Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book I/Manner of holding Parliament
THE MANNER OF HOLDING PARLIAMENT.
(Stubbs' " Charters," p. 502.)
Here is described the manner in which the parliament of the king of England and of his English was held in the time of king Edward, son of king Ethelred. Which manner, indeed, was expounded by the more discreet men of the kingdom in the presence of William, duke of Normandy, and Conqueror and king of England, the Conqueror himself commanding this; and was approved by him, and was customary in his times and also in the times of his successors, the kings of England.
The Summoning of Parliament.
The summoning of parliament ought to precede the first day of parliament by forty days. To the parliament ought to be summoned and to come, by reason of their tenure, each and all the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and, by reason of such tenure, the other greater clergy who are holders of a county or a barony; and none of the lesser, unless their presence and coming is required otherwise than on account of their tenures: that is, if they belong to the king's council, or if their presence is thought useful or necessary to the parliament. And the king is required to furnish their outlays and expenses in coming to and remaining at the parliament. Nor should such lesser clergy receive a summons to parliament; but the king usually sent his writs at the proper time, requesting that they might be present at his parliament.
Likewise the king used to send his summons separately to the archbishops, bishops and other exempt persons — such as the abbots, priors, deans and other ecclesiastical persons who have jurisdictions through sixch exemptions and privileges—to the effect that they, for each deanery and archdeanery of England, should, through the deaneries and archdeaneries themselves, cause to be elected two skilled and suitable representatives for their own arch- deanery, who should come to and be present at the parlia- ment in order to submit to, to assert and to do, the same thing as every one and all the persons of those deaneries and archdeaneries would have done, had they there been personally present.
And such representatives should come with their war- rants duplicated, signed with the seals of their superiors, to the efl'ect that they, as members of the clergy, are sent to be such representatives ; of which letters one shall be given over to the clerks of parliament to be enrolled, and the other shall remain with the representatives themselves. And thus, under these two forms, the whole clergy ought to be summoned to parliament.
Concerning Lay Members.
Likewise each and all the earls and barons and their peers ought to be summoned and to come ; that is, those who have lands and revenues of the value of a county — twenty knights' fees, namely, each fee being computed at yearly twenty pounds' worth, which makes four hundred pounds worth in all : or of the value of one whole barony — thirteen fees, namely, and the third part of one knight's fee ; each fee being computed at twenty pounds' worth, which makes in all four hundred marks. And no lesser laymen ought to be summoned, or to come to parliament by reason of their tenure, unless their presence be useful or necessary to the parliament from other causes ; and then it should be done concerning them as has been said is done concerning the lesser clergy, who are not at all bound by reason of their tenure to come to parliament.
Concerning the Barons of the Ports.
Likewise the king is bound to send his writs to the warden of the Cinque Ports, to the effect that he shall cause to be elected from each port, through the port itself, two suitable and skilled barons to come and be present at his (the king's) parliament; in order to answer, to suhmit to, to assert and to do the same thing as their baronies; just as if, from those baronies, each and every man were there in person. And such barons shall come with their warrants duplicated, signed with the common seals of their ports, to the effect that they were duly elected for this purpose, and were given their powers and were sent for those baronies. Of which warrants one shall be given to the clerks of the parliament, and the other shall remain with the barons themselves. And when such barons of the ports, having obtained permission, had made their retreat from the parliament, then they were accustomed to have a writ under the great seal of the warden of the Cinque Ports, to the effect that he would cause to be paid the reasonable outlays and expenses of such barons, by the community of the port in question, from the first day on which they started towards the parliament, until the day when they returned to their home; express mention, moreover, being made, in that writ, of the stay which they had made at parliament, of the day on which they arrived, and that on which they had been given permission to return. And, sometimes, they used to make mention in the writ of how much such barons ought to receive daily from those communities; some, namely, more, some less, according to the capacities, distinction, and reputation of the persons. Nor was there usually expended for the two barons daily more than twenty shillings—consideration being had fur their habits, labours and expenses. Nor are such expenses usually paid for certain by the court, without regard to whom the persons thus elected and sent by the communities may be; unless the persons themselves have been honest and of good conduct in parliament.
Concerning the Knights.
Likewise the king was accustomed to send his writs to all the sheriffs of England, to the effect that they should each cause to be elected from their county, by the county itself, two suitable honest and skilled knights to come to his parliament; in the same manner as has been described with regard to the barons of the ports. And it shall be the same concerning their warrants. But for the expenses of two knights from one county, it is not usual to pay more than one mark a day.
In the same way he was accustomed to send an order to the mayor and sheriffs of London, and to the mayor and bailiffs, or the mayor and citizens, of York and the other cities: to the effect that they, for their cities as a whole, should elect two suitable, honest and skilled citizens, to come to, and be present at parliament; in the same manner as has been described concerning the barons of the Cinque Ports and the knights of the shires. And the citizens were accustomed to be on the same footing, and equal, with the knights of the shires, as regards the expenses of coming, remaining, and returning.
Likewise, in the same manner, there used to be, and should be, an order sent to the baihffs and trustworthy men of the burroughs, to the effect that they, from themselves and for themselves, shall elect two suitable, honest and skilled burgesses to come and be present at parliament; in the same manner as has been described concerning the citizens. But two burgesses did not usually receive for their expenses for one day more than ten shillings, and sometimes more than half a mark; and this was usually estimated, by the court, according to the magnitude and power of the burrough, and according to the distinction of the persons sent.
Concerning the principal Clerics of Parliament.
Likewise two principal clerks of parliament shall sit in the midst of the justices, and shall enroll all the pleas and transactions of parliament. And be it known that those two clerks are not subject to any justices whatever; nor is there any justice of England in parliament. Nor have justices of themselves the right of recording in parliament, unless a new power has been assigned or given them in parliament through the king or the peers of parliament: as when they are assigned, with other members of parliament, to hear and dispose of different petitions and complaints put forth in parliament. And those two clerks are directly subject to the king and to his parliament in common, unless it happens that one or two justices are assigned to them to examine and correct their enrollments. And when peers of parliament have been assigned to hear and examine, apart by themselves, any petitions: then, when they shall have become united and concordant in rendering judgment concerning such petitions, they shall both explain the proceedings that have taken place concerning them, and shall render their judgments in full parliament;—chiefly so that those two clerks may enroll all pleas and all judgments in the principal roll of parliament, and may surrender those same rolls to the treasurer of the king before parliament shall be dismissed; so that those rolls shall, by all means, be in the treasury before the breaking up of parliament; excepting however a transcript therefrom, or a counter-roll, belonging to those same clerks if they wish to have it. Those two clerks, unless they have another office under the king, and hold fiefs from him so that they can live respectably therefrom, shall receive from the king daily one mark, in equal portions, for their expenses. Unless they are at the table of the lord king; in which case they shall receive, besides their meals, a half a mark in equal portions daily, throughout the whole of parliament.
Concerning the Five Clerics.
Likewise the king shall assign five skilled and approved clerks; of whom the first shall minister to, and serve, the bishops; the second, the representatives of the clergy; the third, the counts and barons; the fourth, the knights of the shires; the fifth, the citizens and burgesses. And each of them, unless he be with the king and receive from him such a fee, or such wages, that he can honestly live from them, shall receive from the king daily two shillings. Unless they are at the table of the lord king; in which case they shall receive daily ten pence. And these clerks shall write down the objections and responses which they (the bishops, clergy, etc.) make to the king and the parliament; and shall be present at their councils whenever they wish to have them. And, when they (the clerks) are at leisure, they shall aid the principal clerks with their enrollments.
Concerning difficult Cases and Judgments.
When a dispute, a doubt, or a difficult case, whether of peace or war, comes up in the kingdom or out of it,—that case shall be drawn up in writing and read in full parliament; and shall be treated of and disj)uted there among the peers of parliament; and, if it be necessary, it shall be enjoined—through the king, or on the part of the king if he be not present—on each of the grades of peers, that each grade shall go apart by itself; and that that case shall be delivered to their clerk in writing; and that they, in a fixed place, shall cause that case to be read before them, so that they may ordain and consider among themselves how, in that case, they shall best and most justly proceed; according as they themselves are willing to answer before God for the person of the king, and for their own persons, and also for the persons of those whose persons they represent. And they shall draw up in writing their replies and views; so that when all their responses, plans and views, on this side and on that, have been heard, it may be jDroceeded according to the better and more healthful plan, and according as, at length, the majority of the parliament shall agree. And if, through discord between them and the king and some magnates—or, perhaps, between the magnates them selves—the jDeace of the kingdom is endangered, or the people or the country troubled; so that it seems to the king and his council to be expedient that that matter shall be treated of and emended through the attention of all the peers of his kingdom; or if, through war, the king or the kingdom are in trouble; or if a difficult case come up before the chancellor of England; or a difficult judgment be about to be rendered before the justices, and so on: and if perchance, in such tions, all, or at least the majority, can not come to an agreement;—then the earl seneschal, the earl constable, the earl marshall, or two of them, shall elect twenty five persons from all the peers of the realm—two bishops, namely, and three representatives for the whole clergy; two counts, and three barons; five knights of the shires; five citizens, and five burgesses;—which make twenty five. And those twenty five can elect from themselves twelve and resolve themselves into that number; and those twelve, six, and resolve themselves into that number; and those who were hitherto six, three, and resolve themselves into that number. And those three can not resolve themselves into fewer, unless by obtaining permission from our lord the king. And, if the king consent, those three can resolve into two; and of those two, one into the other; and so at length that man's decision shall stand above the whole parliament. And thus, by resolving from twenty five persons into one single person,—if a greater number cannot be concordant and make a decision,—at last one person alone, as has been said, who cannot disagree with himself, shall decide for all; it being allowed to our master the king, and to his council, to examine and amend such decisions after they have been written out—if they can and will do this. In such manner that this same shall then be done in full parliament, and with the consent of the parliament, and not behind the parliament.
Concerning the Business of Parliament.
The matters for which parliament has been summoned ought to be deliberated upon according to the calendar of parliament, and according to the order of the petitions delivered and filed; no respect being had for the persons of any one; but he who first made a proposition shall act first. In the calendar of parliament all the business of parliament should be called up in this order: first what concerns war, if there is war, and what concerns other matters relating to the persons of the king, the queen and their children; secondly, what concerns the common affairs of the kingdom, such as the making of laws against defects of original laws, judicial and executive, after the judgments have been rendered—which things, most of all, are common affairs; thirdly, there should be called the separate matters, and this according to the order of the petitions filed, as has been said.
Concerning the Days and Hours for Parliament.
Parliament ought not to be held on Sundays, but it can be held on all other days; that day always being excepted, and three others, viz.: All Saints', and Souls', and the nativity of John the Baptist. And it ought to begin each day in the middle of the first hour; at which hour the king is bound to be present in parliament, together with all the peers of the kingdom. And parliament ought to be held in a public place, and not in a private nor in a secret place. On feast days parliament ought to begin at the first hour, on account of the Divine Service.
Concerning the Grades of Peers.
The king is the head, beginning and end of parliament; and thus he has no peer in his grade, and the first grade consists of the king alone. The second grade consists of the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, who hold by barony. The third grade consists of the representatives of the clergy. The fourth, of earls, barons, and other magnates and chiefs, whose holding is of the value of a county and barony—as has been explained in the clause concerning laymen. The fifth is of knights of the shires. The sixth, of citizens and burgesses. And thus parliament consists of six grades. But it must be known that even though any one of the said grades except the king be absent — provided, however, that all have been forewarned by reasonable summonses of parliament—nevertheless, it shall be considered as a full parliament.
Concerning the Manner of Parliament.
Having first shown under what form and at what time the summons of parliament ought to be made to each one; and who ought to come by summons and who not; we must, in the second place, tell who they are who ought to come by reason of their offices, and who are bound to be present through the whole parliament, without summons. Wherefore it is to be noted that these officials, the two principal clerks of parliament elected by the king and his council, and the other secondary clerks—of whom and whose offices we shall speak more especially hereafter,—and the chief crier of England with his sub-criers, and the chief usher of England—which two offices, that is, the office of the crier and of the usher, used to belong to one and the same person:—are bound to be present on the first day. The chancellor of England, the treasurer, the chamberlain, and the barons of the exchequer, the justices, all the clerks and knights of the king, together with those who serve the king with regard to the pleas, and who are of the king's council: are bound to be present on the second day, unless they have reasonable excuses for not being present; and then they ought to send good excuses.
Concerning the Opening of Parliament.
The lord king shall sit in the middle of the greater bench, and shall be bound to be present on the first and sixth day of parliament. And the chancellor, the treasurer, the barons of the exchequer, and the justices, were accustomed to record the defaults made in parliament, in the following order. On the first day the burgesses and citizens of all England shall be called; on which day if they do not come the burrough shall be fined a hundred marks and the city a hundred pounds. On the second day, the knights of the shires of all England shall be called; on which day if they do not appear, the county whence they are shall be fined a hundred pounds. On the third day of parliament shall be called the barons of the Cinque Ports, and after that the barons, and after that the earls; whereupon if the barons of the Cinque Ports do not appear, that barony whence they are shall be fined a hundred marks. In like manner an ordinary baron shall be fined a hundred marks, and an earl a hundred pounds. And in like manner shall be done in the case of those who are the peers of earls and barons; that is, who have lands and revenues to the value of one county or one barony; as has been explained before in the chapter concerning the summoning. On the fourth day shall be called the representatives of the clergy; on which day, if they do not come, their bishops shall be fined a hundred marks for each archdeanery that has made default. On the fifth day shall be called the deans, priors, abbots, bishops, and, at length, the archbishops. And if they do not come, each archbishop shall be fined a hundred pounds; a bishop holding a whole barony a hundred marks; and it shall be done likewise with regard to the abbots, priors, and others. On the first day a proclamation should be made—first in the hall, or monastery, or in any public place where the parliament is held, and afterwards publicly in the city or town,—to the effect that all those who wish to deliver petitions and complaints to the parliament, should deliver them within the five days immediately following' the first day of parliament.
Concerning the Preaching to the Parliament.
An archbishop, or bishop, or one of the greater clergy who is discreet and eloquent, and who is chosen by the archbishop in whose province the parliament is held, should preach, on one of those first five days of parliament; in full parliament and in the presence of the king; and this, when parliament shall have been for the most part united and assembled together. And, in his discourse, he shall suitably enjoin on the whole parliament with him, humbly to supj^licate God, and adore Him, for the peace and tranquillity of the king and kingdom; as will be more specially explained in the following chapter on the announcement to the parliament.
Concerning the Announcement in Parliament.
After the preaching, the chancellor of England or the chief justice of England—that is, he who holds the pleas before the king,—or another suitable honest and eloquent justice or clerk, chosen by the chancellor and chief justice themselves; should announce the cases of parliament, first in general and afterwards in particular, standing. And here be it made known that each of the members of parliament, whoever he be, excepting the king, shall stand when speaking, so that all the members of parliament may be able to hear him; and if he speak obscurely, or too low, he shall repeat what he is saying and shall speak more loudly, or another shall speak for him.
Concerning the Address of the King after the Announcement.
The king, after the announcement, ought, on behalf of the parliament, to ask the clergy and laity, naming all their grades—namely the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, archdeacons, representatives and others of the clergy, counts, barons, knights, citizens, burgesses, and other laymen—that they diligently, studiously and heartily labour to treat of and deliberate upon the business of parliament: according as they shall learn and feel, in the first place that this is, principally and chiefly, according to the will of God; and secondly, that such things will be of advantage to his (the king's) and their own honour.
Concerning the Absence of the King from Parliament.
The king is in every way bound to be personally present in parliament, unless he be detained by bodily sickness; and then he can keep his room, provided it do not lie beyond the manor, or at least the town, where the parliament is held; in which case he ought to send for twelve of the greater and more illustrious men who have been summoned to parliament: two bishops, namely, two earls, two barons, two knights of the shires, two citizens and two burgesses,—to view his person and testify about his condition. And, in their presence, he ought to enjoin upon the archbishop of the place, the seneschal, and his chief justice, that they together and separately shall begin and continue the parliament in his name; express mention being made then, in that commission, of the cause of his absence: which proceedings ought to suffice and, together with the clear testimony of the said twelve men their peers, to convince the other nobles and magnates of parliament. The reason for all this is, that there used to be a clamour and a murmur in parliament on account of the absence of the king; for it is hurtful and dangerous to the whole community of the parliament, and even of the kingdom, when the king is absent from parliament; nor should he nor may he absent himself, unless only in the aforesaid case.
Concerning the Position and Seatings in Parliament.
First, as has been said, the king shall sit in the middle place of the chief bench; and on his right side shall sit the archbishop of Canterbury, and on his left side the archbishop of York; and directly after them the bishops abbots and priors in a line: always in such manner, with regard to the aforesaid grades and their positions, that no one shall be seated except among his peers. And the seneschal of England shall be bound to see to this, unless the king appoint another. At the foot of the king, on the right, shall sit the chancellor of England and the chief justice of England; and their companions and their clerks who belong to the parliament.
Concerning the Usher of Parliament.
The principal usher of parliament shall stand within the great door of the monastery, hall or other place where the parliament is held, and shall guard the door; so that no one shall enter parliament unless he whose duty it is to be present at and attend the parliament, or he who shall have been summoned on account of some matter which is going on in parliament. And it ought to be so that that usher has knowledge of the persons who ought to enter; so that to no one at all shall ingress be denied, who is bound to be present at the parliament. And that usher may, and ought to, if it be necessary, have several ushers under him.
Concerning the Crier of Parliament.
The crier of parliament shall stand without the door of the parliament, and the usher shall announce to him what he is to cry. The king usually sent his men-at-arms to stand in the great space before the door of parliament, to guard the door, so that no one should make attacks against the door or disturbances before it, through which the parliament might be impeded, under penalty of bodily capture. For according to law the door of parliament may not be closed, but shall be guarded by the usher and the men-at-arms of the king.
Concerning the Standing of those who speak.
All the peers of parliament shall sit, and no one shall stand except when he speaks; and he shall so speak that every one in parliament may hear him. No one shall enter the parliament, or go out from parliament, unless through the one door; and whenever any one says something that is to be deliberated upon by the parliament, he shall always stand when he speaks; the reason is that he may be heard by his peers, for all his peers are judges and justices.
Concerning Aid to the King.
The king does not usually ask aid from his kingdom unless for imminent war, or for knighting his sons, or for marrying his daughters; and then such aids ought to be sought in full parliament; and to be delivered in writing to each grade of the peers of parliament; and to be replied to in writing. And be it known that if such aids are to be granted, all the peers of parliament ought to consent. And be it known that the two knights who come to parliament for the shire, have a greater voice in parliament, in granting and refusing, than a greater earl of England; and, likewise, the representatives of the clergy of one bishopric have a greater voice in parliament, if they are all of one mind, than the bishop himself. And this is the case in all matters which ought to be granted, refused or done through the parliament. And this is evident, that the king can hold parliament with the commonality of his kingdom, without the bishops earls and barons, provided they have been summoned to parliament, even though no bishop earl or baron, answer to his summons. For, formerly, kings held their parliaments when no bishop, earl or baron was present. But it is another matter, on the contrary, if the commonality—the clergy and laity — have been summoned to parliament, as they have a right to be, and are not willing to come for certain causes; as if they were to maintain that the lord king did not rule them as he ought to, and were to signify in what especial respect he did not do so; then it would not be a parliament at all, even though the archbishops, bishops, counts and barons and all their peers, were present with the king. And so it is necessary that all things which are to be affirmed or cancelled, granted' or denied, or done by the parliament, should be granted by the commonality of the parliament, which consists of the three grades or divisions of parliament: viz. of the representatives of the clergy, the knights of the shires, the citizens and burgesses, who represent the whole commonality of England; and not by the magnates. For each of them is in parliament for his own person alone, and not for any one else.
Concerning the Dismissal of Parliament.
Parliament ought not to be dismissed so long as any petition remains undiscussed; or, at least, any to which the reply has not been determined on. And, if the king permits the contrary, he is perjured. No single one of the peers of parhament can or may retire from parliament, unless permission to that effect has been obtained from the king, and from all his peers; and this in full parliament. And of such permission a memorandum shall be made in the roll of parliament. And if any one of the peers, while parliament is in session, shall become ill, so that he can not come to parliament, then for three days he shall send excusers to the parliament. And if he do not then come, there shall be sent to him two of his peers, to view and testify to such infirmity; and if there be suspicion, those two peers shall swear that in this matter they tell the truth. And if it shall be found that he has been feigning, he shall be fined as if for default. And if he have not been feigning, then he shall, in their presence, empower some suitable person to be present in parliament for him; nor can a healthy man be excused if he be of sound mind. The dismissal of parliament is, by custom, managed thus:—First it should be asked and publicly proclaimed in parliament, and within the confines of parliament, if there is any one who has handed in a petition to the parliament, and has not yet received a reply. But, if no one calls out, it is to be supposed that every one has been satisfied, or at least a reply given as far as there lawfully can. And then at length, indeed, when no one who has handed in his petition this term calls out, we shall dismiss our Parliament.
Concerning Copies of Records in Parliament.
The clerks of parliament shall not deny to any one a copy of his process, but shall deliver it to whoever seeks it; and they shall receive always for ten lines one penny; unless, indeed, an oath is made of insolvency; in which case they shall receive nothing. Rolls of parliament shall measure in width ten inches. Parliament shall be held in whatever place of the kingdom it pleases the king.
Here ends the Manner of holding Parliament.