The British Parliament

Table of Contents

The English Parliament has been meeting nonstop this month. You can be sure that there are some louche things going on in that house of ill repute, always scheming and plotting to upset peace in Europe, all while pretending to be in the rights and a defender of just causes.
— Sergeant
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  Since its creation, the English Parliament has played a major role in limiting the power of the English monarch to create a "constitutional" monarchy despite the absence of an actual written constitution. It can be said to govern the country more than the monarch does.  

History

 
This story starts in a good place: us French completely beat the English and conquered England. It is under our rule that this small backwater country managed to gain any prominence in Europe! Of course, it was also the start of all of our troubles...
— Sergeant
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Before 1215, the king could call on different kind of councils for advice, as a monarch cannot rule without the consent of their people. Those were mostly composed of archbishops, bishops, abbots, barons and earls. In 1215, the signature of the Magna Carta between King John Lackland and his barons created the English Parliament. At the time it was called the Great Council, and the barons were wealthy landowners. It was still not the king's only council, but it was the only one who could allow him to levy or collect any new taxes.  
Again, all thanks to us! It was King Philippe Auguste's defeat of John and our conquest of almost all of his lands in France that forced him to agree to that so that he could raise more taxes to fund his little wars. We might have also funded the rebel barons just a little...
— Sergeant
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  The new king Henry III was too independent for the barons' taste and so they forced him to agree to the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, then the Provisions of Westminster in 1259. These gave power to a council of fifteen barons and provided for a thrice-yearly meeting of parliament to monitor the Monarch's performance.





King John signing Magna Carta by Wikimedia Commons



In 1265, parliament was summoned for the first time without the authority of the king, by a nobleman, Simon de Montfort, in an attempt to confirm the ascent of the nobility and parliament over the king. To this end, nobles and bishops were summoned, but also knights of the shires and burgesses—local representatives from the counties and towns of England and Wales—so as to gain a wider base of approval. This was the first inclusion of the landed gentry into politics, and this tradition had to be continued in 1295 by King Edward I, although the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster themselves were forgotten. Edward encouraged any of his subjects to submit petitions to parliament detailing their grievances in order for them to be resolved, starting a still ongoing tradition.  
Once you give people a taste of power, you can never take it back...
— Sergeant
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Edward I with his parliament by Wikimedia Commons

 




Throughout this period and under the reign of the dynasty of the Tudor, the exact strength of the parliament depended on that of the monarch and how much they were able to submit parliament. In 1327 the extremely unpopular Edward II was deposed by the Parliament in favour of his son Edward III, establishing parliament's authority over the monarch.  
It was Queen Isabelle, daughter of Philippe the Fair who had to take things in hand and deposed her husband Henry II! Once again, we had to show those English how things ought to be done...
— Sergeant
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Henri VIII and his parliament by Wikimedia Commons

 



In 1341, the Parliament was divided into two distinct Houses, the House of Lords with nobles and bishops, and the House of Commons with the knights of the shire and local representatives, the burgesses. Under Edward III, the Hundred Years' War allowed the Parliament to gain more authority in exchange for agreeing to taxes to fund the war, and so it was agreed that no law could be made, nor any tax levied, without the consent of both Houses and the Sovereign. The Commons also started to impeach ministers, yet it was still less powerful than the House of Lords or the monarch.  
Once you give people a taste of power, you can never take it back...
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  In 1430, a law established that to be allowed to vote in a county to elect the representatives to the Commons, a man or woman had to be a resident and had to own a forty shilling freehold in that county. Thus, voters represented roughly 6% of the adult population of England. Votes were public, allowing voters to be intimidated or bought.



Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629 and ruled alone for 11 years before he was forced to call it again to raise new taxes. Their relationship was so bad that this led to a civil war, then Charles's judgement and execution in 1649. The country was then ruled by Oliver Cromwell and several parliaments.  
See? The English did one good thing, and then they deny everyone else the opportunity to do the same...
— Sergeant
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Those events proved that the Commons can rule the country without the House of Lords or the monarch. Future monarchs never forgot it and they have never set foot in the House of Commons again. In memory of this, a member of the House of Commons is sent to be kept hostage in the monarch's palace while the monarch opens the Parliament, only to be sent back when the monarch safely returns. The monarch also sits on a throne inside the House of Lords and Ladies and it is the members of the House of Commons that are summoned to them.  
You'd almost pity those English monarchs! Not even the authority or courage to meet their own deputies! Our kings never hesitate and yet we've executed far more of them!
— Sergeant
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In 1660 it was the Parliament that voted for the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, and Parliament again who chased his Catholic brother James II from the throne in 1688. As a condition for offering the throne to Mary II and William of Orange, they had to agree to the Bill of Rights of 1689 that finally put on paper the limits of the monarch's power.  
Those English, always distrusting Catholics... Rest assure that we cannot possibly bribe all of them!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png


The Act of Union in 1707 dissolved the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland to form a new Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, although England kept the upper hand as it had 168 English peers, 486 English commoners and 27 Welsh commoners against 16 peers and 45 commoners for Scotland. Scottish peers had to elect their representatives among themselves, while English peers had the automatic right to sit in the parliament.

Queen Mary II

Queen Mary II by Wikimedia Commons

 
Poor Scotland should have seen it coming... That will teach them, trusting the English over us!
— Sergeant
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Since Scotland regained its independence after Bonnie Prince Charlie won the battle of Culloden, both Parliaments reformed independently from each other.   Under the Hanoverian dynasty ruling in England since 1714, the first two kings George I and II were not very interesting into ruling Great Britain, and so the kings delegated most of their powers to ministers who had to rely on the assent of the Parliament to rule.

George II by Wikimedia Commons

   

Politics

 


Location

The seat of the English Parliament is in the Palace of Westminster, in the city of Westminster in England. This used to be a royal residence until Henry VIII moved to the nearby Palace of Whitehall, until Queen Victoria decided to make Buckingham Palace the official royal residence upon her coronation in 1837.   Because it was not built for purpose, the Palace of Westminster does no adequate meeting room for the parliament. The House of Lords and Ladies and important state ceremonies take place in the Painted Chamber, King Henry III's previous bedroom. In 1801, the House of Lords and Ladies moved to the White Chamber as the expansion of the peerage made the previous room too small. The House of Commons did not have designated building until 1547 when St Stephen's Chapel became available for their use.  
This is the den of inequity, a palace of corruption, the place where all their schemes are born!
— Sergeant
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The building burned down in 1834 following negligence of some of its worker. It has since been rebuilt in a Gothic Revival style, but works are still ongoing and it looks like it won't be finished before decades...  
All right, we might have bribed some of them just a little bit in the year 1834, but of course it was completely coincidental!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
The new House of Commons by Wikimedia Commons






Working

Any member of each House can propose a bill. For it to be approved, it has to be voted by a majority of both Houses, and then the monarch needs to give it the royal assent or to veto it. As the monarch is not a member of any of the Houses, they need to make their opinion known through their supporters. The person presiding over the Commons is the Speaker, and they are the one who have to go before the King to communicate the grievances of the House.  
And because the Speakers were so terrified of their monarchs, they had to be dragged to the Speaker's seat... Those poor people need to develop a backbone! We have some excellent healing magic and if they beg us sufficiently, we can take care of that with only one little human sacrifice or two!
— Sergeant
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Parties

In the late 17th century, political parties emerged, the Whigs and Tories, gathered together around big leading principles. Nevertheless, the members of the parliament also form other shifting coalitions depending on the subjects being discussed. Members of the leading party sit on the right of the Speaker and the opposition on the left.


Such ridiculous seating arrangement...
— Sergeant
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The Whigs are full proponent of the limited power of the king and strong enemies of the deposed Stuart dynasty, and so of Scotland. They held full power over the country between 1714 to 1783. The party supports aristocrats, industrialists, and the mercantile class. It is extremely against Catholicism because of its links with the Stuarts. It defends the supremacy of parliament, free trade, the abolition of slavery, and the expansion of the numbers of voters.   The Tory party was born from the supporters of the Stuart dynasty, Jacobites who refused the exclusion of James II and his son from the throne. After the definitive defeat of the Stuart in England, the party only managed to get into power between since 1783. They support smallholders, the gentry, the military, and the Church of England, and they stand in strong opposition of radical politics of the kind that have led to the French revolution.


They should be more thankful to us, it's only because of our continuous revolutions that they're still in power!
— Sergeant
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There two major political debates concern threatens to destroy the current party lines. The first one is over free trade vs protectionism. The second one is a reform of the voting system for the House of Commons, as the constituencies had not been updating for centuries and did not reflect modern population, with new important cities not represented and with rotten and pocket boroughs that not only represented a very small population, but that also could be bought from the rich landowners who controlled them.
English House of Commons by Wikimedia Commons
Some of the unscrupulous tactics depicted are: bringing in a corpse to vote, dragging in a mentally disabled man, and challenging the right of a man to vote because he is using a hook rather than his hand as legally prescribed.
 
If they finally stop waging wars against us and Scotland, then they might find the time to actually go through their reforms! But most of them like it that way, do they not? The Lords and Ladies controlling most of the constituency seats, and the commoners easily able to bribe their way to a seat... Such blatant corruption and disregard for the people they pretend to represent And then they have the gall to present themselves as a just and fair regime!
— Sergeant
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International politics

 
This is where the Parliament is at its most outrageous! They all really think they are so superior to the rest of us and so ought to dictate to the rest of Europe how we ought to behave and which country should be allowed to have how much power...
— Sergeant
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England does not admit the independence of Scotland. It affirms that the British Parliament had representatives from Scotland and had full right to rule over it. As such, the decision to depose King James II in favour of Mary II and William III was fully legal, and Scotland still belongs to the English monarch. Just as the Scottish monarch keeps the title "of Scotland and England", so does the English monarch. Since the battle of Culloden that saw Scotland emerged victorious but not sufficiently to retake control of England, both sides have attempted to gain the upper hand on each other. So far, there have been little results on either side. Still, England is currently engaged in another war with Scotland.  
We can always count on the good Auld Alliance to mess up with the English!
— Sergeant
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England is also at war with France. Between the French revolution of 1789 and 1815, England led no less than 7 European coalitions against France. They then managed to force the hand of the French parliament to restore the "legitimate" dynasty on the throne and the relationships between both country warmed up. For a time. By the time Charles X was chased from the throne, the English were not too disappointed to see him go. However, their prefer candidate, Louis Philippe d'Orléans, which significantly cool down the relationship between both country. The English Parliament managed to force the hand of the new French king, Lucien Esselin, to make him declare war against England, thus giving themselves the good role in the matter while also allowing them to interfere.
 
Again and again, they birth some kind of new scheme so that they can pretend they have no choice but to interfere in our affaires and to go to war against us! All members of their parliament are highly prejudiced against us, fearing that we'll "contaminate" England with our revolutions... Of course, now we have no choice but to actually try!
— Sergeant
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Ireland has been under English control since 16th century. The English look down upon Irish and they have sent English settlers to take control of Irish lands. All Catholics have also been forbidden from taking office and have been deprived of most of their rights, giving those English settlers more powers instead. However, since 1745 and the independence of Scotland, the English have been distracted from Ireland, allowing Irish to regain some measure of freedom. Ireland has its own parliament.  
Don't say anything, but we've had lots of contact with Irish people recently, if you get my meaning...
— Sergeant
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The monarch, truly powerless?

 


Queen Victoria of England is a young and inexperienced queen, only being crowned in 1837 at the age of 24. She is often presented as letting herself be guided by her ministers and now also by her husband. Her lack of political savviness led her to make a few blunders at the beginning of her reign, and many view her role as being purely ceremonial. However, she has now been on the throne for 8 years, and she has learnt how to use her situation to her advantage and in which way to influence the politics of the parliament. She may not hold the kind of powers enjoyed by the monarchs of the previous dynasties, but underestimating her would be a mistake...  
Never underestimate the duplicity of any English!
— Sergeant
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Queen Victoria of England by Wikimedia Commons



Comments

Author's Notes

Sources:
England, Scotland and the Treaty of Union, 1706-08 by Andrew A. Hanham.   Thanks Bart Weergang for the idea :D


Please Login in order to comment!
27 Jul, 2021 14:47

I detect just a little bit of bias here. ;)

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
27 Jul, 2021 15:22

What? Of course noooooo. The sergeant is being perfectly honest :p

To see what I am up to:WE pledge and article list.
27 Jul, 2021 15:36

I enjoyed reading this :D

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