De Montfort's Parliament
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De Montfort's Parliament was an English parliament of 1265, instigated by Simon de Montfort, a baronial rebel leader. The members convened without the royal approval of King Henry III, who had reigned for the previous 49 years, but most scholars conclude it was the first gathering in England that can be called a parliament in the definitional sense of the word.
Simon De Montfort's army had met and defeated the royal forces at the Battle of Lewes on May 14, 1264. The rebels captured the king's son and heir Prince Edward, and the subsequent treaty led to a parliament being called in 1265 to agree to a constitution formulated by De Montfort.
De Montfort sent out envoys to consults with knights in each county to select two knights among their number, and so too to the burgesses and aldermen of the boroughs, asking each to send two representatives. This was not the first such gathering in England, but what distinguished it was that De Montfort insisted the representatives be elected, not appointed. The knights representing counties or more often, not, had been summoned to some earlier Parliaments.
De Montfort's Parliament was summoned (sent for) on 14 December 1264 and owing to elections and slow communications and transport first met on 20 January 1265 at Westminster Hall and was dissolved on 15 February 1265.
Henry III dissolved and repudiated the new Parliament and resumed his war against De Montfort, who was killed later that year. Henry later held his own parliament in a field near Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire.
After this Parliament it took some time for the knights and burgesses to become a regular part of the composition of Parliament. The next time they were summoned was for the 1st Parliament of King Edward I of England in 1275. The Model Parliament of 1295 is sometimes seen as the start of regular attendance by commoners, but the institutional development was gradual. See Duration of English Parliaments before 1660 for notes of which Parliaments included commoners, before they became an invariable part of Parliament from 1320.
The right to vote in Parliamentary elections for county constituencies is believed to have been uniform throughout the country, from the first election of knights of the shire to this Parliament. Most of the members of this and future parliaments were elected from individual boroughs. The list of boroughs which had the right to elect a member grew slowly over the centuries as monarchs gave out more Royal Charters, but the last charter was given to Newark in 1674.
Until legislation in 1430 limited the franchise to all those who owned the freehold of land that brought in an annual rent of at least 40 shillings (Forty Shilling Freeholders), Seymour suggested "it is probable that all free inhabitant householders voted and that the parliamentary qualification was, like that which compelled attendance in the county court, merely a "resiance" or "residence qualification". As women could not own land, they were automatically excluded from any voting rights on the county level. In the boroughs, the franchise had varying arrangements.
- History of democracy
- Parliament of the United Kingdom
- List of Parliaments of England
- Duration of English Parliaments before 1660
- Electoral Reform in England and Wales, by Charles Seymour (David & Charles Reprints 1970) originally published in 1915, so out of copyright
- The Statutes: Revised Edition, Vol. I Henry III to James II (printed by authority in 1876)