The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates, 1424-1488

The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates, 1424-1488

The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates, 1424-1488

The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates, 1424-1488

Synopsis

In this first ever study of the medieval Parliament, Roland Tanner gives Parliament a human face by examining those who attended it, the reasons why they attended, and the complex interactions which occurred when all the most wealthy, powerful and ambitious people in the kingdom gathered in one place.

Excerpt

What was a medieval Parliament? The answer is an institution with several quite different functions: a legislature for passing acts concerning law and order, trade, finance, agriculture and any number of other subjects; a court of appeal and court of forfeiture; a body which discussed and decided policy regarding war, diplomacy or other extraordinary matters and raised taxation to fund them. It was attended by representatives of the Three Estates-the prelates, king’s secular tenants-in-chief and commissioners chosen by the royal burghs. Unlike the English Parliament, these men sat in a single chamber to discuss the matters put before them by the king or private individuals. For much of the fifteenth century Parliament was augmented by a sister institution, General Council, with almost identical powers, but lacking the ability to forfeit for treason. The Scottish Parliament also developed three committees. Two, the Lords Auditors of Causes and Complaints and the Lords for the Falsing of Dooms, dealt with civil justice. The final committee, seen from the mid-fifteenth century, was called the Lords of the Articles, and drafted the agenda of ‘articles’ put before it at the beginning of Parliament into finished legislation, which the full assembly of Parliament then accepted, modified or rejected.

It is easy, however, when considering the function of such a complex institution, to miss the most obvious, but important, point: a medieval Parliament took place in a room in which all the most wealthy and powerful men of the realm sat together to discuss issues of common interest-the one place other than a coronation or a gathering of the king’s host for war where figures of such standing met in large numbers. In its membership, therefore, a medieval Parliament saw a concentration in one room of landed, ecclesiastical and urban wealth and power far beyond that of any modern representative assembly. The business of Parliament, then, was fundamentally shaped by the people who attended it. Any ‘constitutional’ principles which it might develop during its history were always likely to be of secondary importance. Yet studies of the medieval Scottish Parliament (and indeed of the entire pre-1707 period) have tended to concentrate upon the institution’s developing constitution, failing to put its meetings into the political context of the times in which they sat, and paying little or no attention to the available records of attendance. As a result, the judgements that have been made about the medieval Scottish Parliament have tended to be either superficial or based too heavily upon assessments of the ‘Scottish constitution’ and its differ-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.