Сочинение: The history of England can be defined as the gradual process of Parliament asserting its authority over the monarchy
For: ESLG 3150 course
Topic: The history of England can be defined as the gradual process of
Parliament asserting its authority over the monarchy.
Term: Spring I, 2000
The political history of British Isles over the past 800 years has been
largely one of reducing the power of the monarchy and transferring authority
to a London-based Parliament as the sovereign legislative body for all of
Britain. This development has resulted in political, social and religious
conflicts, as well as evolving governmental and constitutional institutions.
The early political history of the British Isles is the story of four
independent countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland), but a dominant
English political and military expansionism over the centuries resulted in a
united country (United Kingdom).
The last England’s invader Duke William promptly set out to establish firm
control over his English kingdom. He reorganized the government by making the
old Saxon witan into a “Great Council”, which included the great lords of the
realm and met regularly under William’s direction, and by establishing Curia
Regis, a permanent council of royal advisers.
William’s youngest son Henry I ruled the country for 35 years and during his
reign he won the support of barons by singing a “Charter of Liberties”, which
listed and guarantees their rights (individual liberties).
Early English monarchs had considerable power, but generally accepted advice
and some limitations on their authority. Powerful French-Norman barons
opposed King John’s dictatorial rule by forcing him to sign Magna Carta in
1215. This document protected the feudal aristocracy rather then the ordinary
citizen, but it came to be regarded as a cornerstone of British liberties. It
restricted the monarch’s powers; forced him to take advice; increased the
influence of the aristocracy; and stipulated that no citizen could be
punished or kept in prison without a fair trail.
Such developments encouraged the establishment of parliamentary structures.
In 1265, Simon de Montfort called nobles and non-aristocrats to form a
Council or Parliament to win the support of people. To it were invited not
only the great barons and clergy, but also representatives of the knights of
shires and from the towns. This initiative was followed in 1295 by the Model
Parliament (because it served a model for later Parliaments) of Edward I,
which was the first representative English Parliament. Its two sections
consisted of the bishops, barons, two representatives of the knights of each
shire and two representatives from each important town. In this way
Parliament won the “power of the purse”: by refusing to agree to new taxes,
it could force kings to do as it wished. As Parliament became more
influential it won other rights, such as the power of impeach and try royal
officials for misbehavior. From here we can conclude that by the end of
Edward’s reign the peculiarly English concept of government, in which a
strong king with powerful royal officials is still limited by the common law
and by Parliament, was complete.
However, the Parliament was too large to rule the country effectively. A
Privy Council, comprising the monarch and court advisers, developed. This was
the royal government outside Parliament, until it lost power to parliamentary
structures in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Although parliament now had some limited powers against the monarch, there
was a return to royal dominance in Tudor England in 1485. Monarchs controlled
Parliament and summoned it when they needed to raise money.
Parliament showed more resistance to royal rule under the Stuart monarchy
from 1603 by using its weapon of financial control. Parliament began to
refuse royal requests for money. It forced Charles I to sign the Petition of
Rights in 1628, which further restricted the monarch’s powers and prevented
him from raising taxes without Parliament’s consent. Charles attempted to
arrest parliamentary leaders in the House of Commons itself. His failure to
do meant that the monarch was in future prohibited from entering the Commons.
As the result of it civil war broke out in 1642. The Protestant
Parliamentarians under O. Cromwell won the military struggle against the
Catholic Royalists. Charles was beheaded in 1649 and thee monarchy was
abolished. But it didn’t last long in 1660 they restored the Stuart Charles
II to the throne. Parliament ended his expansive wars and imposed further
restrictions, such as Habeas Corpus Act in 1679, which stipulated that no
citizen could be imprisoned without a fair and speedy trail.
In the early and mid sixteenth century country was ruled by King Henry VIII
(king 1509-1547) who had made Parliament his willing tool and had replaced
Catholicism with the Church of England. Henry was succeeded by three of his
children (Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I) in succession. But only Elizabeth
made a great contribution during her reign (1558-1603). She allowed any form
of worship that fit into the rather loose framework of ideas that Parliament
had established for the Church of England. But she would accept none that
conflicted with her authority as the head of that church. After the pope
excommunicated her in 1570, she had Parliament declare that Catholicism was
treason. Parliament lost power during her reign. It did not meet often, as
she needed to ask it levy taxes for her. In theory Parliament continued to
have all of the powers it had won during the Middle Ages.
The Elizabethan reign later was called “The English Renaissance”. And this is
right. She did a lot to her Kingdom. On of it was the opening of the trade
routs to Russia, trade companies like the East India Company, the Muscovy
Company and the Virginia Company.
The Stuart monarchs who succeeded Elizabeth try to impose absolutism and to
rule by “divine right”. But the English Parliament, asserting its ancient
rights and privileges, challenged them. The result was a struggle that lasted
through the better part of the seventeenth century, culminating in the
victory of Parliament over the kings. In the age when absolutism triumphed
almost everywhere, England was the striking exception of the rule. Growing
opposition to the Stuarts centered in Parliament. The Stuarts disliked
Parliament, but were dependent upon it because only the House of Commons had
the right to levy taxes. The Stuarts insisted they had absolute authority to
follow whatever policies they chose. The conflict between Parliament and the
king came to a climax under Charles I (king 1625-1649). In 1626 Charles found
himself at war with both France and Spain. Parliament refused to grant new
taxes until it had had “redress of grievances”. Led by Sir John Eliot, the
members of Commons finally forced Charles to sign the “Petition of Right” in
1628. This pact guaranteed certain rights of Parliament and of individual
Englishmen against their king.
The first Parliament of 1640, the so-called “Short” Parliament, mat less then
a month. But soon after Charles was forced to call another Parliament, which
came to be called the “Long” Parliament because it met off and on for twenty
years (1640-1660). In 1641 the Long Parliament set out to dominate the
government. More important, it passed a series of acts to make absolute
From 1642 to 1645 the civil war broke in England. It was between Supporters
of King Charles (Cavaliers) and the supporters of the Parliament
(Roundheads) under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. The “Roundheads” won in this
war and the members who remained from the previous Parliament come to be
called the “Rump” (sitting part of Parliament). In 1649 Charles was beheaded
and later Oliver Cromwell became the King of England. After his death in 1658
his son Richard took control over the country. But he was a poor ruler and
soon resigned. In 1660 the surviving members of the Long Parliament were
called back into session to invite Charles Stuart to become King Charles II
Charles II had his problems with Parliament, but he was usually able to
surmount them, and he always knew when the time had come to back down.
The growing power of Parliament against the monarch in the seventeenth
century was reflected in the development of more organized political parties.
Two groups (Whigs and Tories) became dominant, and this feature was to
characterize future British two-party politics, in which political power has
shifted between two main parties. The Whigs didn’t accept the Catholic
sympathizer James II as successor to Charles II and wanted religious freedom
for al Protestants. The Tories generally supported royalist beliefs, and
helped Charles II to secure James’s right to succeed him.
He (James) attempted to rule without Parliament and ignored his laws. His
manipulations forced Tories to join Whigs in inviting the Protestant William
of Orange to intervene. William arrived in England in 1688, James fled to
France and William succeeded to the throne as England’s first constitutional
monarch. Since no force was involved, this event is called the Bloodless or
Glorious Revolution. Royal powers were further restricted under the
Declaration of Rights (1689), which strengthened Parliament and provided some
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights of 1689 established
Parliament once and for all as the equal partner of the king. This division
of power was soon to prove itself a far more effective means of government
than the absolute monarchies of the continent, and it assured that the
constitutional development of England would continue.