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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 ), 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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. Nevertheless, the Council retained the power to hear legal disputes, either in the first instance or on appeal. Furthermore, laws made by the Sovereign on the advice of the Council, rather than on the advice of Parliament, were accepted as valid.
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 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.
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.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. 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. Though the royal Council retained legislative and judicial responsibilities, it became a primarily administrative body. The Council consisted of forty members in 1553, but the Sovereign relied on a smaller committee, which later evolved into the modern Cabinet.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.Charles II restored the royal Privy Council, but he, like previous Stuart monarchs, chose to rely on a small committee of advisers.
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.
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",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".
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. 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.
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.
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.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.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is the highest court of appeal for certain British territories and Commonwealth countries. Established on 13 August 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King-in-Council, the Privy Council formerly acted as the court of last resort for the entire British Empire, and continues to act as the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth nations, the Crown Dependencies, and the British Overseas Territories.
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Sub-nationally, the United Kingdom has three legal systems, each of which derives from a particular geographical area and for a variety of historical reasons: English law, Scots law, and Northern Ireland law. Since 2007, as a result of the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006 by Parliament, there also exists purely Welsh law. However, unlike the other three laws, this is not a separate legal system per se, being merely the primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales, interpreted in accordance with the doctrines of English law, and not impacting upon English common law. There is a substantial overlap between these three legal systems, and the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, these being England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each legal system defaults to each jurisdiction, and court systems of each jurisdiction further the relevant system of law through jurisprudence. In private law it is possible for people in certain jurisdictions to use the law of other jurisdictions, for example a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland are free to contract in English law. This is inapplicable in public law, where there are set rules of procedure in each jurisdiction. Overarching these systems is the law of the United Kingdom, also known as United Kingdom law or British law. British law arises where laws apply to the United Kingdom and/or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas, for instance tax law.
The House of Lords of the United Kingdom, in addition to having a legislative function, historically also had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachment cases, and as a court of last resort within the United Kingdom. In the latter case the House's jurisdiction was essentially limited to the hearing of appeals from the lower courts. Appeals were technically not to the House of Lords, but rather to the Queen-in-Parliament. By constitutional convention, only those lords who were legally qualified heard the appeals, since World War II usually in what was known as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords rather than in the chamber of the House.
Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the monarch to withhold assent to laws, the monarch almost never does so, save in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends and is responsible for presiding over meetings of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval. In the modern era, the holder is by convention always a member of one of the Houses of Parliament, and the office is normally a Cabinet post.
The Right Honourable is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and collective bodies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, some other Commonwealth realms, the English-speaking Caribbean, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and occasionally elsewhere. The term is predominantly used today as a style associated with the holding of certain senior public offices in the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.
The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest ranking among those Great Officers of State which are appointed regularly in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the Prime Minister. The Lord Chancellor is outranked only by the Lord High Steward, another Great Officer of State, who is appointed only for the day of coronations. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prior to the Union there were separate Lord Chancellors for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland.
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 13th century until 1707, when it united with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In the United Kingdom, the Accession Council is a ceremonial body which assembles in St James's Palace upon the death of a monarch, to formally proclaim the accession of the successor to the throne. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, a new monarch succeeds automatically. The proclamation merely confirms by name the identity of the heir who has succeeded.
Under the law of the United Kingdom, high treason is the crime of disloyalty to the Crown. Offences constituting high treason include plotting the murder of the sovereign; committing adultery with the sovereign's consort, with the sovereign's eldest unmarried daughter, or with the wife of the heir to the throne; levying war against the sovereign and adhering to the sovereign's enemies, giving them aid or comfort; and attempting to undermine the lawfully established line of succession. Several other crimes have historically been categorised as high treason, including counterfeiting money and being a Catholic priest.
The Irish House of Lords was the upper house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from medieval times until 1800. It was also the final court of appeal of the Kingdom of Ireland.
The privilege of peerage is the body of special privileges belonging to members of the British peerage. It is distinct from parliamentary privilege, which applies only to those peers serving in the House of Lords and the members of the House of Commons, while Parliament is in session and forty days before and after a Parliamentary session.
Succession to the British throne is determined by descent, sex, legitimacy, and religion. Under common law, the Crown is inherited by a sovereign's children or by a childless sovereign's nearest collateral line. The Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701 restrict succession to the throne to the legitimate Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover who are in "communion with the Church of England". Spouses of Roman Catholics were disqualified from 1689 until the law was amended in 2015. Protestant descendants of those excluded for being Roman Catholics are eligible.
The Regency Acts are Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed at various times, to provide a regent in the event of the reigning monarch being incapacitated or a minor. Prior to 1937, Regency Acts were passed only when necessary to deal with a specific situation. In 1937, the Regency Act 1937 made general provision for a regent, and established the office of Counsellor of State, several of whom would act on the monarch's behalf when the monarch was temporarily absent from the realm. This Act forms the main law relating to regency in the United Kingdom today.
The Privy Council of Northern Ireland is a formal body of advisors to the sovereign and was a vehicle for the monarch's prerogative powers in Northern Ireland. It was modeled on the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
As opposed to the majority of countries in the world, the United Kingdom does not have a codified constitution. Instead of such a constitution, certain documents stand to serve as replacements in lieu of one. These texts and their provisions therein are considered to be constitutional, such that the "constitution of the United Kingdom" or "British constitution" may refer to a number of historical and momentous laws and principles like the Acts of Union 1707 and the Acts of Union 1800 which formulate the country's body politic. Thus the term "UK constitution" is sometimes said to refer to an "unwritten" or uncodified constitution. The British constitution primarily draws from four sources: statute law, common law, parliamentary conventions, and works of authority. Similar to a constitutional document, it also concerns both the relationship between the individual and the state and the functioning of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.