Tudor Parliaments

Tudor Parliaments were an essential aspect of English government and administration in the sixteenth century. After the King’s Council, Parliament was the nation’s most important institution; like the Council, it reverberated with activity when it was in session. ‘When it was in session’ is, however, the crucial phrase: we should not speak of Tudor Parliament, but strictly only of Parliaments. Each meeting called by the Crown and ended by it, too, had a separate identity. Indeed it is essential to realize that, unlike the Council, which met regularly in each year of a monarch’s reign, Parliament was very much an occasional institution. In the 24 years of Henry VII, seven Parliaments sat for a total of 25 weeks. In the 37 years of Henry VIII, 9 Parliaments sat, one of which had 7 sessions. This made a total of 183 weeks, of which 136 weeks occurred in the last 18 years of the reign. The reason for this sudden upsurge in Parliamentary activity was, of course, the Henrician Reformation. In the 6 years of Edward VI’s time, 2 Parliaments were summoned, which sat for 5 sessions and 46 weeks. Mary in her four years faced 5 Parliaments, totalling 28 weeks. Lastly, in her 45 years, from 1558 to 1603, Elizabeth called 10 Parliaments, which met for rather less than 140 weeks altogether in their 13 sessions.

Parliament was thus active under the Tudors, and exceptionally active in the reign of Henry VIII. Activity is perhaps the striking point, when we consider the question in a European context. The 16th century saw the rise of strong European monarchies and the extension of the civil law. But in England, the Roman civil law was not received; common law was sovereign after the Reformation Parliament and the break with Rome. The English common law, taught in the Inns of Court, was secure as the foundation of the Tudor state; and common law being secure, so necessarily was Parliament, since the inevitable amendments and additions to this law, other than judicial interpretation, was available only by statute. Thus the need for legislation made Parliament an indestructible feature of the Tudor state. So, too, did taxation. While the Crown was supposed to live of its own – that is to say, to pay its ordinary expenditure from its own ordinary and permanent revenues – it could call on the nation for additional money, by way of taxes, to meet extraordinary burdens, notably wars. By 1485, it was an established principle of the constitution, honoured even in such breaches as Wolsey Loans of 1522, that taxation had to be granted by the representatives of the community in Parliament.

Key aspects:

1. THE NATURE AND FUNCTION OF PARLIAMENT
2. PARLIAMENT AND PRIVILEGE
3. RELATIONS BETWEEN THE CROWN AND PARLIAMENT

1. THE NATURE AND FUNCTION OF PARLIAMENT

(a) Nature
Parliament was intermittent, in that it was an occasional institution summoned and dissolved at will by the Crown. The point of controversy is, however, the theory that Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, was set upon a new career in the 16th century. For this theory, we are indebted to A. F. Pollard, Sir John Neale and Professor Elton. Briefly, the arguments are these. In its origins, Parliament had been concerned with justice and finance, but most distinctively justice. As a result, Parliament had taken on the character of a court: it was indeed the highest court in the realm. Within this crucial framework, king, lords, and commons were integral elements, but there was a clear gradation in status from the king down through the lords and commons. The argument of Pollard, Sir John Neale and Professor Elton is that a marked change came over the nature of Parliament as a consequence of the long and vital sessions of the Reformation Parliament (1529-1536). Thereafter, according to Professor Elton, we must speak of the emergence of a true legislating assemble, a tripartite Parliament of king, lords and commons as constitutionally equal partners: the first manifestation of a Parliament legislation in the style of modern parliaments. The changes produced by the 1530s, it is suggested, gave to Parliament a permanent place of political importance and finally incorporated it in the English system of government.

Such arguments are not accepted by medievalists, notably Professor J. S. Roskell. Roskell pointed out that Parliament’s political importance has to be related to the intermittent character of its meetings. By this measure, Tudor Parliaments were not only occasional, they were far less frequent than in pre-Tudor times. Between 1327 and 1485, only 42 individual years went by in which Parliament did not meet. But between 1509 and 1603, exactly the period when Parliament was supposed to be becoming politically important, 43 individual years went by in which it did not meet. Similarly, of the 44 years of Elizabeth’s reign, 26 saw no meeting of Parliament.

Meeting at well-spaced intervals, Elizabeth’s parliaments work out at an average of 3 weeks only for every year of her reign – just 6% of the time Elizabeth was on the throne. As her lord keeper explained in 1593, ‘Her majesty hath evermore been most loth to call for the assembly of her people in Parliament, and hath done the same but rarely’. Or as Sir Thomas Smith put it in 1560, ‘What can a commonwealth desire more than peace, liberty, quietness, little taking of base money, (and) few parliaments….?’. And we may add to Professor Roskell’s arguments the surprising fact that, in March 1532, just when, according to Professor Elton, the House of Commons was reaching the apogee of its rise to political importance over the Supplication against the Ordinaries, the fact remained that all M.P.s wanted to do at that precise moment was to persuade Henry VIII to end the session as quickly as possible, so that M.P.s could return home without further ado to their wives and mortgages.

Professor Roskell notes that, to have achieved the status of modernity claimed for it by Tudor historians in the 16th century, Parliament would have had to obtain basic rights which were not secured finally before 1689:

  1. the right to require the monarch to appoint officials and councillors acceptable to Parliament
  2. to make ministers answerable to Parliament
  3. to make royal servants accountable to Parliament on a regular basis
  4. to control directly the spending of the taxes granted by Parliament

As Roskell notes, it is ironic that Parliamentary appropriations of taxation had been a feature of medieval history from 1340 onwards, but that such appropriation to specific objects of expenditure was in abeyance under the Yorkists and Tudors, not to be resurrected until 1624, and then not re-introduced under royal government until 1665, being made invariable only after 1688. In other words, if we are seeking a watershed in Parliamentary history, we surely find it not in the Tudor age, but in the late-seventeenth century.

(b) Function
As to the functions, these are conveniently summarized under three heads:

  1. Parliament formed a point of contact between Crown and nation
  2. Legislation
  3. Taxation

Sir Thomas Smith in De Republica Anglorum, written in 1565, describes a threefold function.

  1. debate and consultation of government bills, i.e. upon what is good and necessary for the common weal. In this connection, we may note that the reduction in size of the Council from the large traditional Council of the middle ages to the new Tudor executive Privy Council after 1540, itself gave a new dimension to the consultative function of Parliament. Magnates and bishops no longer in the Council now aired their views predominantly in the House of Lords.
  2. legislation, since the idea of sovereignty of statute, the law of the realm as enacted in Parliament, emerged from the jurisprudential debates of the 1530s and the Reformation Parliament.
    Important influences here are –
    1. St German’s Doctor and Student (1527-30), New Additions (1531-32), Division between the Spirituality and Temporalty (1532-33)
    2. Thomas Cromwell, and Act of Appeals (1533), national sovereignty and the unitary state governed by king and Parliament…
    3. The sovereignty of parliamentary law settled by execution of Thomas More (1535)
  3. taxation – the convention was that extraordinary revenue should take the form of Parliamentary grants, and that such money bills were begun in the House of Commons. Recognition of the need for the consent of Parliament to taxation had been secured in the medieval period. Under Edward III, the consent of the Commons had become equally essential to that of the Lords, and in 1407 it was established that the Lords should merely assent to what had been granted independently by the Commons. Moreover, the Commons were literally to be left with the last word, since the final declaration of a grant was then reserved for their Speaker. By 1455, the Lords’ power to amend money bills extended in practice only to a reduction of the amount of a grant, not to its enhancement. This privilege was threatened only twice in the Tudor period: in the Parliament of 1523, when Wolsey attempted to extort money from the Commons on the pretence that the Lords were willing to grant what was asked; and in the Parliament of 1593, when the Commons, having granted two subsidies, were obliged to add another, because the Lords insisted on a grant of three.

    The history of Parliamentary taxation in the Tudor period is one of innovation. The system inherited by the Tudors relied upon the old-fashioned method of assessment based on the fifteenths and tenths calculated in the 14th century. The gross yield of a 15th and 10th in the early-Tudor period was £31,000. This amount was predictable and reliable; the trouble was, it wasn’t enough. Henry VIII’s early wars against France were costing some £500,000 per annual campaign. Moreover, the 15th and 10th was an unfair system of taxation by 1509, because the tax was shared out according to the distribution of wealth that had prevailed in 1334, when the system had been established. By 1509, some areas of the country were, though prosperous, enjoying a relatively light tax burden; while others, less fortunate economically, were shouldering a far greater share of the total tax than was forseen in 1334. In 1512, the preamble to a subsidy act spoke of the necessity of devising an alternative tax: ‘as well in shorter time as in more easy, universal and indifferent (i.e. impartial) manner to be levied than such common tax of 15th and 10th hath or can be according to the ancient use thereof’.

    Wolsey’s answer was the invention of the Tudor subsidy, a quite new system of taxation, by which Parliament granted taxes of stated amounts on property and incomes, based on direct and realistic assessments of the wealth of individual taxpayers. For 40 years or so, the precise form of the subsidies varied: that of 1513 combined a tax on rank for the nobility with an income tax on property and incomes for commoners. The subsidy of 1514 taxed wages as well as landed property and incomes. In 1540, only those taxpayers with incomes or property over £20 had to pay. However, in Mary’s reign, the rate of tax was fixed at 4s. in the pound for landed incomes, and 2s. 8d. in the pound for other property; and the subsidy remained fixed at that level for the rest of the century. The yield from subsidies was relatively high, although it varied with the levels of assessment and amounts charged prior to 1553. In 1516, the subsidy yielded £44,000; in 1525, £64,000; in 1542, £48,000; in 1544, £76,000; in 1546, £109,000. The total amount raised in subsidies by Henry VIII from 1513 to 1547 was £845,047. The amount raised from 15ths and 10ths by Henry VIII was £331,611.

    Unfortunately, the levels of income at which taxpayers were assessed became stereotyped after 1558, with the result that the value of Parliamentary subsidies became eroded. Elizabeth got the same in cash terms at the end of her reign than Henry VIII got at the end of his; in real terms, this was very much less because of inflation. The root of the trouble lay in the fact that subsidies were assessed by local commissioners, and these people, in the characteristic manner of Tudor local government, started showing favour to friends and neighbours, clients and tenants, after 1558 by making assessments of taxpayers’ wealth which were far too low. In Sussex, the average assessment of 70 leading families dropped from £61 each to £14 each between 1540 and 1620. Such lawyers as William Lambarde mentioned the widespread prevalence of this abuse at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. The trend can be seen in microcosm in the career of Lord Burghley: at his death he was still assessed at an annual income of £133, the figure he had returned when he was plain William Cecil, and a figure which contrasts markedly with the £4,000 per annum he was actually worth. Sir Walter Raleigh said that the incomes entered in the subsidy books represented ‘not the hundredth part of our wealth’. The result was that the yield of a Parliamentary subsidy of 4s. in the pound on landed incomes and 2s. 8d. on goods fell during Elizabeth’s reign – a period of rising prices and of growing prosperity for the propertied classes – from £140,000 at the beginning of the reign to about £85,000 at the end. This was highly inefficient. An effectively assessed tax on incomes rises with prices and incomes: the Elizabethan subsidy could only rise by being multiplied or imposed more frequently, measures which might prove politically inexpedient.

2. PARLIAMENT AND PRIVILEGE

The question of Parliamentary privilege is important, because it will become an important element in the discussion of alleged conflict between Crown and Parliament under Elizabeth. In considering privilege, we are, in fact, talking about the privileges of the House of Commons. For the House of Lords, the question of privilege hardly arose, because peers did not need to use this weapon in order to obtain political influence and independence. The privileges of Parliament were threefold, and all had been obtained by the reign of Henry VIII.

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom from arrest
  3. Direct personal access of the Speaker of the Commons to the monarch.
  1. Freedom of speech
    It was Thomas More who first asked the king to grant free speech in Parliament in 1523. We don’t know what Henry VIII’s response was, and it looks as if opposition in Parliament remained dangerous. Both More and Bishop Gardiner were in trouble for opposition in 1532; the Act of Appeals passed the Commons because Cromwell introduced it with a speech which ‘no man dared gainsay’. Thomas Broke was in trouble in 1539 for speaking against the act of Six Articles. It is not until 1542 that we have an official reference to the grant of free speech. But by the later sixteenth century, freedom of speech was regarded as an ancient and undoubted privilege, although Elizabeth sought to limit its application to exclude what she termed ‘matters of state’.
  2. Freedom from arrest
    The notion that M.P.s must not be prevented from performing their duties in Parliament, and cannot thus be imprisoned during a session was acknowledged in the 15th century: in 1454 an opinion decided that members must be free to attend the Commons unless imprisoned for treason or other serious crime. The classic instance of M.P.s freedom from arrest was furnished by Ferrers’ case (1543).
  3. Speaker’s access to the sovereign
    The privilege of personal access to the monarch was established in the middle ages. Its first Tudor mention comes in the Lords’ Journal of 1536, when Sir Richard Rich requested the right of access. This was granted, and the privilege was again confirmed when Speaker Moyle asked for it in 1542.

3. RELATIONS BETWEEN CROWN AND PARLIAMENT

Historians of Tudor Parliament have concentrated their attention on relations between Parliament and the monarchy. This theme is best pursued under two headings:

  1. Management of Parliament by the Crown
  2. Conflict between Crown and Parliament
  1. Management

    The question of management applied primarily to the Commons, because the House of Lords could on the whole be expected to follow the government’s lead without special management.

    Management of the Commons worked in two ways:
    1. influence over elections
    2. management of M.P.s at Westminster
    1. Elections
      In the 16th century, there were 310 members of the Commons: 74 knights of the shire, elected from 37 counties, and 236 burgesses representing 117 parliamentary boroughs. The boroughs were all double member constituencies, with the exception of London, which had 4 M.P.s.

      The enfranchising of boroughs was a matter of history and chance: few new boroughs were created in the 16th century, but 7 towns did gain M.P.s for the first time between 1491 and 1529.

      Throughout the counties, a uniform franchise applied: the 40s. freehold qualification, established by statute in 1430.

      Within the boroughs, influence was the dominant factor in deciding elections. Two of London’s M.P.s were named by the aldermen, and two by the common council. At York, election was by the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs and council of 24. The system was similar at Exeter and Cambridge. At Old Sarum there were 7 electors only. At Gatton in Surrey, there was only one elector, Sir Roger Copeley.

      As manager of Parliament, the Crown’s task was, when necessary, to ensure the election of suitable M.P.s for those constituencies in which its influence predominated. This was far from all constituencies, even borough ones: at Colchester in 1529, it was the earl of Oxford’s influence, not Henry VIII’s, which was decisive. Indeed direct royal pressure was negligible everywhere, since there was no direct channel through which it could be exercised. However, indirect pressure was often applied, especially in boroughs. Government influence could be applied quite easily upon mayors and other town officials, whereas in the counties, influence was much more difficult to arrange. County elections were in theory supposed to be free, but it is hard to know what this meant in practice. The 40s. property qualification remained stereotyped, with the result that inflation increased the number of voters considerably in the 16th century. Nevertheless, entitlement to vote did not mean that voters actually voted; contested elections were very rare before 1640, and electioneering almost unknown. Moreover, many influential men in the counties believed that elections should be decided as much by the status of the voters as by their mere number.

      The Crown’s influence as a manager of elections was exercised through ministers, aristocratic connections, and royal servants and officials. By 1534, Thomas Cromwell was trying to influence by-elections for the king, and he pulled strings in the elections of 1536. Even Sir Thomas More (lord chancellor 1529-32), whose mind, one might have supposed, was on higher things, did not fail to influence various elections in 1529 in favour of his nominees, men who (by coincidence) also happened to be his relations. Evidently, this sort of tactic was not deemed improper in Tudor England. Influencing elections was, in short, just another aspect of patronage and power. How useful the technique was also remains unclear: influence prior to sessions of Parliament did not stop clashes in the House of Commons once M.P.s reached Westminster, and there was nothing resembling subservience in the Tudor House of Commons. All that could be hoped for was the creation of a reliable supporting group behind government ministers and councillors.
    2. Management of M.P.s at Westminster
      The Crown could never assume that Parliament would comply with royal wishes. In 1523, there was major opposition in the Commons over Wolsey’s demand for taxation. Later, Parliament opposed the Crown over the Annates Act, the statute of Uses, the royal supremacy and the treason act, and the Proclamations Act. Opposition was usually unsuccessful, as Thomas More’s group found out in 1532. Nevertheless, Parliament frequently hindered the royal will in various ways, and government bills were amended or modified in the course of their passage through the House of Commons. For instance, Thomas Cromwell’s Poor Law of 1536 was decimated by a conservative House of Commons. Two years before, his Sheep and Farms Act had been mutilated in the Commons. The Parliament of 1563 added to a royal bill on wages additional provisions on apprenticeship and compulsory labour. Sometimes bills proposed by the Crown were totally rejected: Henry VIII failed to secure an act against Uses in 1532. Later, Mary’s plan to confiscate the property of exiles was defeated. Once or twice, Parliament gained substantial concessions from the Crown: Mary in effect agreed in 1554 to allow the holders of monastic lands sold by Henry VIII to keep them, so that the return to Roman Catholicism might have a smooth passage. Elizabeth accepted a more protestant Church Settlement in 1558-59 than she is believed to have wanted personally, thanks to Parliamentary pressure. In 1601, the Queen promised to revoke monopolies criticized by Parliament, and refer complaints about them to the lawcourts. Several times in Elizabeth’s reign, Parliament acted as a pressure group in conjunction with other political forces: unsuccessfully in respect of the demands of some puritan M.P.s; unsuccessfully in attempts to make Elizabeth settle the question of the succession; successfully, but only after several attempts, in securing the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. In Mary’s reign, the fear of Parliamentary opposition stopped the Crown from putting forward a measure which it was anxious to secure. This happened in 1555, when proposals for the coronation of Mary’s husband, King Philip of Spain, were abandoned, although Philip was still declared to be king alongside Mary as queen.

      But for the most part, the Crown managed Parliament successfully in the 16th century, using three methods and techniques:
      1. the preparation of Parliamentary business by the monarch and Council
      2. the presence in the House of Commons of councillors who guided debate, introduced measures on behalf of the Crown, and conveyed to M.P.s the wishes of the Crown – men of business
      3. the use of the Speaker to control the House of Commons
      4. rise of Committee of the Whole House.

      The first two measures amounted simply to the maintenance of a government front bench charged with carrying through a pre-arranged legislative programme. The first evidence for such practices comes from the reign of Henry VII. Later evidence comes from the Reformation Parliament, when Thomas Cromwell was among the first English statesmen to regard management of the House of Commons as an essential aspect of ministerial power. Mary’s privy councillors worked in a similar way. Elizabeth’s councillors, led by William Cecil, prepared business and guided debates in the House, effectively composing a government lobby.

      At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, a committee of the Privy Council was named ‘for consideration of all things necessary for the Parliament’. When sessions of Parliament opened, we can see in the Commons the careful collaboration of councillors. Debates were often orchestrated by privy councillors, one bringing up one measure, another the next measure, and so on. The Elizabethan House of Commons also was managed by what historians have called the ‘men of business’: the clients of privy councillors and other prominent persons, who could be depended upon to introduce measures or to make speeches in favour of them. Men of business under Elizabeth included William Fleetwood, recorder of London, and Thomas Norton.

      Privy councillors and ‘men of business’ also worked in committees of the House of Commons. The committee system’s origins lay in the Reformation Parliament; the idea was simply that time and labour could be saved by appointing small groups of M.P.s to amend bills in between formal readings in the House. But committees soon became an essential part of management. Under Elizabeth, privy councillors were named on every committee; and when the committee was for an important measure, the first members appointed were all the privy councillors in the Commons. When two committees for important measures were timetabled by accident for the same afternoon and one had to be postponed, it was the wishes of the councillors which counted. About most important measures, it was a privy councillor who brought in a committee’s report to the whole House.

      Privy councillors sat nearest to the Speaker’s chair. The speaker, though formally elected by the Commons, was in fact a Crown nominee. In Elizabeth’s reign, the Queen and Privy Council are known to have decided in advance on who should be Speaker, and privy councillors in the House saw that he was duly elected. Ostensibly the servant as well as the chairman of the House of Commons, the Tudor Speaker was obliged to defer to the wishes of the government and assist in the management of the House. He was in a position to be of use. The Speaker had an undisputed right to determine the order in which bills were read. He could in an excited and confused assembly with many variant motions before the House pick out the one that met his liking and put it to the question. His decision as to whether the ‘ayes’ or the ‘noes’ had carried the vote was likely most times to go undisputed. He could, with many committees ready to report, determine which was to have the floor. Furthermore, the Privy Council held him to strict accountability.

      In the last resort, it was possible to bring the monarch directly into play as a manager of Parliament. Henry VIII on three or four occasions attended Parliament in person, although he was more prone to summon deputations to wait upon him through which he could influence members. Sometimes, Henry VIII ordered members to stay away from Parliament, to prevent views hostile to the government from gaining publicity. Elizabeth sometimes came personally to Parliament, though more usually she relied on sending messages and starting rumours that certain matters would incur her displeasure.
  2. Conflict between Crown and Parliament
    The question of relations between Crown and Parliament have provoked disagreements between historians of Tudor and Stuart Parliaments. The controversy began with Sir John Neale’s 3 vols. on Elizabeth’s Parliaments. What was important to Neale was to prove three points:
    1. that Tudor England was not a despotism
    2. that early Stuart conflicts had firm roots in the 16th century
    3. to establish that by 1603, Parliament had become a political force with which the Crown and Government had to reckon, this being a change brought about by developments in the power, position and prestige of the House of Commons.

    Neale achieves only the first of his aims. Tudor England, we all agree, was not the despotism claimed by Professor C. H. Williams in 1935 – few Tudor historians ever thought it was! Regarding Neale’s second aim, it is not true that Elizabethan Parliaments anticipated the discord present in, for instance, Charles I’s Parliaments between 1625 and 1629. Neale’s account of Elizabeth I’s relations with Parliament has been exploded on two fronts. First, Professor Elton has destroyed Neale’s conceptual framework by which the story of the Elizabethan House of Commons is told as one of the growing disputatiousness of the Queen’s puritan opponents, who were allegedly learning the ‘ineradicable lesson of defying their sovereign’. For Neale, the concerted agitation of the puritan choir in the Commons amounted to the desire of ‘opposition’ members to initiate bills and to frame the agenda of Parliament. But Elton has shown that Neale’s idea of a concerted puritan opposition is a myth.
    1. Neale’s account written from puritan diaries, not records of Parliament
    2. The leader of the ‘puritan choir’, Thomas Norton, has been wrongly characterised. He was, in fact, a ‘man of business’ – in close touch with Cecils.
    3. Whole concept of puritan opposition ill-conceived: who were the puritans? No validity in the ‘government v. opposition’ split assumed by Parliamentary historians. This was institutionally and ideologically impossible.

    The second front on which Neale’s view of history has been exploded is the assumption that early Stuart parliaments before 1625 were marked by conflict between Crown and Parliament. This myth has been debunked by Conrad Russell in his book Parliaments and English Politics, 1621-29. For there to be conflict, there has to be two clearly identified sides, but this polarization did not exist before 1628. James I shunned clearly defined policies so effectively that Stuart historians cannot decide whether he had any policies at all. Certainly, M.P.s could gain no clear idea of government policy. The duke of Buckingham avoided conflict by the sheer universality of his patronage. What discord there was from 1603-25 represented the playing out of Court factions in all corners of the political arena, including Parliament.

    Concerning Neale’s third aim, to show that by 1603 Parliament had become a political force with which the Crown and government had to reckon, Professor Roskell is surely right that Parliament had already become such a force by the end of the 14th century. Moreover, if Neale’s claim that Parliament’s new force arose from the enhanced privileges of the House of Commons under Elizabeth be pursued, it will be seen that the precise opposite is much more likely.
    1. Even if Neale is right to say that Elizabeth’s reign produced an ‘opposition’ which wanted to ‘initiate’ business, such opposition was totally unsuccessful: the Commons under Elizabeth gained no powers to legislate for further reform of religion, for the succession, or to advise on a projected royal marriage. Even in Henry VIII’s reign there had been debates on the divorce crisis (1532), despite Henry’s objections.
    2. Concerning the privilege of freedom of speech, Elizabeth was remarkably successful in putting precisely those subjects out of bounds which many M.P.s wished to discuss, and the classic defence of freedom of speech in 1576 by Peter Wentworth resulted in his imprisonment in the Tower (until a month later, the Queen remitted her displeasure). It is striking that early Stuart Parliaments aimed to recover the privileges they believed had fallen into abeyance in the 16th century, looking back to the 14th and 15th centuries as the means of developing political muscle.

    To get a true picture of relations between Crown and Parliament in the 16th century, we must obtain a correct perspective. Neither the Crown nor Parliament regarded confrontation as their natural posture. They saw their relationship in terms of harmony and co-operation, the furtherance of domestic peace and the honour of the sovereign. Disagreements might occur, but the main object was co-operation in the task of securing an agreed body of legislation. The Parliament of 1515 quarrelled violently with the clergy; the Parliament of 1523 resisted Wolsey’s demands for money; the Elizabethan Church Settlement was contested in 1571 and 1587. But the primary function of Parliament (other than taxation) was legislation, and legislation — bills for reform of the commonwealth — was what M.P.s wanted, just as much as the government. Despite discussion, criticism and negotiation, both parties, Crown and Parliament, Commons and Lords, had a vested interest in harmony. How that vested interest in harmony was destroyed is the story of the years 1626 to 1642.