67. PARLIAMENT ROLLS OF HENRY VI

(A) Parliament of 1422

... It is to be remembered that, on the twenty-seventh day of this parliament, in consideration of the tender age of our most honoured lord, King Henry VI after the Conquest — on which account he could not for the time being personally see to the protection and defence of his kingdom of England and of the English Church — the same lord king, fully trusting in the wisdom and industry of his dearest uncles, John, duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, by the advice and consent of the lords both spiritual and temporal assembled in the present parliament, and also by the assent of the commons of the English realm assembled in the same, ordained and constituted his said uncle, the duke of Bedford, now absent in foreign parts, as protector and defender of his kingdom and the English Church aforesaid, and as chief councillor of the said lord king; and [he ordered] that the said duke, when he returned to England and came into the king's presence, and for so long a time as he there remained and it was pleasing to our same lord the king, should be and should be styled protector and defender of the same kingdom and chief councillor of the said king. And furthermore the same lord king, by the advice and consent aforesaid, in the absence of his aforesaid uncle, the duke of Bedford, ordained and constituted his aforesaid uncle, the duke of Gloucester, who was then present in his said kingdom of England, as protector and defender of his said kingdom of England and the English Church, and as chief councillor of the said lord king; and [he ordered] that the same duke of Gloucester should be and should be styled protector and defender of the same kingdom of England and the Church aforesaid during the king's pleasure, and besides that letters patent of the said lord king should be drawn up in the form here following....

Now when this act had thus been drawn up and the commission had been secured, and after their contents had been read and recited in the presence of the said lord duke of Gloucester, as well as of the aforesaid lords spiritual and temporal, the same lord duke of Gloucester, having thereupon deliberated, agreed to assume, in so far as pertained to him, the obligation and exercise of such office for the honour of God, for the benefit of the king and the kingdom aforesaid, and at the request of the aforesaid lords; and he then and there did assume it according to the form of the act aforesaid — protesting, nevertheless, that such assumption of his, or consent in this matter, should in no way serve to the prejudice of his aforesaid brother, but that the same brother might freely deliberate and decide for himself whether or not to assume such responsibility....[1]

Be it known that afterwards ... , on the request of the said commons, and by the advice and consent of all the lords aforesaid, certain persons of rank, both spiritual and temporal, were named and elected as councillors to assist in the government, whose names, written in a small schedule and publicly read in this parliament, here follow: the duke of Gloucester, the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London, the bishop of Winchester, the bishop of Norwich, the bishop of Worcester, the duke of Exeter, the earl of March, the earl of Warwick, the earl marshal, the earl of Northumberland, the earl of Westmorland, Lord Fitz-Hugh, Sir Ralph Cromwell, Sir Walter Hungerford, Sir John Tiptoft, Sir Walter Beauchamp.

And be it known also that the same persons, thus named and elected as assistant councillors, after this nomination and election, agreed to accept such assistance in the government in the manner and form set forth in a schedule written in English on paper, containing not only all their names, but also five special articles presented in this same parliament by the same persons named as assistant councillors; of which schedule the tenor is as follows....[2]

(Latin and French) Ibid., IV, 174-76.

(B) Parliament of 1427

... It is to be remembered that, on March 3 of the present year, the illustrious prince, my lord Humphrey, duke of Gloucester ... immediately after the opening of the same parliament, among other matters, declared that he, in the absence of the illustrious prince, my lord John, duke of Bedford, his dearest brother, acted as protector and defender of the kingdom of England and chief councillor of the lord king, and that, through the relation of certain persons, he had heard there were diverse opinions concerning his authority and power. The aforesaid duke of Gloucester, therefore desirous of being more fully informed in this matter of his power and authority, particularly urged and requested all the lords spiritual and temporal assembled in the present parliament that they, through the good discretion and advisement of all, would discuss and consider such power and authority of his and with all possible speed give him sure information in that matter, stating that he would absent himself from the chamber of the parliament aforesaid until response should be made to him in this connection. When this declaration and request had been heard ... , all and singular of the lords spiritual and temporal had a certain response drawn up in writing and put into an indenture, which afterwards ... was delivered to the aforesaid duke of Gloucester by the venerable father, Henry, archbishop of Canterbury; of which response the tenor follows in these words: —

High and mighty prince, my lord of Gloucester, we, lords spiritual and temporal assembled by command of the king our sovereign lord in this his present parliament, well remember how[3]... , in the first parliament held at Westminster by our sovereign lord the king who now is, you desired to have the government of this land, affirming that it belonged to you of right, as well by virtue of your birth as by the last will of the late king, your brother — whom God assoil! ... Whereupon the lords spiritual and temporal then assembled in parliament ... held great and long deliberation and advisement, sought precedents in the government of the land for similar times and cases when kings of this land had been of tender age, also obtained information concerning the laws of the land from such persons as were notably learned therein, and finally found your said desire unjustified and groundless according to precedent and the law of the land, which the late king during his lifetime could not alter, change, or abrogate by his last will or otherwise without the consent of the three estates;[4 ]nor could he commit or grant to any person the government or rule of this land for a longer term than that of his own life.... Nevertheless, to preserve peace and tranquillity, and in order to ease and appease you, it was ordained and established by the authority of the king with the assent of the three estates of this land that, in the absence of my lord your brother of Bedford, you should be chief of the king's council; and accordingly a title was devised for you different from that of the other councillors — not the title of tutor, lieutenant, governor, or regent, nor any title that would imply authority of government over the land, but the title of protector and defender, which implies a personal duty of attending to the actual defence of the land, as well against outward enemies, if the case requires, as against inward rebels, should there be any — which God forbid! And therewith you were granted certain power, which is specified and contained in an act of the said parliament, to continue as long as might be the king's pleasure. And if the intent of the said estates had been for you to have more power or authority, more would have been expressed therein....[5] With all our hearts we marvel that, considering the open declaration of the authority and power belonging to my lord of Bedford, to you in his absence, and to the king's council, to which [declaration] both my lord of Bedford aforesaid and you purely and simply subscribed, you should in any way be stirred or moved not to content yourself therewith, or to lay claim to any other.... Accordingly, considering the facts and causes aforesaid and many others too long for enumeration, we, the lords aforesaid, pray, exhort, and require you to content yourself with the power set forth and declared above ... and that you neither desire nor exercise any larger power; giving you, as our answer to your aforesaid demand, that which is above written, and which without variance or change we will keep and abide by....

Item, on March 25, which was the last day of this present parliament, another petition was presented to our lord the king in the said parliament by the commons of the same, the tenor of which petition here follows: —

May it please our sovereign lord the king, considering how, in order to obtain suitable remedies, numerous petitions have been introduced and presented to your most noble highness by the commons of this present parliament, and how they have not as yet been settled, to ordain by the advice of the lords spiritual and temporal, and by the consent of the aforesaid commons, that the said petitions may be delivered to the lords of your most wise council, who, calling unto themselves, if need be, the justices and other persons skilled in your law, shall have power through the authority of the said parliament between now and the coming feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist to hear and determine the said petitions; and that the latter, thus determined by the advice and consent aforesaid, may be enacted, enrolled, and placed as of record in the roll of your same parliament.

Response: Le roi le voet.[6]

Afterwards, that is to say, on June 15 next following, in the presence of divers lords of our lord the king's council[7]... assembled in the Star Chamber[8] at Westminster, a number of the said petitions ... were read and heard; and by virtue of the authority given to the said lords, as aforesaid, they were answered and determined, as is more clearly set forth in the endorsement of the same petitions....

(Latin, French, English) Ibid., IV, 326-34.

(C) Parliament of 1429

The commons pray that — whereas one William Larke, servant to William Melrede, attending your present court of parliament for the city of London, through the subtle imagination and conjecture of one Margery Janyns, and while he was then in the service of the said William Melrede, was arrested by the local officers in the court of piepowder[9] belonging to the abbot of Westminster and, at the suit of the said Margery, was thence removed to your [court of] common bench ... , and by the justices of your said bench was committed to your Fleet Prison and there detained in prison until the present ... — it may please your royal majesty, considering how the said William Larke was in the service of the said William Melrede at the time of the said arrest and truly supposed that, by the privilege of your court of parliament, he was quit of all arrest during [the session of] your said court except for treason, felony, or surety of the peace, to ordain by the authority of your same parliament that the said William Larke shall be liberated from your Fleet Prison, notwithstanding the said condemnation, judgment, and execution, or anything thereby pending against or upon him; saving always to the said Margery and her executors their right to execute the said judgment against the said William Larke after the end of the same parliament. And [the commons pray the king] also to grant, by the aforesaid authority, that none of your said lieges — that is to say, lords, knights of your shires, citizens, or burgesses in your parliaments to come, together with their servants or menials — shall in any way be arrested or detained in prison during the time of your parliaments, except for treason, felony, or surety of the peace, as aforesaid.

Response: The king, by the advice of the lords spiritual and temporal, and at the especial request of the commons assembled in this present parliament, and also with the assent of the counsel of the Margery Janyns named in this petition, wills and grants by the authority of the said parliament that William Larke, named in the said petition, shall for the time being be liberated from Fleet Prison....[10 ]And as to the remainder of the petition, le roi s'avisera.[11]

(French) Ibid., IV, 357-58.

(D) Parliament of 1439

... Item, by command of the said lord king, a certain schedule or bill was presented and delivered to the commons in words to this effect....[12] To which schedule or bill and the matter therein contained the said commons gave their assent in these words: To this bill the commons have assented. When this schedule or bill and the assent thereto had been read and fully made known before the same lord king in his aforesaid parliament and the lords spiritual and temporal there assembled, the same lord king, having thereon had mature and careful deliberation with the same lords, by the advice and consent of the same lords and commons, on the authority of the aforesaid parliament, granted all and singular of the matters specified and contained in the aforesaid bill or schedule and the assent thereto, and he willed and granted that they should be enacted as of record in the aforesaid parliament....

(Latin and French) Ibid., V, 8-9.

(E) Parliament of 1451

... Your commons of this present parliament pray that — whereas the false traitor John Cade, who named himself John Mortimer and was lately called captain of Kent, on July 8 in the twenty-eighth year of your reign at Southwark in the shire of Surrey, and on July 9 of the year aforesaid at Dartford and Rochester in the shire of Kent, also at Rochester aforesaid and elsewhere on July 10 and 11 next following, within this your noble realm of England falsely and traitorously imagined your death and the destruction and subversion of this your said realm, by gathering and raising a great number of your people and inciting them falsely and traitorously to rise against you in the places aforesaid and at the times aforesaid, contrary to your royalty, crown, and dignity, and then and there made and raised war falsely and traitorously against you and your highness; and whereas, although dead and mischieved, he has not yet been punished by the law of your said land — you consider the premises and warn such traitors against so doing in times to come and, for the salvation of yourself and your said realm, by the advice of your lords spiritual and temporal in this your present parliament assembled and by authority of the said parliament, ordain that he be attainted of these treasons, that by the authority aforesaid he forfeit to you all goods, lands, tenements, rents, and possessions which he had on the said July 8 or thereafter, that his blood be corrupted and disabled forever, and that he be called false traitor within your said realm forevermore.

Response: Le roi le voet....

(English) Ibid., V, 224.

(F) Parliament of 1455

To the right wise and discreet commons in this present parliament assembled Thomas Young humbly makes this prayer: — [13]

Whereas, having of late been one of the knights for the shire and town of Bristol[14] in divers parliaments held before this time, in his speech at the same [parliaments] he conducted himself as well and faithfully, and with all such true and diligent labour, as in his simplicity he could or might, for the welfare of the king our sovereign lord and of this his noble realm; and whereas, notwithstanding the fact that, by the ancient liberty and freedom held, enjoyed, and prescribed by the commons of this land from time out of mind, all such persons as for the moment are assembled for the same commons in any parliament ought to have their freedom to speak and say in the house of their assembly whatever they think convenient or reasonable without in any way incurring any sort of challenge, charge, or punishment, nevertheless, through false and sinister reports made to the king's highness concerning him, your said petitioner, on account of matters presented by him in the house customarily used by the commons in the said parliament, was taken, arrested, and rigorously and publicly led to the Tower of London, where, contrary to the said liberty and freedom, he was grievously and in great duress imprisoned for a long time, and was put in great fear of unbearable punishment of his body and in dread of the loss of his life, without any indictment, presentment, appeal, due original, accusation, or lawful cause held or sworn against him ... , whereby he not only suffered great hurt, pain, and discomfort of body, but was ... put to excessive loss and expense of goods amounting to the sum of 1000m. and much more: [therefore] may it please you in your great wisdom to give sympathetic consideration to the premises and thereupon to pray the king our sovereign lord that his highness and most noble grace will be pleased to grant and provide, by the advice of the lords spiritual and temporal in this present parliament, that for the said losses, costs, damages, and imprisonment your said petitioner shall have sufficient and reasonable compensation, as is required by good faith, truth, and conscience.

Response: The king wills that the lords of his council shall act and provide for the said petitioner in this matter as at their discretion they shall think convenient and reasonable.

(French and English) Ibid., V, 337.


[1] Here follows a memorandum limiting the discretionary authority of the protector to minor appointments in church and state; all important offices were to be filled only by the advice of the council.

[2] These articles specify that the council is to have control of appointments to financial offices and the leasing of wardships, marriage rights, etc. A record is to be kept of the councillors present each day and nothing is to be done without the agreement of at least four of them; a majority is required for important matters. A new election was made in the parliament of the next year and eight additional articles were passed, further defining the necessary procedure of the council.

[3] The address first recites the parliamentary action of 1422; see the previous document.

[4] The lords spiritual and temporal and the commons.

[5] The address then relates at length how the duke had agreed to all these earlier arrangements.

[6] The king so wills — the form still used for the royal assent to an act of parliament.

[7] Seven bishops, five lay peers, the justices of both benches, the chief baron and two other barons of the exchequer.

[8] Cf. no. 70G.

[9] A corruption of pied poudré, dusty foot. The court was so called because it was held to settle the disputes of those attending a fair.

[10] Details follow with regard to the execution of the judgment after the termination of parliament and the recommitment of Larke to prison.

[11] The king will deliberate — the form that became customary for a royal denial of a petition.

[12] Here follows a formal act in English to provide greater income for the household and so to relieve the people of continued exactions from royal purveyors. Compare this procedure with what had become customary by 1483 (no. 68).

[13] Recorded among the petitions of the commons and endorsed: "To be presented to the lords."

[14] Bristol and the environs had been created a separate county in 1373; since then its two representatives had been ranked as knights of the shire. Cf. no. 72B.


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