Edward IV: Introduction

Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. Originally published by Boydell, Woodbridge, 2005.

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'Edward IV: Introduction', in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, (Woodbridge, 2005) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/edward-iv-introduction [accessed 24 April 2024]

Edward IV, 1461-1483

Edward IV held six parliaments, three in each of the halves into which his reign is divided by his exile and the Readeption of Henry VI in 1470-1. The parliaments are, however, spread less evenly across the reign than this might imply and Edward was perceptibly less willing to summon parliament towards the end of the reign. Twice in his reign he extracted large amounts of money from parliament to fight a war with France which was then, in the view of contemporaries, wasted. After his return from the French expedition of 1475, when criticism came to a head, he called parliament only when it was essential. In 1478 it was called to try the king's brother Clarence for treason and in 1483 to grant money for the Scottish war, although it is significant that Edward had already pursued the war for over a year without asking parliament for taxation.

Both these last two parliaments were short, single session assemblies; the 1483 parliament failing to complete the business before it. Earlier in the reign, by contrast, Edward had favoured keeping parliament in being for long periods through prorogation. The 1463-5 parliament met on six occasions, although on four of them was prorogued the same day. That of 1472-5 had no fewer than seven sessions. They were of varying length but all were kept in being long enough to attend to business.

The rolls are extant for all of Edward IV's parliaments, although not for Henry VI's Readeption parliament in 1470-1. For the early parliaments a large number of original bills survive in classes C49 and SC8, but these are dwindling markedly by the end of the reign and with them the amount that can be discovered about unenrolled business.