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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

While he restored the memory of the two Despencers


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is hardly needful to say that the regulations of the Ordainers were now revoked. But must not some means be also thought of, to prevent similar acts of violence for the future? It was deemed necessary to declare even the form, under cover of which they had been ratified, invalid for all time. And so an enactment was now made, in which the first definite idea of the Parliamentary Monarchy becomes visible. It was declared that never for the future should any ordinance affecting the King's power and proceeding from his subjects be valid, but only that should be law which was discussed, agreed on, and enacted in Parliament by the King with the consent of the prelates, the earls and barons, and the commonalty of the realm.[50] For it was above all things necessary to withdraw the legislative authority for ever from the turbulent grandees. The monarchy opposed to them its alliance with the commonalty of the realm, as it was expressed by the representatives of the knights and the commons. Among the founders of the English constitution these Hugh Despencers, through whom the legislative power was first transferred to the united body of King Lords and Commons, take a very important position.

This thought was however rather one left for the future to carry out, than one which swayed or contented the English world at the time. Edward II fell before a new attack of the revolted barons, with whom even his wife was allied: he had to think it a piece of good

fortune that, on the ground of his own abdication, his son was acknowledged as his successor. The latter however could only obtain real possession of the royal power by overthrowing the faction to which his father had succumbed. While he restored the memory of the two Despencers, who had been condemned and executed by the barons, he also decided to carry on a Parliamentary government; it is the first that existed in England.

For the general course of the development it is significant that the rights of Parliament in relation to the voting of taxes, and now also to legislation as a whole, were acknowledged before an appropriate form was found for its consultations. In the first years of Edward III its four constituent parts, prelates, barons, knights, and town deputies, held their debates in four different assemblies; but gradually the two first were fused into an Upper, the two last into a Second House, without any definite law being laid down to that effect: the nature of things led to the custom, the custom in course of time became law.

That which had been already preparing under the first Edward came under the third for the first time into complete operation, viz. the participation of the Estates in the management of foreign affairs and of war.

In the year 1333 the Parliament advised the King to break the peace with Scotland, which the barons had concluded of their own authority according to their own views, not to put up with any more outrages, and not merely to take back the lost border-fortress of Berwick, but to force the Scots to acknowledge the supremacy of England.

In the year 1337 and afterwards the Parliament more than once approved the King's plan of asserting the claim he had through his mother on the French throne by force of arms and through alliances with foreign princes,[51] and promised to support him in it with their lives and properties; it was all the more ready for this, as France had been repeatedly threatening England with a new Conquest. In the year 1344 the Peers, each in his own name, called on the King to cross the sea and not let himself be hindered by any one, not even by the Pope, from appealing to the judgment of God by battle. The clergy imposed on themselves a three-years' tenth, the counties a fifteenth, the towns two tenths; the great nobles followed him in person with their squires and horsemen, without even alluding to their old remonstrances. So that splendid army made its appearance in France, in which the weapons of the yeomen vied with those of the knights, and which, thanks chiefly to the former, won the victory of Cressy. Whilst the King made conquests over the French, his heroic Queen repelled the Scotch. In these wars the now united nation, which put forth all its strength, came for the first time to the feeling of its power, to a position of its own in the world and to the consciousness of it. The King of Scotland at that time, and the King of France some years later, became prisoners in England.


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