Thursday, June 14, 2007

Provisions of Oxford

This document was regarded as England’s first Constitution. It was written in Latin, French, as well as Middle-English.

The government of England was firmly in the hands of a King considered ill-suited to reigning. Henry III had ascended the throne as a minor who was governed by a Regency Council until he came of age. His rule was one of fiscal mismanagement and ill-conceived military enterprises. His court was filled with “foreigners” whose influence over the King was to the detriment of the Kingdom.

Meeting at Oxford:
A group of notable Barons, led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, met at Oxford to discuss government reform (June 1258). At the conclusion of the meeting they put forth a document that would essentially removed power from the King and in its stead, place that power in the hands of a Council of 15. In effect, the Provisions of Oxford would be removing the concept of “absolute monarchy” – the King would be merely a figurehead for Parliament.

Objective of the Provisions:
The Council would consist of - seven earls, five barons, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Worcester and one royal clerk. This Council was not to be chosen by the King – this ole would be undertaken by the Earl Marshal, Hugh Bigod, John Mansel and the Earl of Warwick.

The Council was responsible for the supervision of government appointments, administration on a local level, taxation, and custodianship of all royal castles.

Parliament was to meet every three years and would be responsible for monitoring the Council. In addition, Sheriffs were to be elected for one year only and received a wage for their services; and finally Henry’s “foreigners” would be dispossessed of their lands and banished from English soil.

At the time, King Henry III was forced to accept the agreement as he needed funds and was forced to plead his cause before the Parliament. In exchange for his acceptance of the Provisions of Oxford, King Henry III received the revenues he required.

The Provisions of Oxford would be replaced the following year by the Provisions of Westminster (1259). Three years later, and with papal sanction, Henry III overthrew the Provisions (1262) and sowed the seeds for the Second Barons’ War (1263 – 1267).

The Provisions were annulled for the final time by the Dictum of Kenilworth (1264). However, the legal clauses contained within the Provisions of Westminster were reaffirmed in the Statute of Marlborough (1267).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2001-05)
Britannia Concise Encyclopedia
History of the Office of Sheriff
The Project Gutenberg “E-Book of The History of England” by T.F. Tout

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 25/3/2007)

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