House of Commons of England

The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England (which incorporated Wales) from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of Great Britain. In 1801, with the union of Great Britain and Ireland, that house was in turn replaced by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

The Honourable the Commons of the Kingdom of England in Parliament assembled
Coat of arms or logo
Royal coat of arms of England (1509-1554) with English lion and Welsh dragon
Disbanded1 May 1707
Preceded byParliament of England
Succeeded byHouse of Commons of Great Britain
First past the post with limited suffrage
Meeting place
Various, but usually at the Palace of Westminster
See also:
House of Commons of Great Britain


The Parliament of England developed from the Magnum Concilium that advised the English monarch in medieval times. This royal council, meeting for short periods, included ecclesiastics, noblemen, and representatives of the counties (known as "knights of the shire"). The chief duty of the council was to approve taxes proposed by the Crown. In many cases, however, the council demanded the redress of the people's grievances before proceeding to vote on taxation. Thus, it developed legislative powers.[1]

The first parliament to invite representatives of the major towns was Montfort's Parliament in 1265. At the "Model Parliament" of 1295, representatives of the boroughs (including towns and cities) were admitted. Thus, it became settled practice that each county send two knights of the shire, and that each borough send two burgesses. At first, the burgesses were almost entirely powerless; while the right to representation of each English county quickly became indisputable, the monarch could enfranchise or disfranchise boroughs at pleasure. Any show of independence by burgesses would thus be likely to lead to the exclusion of their towns from Parliament. The knights of the shire were in a better position, although less powerful than their noble and clerical counterparts in what was still a unicameral Parliament.

Development of independence

The division of the Parliament of England into two houses occurred during the reign of Edward III: in 1341 the Commons met separately from the nobility and clergy for the first time, creating in effect an Upper Chamber and a Lower Chamber, with the knights and burgesses sitting in the latter. They formed what became known as the House of Commons, while the clergy and nobility became the House of Lords. Although they remained subordinate to both the Crown and the Lords, the Commons did act with increasing boldness. During the Good Parliament of 1376, the Commons appointed Sir Peter de la Mare to convey to the Lords their complaints of heavy taxes, demands for an accounting of the royal expenditures, and criticism of the King's management of the military.[2] The Commons even proceeded to impeach some of the King's ministers. Although Mare was imprisoned for his actions, the benefits of having a single voice to represent the Commons were recognized, and the office which became known as Speaker of the House of Commons was thus created.[2][3] Mare was soon released after the death of King Edward III and in 1377 became the second Speaker of the Commons.

During the reign of the next monarch, Richard II, the Commons once again began to impeach errant ministers of the Crown. They began to insist that they could control both taxation and public expenditures. Despite such gains in authority, however, the Commons still remained much less powerful than the Lords and the Crown.

Commons In Session
Interior of the House of Commons In Session by Peter Tillemans, c. 1710

The influence of the Crown was increased by the civil wars of the late fifteenth century, which destroyed the power of the great noblemen. Both houses of Parliament held little power during the ensuing years, and the absolute supremacy of the Sovereign was restored. The domination of the monarch grew further under the House of Tudor in the sixteenth century. This trend, however, was somewhat reversed when the House of Stuart came to the English throne in 1603. The first two Stuart monarchs, James I and Charles I, provoked conflicts with the Commons over issues such as taxation, religion, and royal powers.

The differences between Charles I and Parliament were great, and resulted in the English Civil War, in which the armed forces of Parliament were victorious. In December 1648 the House of Commons was purged by the New Model Army, which was supposed to be subservient to Parliament. Pride's Purge was the only military coup in English history. Subsequently, King Charles I was beheaded and the Upper House was abolished. The unicameral Parliament that remained was later referred to by critics as the Rump Parliament, as it consisted only of a small selection of Members of Parliament approved by the army - some of whom were soldiers themselves. In 1653, when leading figures in this Parliament began to disagree with the army, it was dissolved by Oliver Cromwell. However, the monarchy and the House of Lords were both restored with the Commons in 1660. The influence of the Crown had been decreased, and was further diminished after James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights 1689 was enacted.

See also


  1. ^ E. Barker, Essays on Government (2nd ed. London: Oxford Press, 1951), pp. 62-63
  2. ^ a b Chris Given-Wilson, Chronicles: the writing of history in medieval England (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 978-1-85285-358-7, OCLC 59259407), p. 175
  3. ^ R. G. Davies, J. H. Denton, & J. S. Roskell, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages (Manchester University Press, 1981, ISBN 978-0-7190-0833-7, OCLC 7681359), p. 39
  • John Cannon, Parliamentary Reform 1640-1832 (Cambridge University Press, 1973)
  • J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (Jonathan Cape, 1949)

Coordinates: 51°29′59.6″N 0°07′28.8″W / 51.499889°N 0.124667°W

Edward Turnour (speaker)

Sir Edward Turnor or Turnour (1617 – 4 March 1676) was a Speaker of the House of Commons of England.

James Pickering

Sir James Pickering (died ca. 1398) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England in 1378 (which met in Gloucester) and again from 1382 to 1383. The protestation which, as Speaker, he made for freedom of speech, and declaring the loyalty of the Commons, was the first recorded in the rolls.He was descended from the knightly Pickering family of Killington, then in Westmorland, and was married to Elizabeth Greystoke. He owned land at Killington in Westmorland and Selby in Yorkshire and was knighted by 1361.

He was knight of the shire for Westmorland in 1362, 1365, 1377–1379 and 1382 and Cumberland in 1368. On 20 December 1368 he was commissioner of array in Westmorland, to choose twenty archers to serve under Sir William Windsor in Ireland, in his position of Chief justice of Ireland, in order, it has been said, to implement 'some highly dubious financial practices.' He served as MP for Yorkshire in 1383, 1384, 1388 and 1390, Sheriff of Yorkshire for 1389, 1393 and 1397 and MP for Yorkshire for the last time in September 1397.

John Baker (died 1558)

Sir John Baker (1488–1558) was an English politician, and served as a Chancellor of the Exchequer, having previously been Speaker of the House of Commons of England.

John Bowes (speaker)

John Bowes (c. 1383 – c. 1444) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England between October 1435 and December 1435.He was the son of John Bowes of Costock, Nottinghamshire but raised as the ward of Sir Thomas Rempstone. He was trained as a lawyer and practised law in Nottinghamshire.In 1428 he was appointed Escheator for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In 1429, 1432, 1435 and 1439 he was elected knight of the shire (MP) for Nottinghamshire, being elected Speaker of the House in October 1435.Thereafter he returned to the law and was appointed Recorder of London, serving as the MP for the city of London in 1442.He died some time in 1444 and, Bowes having no children, his estate passed to his brother William.

John Doreward

John Doreward (died 1420) was a Serjeant-at-law and Speaker of the House of Commons of England.

John Green (speaker)

John Green (1400–1 May 1473) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England in October 1460.He was the son of John Green of Widdington, Essex and was trained as a lawyer in Gray's Inn.

He married Agnes, daughter of John Duke of Widdington Hall, Essex. They later made the hall their own home.He was elected to Parliament in 1455 as knight of the shire for Essex. He was retained as a lawyer by the Duchy of Lancaster but, following the lead of his patron, Viscount Bourchier, he went over to the Yorkist side. In the autumn of 1460 he was elected to Parliament for Essex for the second time and elected Speaker of the House.

In early 1462 Green and his brother were granted the stewardship of the estates in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk which had belonged to the John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, recently executed for treason. In 1467, he attended a meeting of the king's council, and in 1469 he was appointed deputy to Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster.

On his death in 1473 he was buried at Gosfield, Essex. His heirs were his daughters Agnes and Margaret; a third daughter became abbess of Dartford Priory.

John Guildesborough

John Guildesborough or Gildesburgh (c. 1331 – 1389) was Knight of the Shire for Essex and Speaker of the House of Commons of England in 1380.

He was born c. 1331 and educated at Oxford University. He was elected a Knight of the Shire to represent Essex five times between 1380 and 1388 and elected speaker of the house for both parliaments in 1380.He married firstly Margery, daughter and coheir of Sir Henry Garnet of Wennington and secondly Elizabeth, daughter and eventual heiress of William Pembridge. He had no surviving children.

John Russell (speaker)

John Russell (died 1437) was an English landowner and Justice of the Peace who held the position of Speaker of the House of Commons of England between 1423 and 1424.Russell sat in the Parliaments of 1410, 1411 and 1417 as a proxy for the Abbot of Gloucester; and also in later parliaments between 1414 and 1433 having been elected to the House of Commons as knight of the shire for Herefordshire in his own right. He was appointed High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1417. He made an unsuccessful attempt to become speaker in 1420 losing to Roger Hunt, but was elected to the role in 1423.Russell gave the speech of welcome at the infant Henry VI's first appearance before the assembled House of Commons and House of Lords on 17 November 1423.He was again elected as Speaker in 1432.

Nicholas Hare

Sir Nicholas Hare of Bruisyard, Suffolk (c. 1484 – 31 October 1557) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England between 1539 and 1540.

Richard Baynard

Richard Baynard (ca. 1371 – 7 January 1434) was an English administrator, MP and Speaker of the House of Commons of England in 1421.He was the fourth son and heir of Thomas Baynard of Messing, Essex.

He was elected Knight of the shire (MP) for Essex six times (1406, Nov 1414, Dec 1421, 1423, 1427 and 1433). and elected Speaker of the House in Dec 1421.

He was Controller, customs and subsidies Ipswich, Suffolk (1407–1408) and Keeper of Colchester gaol, Essex before March 1417.

He died in 1434. He had married four times. Firstly Joan, secondly Joyce, daughter and heiress of John Vyne, a London draper thirdly another Joan, daughter and heiress of John Sandherst, a London chandler, and fourthly Grace, daughter of John Burgoyne, and widow of John Peyton of Easthorpe, Essex with whom he had two sons and four daughters. He was survived by his widow Grace, his natural sons Richard and Lewis and an illegitimate son, John, and two of his four daughters.

Sir Job Charlton, 1st Baronet

Sir Job Charlton, 1st Baronet KS (ca. 1614 – 26 May 1697) was an English judge and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1659 and 1679. He was Speaker of the House of Commons of England briefly in 1673.

Speaker of the House of Commons (United Kingdom)

The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's nominally lower, but more influential, chamber of Parliament. John Bercow was elected Speaker on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin. He was since re-elected, unopposed, three times, following the general elections in 2010, 2015 and 2017.The Speaker presides over the House's debates, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House. Unlike presiding officers of legislatures in many other countries, Speakers remain strictly non-partisan and renounce all affiliation with their former political parties when taking office and afterwards. The Speaker does not take part in debate or vote (except to break ties; and even then, the convention is that the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote according to Speaker Denison's rule). Aside from duties relating to presiding over the House, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and remains a constituency Member of Parliament (MP). The Speaker has the right and obligation to reside in Speaker's House at the Palace of Westminster.

Thomas Fitzwilliam

Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam (died 4 March 1497) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England in 1489–1490.He was born into a Lincolnshire gentry family, the son of Thomas Fitzwilliam of Mablethorpe and educated at the Inner Temple.

He was appointed Recorder of Lincoln and elected MP for Lincoln in 1459. In 1467 he was returned as MP for Plympton Earle, then a seat under the control of the Crown. In 1478 he was appointed a serjeant-at-law for the Duchy of Lancaster.

After obtaining a house in Stepney, he was elected a Recorder of London and supported the claim of Richard III to the English throne. He nevertheless welcomed Henry Tudor after the Battle of Bosworth and became more active in government, representing London in King Henry's first parliament. He was knighted in 1486.

In 1489, in Henry's third Parliament, he was elected Speaker of the House, electing to sit as knight of the shire for Lincolnshire.

He died in 1497 and was buried in Mablethorpe church. He had married Margaret Harrington (d. 1498),with whom he had at least three sons, John, George, and William. John predeceased him, and he was succeeded by John's son, another Thomas, who also died young in 1502. The estates then passed to Sir Thomas' second son, George.

Thomas Hungerford (Speaker)

Sir Thomas de Hungerford (died 3 December 1397) of Farleigh Castle in Wiltshire, was the first person to be recorded in the rolls of the Parliament of England as holding the office of Speaker of the House of Commons of England, although that office had existed before his tenure.

Walter Beauchamp

Sir Walter Beauchamp (died 1 January 1430) was an English lawyer and Speaker of the House of Commons of England between March and May 1416.

William Alington (speaker)

William Alington (died 19 October 1446), lord of the manor of both Bottisham and Horseheath, Cambridgeshire, was Speaker of the House of Commons of England, Treasurer of The Exchequer, and High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.

William Burley

William Burley (died 10 August 1458) was MP for Shropshire nineteen times and Speaker of the House of Commons of England.

William Oldhall

Sir William Oldhall (1390?–1460) was an English soldier and Yorkist supporter, who served as Speaker of the House of Commons of England between 1450-51.

William Stourton (speaker)

William Stourton (died 1413) of Stourton, Wiltshire, was Speaker of the House of Commons from May 1413 to June 1413 when he was serving as MP for Dorset.

Royal Houses

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