Provisions of Oxford

Last updated

The Provisions of Oxford were constitutional reforms developed during the Oxford Parliament of 1258 to resolve a dispute between King Henry III of England and his barons. The reforms were designed to ensure the king adhered to the rule of law and governed according to the advice of his barons. A council of fifteen barons was chosen to advise and control the king and supervise his ministers. Parliament was to meet regularly three times a year.

Contents

Like the earlier Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford demonstrated the ability of the barons to press their concerns in opposition to the monarchy. [1] The king ultimately refused to abide by the reforms, sparking the Second Barons' War. The king defeated his opponents, and royal authority was restored.

Background

Coronation of Henry III HenryIII.jpg
Coronation of Henry III

When in the spring of 1258 Henry III sought financial aid from Parliament, he was confronted by a group of barons who insisted on a new commission of reform, in the shape of a committee of twenty-four members, twelve selected by the Crown, twelve by the barons. [2] The king's nominees to the committee were: [3]

Five of the king's men were foreigners. Among the twelve chosen by the magnates, only one was a foreigner—Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. The only clergymen chosen by the magnates was Waltere Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester. [3] The Twenty-four presented their reform programme at the Oxford Parliament held in June 1258. [4]

Reforms

The provisions fit into three categories: (1) appointment and control of principal ministers, (2) the king's council, and (3) parliament. [5]

Concerning ministers, the office of justiciar was revived. In the past, the justiciar had been the king's chief minister and viceroy whenever he was in Normandy. After the loss of the Angevin Empire during the reign of King John, however, the office had fallen into disuse. The new justiciar would be an ex officio member of the king's council and have authority over the judiciary, including the right to hear appeals from all other courts, whether royal or baronial. He was to hold office for one year and was responsible to the king's council for his conduct. According to historian George Sayles, "[t]his was a most serious departure from previous practice, for it placed at the head of the judiciary a minister virtually independent of the king." [6] Hugh Bigod, who was acceptable to both the king and the barons, was made justiciar. [7]

The chancellor and treasurer were also limited to one year in office, and like the justiciar were not to take direct orders from the king. Control of royal finance was given to the exchequer, so the king was unable to divert revenues for his own spending. Local offices, such as sheriff and escheator, were also to be under annual term limits. [8] Sheriffs were to be chosen from among local knights rather than outsiders and paid so they would not need to take bribes. New castellans were to be appointed and given custody of royal castles. [9]

The king's council was also to be reformed to more effectively advise and control the king. The Twenty-four selected fifteen counsellors (nine representing the barons) who were to advise the king on all matters. [2] The Fifteen were: [10]

  1. Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester
  2. Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester
  3. Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk
  4. John du Plessis, 7th Earl of Warwick
  5. Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford
  6. William de Forz, 4th Earl of Albemarle
  7. Peter of Savoy
  8. John fitzGeoffrey
  9. Peter de Montfort
  10. Richard Grey
  11. Roger Mortimer
  12. James Audley
  13. Boniface of Savoy, Archbishop of Canterbury
  14. Waltere Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester
  15. John Mansel
The seal of Henry III. Under the Provisions of Oxford, use of the seal was controlled by the Fifteen. Jindra3 pecet.jpg
The seal of Henry III. Under the Provisions of Oxford, use of the seal was controlled by the Fifteen.

While the Fifteen controlled the king's council, they were not the only members. The justiciar, treasurer and chancellor were always members, as were other ministers and judges. In addition, the king could still include other advisers. In fact, it was impossible for the Fifteen to constantly be on hand to advise the king. At routine council meetings, the Fifteen were represented by two or three of their number who would decide if any business was important enough to summon the full Fifteen. In addition, the chancellor was made to swear that he would not seal any important grant without the assent of a majority of the Fifteen. [11]

Parliament was also reformed. It was decided that "there be three parliaments a year ... to treat of the common wants of the kingdom, and of the king". [12] Attending three regular parliaments each year would have been a burden for the barons. Therefore, the Twenty-four asked the parliament assembled at Oxford to choose twelve representatives who would attend the regular parliaments. This provision was not meant to limit attendance at parliament to only the twelve; rather, it guaranteed that there would be a minimum representative attendance. Recommendations for an inquest into local (mis-)government and further measures of reform were also set out. [13]

Analysis

The 1258 Provisions had a significant effect upon the development of the English common law, limiting in part the expansion of royal jurisdiction by way of the number of available writs,[ citation needed ] but in the main confirming the importance of the common law of the land for all, from king to commoner. [14]

There were weaknesses to this constitutional framework. Most significantly was the lack of any method to prevent future misconduct by the king or those following his orders. Historian G. O. Sayles notes, [15]

If the king did wrong, he could not, save by his rarely given permission, be sued by his own writs in his own courts, and the petition of right was as yet in its early infancy ... [The petition of right] would cover wrongs done to individuals only and not render justiciable the wrongs done to subjects as a whole by the invasion of their constitutional rights ...

Neither the new role of the king nor the powers of the Fifteen was ever defined. Legal scholar Ann Lyon reflected that the provisions "have the feel, as with many of the first fumblings towards constitutional change which occur in the medieval period, and indeed much later, of being incompletely thought through." [7]

Aftermath

A written confirmation of the agreement was sent to the sheriffs of all the counties of England in three languages: [16] [ page needed ] Latin, French and, significantly, Middle English. The use of the English language was symbolic of the anglicisation of the government of England and an antidote to the Francization which had taken place in the decades immediately before. The Provisions were the first government documents to be published in English since the Norman Conquest two hundred years before. [17]

The Provisions of Oxford were confirmed and extended in 1259 by the Provisions of Westminster. [18] The reforms implemented by the Fifteen were not limited to changes in government. They also included control of the royal household. The barons determined not only the household's senior members, such as the stewards, but also the lower servants, such as cooks. A humiliated Henry was essentially treated as if he were a minor. [19]

The Provisions of Oxford were overthrown by Henry, helped by a papal bull, in 1261, seeding the start of the Second Barons' War (1263–1267). The king was defeated at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, and Simon de Montfort became the real ruler of England for the next twelve months. However, Henry was still king, and the rebels never considered removing him. Instead, Montfort called a Parliament to sanction a new form of government to control the king. The Parliament held in June 1264 approved the appointment of three electors (Montfort, Stephen Bersted, Bishop of Chichester, and Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester). These men were to choose a council of nine, by whose advice the king was to rule. The electors could replace any of the nine as they saw fit, but the electors themselves could only be removed by Parliament. [20]

Ultimately, the war was won by the king and his royalist supporters, and the Provisions of Oxford were annulled for the last time in 1266 by the Dictum of Kenilworth. Nonetheless, the administrative and legislative reforms the barons had initiated were taken up and confirmed in the Statute of Marlborough. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dictum of Kenilworth 1266 treaty

The Dictum of Kenilworth, issued on 31 October 1266, was a pronouncement designed to reconcile the rebels of the Second Barons' War with the royal government of England. After the baronial victory at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Simon de Montfort took control of royal government, but at the Battle of Evesham the next year Montfort was killed, and King Henry III restored to power. A group of rebels held out in the stronghold of Kenilworth Castle, however, and their resistance proved difficult to crush.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry III of England</span> King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 to 1272

Henry III, also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death in 1272. The son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine in the middle of the First Barons' War. Cardinal Guala declared the war against the rebel barons to be a religious crusade and Henry's forces, led by William Marshal, defeated the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217. Henry promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, a later version of the 1215 Magna Carta, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt led by William Marshal's son, Richard Marshal, broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester 13th-century Anglo-Norman nobleman and rebel

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, later sometimes referred to as Simon V de Montfort to distinguish him from his namesake relatives, was a nobleman of French origin and a member of the English peerage, who led the baronial opposition to the rule of King Henry III of England, culminating in the Second Barons' War. Following his initial victories over royal forces, he became de facto ruler of the country, and played a major role in the constitutional development of England.

Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk Marshal of England

Roger Bigod was 4th Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parliament of England</span> Legislature of England, 1215 to 1707

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advised the English monarch. Great councils were first called Parliaments during the reign of Henry III. By this time, the king required Parliament's consent to levy taxation.

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey 13th-century English nobleman and military commander

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey was a prominent English nobleman and military commander during the reigns of Henry III of England and Edward I of England. During the Second Barons' War he switched sides twice, ending up in support of the king, for whose capture he was present at Lewes in 1264. Warenne was later appointed a Guardian of Scotland and featured prominently in Edward I's wars in Scotland.

Second Barons War 1260s civil war in England

The Second Barons' War (1264–1267) was a civil war in England between the forces of a number of barons led by Simon de Montfort against the royalist forces of King Henry III, led initially by the king himself and later by his son, the future King Edward I. The barons sought to force the king to rule with a council of barons rather than through his favourites. The war also involved a series of massacres of Jews by de Montfort's supporters including his sons Henry and Simon, in attacks aimed at seizing and destroying evidence of baronial debts. To bolster the initial success of his baronial regime, de Montfort sought to broaden the social foundations of parliament by extending the franchise to the commons for the first time. However, after a rule of just over a year, de Montfort was killed by forces loyal to the king in the Battle of Evesham.

Hugh Despenser (justiciar)

Hugh le Despenser, 1st Baron le Despenser was an important ally of Simon de Montfort during the reign of Henry III. He served briefly as Justiciar of England in 1260 and as Constable of the Tower of London.

Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford


Humphrey IV de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford, 1st Earl of Essex was an Anglo-Norman nobleman and soldier who served as hereditary Constable of England.

Peter de Montfort of Beaudesert Castle was an English magnate, soldier and diplomat. He is the first person recorded as having presided over Parliament as a parlour or prolocutor, an office now known as Speaker of the House of Commons. He was one of those elected by the barons to represent them during the constitutional crisis with Henry III in 1258. He was later a leading supporter of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester against the King. Both he and Simon de Montfort were slain at the Battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265.

Simon de Montfort's Parliament was an English parliament held from 20 January 1265 until mid-March of the same year, called by Simon de Montfort, a baronial rebel leader.

The Oxford Parliament (1258), also known as the Mad Parliament and the First English Parliament, assembled during the reign of Henry III of England. It is best known for the Provisions of Oxford, a set of constitutional reforms that forced the king to govern according to the advice of a council of barons.

The Provisions of Westminster of 1259 were part of a series of legislative constitutional reforms that arose out of power struggles between Henry III of England and his barons. The King's failed campaigns in France in 1230 and 1242, and his choice of friends and advisers, together with the cost of his failed scheme to make one of his younger sons King of Sicily and help the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor, led to further disputes with the barons and united opposition in Church and State. Henry's position was not helped by the fact that his lifestyle was extravagant and his tax demands were widely resented. The King's accounts show a list of many charitable donations and payments for building works, including the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey, which began in 1245.

The Ordinances of 1311 were a series of regulations imposed upon King Edward II by the peerage and clergy of the Kingdom of England to restrict the power of the king. The twenty-one signatories of the Ordinances are referred to as the Lords Ordainers, or simply the Ordainers. English setbacks in the Scottish war, combined with perceived extortionate royal fiscal policies, set the background for the writing of the Ordinances in which the administrative prerogatives of the king were largely appropriated by a baronial council. The Ordinances reflect the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster from the late 1250s, but unlike the Provisions, the Ordinances featured a new concern with fiscal reform, specifically redirecting revenues from the king's household to the exchequer.

Events from the 1260s in England.

Events from the 1250s in England.

Mise of Amiens 1264 settlement between King Henry III of England and Simon de Montfort

The Mise of Amiens[miz ɒv a.mjɛ̃] was a settlement given by King Louis IX of France on 23 January 1264 in the conflict between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. Louis' one-sided decision for King Henry led directly to the hostilities of the Second Barons' War.

Mise of Lewes 1264 settlement between King Henry III of England and rebellious barons led by Simon de Montfort

The Mise of Lewes was a settlement made on 14 May 1264 between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. The settlement was made on the day of the Battle of Lewes, one of the two major battles of the Second Barons' War. The conflict between king and magnates was caused by dissatisfaction with the influence of foreigners at court and Henry's high level and new methods of taxation. In 1258 Henry was forced to accept the Provisions of Oxford, which essentially left the royal government in the hands of a council of magnates, but this document went through a long series of revocations and reinstatements. In 1263, as the country was on the brink of civil war, the two parties agreed to submit the matter to arbitration by the French king Louis IX. Louis was a firm believer in the royal prerogative, and decided clearly in favour of Henry. The outcome was unacceptable for the rebellious barons, and war between the two parties broke out almost immediately.

James Audley, Aldithel or Alditheley, was an English baron.

Robert de Neville

Robert de Neville, 2nd Baron Neville of Raby, was a medieval English nobleman.

References

  1. Wickson 1970, p. 50.
  2. 1 2 Tanner 1929, p. 277.
  3. 1 2 Powell & Wallis 1968, p. 185.
  4. Sayles 1974, p. 50.
  5. Sayles 1974, p. 51.
  6. Sayles 1974, pp. 35 & 51–52.
  7. 1 2 Lyon 2016, p. 70.
  8. Sayles 1974, p. 52.
  9. Lyon 2016, pp. 69–70.
  10. Powell & Wallis 1968, p. 189.
  11. Sayles 1974, pp. 52–54.
  12. Oxford Provisions quoted in Wickson 1970 , pp. 107–109.
  13. Sayles 1974, pp. 54–56.
  14. Wickson 1970, pp. 53 & 81–82.
  15. Sayles 1974, p. 59.
  16. Berkhofer, Cooper & Kosto 2005.
  17. English and its Historical Development, Part 20 (English was re-established in Britain)
  18. 1 2 S. H. Steinberg, A New Dictionary of British History (London 1963) p.280
  19. Sayles 1974, pp. 59–60.
  20. Butt 1989, pp. 108–109.

Bibliography

  • Berkhofer, Robert F.; Cooper, Alan; Kosto, Adam J., eds. (2005). The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe, 950–1350. Ashgate. ISBN   9780754651062.
  • Butt, Ronald (1989). A History of Parliament: The Middle Ages. London: Constable. ISBN   0094562202.
  • Lyon, Ann (2016). Constitutional History of the UK (2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN   9781317203988.
  • Powell, J. Enoch; Wallis, Keith (1968). The House of Lords in the Middle Ages: A History of the English House of Lords to 1540 . London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN   0297761056.
  • Sayles, George O. (1974). The King's Parliament of England . Historical Controversies. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN   0393093220.
  • Tanner, J. R., ed. (1929). The Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge.
  • Wickson, R. (1970). The Community of the Realm in Thirteenth Century England. London.