Yonge, Haxey, and the Privilege of Freedom of Speech in Parliament

These days, the parliamentary privilege of free speech is regarded as deriving from the assertion in Article IX of the 1689 Bill of Rights that ‘Freedom of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament’. That it is considerably older than that is certain, but how old, very much not so.

On Swords and Pink Ribbon

Daisy Cooper, the new Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, wrote yesterday in incredulous tones of her discovery in the cloakroom of the House of Commons: On my second day as a new MP, during my induction tour of parliament, I was shown the members’ cloakroom, but it wasn’t until last week that I had… Continue reading On Swords and Pink Ribbon

Black Rod and the Door of the House of Commons

  Image: UK Parliament via Flickr CC The earliest description of the ceremony in which the Commons are summoned to the Lords by Black Rod comes in a notebook that belonged to Sir Thomas Duppa, who filled the position between 1683 and 1694, and had been deputy to his predecessor, Sir Edward Carteret, from 1675.… Continue reading Black Rod and the Door of the House of Commons

The Address in reply to the Queen’s Speech

Though a speech from the monarch or the chancellor at the opening of the session had long been one of the main rituals of each session of parliament, the process of giving formal thanks for the speech is not recorded in the Commons journal before the Restoration in 1660. It became common in the 1660s… Continue reading The Address in reply to the Queen’s Speech

The Election of a Speaker

The first Speaker? The remarkable account in the Anonimalle Chronicle of the so-called ‘Good Parliament’ of 1376 provides what is generally taken to be the first reference to a ‘Speaker’ of the Commons, Sir Peter de la Mare. The account is extraordinarily detailed and circumstantial – so unusual for an account of any event in… Continue reading The Election of a Speaker

Qualifications for the Speakership

Left: Sir Arthur Onslow, by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend ink drawing, 1751-1758; Right: Arthur Wellesley Peel, Viscount Peel, photogravure after Sir William Quiller Orchardson, 1898, both NPG: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Often, in descriptions of the office of Speaker, Christopher Yelverton’s speech of 24 October 1597, on being elected Speaker, is quoted.… Continue reading Qualifications for the Speakership