On this day 750 years ago

‘Henry, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine. Since after the grave occurrences of disturbance which have long prevailed in our kingdom, our dearest firstborn son Edward has been given as a hostage for securing and confirming peace in our realm…’ So begins the writ summoning Parliament to meet the following month to treat, inter alia, on the matter of releasing Edward. ‘In this, as you love us and our honour, and your own and the common tranquility of the kingdom, in nowise omit. Witness the king, at Worcester, the 14th of December.’ The summons went out to 120 churchmen, 18 barons, and 5 earls. In addition, the sheriffs were commanded to have two knights from each shire in attendance at the assembly in London. Finally, in the act that was to seal Montfort’s fame in the centuries to come, the cities of York and Lincoln, as well as other towns of England, were invited to send ‘two of the discrete, loyal, and honest citizens and burgesses’ of their communities. This inclusion of the burgesses, men without spiritual or knightly rank, has been traditionally viewed as the inception of the modern parliamentary state in England. The occasion would not be marked by any groundbreaking ceremony, however. The country was still reeling in the aftermath of the civil war and projected invasion and the dwindling representation among the barons suggests most of them remained hostile or aloof. Indeed, the writ was issued from Worcester, where the court had gone to deal with the Marchers again. How much of this innovation can be seen as inspired or imposed in light of the circumstances is a matter of conjecture, but it was a monumental step forward in the history of western democracy and it occurred on this day 750 years ago.

Henry had lots of time to contemplate rebuilding Westminster Abbey as Montfort took over the reigns of government
Henry had lots of time to contemplate rebuilding Westminster Abbey as Montfort took over the reigns of government

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