Privy Council of England

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The Privy Council of England, also known as His (or Her) Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council (Latin : concilium familiare, concilium privatum et assiduum [1] [2] ), was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England. Its members were often senior members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, together with leading churchmen, judges, diplomats and military leaders.

Kingdom of England Historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

House of Lords upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

House of Commons of England parliament of England up to 1707

The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England 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.

Contents

The Privy Council of England was a powerful institution, advising the Sovereign on the exercise of the Royal prerogative and on the granting of Royal charters. It issued executive orders known as Orders in Council and also had judicial functions.

The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.

Royal charter Document issued by a monarch, granting a right or power to an individual or organisation

A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the British Magna Carta of 1215, but since the 14th century have only been used in place of private acts to grant a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as boroughs, universities and learned societies.

An Order in Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the Queen by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (Queen-in-Council), but in other countries the terminology may vary. The term should not be confused with Order of Council, which is made in the name of the Council without royal assent.

History

During the reigns of the Norman monarchs, the English Crown was advised by a royal court, which consisted of magnates, clergy and officers of the Crown. This body originally concerned itself with advising the Sovereign on legislation, administration and justice. [3] Later, different bodies assuming distinct functions evolved from the court. The courts of law took over the business of dispensing justice, while Parliament became the supreme legislature of the kingdom. [4] Nevertheless, the Council retained the power to hear legal disputes, either in the first instance or on appeal. [5] Furthermore, laws made by the Sovereign on the advice of the Council, rather than on the advice of Parliament, were accepted as valid. [6]

Magnate noble family

A magnate, from the late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus, "great", is a noble or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities. In reference to the Middle Ages, the term is often used to distinguish higher territorial landowners and warlords such as counts, earls, dukes, and territorial-princes from the baronage, and in Poland for the richest Szlachta.

Clergy leaders within certain religions

Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman and clergyperson, while cleric and clerk in holy orders both have a long history but are rarely used.

Court judicial institution with the authority to resolve legal disputes

A court is any person or institution with authority to judge or adjudicate, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law. In both common law and civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute resolution, and it is generally understood that all people have an ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before a court.

Powerful Sovereigns often used the body to circumvent the courts and Parliament. [6] For example, a committee of the Council — which later became the Court of the Star Chamber — was during the fifteenth century permitted to inflict any punishment except death, without being bound by normal court procedure. [7] During Henry VIII's reign, the Sovereign, on the advice of the Council, was allowed to enact laws by mere proclamation. The legislative pre-eminence of Parliament was not restored until after Henry VIII's death. [8] Though the royal Council retained legislative and judicial responsibilities, it became a primarily administrative body. [9] The Council consisted of forty members in 1553, [10] but the Sovereign relied on a smaller committee, which later evolved into the modern Cabinet.

Star Chamber

The Star Chamber was an English court which sat at the royal Palace of Westminster, from the late 15th century to the mid-17th century, and was composed of Privy Counsellors and common-law judges, to supplement the judicial activities of the common-law and equity courts in civil and criminal matters. The Star Chamber was originally established to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against socially and politically prominent people so powerful that ordinary courts would probably hesitate to convict them of their crimes. However, it became synonymous with social and political oppression through the arbitrary use and abuse of the power it wielded.

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.

Cabinet of the United Kingdom Decision-making body of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and 22 cabinet ministers, the most senior of the government ministers.

The Council developed significantly during the reign of Elizabeth I, gaining political experience, so that there were real differences between the Privy Council of the 1560s and that of the 1600s. [11]

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

By the end of the English Civil War, the monarchy, House of Lords and Privy Council had been abolished. The remaining house of Parliament, the House of Commons, instituted a Council of State to execute laws and to direct administrative policy. The forty-one members of the Council were elected by the Commons; the body was headed by Oliver Cromwell, the de facto military dictator of the nation. In 1653, however, Cromwell became Lord Protector, and the Council was reduced to between thirteen and twenty-one members, all elected by the Commons. In 1657, the Commons granted Cromwell even greater powers, some of which were reminiscent of those enjoyed by monarchs. The Council became known as the Protector's Privy Council; its members were appointed by the Lord Protector, subject to Parliament's approval. [12]

English Civil War Civil war in England (1642–1651)

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") principally over the manner of England's governance. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

The English Council of State, later also known as the Protector's Privy Council, was first appointed by the Rump Parliament on 14 February 1649 after the execution of King Charles I.

Oliver Cromwell 17th-century English military and political leader

Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader. He served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland "and of the dominions thereto belonging" from 1653 until his death, acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republic.

In 1659, shortly before the restoration of the monarchy, the Protector's Council was abolished. [13] Charles II restored the royal Privy Council, but he, like previous Stuart monarchs, chose to rely on a small committee of advisers. [14]

The Acts of Union 1707 united England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain, replacing the Privy Councils of both countries with a single body, the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

Origin of name

According to the Oxford dictionary the definition of the word "privy" in Privy Council is an obsolete one meaning "Of or pertaining exclusively to a particular person or persons; one's own", [15] insofar as the Council is personal to the Sovereign.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, the Council is recorded under the title "The Queens Majesties Most Honourable Privy-Council". [16]

Membership

The Sovereign, when acting on the Council's advice, was known as the "King-in-Council" or "Queen-in-Council". The members of the Council were collectively known as "The Lords of His [or Her] Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council", or sometimes "The Lords and others of ..."). The chief officer of the body was the Lord President of the Council, one of the Great Officers of State. [17] Another important official was the Clerk, whose signature was appended to all orders made.

Membership was generally for life, although the death of a monarch brought an immediate dissolution of the Council, as all Crown appointments automatically lapsed. [18]

Other councils

The Privy Council of England was one of the four principal councils of the Sovereign. The other three were the courts of law, the Commune Concilium (Common Council, or Parliament of England) and the Magnum Concilium (Great Council, or the assembly of all the Peers of the Realm). None of these was ever formally abolished, but the Magnum Concilium was not summoned after 1640 and was already considered obsolete then. [19]

The Privy Council of Scotland continued in existence along with the Privy Council of England for more than a hundred years after the Union of the Crowns. In 1708, one year after the Treaty and Acts of Union of 1707, it was abolished by the Parliament of Great Britain and thereafter there was one Privy Council of Great Britain sitting in London. [20] [21] [22] Nevertheless, long after the Act of Union 1800 the Kingdom of Ireland retained the Privy Council of Ireland, which came to an end only in 1922, when Southern Ireland separated from the United Kingdom, to be succeeded by the Privy Council of Northern Ireland. [23]

See also

Notes

  1. Macqueen, John Fraser (July 12, 1842). "A Practical Treatise on the Appellate Jurisdiction of the House of Lords & Privy Council: Together with The Practice on Parliamentary Divorce". A. Maxwell & Son via Google Books.
  2. Takayama, Hiroshi (March 22, 2019). "Sicily and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages". Routledge via Google Books.
  3. Dicey 1860, pp. 6-7.
  4. Dicey 1860, p. 24.
  5. Dicey 1860, pp. 12-14.
  6. 1 2 Gay & Rees 2005, p. 2.
  7. Maitland 1911, pp. 262-263.
  8. Maitland 1911, p. 253.
  9. Goodnow 1897, p. 123.
  10. Maitland 1911, p. 256.
  11. Alford 2002, p. 209.
  12. Plant 2007, 1657.
  13. Plant 2007, 1659-60.
  14. Warshaw 1996, p. 7.
  15. Weiner & Simpson 1991, 'Privy Council'.
  16. D'Ewes & Bowes 1682, p. 213.
  17. Cox 1854, p. 388.
  18. Blackstone 1838, p. 176.
  19. Blackstone 1838, Ch 5.
  20. "Privy Council Records". National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  21. O'Gorman 2016, p. 65.
  22. Black 1993, p. 13.
  23. Rayment 2008, Ireland.

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