Parliament closed with less pageantry than that with which it had opened. Until 1641, when the act providing that the Long Parliament could not be dissolved without its own consent infringed on the royal prerogative, only the king could terminate a parliament or a session of parliament. This was done by prorogation, which ended a session, or by dissolution, which ended the parliament as well.1 The death of a monarch automatically dissolved a parliament, except in the case of Charles I. With a prorogation, all proceedings ceased and must begin afresh with a new session. Bills must be reintroduced and start their way through both Houses again. The lords must reappoint their proxies.
Just what constituted a session and a parliament was a matter for debate. It was commonly believed that both a session and a parliament meant acts.2 The commission dissolving "parliament" in 1614 declared it to have been not a parliament, but a convention, because no act had passed. The judges concurred.3 In 1621, on the other hand, the king's proclamation declared the late convention of parliament to be no session despite the passage of bills that had received his consent.4 Another problem was whether the royal assent to bills in itself determined a session. Though it was customary for the king to give his answer to bills at the end of a session, this was not always the case. There was a long tradition to the contrary.5 Nevertheless, a presumption that assent and the end of a session went together was widespread and helps account for the specific provisions in several statutes that royal assent would not terminate the session.6 It was important to avoid ambiguity. The continuance of many statutes depended on whether a session was a session or a parliament a parliament.7 Despite difficulties and confusion in the early seventeenth century, the king's prorogation alone determined a session. His command for dissolution concluded a parliament. Assent to bills was coincidental, not the decisive fact.8