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Democratic Developments in England
Growth of Royal Power
During medieval England, the Christian
Church, the nobility, and the monarchy had
wealth and power.
Monarchs = supreme authority over the
church and the nobility
European monarchs showed that they were
too weak to maintain law and order and the
people needed protection for themselves,
their homes, and their lands.
Due to this problem, feudalism evolved.
Feudalism was a new, loosely organized
system of rule, where the powerful lords
separated, or divided, their landholdings.
The vassals (lesser lords) pledged service
and loyalty to the greater lord (example: The
vassals provided knights to fight their lord's
The greater lords also pledged loyalty to the
even more powerful lords.
The king, the greatest lord, had the highest
position on the feudal pyramid.
Monarchs, Nobles, and the Church
Feudal monarchs = head of society, most
had limited power, and relied on vassals for
military support.
Nobles and the Church had the same
amount of power as the monarch, and
sometimes even more.
Nobles and Church = own courts, collected
own taxes, and fielded their own armies.
They jealously protected their rights and
privileges against any effort by rulers to
increase royal authority.
Strong Monarchs in England
Early Middle Ages- Angles, Saxons, and
Vikings invaded and settled in England.
English rulers kept their kingdoms united,
even though feudalism had already
1066- Edward, the Anglo-Saxon king, died
without an heir, so two men, William and
Harold, wanted to claim the empty throne.
To solve the issue, William sailed across the
English Channel from Normandy to have a
battle with Edward's brother-in-law, Harold.
This battle was called the Battle of Hastings
and William and his Norman knights won the
William the Conqueror took the throne of
William's French-speaking nobles (barons)
made up most of the population of England,
but the Anglo-Saxon population still
Soon, over the next 300 years, the NormanFrench and Anglo-Saxon customs,
languages and traditions slowly began to
William had firm control over the lands and
required every vassal to swear first
allegiance to him, instead of any other
feudal lord.
1086- A complete census was taken and
this information allowed William and later
monarchs to create a tax collecting system.
Common Law
1154- Henry II, an energetic and welleducated king, inherited the throne.
He made the system of royal justice
A king could not just write out any new laws,
since he had to follow accepted customs.
Henry II, found forms to expand the customs
into the law. He did this by sending out
traveling judges to enforce royal laws.
The choices made by the royal courts is the
foundation of English common law, which is
a legal system based on custom and court
The common law applied to all of England (it
standardized laws and punishments), unlike
the local feudal laws.
After awhile, the people of England chose
the royal courts over those of the nobles or
the church.
The royal courts charged fees, so the growth
of royal justice benefited the treasury.
The idea that local citizens should take part
in trials also developed.
The local officials gathered some men to
form a jury (group of people sworn to speak
the truth) when traveling judges visited the
Jury (French- jure') = "sworn to oath"
The jury decided which cases should be
brought to trial.
Early jury = ancestor of today's grand jury
Another type of jury, which consisted of 12
neighbors of the accused person. This is an
ancestor of today's trial jury.
England's establishment of common law and
a jury system led to further advances in
democratic rule.
Evolving Traditions of Government
Henry's efforts to extend royal power led to
a bitter dispute with the church.
He claimed the right to try clergy in royal
courts, but church officials strongly opposed
the king's move.
This ended in the ******(that six-lettered
word that is not to be mentioned) of a church
Later, English rulers often clashed with
nobles and the church. Most of these fights
were a result of efforts by the monarch to
raise taxes or to impose royal authority over
the traditional feudal rights.
From these difficulties evolved traditions of
government that would later influence the
modern world.
The Magna Carta
John, Henry's son, was a clever, but
greedy ruler.
He got his bad reputation due to his
failed struggles with the French king and
the pope.
He is best remembered for a
momentous power struggle with his very
own nobles.
The anger of the nobles was due to the
fact that King John gave oppressive
taxes and he abused his power.
1215- A group of rebellious barons
cornered King John and forced him to
accept the Magna Carta (Great
The Magna Carta was a document
where the king affirmed a long list of
feudal rights.
The barons included a few clauses
recognizing the legal rights of the
townspeople and the church, besides
the protection of their own privileges.
The most significant clause protected
every freedom from arbitrary arrest,
imprisonment, and other legal actions,
except "by judgment of his peers or by
the law of the land."
The clause above is the source of the
democratic right which is known as "due
process of law" today.
The king agreed not to raise new taxes
without the consent of his Great Council
of Lords and Clergy (centuries later this
would be known as "taxation without
representation" to the American
colonists), but this was not an idea
imagined by the king or his lords in
The Magna Carta consisted of two
important principles that would shape
England's government traditions.
1st Principle- It stated that nobles had
certain rights. Over time these rights
were extended to all English citizens.
2nd Principle- It also stated that the
monarch must obey the law too.
King had to ask before raising taxes
Development of Parliament
Following the Magna Carta, English
rulers often asked the Great Council for
1200s- This body, the Great Council,
became the Parliament.
Parliament = from French word parler"to talk"
As the Parliament became a major role
in government, it helped unify England.
1295- Edward I called for the Parliament
to approve money for his wars in
Edward I arranged for representatives of
the "common people" to take part with
the lords and clergy. The "commons"
included two knights from each county
and delegates from the towns.
This set up the basis for England's
legislature and is known as the Model
After some time, the Parliament became
a two-house body.
House of Lords = nobles and clergy
House of Commons = knights and
middle-class citizens
Parliament Gains Strength
England and France battled each other
over politics, land claims, and other
issues on and off for many centuries.
1337-1453 - These two countries fought
a series of destructive conflicts known
together as the Hundred Years' War.
At the end, England had lost nearly all of
its lands in France.
The Hundred Years' War changed
England politically.
During the fighting, English rulers turned
constantly to the Parliament for money,
which helped this body win the "power
of the purse" (Parliament had the right to
approve new taxes and could limit the
power of the monarch).
Later on, the majority of democratic
governments would adapt similar
checks (limitations) into their
Triumph of Parliament
1485-1603 - The Tudor dynasty
(includes Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, his
daughter) ruled England.
The Tudors hardly recognized the value
of good relations with Parliament, but
they did continue to consult the
Parliament, especially on issues
involving money.
Christians throughout Europe formed
protests about questionable church
practices. This religious reform
movement is known as the Protestant
The Catholic Church resisted these
protesters, and they eventually split off
to form several Protestant groups.
Henry VIII broke with Rome to form the
Church of England.
Elizabeth I died in 1603 without a direct
heir, so the throne was passed to her
relatives, the Stuarts (the ruling family of
The Stuarts were neither as popular as
the Tudors and weren't skillful in dealing
with the Parliament.
"Century of revolution" = ongoing battle
between the Stuart monarchs and
The Royal Challenge
James I, the first Stuart monarch,
agreed to rule according to English laws
and customs, although he behaved like
an absolute monarch (a ruler with
complete control over the government
and the lives of people).
He rejected the demands of Puritans (a
group wanting to "purify" the Church of
England of Catholic practices).
1611 & 1614- James dissolved the
Parliament, by sending the members
His son, Charles I, also claimed
absolute power.
Charles I imprisoned his enemies
without them having a trial and
squeezed the nation for money.
1628- He was obligated to call upon
Parliament to raise taxes, due to the
need of money.
Parliament insisted that Charles accept
the Petition of Right, which didn’t allow
the king to raise taxes without consulting
the Parliament and also banned
imprisonment without just cause.
Charles signed the petition, but the very
next year he dissolved the Parliament.
1640- Charles needed funds, but this
time to combat a rebellion in Scotland.
He summoned Parliament once again,
but this time they revolted.
The Long Parliament (lasted until 1653)
started the greatest political revolution in
English history.
Parliament tried and executed the king's
chief ministers. It was declared that the
Parliament couldn't be dissolved without
its own consent.
1642- Charles fought back and led
troops into the House of Commons to
arrest leaders.
The leaders escaped through the back
door and soon formed their own army.
Then the conflict moved to the
The English Civil War
1642-1649 - Years of the civil war
The majority of the wealthy nobles
supported Charles, but rural
landowners, town dwelling
manufacturers, and Puritan clergy took
the Parliament's side.
Oliver Cromwell was a skilled general
that led the Parliament forces in battle.
Cromwell's army defeated the king's
troops after a series of battles.
1647- Parliament had Charles I in their
A court was set up to try the king two
years later and it condemned Charles to
death as "a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and
public enemy."
The execution of the king really shocked
Europe and for the first time a ruling
monarch had been tried and was
sentenced to death by his own people.
This made it clear that no ruler could
hold absolute power and ignore the rule
of law.
The Commonwealth
After the death of Charles I, monarchy,
the House of Lords, and the official
Church of England was abolished by the
House of Commons.
Parliament declared that England was a
republic, or Commonwealth, and
Cromwell was in charge.
1653- A set of threats led Cromwell to
apply military rule.
Under the Commonwealth, Parliament
exiled Catholics to barren land in the
west of Ireland
Puritans gained influence throughout the
society and government (imposed a
"rule of saints").
Puritans encouraged greater religious
observance and there were certain
restrictions on some forms of
1658- Oliver Cromwell died and soon
the Puritans lost there grip on England.
1660- A new Parliament was elected.
Monarchy was restored and Charles's
son was welcomed to take the throne
(this was done, since the people were
tired of military rule and the strict Puritan
From Restoration to Glorious Revolution
Charles II shared his father's feelings in
absolute monarchy and secretly
sympathized the Catholic ways. Even
though he had that faith, he accepted
the Petition of Right smartly avoided his
father's mistakes when dealing with the
1685- James II, Charles's brother,
inherited the throne.
He suspended laws when he pleased
and flaunted his Catholic faith.
James II appointed Catholics to high
office and English Protestants feared
that he may restore the Roman Catholic
1688- Leaders of the Parliament invited
James's daughter, Mary (Protestant),
and her Dutch husband, William III of
Orange (also Protestant) to become the
rulers of England.
Late 1688- James II fled to France when
William and Mary came with their army
to England.
The overthrow of the king is called the
Glorious Revolution.
English Bill of Rights
1689- Parliament passed several acts,
known as the English Bill of Rights.
These acts had to be accepted by both
William and Mary before they could be
crowned king and queen.
The Bills of Rights ensured the
superiority of Parliament over the
The monarch had to summon
Parliament often and the House of
Commons was given the "power of the
A king or queen no longer had
permission to interfere in parliamentary
debates or suspend laws.
The English Bill of Rights also barred
any Roman Catholic from taking the
It also restated the traditional rights of
the English citizens (example: trial by
Excessive fines, cruel or unjust
punishment were also abolished
in the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights affirmed the
principle of habeas corpus,
which states that no person could
be held in prison without 1st being
charged with a certain crime.
The Glorious Revolution and the
English Bill of Rights didn't form a
Instead they created a type of
government called a limited
monarchy. A constitution or a
legislative body limits the
monarch's power.
The English rulers still had a lot of
power, but they just had to obey
the law and govern together with