the writ. ' Per ipsum regem ' means
that the writ is sealed by the king's sign manual or order under the privy
signet; 'Per breye de private sigiUo/ that the sign manual was warrant
to the privy seal under which the order was given for affixing the great
seal ; * Per ipsum r^em et consiliiun,' that the writ had been i^ued under
the joint supervision of king and couDoil. See on the whole history of
the seals, Sir H. Nicolas, Chdinanoes, &o. vi. pp. oxL sq. olxzziv. &c.;
Elsynge, Ancient Method of holding Parliaments, pp. i*j, 29.

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XX.] Choice of the day of Semon. 389

the subsequent summons to parliament, infer that the day of Preliminary
parliament was fixed in the meeting of the barons ^ And thb cIIb.
practice no doubt prevailed down to the days of the Lancas-
trian kings ; for the French war of Henry V was considerecl in
a great council of notables, lords and others, before it was dis-
cussed in parliament ^ In 1386 a great council of * seigneurs et
autres sages,* held at Oxford, deliberated on the expediency of
the king going to war, and by advice of that council Eichard
summoned the parliament*. As a rule however this duty be-
longed to the privy council or continual ordinary council of
ministers. It was no doubt a matter of some delicacy, in Preliminary
troubled times, to arrange the course of business so as to avoid oils,
bringing the personal disputes of the great lords before the
assembled commons : a good example of this will be found in
the case of the council held at Northampton in which the
business was prepared for the parliament of 1426, when
Gloucester had refused to meet Beaufort as chancellor ^. The
most significant exception to this rule is the very rare case in
which the parliament itself attempted to fix the day for the
next session. The most important recorded instance of such an The day
event belongs to the merciless parliament of 1388, when thcp^^oe^r^
king was in the hands of the appellant lords and the house of **" ®"*'
conmions was entirely at their beck. Although the proposal
was couched in the form of a petition, it was rejected by the
king, and the next session was held a full month before the day
proposed**. In 1328 and 1339, however, the day for the next
session was fixed before the dissolution of the parliament *.

416. As soon as the day and place of session were fixed, thei88ue<tf
writs of summons were prepared in the royal chancery and

' This is sometimes stated in the writ itself circumstantially ; as in 1330,
Lords' Report, iv. 397 ; and 1331, ib. p. 403 : *de oonsilio praelatorum et
magnatam nobis assistentium.'

* See above, p. 84. • Rot. Pari. iii. 215.

* See above, p. 103. , ' Rot. Pari. iii. 346.

* In 1338 the day for the parliament to be held at York on July 31 was
fixed by the king with assent of the lords, at the previous parliament of
Northampton; lx)rds' Report, iv. 381. In 1339, *Ite™ fi^it a remembrer
de somoundre le parlement as oy taves de Seint Hiller susdit ' ; Rot. Pari,
ii. 106 ; cf. p. 105 : see also in connexion with this parliament, vol. ii.
p. 381, and mIow, p. 398.

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390 Constitutional History. [chap.

Interest issued under the great seal. As these writs were returned to the
the writs, parliament itself, or later into chancery, and as copies of them
were enrolled on the close rolls at the time of issue, the great
numhers of extant copies form an important branch of the
national treasure of record. The ingenuity of legal antiquaries
has found in them much material for interesting discussion^,
which cannot be here reproduced. The essential portion of the
writs has continued to be the same throughout the existence of
parliamentary institutions, but the forms have undergone great
variation at different times, and quite as much historical interest
belongs to the variations as to the permanent identity of the
essential parts. These variations were unquestionably the work
of the king and council', the form of writ having been originally
settled by no constitutional act except in the very general terms
Writs of the great charter ^ ; but certain additions were made by acts

act of ^ of parliament, the omission of which would have the effect of

invalidating the summons ; such in particular were the clauses
inserted in consequence of the amendments of election law under
Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. Yet, like the times and
places of session, the form of writ had in the fourteenth cen-
tury attained a sort of sanctity which it was exceedingly dan-
gerous to violate ; Eichard II was compelled to withdraw the
clause by which he ordered the sheriffs to return impartial
persons ; and the order, given in 1404, that lawyers should not be

^ 'Manifold rare, delightiiil varieties, forms, diversities, and distinct
kinds of writs of summons'; Prynne, Register, i. p. 395.

' Prynne aigues against Ck>ke's statement that the form of writ oould
not be altered but by act of parliament ; Blister, i. 396 ; ii. 161 ; and has
also some important remarks on the right to demand a writ ; Coke argaes
that the writ is issued * ex debito justitiae/ Prynne that it is altogether in
the royal power, and of the class of ' magistralia,' not * brevia formata sub
suis casibus.' But the question is one of a very technical character, although
it has a bearing on rights of peerage. Bracton, lib. 5. f. 41 3, divides ' Brevia
origrinalia' into several classes ; first, ' quaedam sunt formata sub suis casibus
et de cursu et de communi condlio totius regni concessa et approbata, quae
quidem nullatenus mutari poterint absque consensu et voluntate eorum * ;
others are ' judicialia,' which vary according to the suits in which they are
used ; a third class, ' magistralia,' which often vary * secundum varietatem
casuum et querelarum '; a fourth are 'personalia^' and a fifth * mixta.'

' * Ad certum diem scilicet ad terminum quadmginta dierum ad minus,
et ad certum locum ; et in omnibus littetis illius summonitioms causam
sununonitionis exprimemus ' ; Mag. Cart. Art. 14.

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XX.] Writs of Svmmone. 391

elected, was made the ground of a charge of unconstitutional
conduct brought against Henry IV.

417. Special writs of summons were addressed to the lords, Special writs
spiritual and temporal, and to the judges or occasional coun- and judges,
sellors who were called to advise the king in the upper house
of parliament. The summons of the parliamentary assembly of
the clergy was inserted in the writs to the archbishops and
bishops, and all the summonses of representatives of the com-
mons were addressed to the sherifGa of the counties. The Variations
variations in the writs addressed to the lords are of minor
importance, as they are chiefly found in the clauses in which the
king gives an account of the cause which has moved him to call
the parliament; but some peculiarities marking the various
writs of the barons, bishops, abbots, and judges, deserve special
noticed On the other hand the changes which were from time
to time introduced or attempted in the writs for the elections to
the house of commons, point in some cases to important, in some
to very obscure causes in contemporary history.

The writs enrolled and issued first were those addressed to
the lords spiritual ; the archbishop of Canterbury being by his

^ These points will be seen best by giving a specimen of the writs : ' Bex
venerabili in Cbristo patri H. eadem gratia archiepiscopo Cantuariend,
totias Angliae primati, salutem. (i) Quia de avisamento consilii nostri pro
quibusdam arduis et uigentibus negotiis, nos statum et defensionem regni
nostri Angliae ac ecdesiae Anglicanae contingentibas, quoddam parlia-
mentum nostrum apud Westmonasterium die lunae proximo post festum
Sancti Lucae Evangelistae proxime fiiturum teneri ordinaTimus, et ibidem
(ii) vobiscimi ac cum oeteris praelatis, magnatibus et proceribus dicti regni
nostri colloquium habere et tractatum ; vobis (ui) in fide et dilectione (to
the lords temporal 'in fide et ligeanda') quibus nobis tenemini firmiter
injungendo mandamus quod, oonsideratis dictorum negotiorum arduitate et
periculis imminentibus, cessante quacunque excusatione, dictis die et loco
personaliter intersitis nobiscum ac cimi praelatis magnatibus et proceribus
praedictis super praedictis negotiis (iv) tractaturi vestrumque consilium
impensuri. £t hoc, sicut nos et honorem nostrum ac salvationem et de-
fensionem regni et ecclesiae praedictorum expeditionemque dictorum nego-
tiorum diligitis, nullatenus omittatis. (v) Praemunientes priorem et
capitulum ecclesiae vestrae Cantuariensis ac arcbidiaconos totumque clerum
yestrae diocesis quod iidem prior et archidiaooni in propriis personis suis,
ac dictum capitulum per unum, idemque derus per duos procuratores
idoneos plenam et sufficientem potestatem ab ipsis capitulo et clero divisim
habentes, dictis die et loco personaliter intersint ad conaentiendum hiis quae
tunc ibidem de conmiuni oonsilio dicti regni nostri divina favente dementia
oontigerit ordinari. Teste &c. ;' Lords' Beports, iv. Say.

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39^ Constitutional History, [chap.

Writs to the ancient privilege entitled to the first sunimons ; then followed
the writ to the archbishop of York and the suffragan bishops.
The normal form of the writ contained, first, a clause declaring
the cause on account of which the king has ordered the parlia-
ment to be summoned, with the time and place of meeting ;
a description of the body whose deliberations the recipient is
to share, ' cum ceteris praelatis magnatibus et proceribus regni
nostri'; this is followed by an injunction on the recipient to

Online LibraryWilliam StubbsThe constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 → online text (page 40 of 68)