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The history of England can be defined as the gradual process of Parliament asserting its authority over the monarchy

The history of England can be defined as the gradual process of Parliament asserting its authority over the monarchy
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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.

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