Parliament of the United Kingdom

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English parliament in front of the king c. 1300
The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood
The Irish House of Commons by Francis Wheatley, 1780

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the highest legislative body in the United Kingdom and British overseas territories. It alone has parliamentary sovereignty over all other political bodies. At its head is the Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.

The parliament has an upper house, the House of Lords, and a lower house, the House of Commons. The Queen is the third part of Parliament.

Parliament developed from the early medieval councils of bishops and earls that advised the sovereigns of England.

History[change | change source]

In the Middle Ages and early modern period there were three kingdoms within the British IslesEngland, Scotland and Ireland — and these developed separate parliaments. The 1707 Acts of Union brought England and Scotland together under the Parliament of Great Britain, and the 1800 Act of Union included Ireland under the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The parliament at Westminster in London is sometimes called the "Mother of all Parliaments"[1]

Parliament of England[change | change source]

The English Parliament has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot. In 1066, William of Normandy brought a feudal system, where he sought the advice of a council before making laws. In 1215, this council got the Magna Carta from King John, which established that the king may not levy or collect any taxes (except the feudal taxes to which they were hitherto accustomed), save with the consent of his royal council, which slowly developed into a parliament.

In 1265, Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester called the first elected Parliament. The Laws in Wales Acts of 1535–42 annexed Wales as part of England and brought Welsh representatives to Parliament.

When Elizabeth I was succeeded in 1603 by the Scottish King James VI of Scotland, (James I of England), the countries both came under his rule but each kept its own Parliament.

Parliament of Scotland[change | change source]

In the Scotland in the High Middle Ages the King's Council of Bishops and Earls was the beginning of the Parliament of 1235.

Parliament of Ireland[change | change source]

The Irish Parliament was founded to represent the English community in the Lordship of Ireland, but the native or Gaelic Irish were not allowed to vote or stand for office, the first known meeting being in 1264. In 1541 Henry VIII declared the Kingdom of Ireland. The Gaelic Irish lords were now entitled to attend the Irish Parliament as equals of the majority of English descent.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Jones, Clyve. (2012). A short history of Parliament: England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland, p1; excerpt, "It is a commonly held misconception that the Westminster parliament is the 'mother of all parliaments' ... but the original phrase in 1865 was 'England is the mother or all parliaments'"

Further reading[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]