TEXT 1RISE OF THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENT
The medieval kings were expected to meet all royal expenses private and public out of their own revenue. If extra resources were needed for some emergency, such as an expensive war, the Sovereign would seek to persuade his barons, in the Great Council, to grant an aid. During the thirteenth century several kings found that their private revenues and baronial aids were insufficient to meet the expenses of government. They therefore summoned to their Great Council not only their own tenants-in-chief but also representatives of counties, cities and towns, primarily in order NOTES TO THE TEXT to get their assent to extraordinary taxation. In this way the Great Council came to include those who were summoned by name (the tenants-in-chief) and those who were representatives of communities (the commons). The two parts, together with the Sovereign, eventually became known as “Parliament” (the first official use of this term, which originally meant a meeting for parley or discussion, being in 1236).
The first reign during which the King is known to have summoned knights of the counties to a council was that of Richard 1 (1189—1199). In 1254 the knights were again summoned and the sheriffs were instructed that NOTES TO THE TEXT the knights were to be elected by the counties and were to represent them in the discussion of what aid should be given to the King “in his great emergency”. The knights were summoned again in 1261 but by this time civil war had broken out. The leader of the victorious baronial faction, Simon de Montfort, summoned a parliament in 1264, and to another in 1265 summoned not only “two discreet knights” but also two citizens to be elected by each city and borough. The 1265 Parliament, although it was summoned primarily to provide partisan support for Simon de Montfort, was the first NOTES TO THE TEXT to include representatives of the towns summoned for a general political purpose. Various other parliaments were held in the next 30 years, usually with no commons in attendance. But a meeting convoked by Edward I in 1295 to deal with a critical national emergency brought together all elements considered capable of giving help, and proved so similar to the broadly national gatherings of later centuries that it has been called the “Model Parliament”. There were summoned the lords lay and spiritual, two knights from each county, two citizens from each city and borough, and (for the first time) lesser clergy—making some NOTES TO THE TEXT 400 in all. “What touches all”, the writ of summons said, “should be approved by all”.
NOTES TO THE TEXT
Revenue- money that the government receives from tax.
Richard I, the Lion Heart, or Coer de Lion. King of England (1189-1199) Spent a lot of time fighting in the Crusades.
Borough - originally it was a fortified town; later, a town entitled to send a representative to Parliament. An area of local government abolished as such (except in Greater London) by the Local Government Act 1972.
Lay- not clerical ; not trained in a particular subject (Gr. laos = the people)