The House will come to order

On this day, the 20th of January 1265, a national assembly convened in Westminster like none other before it. Only thirty years earlier, when the word parliament came into use to describe these great councils of state, Henry III invited the leading barons and clergymen to meet in order to ask them for money. His refusal to give them anything in return led to reform, war, and the transformation of Parliament into an institution of government beyond his control. The king unintentionally contributed to this process in 1254 when he first invited the knights of the shires, his way, so he thought, of getting around the obstinate magnates. The knights were there again for this occasion, and joining them for the first time were the burgesses, the representatives of the towns. These two classes, together with the clergy, wholly outnumbered the barons, maybe by as many as ten to one, and it was to these middling clerics, lords and merchants that Simon de Montfort, the de facto prime minister, addressed the agenda. But the nobility was far from finished, and their intrigues, and a new understanding with the perennially insecure and dissatisfied earl of Gloucester, would make this groundbreaking assembly the last of its kind for some time to come.

Westminster Hall
                                                                             Westminster Hall

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