General Introduction

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

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In this section

General Introduction

Scope of the Present Edition

The rolls of parliament were the official records of the meetings of the English parliament from the reign of Edward I (1272 - 1307) until the reign of Henry VII (1485 - 1509), after which they were superseded by the journals of the lords and, somewhat later, of the commons. The rolls, which amount in total to over four million words, were first edited in the eighteenth century and published in 1783 in six folio volumes entitled Rotuli Parliamentorum ( RP ) under the general editorship of the Reverend John Strachey. This new edition reproduces the rolls edited in RP in their entirety, plus those subsequently published by Cole, Maitland, and Richardson and Sayles as well as a substantial amount of material never previously published, together with a full translation of all the texts from the three languages used by the medieval clerks (Latin, Anglo-Norman and Middle English). It also includes an introduction to every parliament known to have been held by an English king (or in his name) between 1275 and 1504, whether or not the roll for that parliament survives. Where appropriate, appendices of supplementary material are also provided, including information about the parliament in question derived from sources other than the roll. Much of this supplementary material consists of petitions to parliament, which are discussed in separate sections below (see sections A(iv) and B(iii) of this introduction).

Seven editors have taken responsibility for supervising the preparation of the texts and translations, and for compiling the introductions and appendices, as follows:

Paul Brand: 1275 - 1307
Seymour Phillips: 1307 - 1337
Mark Ormrod: 1337 - 1377
Geoffrey Martin: 1377 - 1379
Chris Given-Wilson: 1380 - 1421
Anne Curry: 1422 - 1453
Rosemary Horrox: 1455 - 1504

The texts and translations of the rolls, together with the introductions and appendices, are listed in chronological order under the names of the kings during whose reigns they were held, and it may be useful at this point to provide a reminder of the dates of the reigns of the kings who ruled England during this period. (The boy-king Edward V, who nominally ruled England between April and June 1483, is omitted, since no parliament was held during his reign).

Edward I: 1272 - 1307
Edward II: 1307 - 1327
Edward III: 1327 - 1377
Richard II: 1377 - 1399
Henry IV: 1399 - 1413
Henry V: 1413 - 1422
Henry VI: 1422 - 1461
Edward IV: 1461 - 1483
Richard III: 1483 - 1485
Henry VII: 1485 - 1509

It should be noted that the 'Readeption Parliament' of 1470-71, held during the short period that Henry VI had been restored as king, will be found under the parliaments of Edward IV.

This General Introduction is written in two sections, divided chronologically at circa 1340, after which the rolls took on a relatively standard format which was more or less maintained until the early sixteenth century. Thus Section A covers the formative period of the rolls (1275 - 1340), while Section B discusses the developed form of the rolls (1340 - 1504).


The principal funding for this project, which began in 1997 and was completed in 2004, was most generously provided by the trustees of the Leverhulme Trust. The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) provided supplementary funding and facilities for both the editors and the research assistants. Cambridge University Press provided the technical expertise necessary for electronic publication. The History of Parliament Trust has contributed towards the costs of publication

Much of the work for this new edition was done by the five research assistants employed on the project, whom the editors would especially like to thank: Jill Hughes, Shelagh Sneddon, Rebecca Reader, Lisa Liddy and Elizabeth New.

Many other people have provided invaluable assistance, advice and expertise: at The National Archives, Aidan Lawes, David Crook and Anne Kilminster; at Cambridge University Press, Kevin Taylor and Simon Whitmore; at De Montfort University, where the technical work was done to produce an electronic edition, Peter Robinson, Adrian Welsh and Andrew West; also Dr. Gerald Harriss, who acted on behalf of the Leverhulme Trust; and Dr. Jenny Stratford, who translated and annotated the inventory of Henry V's jewels and other effects in the roll of the 1423 parliament.

Procedure for Establishing Texts and Translations

The text of the rolls was keyed on to disks by a data-capture agency, using the transcripts in RP . The resulting text was then collated with the original rolls in the The National Archives; abbreviations (which had been retained in the 1783 edition) were expanded, and punctuation and capitalisation normalised. The original spelling, however eccentric, has nevertheless been retained in all cases, although evident scribal errors have been corrected (and notes inserted to this effect). Interlineations, erasures, damage, staining or lacunae in the text, marginal notes or illustrations, and other significant features in the manuscripts have also been noted.

Everything that appears on the original rolls - whether in Latin, Anglo-Norman or Middle English - has been translated into modern English. Place-names have been modernized, and modern dates are inserted into the translation in square brackets, but otherwise editorial intervention has been kept to a minimum. Footnotes, which appear in the form of hyper-links, have been keyed into both the original text and the translation, at the same points in each, and are chiefly of four types: (i) References to the Statutes of the Realm ( SR ), noting either the statutes which resulted from petitions submitted to the parliament in question, or previous statutes cited in the roll of that parliament. (ii) References to the Bible or other authorities quoted verbatim in the roll. (iii) Occasional references to original petitions, especially those in TNA: PRO class SC 8, or to mandates in the published calendars of Close, Patent or Fine Rolls which arose directly from decisions made during the parliament; much more is said below about the process by which these references have been identified. (iv) References in one parliament to a matter discussed in a previous parliament; these are given as, for example, 'Parliament of 1399, item 86', where the item numbers are those given in the margins of the manuscripts and reproduced in RP and in both the text and translation of the present edition; although it is important to note that these item numbers are not contemporary with the rolls, they have been retained here for convenience. Where (as for example in the 1484 parliament) the numbering omits early items of business, supplementary numbers have been supplied in square brackets in the translation only.

Section A: The Rolls of Parliament 1275 - 1340

A(i) The starting-date for this edition

The earliest use of the term 'parliament' in England in official records to refer to a formal meeting of the king's council for the discussion of administrative, judicial and legislative business is in 1236. (fn. GI-1) At first, the term seems to have been regarded as semi-colloquial and it was used in tandem with other, more formal, terms for this kind of meeting. Gradually over the course of the reign of Henry III the word 'parliament' became the normal and generally accepted term for such meetings. The first surviving record of the decisions of a meeting of parliament comes from the exceptional parliament held in the summer of 1258 at Oxford. It was at this parliament that a group of barons took control of the royal administration and initiated a programme of administrative and legal reform. The various texts of the 'Provisions of Oxford' of 1258 all come from private sources, although they may ultimately derive from some sort of official text that no longer survives. (fn. GI-2) Among the decisions recorded in the Provisions of Oxford which formed part of the first tranche of administrative reforms was the first known attempt to ensure that parliament met at certain specified times and to determine its composition. Three sessions of parliament were to be held each year at specified times to discuss 'the common business of the king and kingdom'. The Provisions also specified who were to attend these sessions: the members of the king's council who had just been chosen and twelve 'representatives' of the community of the realm who were also chosen at this same session for this purpose. Neither reform outlived the period of the dominance of the reforming barons. The so-called 'administrative' clauses of the Provisions of Westminster of October 1259 are a second such record of the decisions taken at another similar session of parliament. They also survive only in various private texts but probably likewise derive from some sort of official text that no longer survives. (fn. GI-3)

The documents edited and translated in this edition, however, begin only with the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). This is the obvious starting-point for an edition whose main material is the surviving official records for this is the first reign for which any records of parliamentary proceedings or decisions survive in official custody. The early years of the reign of Edward I saw, moreover, two significant changes in the working of what had by now become a distinct institution. One was the decision to allow individuals with grievances or seeking favours to state those grievances or make their requests at sessions of parliament by means of individual petitions. (fn. GI-4) Dealing with these came almost at once to constitute a significant element of the business of parliament; surviving original petitions and enrolled summaries or copies of them form a significant part of the surviving parliamentary record. The other, of shorter term significance, was the decision, which is not recorded in any surviving documentation but which can be deduced from other indirect evidence, to hold two regular parliaments each year, one after Easter and one after Michaelmas. (fn. GI-5) This was in general adhered to, with some minor deviations, down to 1293 but seems to have been abandoned thereafter under the stress of external circumstances. The period of regular parliaments was important in helping to solidify the institutional nature of parliament and in accustoming the king's subjects and his administrators to the idea of utilising the institution. Starting with the reign of Edward I also follows the precedent set by the editors of the RP who started their first volume with copies of transcripts of petitions they ascribed to a parliament of 1278. 1278 is also the date of the earliest material edited and translated here.

A(ii) The Form and Development of the Rolls, 1275-1340

It seems probable that some kind of official record was kept of the business dealt with at each of the parliaments of the reign of Edward I. This seems never to have been intended to be a full record of everything discussed and decided at the parliament, only of certain kinds of decision made there. For twenty-five known parliaments, however (a majority of the parliaments of the reign) there now survives no kind of record. These are the parliaments of Easter and Michaelmas 1275; Easter and Michaelmas 1276; Easter 1277; Easter, summer and Michaelmas 1278; Michaelmas 1279; Michaelmas 1280; Easter and Michaelmas 1281; Easter 1285; Hilary and Easter 1286; Easter 1289; Easter 1294; November 1295; November 1296; Lent, summer and Michaelmas 1297; Whitsun 1298; Lent and Easter 1299; Trinity 1306. (It seems possible, but unlikely, that there were two further parliaments at Michaelmas 1285 and Michaelmas 1299, for which there are also no surviving records.) Even when some kind of record does survive, it is frequently no more than a small fragment of what must once have been a much larger original. This includes the parliaments of Easter 1280; Michaelmas 1290; Epiphany 1291; Easter 1291; Trinity and Michaelmas 1292 (both of which were mainly concerned with the 'Great Cause'); Lent 1300; Hilary 1301; summer and Michaelmas 1302; autumn 1305. The record of the Michaelmas parliament of 1283 is also fairly brief and unrewarding.

This leaves us with a reasonably full, though probably in no case a complete, record of proceedings in no more than nine out of forty-seven parliaments, those of Easter 1279; Hilary and Easter 1290; Epiphany 1292; Easter and Michaelmas 1293; summer 1295; Lent 1305; Hilary 1307. The 'parliament rolls' of the reign also contain a record of business done at four meetings of the king's council during the 1290s which did not form part of sessions of parliament. These meetings took place at Easter 1292; July 1293; summer 1294; Lent 1298. (For details see the introductions to those sessions.)

The surviving parliament rolls and other records of parliamentary sessions of the reign of Edward I vary considerably in both form and content. The three surviving pre-1290 documents are very different from the post-1290 rolls but are also quite different from each other. The two membranes recording business done at the Easter parliament of 1279 in C 49/1, no. 13, seem to be a reasonably complete summary of decisions made and cases heard there but they are recorded in a rather more abbreviated fashion than is usual with the post-1290 rolls. (All manuscript references are to manuscripts in the PRO, or TNA - The National Archives - unless otherwise stated.) The two membranes recording business conducted at the Shrewsbury and Acton Burnel parliament of Michaelmas 1283 in C 49/2, nos. 2 and 3, seem to constitute little more than a brief note of decisions made by the king's council, either determining matters themselves or referring them to the king (but not recording his decision) or sending them to particular chancery clerks to be dealt with. The only other pre-1290 parliamentary record is the single membrane C 49/69, no. 13. This is a record of the pleading in a single case heard at the Easter parliament of 1280.

The earliest surviving rolls of petitions come from 1290. The term 'petition' is used quite loosely in these rolls. It covers not only various kinds of request but also complaints against royal officials and even a semi-official 'request' by the justiciar of Ireland at the Hilary parliament of 1290 for the king to consider the estate of his lordship of Ireland (Roll 3, item 15). Roll 3, the first such roll, is a roll of copies of petitions from Ireland delivered to the Hilary parliament of 1290 and of the responses made to them. All are in Latin but it seems probable that a significant proportion of the petitions were originally in French and have have been translated into Latin for enrolment. (For further discussion of each of these rolls, see the introductions in 'Original Documents Relating to the Parliaments of Edward I'). Roll 4 is a similar roll from the following (Easter) parliament. This, however, appears to preserve the languages of the original petitions (none of which survives) for it is written in a mixture of Latin and French, as are also the responses. Roll 2 is a composite roll (originally two separate rolls) from the same Easter parliament. Membranes 1-7 contain brief, and often inaccurate, Latin summaries of petitions relating to England and their responses. Membranes 8-10 record conciliar decisions on a number of returned inquisitions considered at the same parliament. There are no later rolls of a similar kind or with a similar section and the practice of enrolling such decisions seems to have been abandoned, perhaps after this single experiment. Roll 8 is the next roll of petitions to survive. Like the other rolls it contains 'petitions' from only a single parliament, the Michaelmas parliament of 1293, and it contains only complaints made against William de Vescy as justiciar of Ireland or as lord of the liberty of Kildare and against his officials, plus one complaint made by him. All are in Latin and some may well have been translated into Latin from their original French. No further roll of petitions then survives before the fragmentary roll from the summer parliament of 1302 (Roll 25). It is unclear whether the two membranes this contains, one consisting of Latin summaries of petitions relating to England and their responses, the other a very similar collections of summaries of petitions relating to Ireland and their responses, came originally from one or two separate rolls and whether or not the rolls to which they belonged consisted only of petitions or also contained other material as well. Roll 12 as it now exists is a composite roll. Its largest single constituent element is Latin summaries of petitions relating to England and their responses from the mid-Lent parliament of 1305. There are also membranes recording other English business, including cases pleaded at this same parliament, but the membranes on which this is recorded are not wholly separate from the membranes that contain petitions, and it looks as though petition and non-petition business has always been recorded on a single roll. (Membrane 14d concludes with a petition; membrane 19 contains a single item of non-petition business but then continues as a record of enrolled petitions.) The four membranes of summarised Scottish petitions and their responses come both from this same parliament and from its successor, the autumn parliament of 1305, and were probably originally part of two further rolls from those two parliaments. There are also two membranes of summaries of Irish petitions and their responses which come from the mid-Lent parliament and probably came from a fourth roll. This roll seems to have contained two separate sections for petitions from Ireland and from the Channel Islands; one membrane of Latin summaries of Channel Islands petitions (plus a related plea) which has strayed from official custody is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (MS. Latin 9215). No other original roll of petitions now survives, but the roll of the Carlisle parliament of Hilary 1307, from which extensive extracts were made by the compilers of the Vetus Codex, seems to have consisted mainly of summaries of petitions interspersed with a variety of other material. (See the discussion of the Vetus Codex: Roll 15 appears to be a single surviving membrane from an original roll of this parliament.)

The other surviving rolls from Edward I's reign are not primarily or exclusively rolls of petitions, even if they do include some business initiated in this way. Most of them have heterogeneous contents (litigation, administrative decisions, legislation) and contain material drawn from more than one parliament. Some also contain material from separate sessions of the king's council. Roll 1, for example, contains material for four different parliaments (Hilary, Easter and Michaelmas 1290 and Epiphany 1291); Roll 5 material from three parliaments (Easter 1291, and Hilary and Michaelmas 1292) and from the preparations for a fourth (Easter 1293), as also from one separate session of the king's council at Easter 1292. Roll 6 contains material from two parliaments (June 1292 and Easter 1293) and two sessions of the king's council (in December 1292 and July 1293); Roll 7 material from two parliaments (Easter and Michaelmas 1293) and the July 1293 session of the king's council; Roll 11 a small amount of material from two parliaments (Hilary 1301 and Summer 1302) and from two sessions of the king's council (Lent 1298 and Lent 1300). However, Roll 9 seems to contain material only from the session of the king's council in the summer of 1294; Roll 10 material only from the summer parliament of 1295 (and possibly from King's Bench); while Roll 16 is a document of Exchequer origin recording business done by way of preparation for the Carlisle parliament of Hilary 1307. Roll 14 records the preparations for proceedings against Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham, at a council meeting at Michaelmas 1306 and the subsequent proceedings at the Carlisle parliament.

The records of Edward II's parliaments are also very incomplete. Out of the twenty-six assemblies which were held between October 1307 and November 1325 (three more, February 1312, April 1314 and January 1318, were summoned but not held), records survive for only eight. For five of these eight parliaments more than one record exists.

There are no parliament rolls for the eight parliaments held between October 1307 and August 1311. The earliest surviving parliament rolls for the reign are two rolls of petitions and conciliar responses for the parliament of August 1312. SC 9/17, which consists of two membranes, was previously edited by Richardson and Sayles ( R & S , 55-9). SC 9/26, which consists of one membrane and was added to the SC 9 class from unsorted miscellanea in 1958, has not been edited before. There are no parliament rolls for the four parliaments held between March 1313 and September 1314. A parliament that was to have been held in April 1314 was cancelled and replaced by the military summons that culminated in the disaster of Bannockburn in June 1314.

The roll of twenty-three membranes, SC 9/18 (the longest roll of the reign), for the Westminster Parliament of January 1315 consists entirely of 229 petitions with the responses of the council. This was previously edited in RP , I.288-333, except for three entries omitted by the original editors which are printed in R & S , 60-2. There are three parliament rolls for the Lincoln Parliament of January 1316. SC 9/19, a roll of nine membranes, consists entirely of petitions and responses, totalling seventy-three items. Some of the proceedings are of considerable length, for example, item 1 dealing with the proceedings on Hugh de Courtenay's claim to the inheritance of Isabella de Forz, countess of Aumale, and item 20 concerning Matilda de Rabayn's claim to the barony of Bayouse. This roll was previously edited in RP , I.334-49, with the exception of a cancelled entry which was edited in R & S , 63. SC 9/20 is a composite roll of eight membranes, the first four membranes containing an account of the proceedings that led to the appointment by the king of the earl of Lancaster as head of the council (the first official narrative account of any parliament to appear); the remaining four membranes contain the record of the proceedings on the dispute between John of Charlton and Gruffudd de la Pole (item 11), as well as other proceedings of a highly political nature. SC 9/20 was previously edited in RP , I.350-64. SC 9/27 is a roll of two membranes, containing eighteen petitions and responses, which was added to the SC 9 class in 1958 from unsorted miscellanea, and has not been edited before.

No further parliament was held until October 1318 at York (the parliament originally summoned for January 1318 was eventually cancelled in June). The Parliament Roll, SC 9/21, contains records of the confirmation of the political agreements made between the king and the earl of Lancaster in the Treaty of Leake of 9 August 1318, of the decisions made at the parliament in fulfilment of the treaty, and a large number of petitions and responses. Membranes 1-11 were edited by Henry Cole, in Documents Illustrative of English History in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries , 1-46, but membrane 12, which was added from unsorted miscellanea in July 1958, has not previously been edited. Much of this roll is in a very poor condition, however, so that it has not been possible to edit it to the same standard as most other rolls. The roll of the York Parliament of May 1319, SC 9/22, was also previously edited in Cole (pp. 47-54). This consists of only two membranes, containing twenty-six petitions and responses.

There is no roll for the York Parliament of January 1320. SC 9/23, the roll for the Westminster Parliament of October 1320, was unknown to the editors of RP , who instead used the transcript in the Vetus Codex, C 153/1, ff.78r-93v ( RP , I.365-86). SC 9/23 has not previously been edited. The proceedings of the Westminster Parliament of July 1321 are recorded in the parliament roll, SC 9/24, of which only two membranes remain, and in poor condition. The material in the roll has all been edited previously, but never in one place. The roll was not edited as part of the RP edition. The details of the arrangements for the receipt of petitions, with which the roll begins, are edited in R & S , 92-3, but Richardson and Sayles omitted the remaining entries on the roll, which had already been published elsewhere, i.e. the articles against the Despensers ( SR , I.181-4); the supplication of the great men of the realm for pardon ( CCR 1318-23 , 495); and the statute assented to and agreed by the king, prelates, earls and barons ( SR , I.185-7).

There are no parliament rolls for the six parliaments held between May 1322 and November 1325. SC 9/24 (July 1321) is therefore the last surviving roll for the reign of Edward II. It is also the last surviving roll in the exchequer series of Parliament Rolls, which was succeeded from 1327 by the chancery series, C 65. Although the change from exchequer to chancery custody probably took place before the end of the reign of Edward II, the fact that there is no surviving roll after 1321 makes it impossible to know exactly when the change occurred. (fn. GI-6)

The records of the parliaments for the first twelve years of the reign of Edward III are also very incomplete. Out of the twenty-four assemblies that were held between January 1327 and February 1339 (another was summoned for April 1331 but not held), records survive for only eleven. For four of these eleven, more than one record exists. The parliament of January-February 1327, which was summoned in the name of Edward II, is included among the parliaments of Edward III. It is recorded in C 65/1, a parliament roll of three membranes in poor condition. This is a roll of petitions presented in the parliament and is the first in the series of Chancery Parliament Rolls. There are no parliament rolls for the six parliaments held between September 1327 and March 1330, although there is a single membrane of petitions and responses for the Northampton parliament of April 1328 (C 49/6/8, edited in R & S , 180-5). The records of the six parliaments held between November 1330 and January 1333 are contained in a single composite roll of seven membranes, C 65/2. The parliament of November 1330, previously edited in RP , II.52-60, is recorded on the rectos of membranes 7, 6 and 5 and the dorses of membranes 7 and 6. The parliament of Michaelmas 1331 ( RP , II.60-3) is recorded on the recto of membrane 4 and on the centre of its dorse, with the top and lower halves having been left blank apart from a contemporary note at the foot and a later note at the head. The parliament of March 1332 ( RP , II.64-6) is recorded on the recto of membrane 3, with contemporary endorsements at both the head and foot. The parliament of September 1332 ( RP , II.66-7) is recorded on the recto of membrane 2. There is also a second roll for this parliament, C 65/3 (previously edited in R & S , 216-23), a single membrane containing eleven Gascon petitions together with responses. The parliament of December 1332 ( RP , II.67-8) is recorded on the recto of C 65/2, membrane 1. The parliament of January 1333 ( RP , II.68-9) is also recorded on C 65/2, membrane 1.

The York Parliament of February 1334 is recorded on C 65/4, a single membrane previously edited in R & S , 232-9. This consists of a list of twenty-one commune petitions together with the replies of the king and the council. There are no further parliament rolls for any of the parliaments held between September 1334 and February 1339. The only extant record for any of these parliaments belongs to the meeting of March 1336. This is E 175/11/88 (formerly E 175/ roll 88), a roll of proceedings on petitions concerning a dispute over jurisdiction in Coventry between the prior of Coventry and Queen Isabella.

A(iii) Other Significant Sources for the Parliaments of 1275-1340

It will be clear from what has already been said that the surviving record of meetings of parliament for the reign of Edward I is no more than patchy. Additional information relating to the business done at such sessions and suggesting their probable beginning and ending can, however, be drawn from a number of sources. First in importance are the calendared series of Patent Rolls (C 66) and Close Rolls (C 54). Prior to 1293, all they supply in general are the occasional direct references in the body of entries to matters adjourned to parliament or matters decided there (but for entries noted as authorised by king and council in 1275 and 1276 see the introductions to the parliaments of Easter 1275 and Michaelmas 1276). Nevertheless, the coincidence of timing and importance of the matters discussed strongly suggests that other matters too were decided there and there are references to some of these in the introductions to the individual parliaments concerned. From 1293 onwards the calendared rolls begin (though not apparently with total consistency) to contain references to the authorisation for individual entries which show that a matter has been discussed by king and council, or is the outcome of a petition 'of' or 'returned from' council or of an inquisition returned from the council. The coincidence of these authorisations with known meetings of parliament allows us to conclude, for this early period at any rate, that these are in general indications of conciliar activity and decisions during meetings of parliament. The Charter Rolls (C 53) have similarly been consulted in calendared form as well as Richard Huscroft's volume reproducing the witness lists that were omitted from the original calendar. (fn. GI-7) These rolls are particularly useful for showing those periods when the king was issuing multiple charters and non-curial bishops and magnates were being included in the witness lists to royal charters. Many, if not all, of these seem to coincide with sessions of parliament. The published calendar of the series of Fine Rolls (C 60) has also been consulted.

Material relating to sessions of parliament and the business done there has also been drawn from a number of other unpublished record classes in The National Archives. Relevant material has been found in a number of chancery classes including Records on Outlawries (C 88); Writs and Returns of Members of Parliament (C 219); Scire Facias series I (C 245) and Recorda (C 260). The particularly close involvement of parliament in the mortmain licensing system during the 1290s, when many writs for the holding of inquisitions ad quod damnum were noted as having been authorised there and many were also made returnable to parliament, is reflected in the surviving class of inquisitions ad quod damnum (C 143). Other relevant material has also been found in two exchequer classes, the parallel series of King's Remembrancer and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer Memoranda Rolls (E 159 and E 368). The plea rolls of the courts of Common Bench (CP 40) and King's Bench (KB 27) and the plea rolls of the justices in eyre and justices of assize (JUST 1) also contain references to business done at parliament and have been cited where relevant material has been noted; other such references are probably still to be found in these extensive unpublished classes. Many incidental references to parliament and its business in unpublished records of the reign of Edward I were noted by Sayles in his volume on The Functions of the Medieval Parliament of England . These have been noted where appropriate.

The earliest of the Statute Rolls, 'the Great Roll of the Statutes' (C 74/1), is contemporary only from 1299 onwards and only gradually came to be accorded any special position as the record of parliamentary legislation. (fn. GI-8) For the reign of Edward I, a variety of sources both within and outside The National Archives need to be used to trace the legislation enacted at meetings of parliament. Many, but by no means all, were used by the editors of Statutes of the Realm ( SR ). For the less well documented parliaments reference to the legislation enacted at the session is included in the general introduction to the parliament; for the better documented it will be found in a separate appendix. It is also to sources outside The National Archives that we need to turn for evidence of clerical complaints presented at parliament and the royal responses given to them. All are printed in exemplary texts in part II of volume II of Powicke and Cheney's Councils and Synods with other documents relating to the English Church .

There are no detailed accounts of parliamentary sessions in the various contemporary chronicles for Edward I's reign, but they are sometimes useful in confirming the existence of a particular parliament or providing information about when it began or ended and picking up something of what was done there. These too are noted as appropriate.

For the reign of Edward II and the first decade of Edward III's reign, apart from the parliament rolls (SC 9: Exchequer series; and C 65: Chancery series), use has also been made of documents in TNA: PRO classes C 49 (Parliamentary and Council proceedings, Chancery), E 175 (Parliamentary and Council proceedings, Exchequer), E 30 (Diplomatic documents), C 153/1 (Vetus Codex), and SC 8 (Ancient Petitions). In some cases documents from these classes have been edited in full. For documents from class C 49, for example, see the parliaments of May 1319, October 1320, January 1327 and January 1333. For documents from class E 175, see the parliaments of October 1318, November 1330 and March 1336. Especially notable is E 175/1/22, mm.2 and 3, a list of petitions presented in the parliament of October 1318 which was previously edited in R & S , 70-80, for, uniquely in this period, it divides the petitions into different categories: those for the great council, those for the personal consideration of the king, those concerning the king's debts, those not fully expedited because of various difficulties, and those that have been expedited. For a document from class E 30, a speech on Gascon affairs delivered by Edward II to an assembly of magnates, prelates and knights, plus the detailed replies of the magnates present to the king's questions, see the assembly held in October 1324. The Vetus Codex (C 153/1) has been used for the parliament of October 1320, and the text of the Ordinances of 1311 has been collated with C 74/2, the statute roll on which they were enrolled, although the Ordinances have not been re-edited and translated for this edition (see the appendix to the parliament of 1311). Finally, wherever enrolled petitions can be identified with surviving original petitions in class SC 8, the connection has been made in a footnote reference. A key to the large number of petitions for the period 1307-1337 printed in RP but not edited as part of this project has been supplied in the 'Appendix of Unedited Petitions' (see in the List of Contents under Edward II and Edward III).

Other manuscript sources which have been edited include British Library Additional Ms. 41612/f.53, the 'Liber Eliensis' ('Book of Ely'), the primary source for a petition presented to the king by John Hotham, bishop of Ely, in the York parliament of October 1318; British Library Cotton Titus E.1, ff. 2-14, an abstract of a roll of petitions submitted to the parliament of January 1327; and Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Dean and Chapter, Register I, ff.416-18, which contains the grievances of the prelates and clergy presented to the same parliament of January 1327.

The main printed sources consulted for the reign of Edward II and the first decade of Edward III's reign have been the calendars of the Close Rolls and Patent Rolls, which have been used extensively in preparing footnotes to the texts edited and in the preparation of the introductions to individual parliaments. The original Close Rolls (C 54) included the forms of taxation for any taxes approved in parliament, although in their calendared form this information was omitted. For the purposes of this edition, references to taxation have been obtained from M. Jurkowski, C. L. Smith and D. Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales, 1188-1688 . The printed edition of SR is also cited whenever a statute can be associated with a particular parliament, and chronicles have been consulted where appropriate.

A(iv) Petitions, 1275-1340

Class SC 8 in the Public Record Office comprises 347 files containing a total of 17,621 petitions, the overwhelming majority of which date from the mid-thirteenth to the early sixteenth century. A description of the history and arrangement of this class can be found in volume one of the Public Record Office Lists and Indexes . Not all these petitions were presented to parliament, although it is beyond doubt that a large number of them were. Others were presented to the king or king and council at times when no parliament was meeting. The Ancient Petitions Project currently in progress under the direction of Mark Ormrod and Gwilym Dodd should before too long produce a comprehensive calendar of all these petitions (it is worth pointing out that calendars of the petitions in class SC 8 class are progressively appearing on The National Archives Catalogue; see ), and for this edition no systematic attempt has been made to identify and date the majority of them. On the other hand, where in the course of preparing this edition it has proved possible to identify the originals of printed petitions, or to identify previously unnoted petitions as belonging to a particular parliament, such identifications have usually been noted in footnotes or in the appendices to individual parliaments. Moreover, while the 1783 edition was being prepared, a number of files of petitions which were at that time in the Tower of London, together with transcripts of petitions which had been made in the seventeenth century by or for Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, came to the attention of the editors, and the petitions in them were copied and inserted into the RP as appendices to the parliaments to which it was thought that they belonged. Such of these petitions as date from the reign of Edward I have been collated with the originals and re-edited here. For the period after 1307, a key to them has been provided in the appendices to the present edition, with details of the petitioner, the date where known, and a reference to any original surviving in class SC 8 where known (although it should be noted that several of them have now been identified as belonging to different parliaments from those to which the editors of RP ascribed them).

From the early years of the reign of Edward I, as already noted, petitions to king and council from the king's subjects in the various territories under his control came to form a significant part of the business of parliament. There are also in existence, from 1290 onwards, a number of rolls which summarise or transcribe and/or translate some of these petitions. Some, but by no means all, of the original petitions thus recorded also survive in class SC 8, while other petitions are transcribed in full on the plea rolls of the court of King's Bench (KB 27) or the two series of Exchequer Memoranda Rolls (E 159 and E 368), often with an enrolment of the subsequent action taken in response to them. The relevant enrolments have been noted but not transcribed in full in the appendices to the individual parliaments from which they come. (See the appendices to the parliaments of Easter and Michaelmas 1293; Hilary 1301; Lent and Autumn 1305 and Hilary 1307.) Of the considerable quantity of other original petitions for the reign, many of which were submitted to parliament, the vast majority are in class SC 8, but only a small minority of them, those which are readily datable, have been noted here. Others survive attached to the inquisitions post mortem (C 133) and inquisitions ad quod damnum (C 143) to which they relate. Those which can be connected with specific parliaments are also noted here. (See for example the appendices for the parliaments of Easter 1290, Hilary 1301 and Lent 1305.)

The editors of RP included three sections of petitions thought by them to date from the reign of Edward I, two dated to specific years in the reign of Edward I and one to unspecified years in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II. The first section reproduced sixty-five documents, mainly petitions, taken from a book of transcripts once owned by Chief Justice Hale and ascribed to 6 Edward I (1277-8). The originals were not then to be found and have not reappeared since. They are here reproduced from that text as recollated with the Hale transcripts now in Lincoln's Inn Library and conjecturally emended wherever possible to make sense of what is often a poor text; they have also been translated, and the dating of the individual petitions is discussed further in an appendix. (See the introduction and appendix to Petition 01.) The second and much shorter section of nineteen petitions ascribed to 30 Edward I (1301-2) was reproduced by the eighteenth-century editors from Ryley's edition of 1661. Eight of the nineteen can be identified among surviving petitions in class SC 8. The present edition reproduces the original petitions where identified and the seventeenth-century text where not. The dating of the individual petitions, half of which can be shown to belong to the summer parliament of 1302, is discussed further in an appendix. (See the introduction and appendix to Petition 02.) The third and largest section of one hundred and twelve petitions was printed by the editors of RP as Petitionis in Parliamento, Annis incertis Edwardi I et Edwardi II from a file discovered while the first volume was in the press. All but three of the petitions have been identified and they are mainly, but not exclusively, now to be found in class SC 8. The present edition is based on the original petitions as far as possible. A majority of the petitions can be identified with some confidence as belonging to either the mid-Lent or the autumn parliaments of 1305 and almost all may well do so. The evidence for their dating is discussed further in an Appendix. (See the introduction and appendix to Petition 03).

Many hundreds of petitions for the period 1307 to 1340 were also included in RP . Many of these form a part, sometimes a very substantial part, of the extant parliament rolls for particular years, for example, 1315, 1318 and 1320, and have therefore been edited and translated in full in this edition. However, many other petitions included by the eighteenth-century editors and ascribed by them to this period do not form part of any extant parliament roll, and have therefore not been edited and translated in the present edition. These unedited petitions are transcripts of original petitions which were obtained by the editors of RP from sources such as Hale's manuscripts.

As with the petitions dated to Edward I's reign, the dates to which these petitions were assigned by the eighteenth-century editors can at times be shown to be incorrect. For example, many of the 256 petitions which were printed in RP , II.378-419, as 'Petitiones de annis incertis Edwardi III' can be shown to belong either to the later years of the reign of Edward II or to the early years of Edward III. The thirty-four petitions published in RP , I.273-80, as belonging to 2 Edward II (1308-9) illustrate a further problem. These may indeed have been sent to the king and council during that period, but it is clear from the complaints in the Articles of Westminster/Stamford in 1309 that in the early years of the reign of Edward II petitions were not routinely being received and processed in parliaments. (See the Introductions to the Westminster and Stamford Parliaments of 1309). It is also known, for example, that although some petitions may have been received in September 1332, petitions were not answered in any of the three parliaments held in 1332 (March, September, and December: see the Introductions to these parliaments). The first parliament of the reign of Edward II for which there is clear evidence of petitions being answered is that of August-December 1312. Arrangements for receiving and answering petitions were made in August 1312 (according to the 1315 roll, item 92, Adam of Lymbergh or Limber was a trier of petitions in 1312), January 1315, January 1316, October 1318, May 1319, October 1320, July 1321, January 1327, April 1328, November 1330, September 1331, January 1333, February 1334, and 1336; and possibly in May and November 1322, October 1324 and November 1325. Petitions may have been received on other occasions, but this is often uncertain. After 1332 private petitions were no longer enrolled.

Another problem is that the distinction between parliamentary and non-parliamentary petitions is sometimes unclear. When a petition is included in the roll of a particular parliament (such as the roll for the parliament of 1315, which consists almost entirely of petitions and replies to petitions), there is no difficulty in accepting such petitions as parliamentary in nature. It is possible however that some of the petitions which were answered during a parliament may have been submitted between parliaments, while in other instances it is possible that petitions were both submitted and answered outside meetings of parliament. This might have been the case at times when there was a long interval between parliaments (for example, between January 1316 and October 1318). Most of the petitions described in the 'Appendix of Unedited Petitions' (see in the List of Contents under Edward II and Edward III) were probably genuinely parliamentary in nature, but others may not have been. A good illustration of the problem is the petition of the prior and convent of Eye in Suffolk submitted to the king and council in about 1330 and printed in RP , II.414, the original of which is SC 8/17/836 (and for which see also RP , II.31, no. 1), in which they say that for a long time they have sued the king 'both in parliament and out of parliament' ('auxi bien en parlementz come hors de parlementz') for the recovery of the advowsons of the churches of Thorndon and Melles which they gave to the king's father. This shows clearly that petitions might be submitted both during and between parliaments.

A particular category of petitions are those known as 'commune petitions', that is, submitted by or on behalf of the 'community'. The term 'community' should not however necessarily be understood as the 'commons' in the sense of the knights and burgesses. To a very large extent the earls and barons were still the 'community of the realm', speaking for themselves but also beginning to take into account the interests and grievances of a wider political community. Petitions from the 'community' can be identified in some of the parliaments of Edward II (January 1315, May 1319, October 1320, October 1324, November 1325), and during the early years of the reign of Edward III in the parliaments of January 1327, January 1333 and February 1334. There may have been others which are not recorded. In some respects the articles demanding reforms of the royal government and the removal of Piers Gaveston and his allies which were presented to Edward II by the magnates in 1308, 1309 and 1310 are not unlike the petitions of the community which were received and answered by Edward III in, for example, 1327, 1333 and 1334. The big difference between the beginning of Edward II's reign and these later occasions was in the political atmosphere: on the one hand a king who was determined to resist to the utmost any demands made upon him; on the other a king who was conscious of his inexperience and need for support, and who was receptive to and prepared to accept reforms.

A(v) Introductions and Appendices, 1275-1340

For the period down to 1307 separate introductions have been provided for each of the surviving parliament rolls in the class of Special Collections: Parliament Rolls (SC 9), and for the other surviving parliamentary records of the period in Chancery: Parliamentary and Council Proceedings (C 49), the Vetus Codex (C 153) and the stray document in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. (See in the List of Contents under Edward I: 'Original Documents Relating to the Parliaments of Edward I'.) A second set of introductions has also been provided for each of the parliaments of the reign of Edward I (whether or not there survives any record of the business done there) and for each of the sessions of the king's council for which records survive. There are cogent reasons for this departure from the practice followed in the rest of this edition of having a single introduction covering both the individual parliament and the roll which records its proceedings. As has been noted, a significant proportion of the surviving rolls in fact cover more than one parliament. It is also not uncommon for there to survive more than one roll or part of a roll covering a single parliament. The third reason for having separate sections discussing the surviving rolls and other records is the need to discuss in detail the dating of specific sections of individual rolls. As will be seen, there are a number of places where the dating here suggested differs from the only other modern detailed discussion of the dating of these rolls, that provided by Richardson and Sayles (see the discussions of Rolls 1, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11). The discussions of the rolls and other documents edited here aim to provide not just a description of the relevant physical dimensions of the documents but also a general description of the nature of their contents and, when this is not already evident, an assessment of the date of those contents.

For the period from 1307 to 1340 there is a single set of introductions, one for each parliament known to have been held, whether or not there survives any official record of the business done there. In the absence of a parliament roll, significant information on the proceedings of a particular parliament can often be obtained from the published edition of the statute rolls and also from the details of any taxation approved. The printed calendars of Close Rolls and Patent Rolls also frequently provide indications of parliamentary business. Where information on parliamentary sessions can be found in the various contemporary chronicles, this has been utilised as appropriate. The reports of chroniclers and the important political documents which they sometimes record are particularly valuable for the period of the reign of Edward II before 1312, for which there are no parliament rolls. Chroniclers also provide important information for the events of 1321 and for the events surrounding the deposition of Edward II in 1327.

The introductions also provide references to any meetings of the king's council or of great councils which were held between parliaments. There were many such meetings during this period, especially at times when political tension or military exigency made the summoning and holding of a parliament difficult. Broadly speaking, the introduction to each parliament provides details of the immediate political context in which that parliament was held and of any significant political developments since the previous parliament. It also aims to explain when and why the parliament was summoned (and, if relevant, why it was summoned to its specific location); to explore the kinds of business with which it dealt; who was summoned to parliament; what can be known about how long the parliament continued in session; details of any legislation known to have been approved there and of any taxation authorised.

Separate appendices have not been compiled for every single parliament held between 1275 and 1340. There seemed little point in doing so when the surviving information relating to the parliament concerned was small in quantity and the sparse references on chancery rolls or in connected legislation were in themselves an important part of that information. In such cases, information which might have gone into an appendix has at times been incorporated in the introductions. For the better attested parliaments separate appendices have been compiled and these record in separate sections relevant references to parliament in chancery and exchequer enrolments; petitions known to be connected with a specific parliament and not otherwise recorded (in a parliament roll or in a chancery or exchequer enrolment); legislation; and grants of taxation. As already noted, the large number of petitions ascribed by the editors of RP to the reign of Edward II or the first decade of Edward III's reign which do not form part of any extant parliament roll have not been edited and translated in the present edition, but a key to them, with references to surviving original petitions, has been supplied in the 'Appendix of Unedited Petitions' (see in the List of Contents under Edward II and Edward III).

A(vi) Parliaments and Councils in the Reign of Edward II and the 'Modus Tenendi Parliamentum'

Some reference must be made to the famous treatise known as the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum , which, it has been argued, was a document produced in 1321 by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, or someone in his circle as part of the preparation for the July parliament at which the king was forced to concede the exile of the Despensers. (fn. GI-9) However, the conclusions reached by Pronay and Taylor suggest that the association of Lancaster or of any other political figure with the Modus is far from certain. It was probably a treatise written for use by lawyers or a 'procedural tract' produced by a chancery or exchequer clerk around the early 1320s but without any specific connection to the 1321 parliament. Such a clerk might also have had legal training. Possible authors are men such as William Airmyn, keeper of the rolls of chancery from 1316 to 1324, and probably also clerk of the parliament, or an exchequer clerk such as William Maldon, one of the chamberlains of the exchequer who was in the circle of Walter Stapledon, treasurer for much of the period between 1320 and 1325. 'All we can say with certainty', argue Pronay and Taylor, 'is that the author was most likely a lawyer, and certainly a person well acquainted with the working of parliament'. The author of the Modus considers that ''parliament' is an assembly which comprises the king, the lords, and the representatives of the various communities. He is emphatic that without the presence of these representatives there can be no 'parliament'.... [and that] of all the possible forms of assemblies in which the king might choose to meet his subjects, 'parliament' is the one in which all the representatives of the communities meet the king for such business as lies between them'. (fn. GI-10)

It is worth considering, in the context of this argument, the various names used to designate what are often referred to as 'parliamentary' assemblies in the early fourteenth century, and the various types of persons summoned to them. Altogether there were fifty-one assemblies that could be described as parliaments between the accession of Edward II in 1307 and January 1340. The description of a particular assembly is sometimes ambiguous, with the writ of summons perhaps describing it as, for example, a council, and the marginal note on the Close Roll enrolment of the writ designating it as a parliament.

During the reign of Edward II and the first ten years of the reign of Edward III, prelates, earls, barons and heads of religious houses were invariably summoned to parliament. It was also usual for a group of royal judges and clerks to be summoned. Representatives of the knights and burgesses were frequently but not invariably summoned. They attended the parliaments held in October 1307, April 1309, between August 1311 and May 1319, between October 1320 and February 1324, and in November 1325. They were also to have attended the parliaments summoned to meet at Westminster in February 1312 and April 1314, and at Lincoln in January 1318, none of which was actually held. During the first ten years of Edward III's reign they were summoned from January 1327 to February 1329, and from September 1331 to March 1337. They were also to have attended the parliament summoned to Westminster for April 1331, which was cancelled without assembling. The assembly which they attended in July 1328 was anomalous since it was described both in the writs and in the margin of the Close Roll as a council. The reason for this designation was probably the absence of the earl of Lancaster and his allies and their refusal to attend a parliament.

On several occasions, however, the knights and burgesses were not summoned to assemblies designated in the writs as a parliament. These were March, April and October 1308; February 1310; January 1320; June 1325; March and November 1330. They were also absent from the Stamford parliament of July 1309, another anomalous assembly which is designated as a 'colloquium' in the writs of summons, and is described as a parliament only in the Close Roll enrolment of the articles presented to Edward II at the Westminster parliament of April 1309 and answered by the king at Stamford in July. In October 1324, knights were summoned but not burgesses. This assembly was not designated as a parliament but evidently regarded as such by the king, who wanted the speech he delivered on this occasion to be recorded on the parliament roll (which has not survived).

The knights and burgesses were absent from parliament on many occasions when important political events were taking place, notably in 1308, July 1309 and 1310, when the movement against Gaveston and the demands for reform were gathering pace; January 1320, when relations between the king and Lancaster were starting to deteriorate; and in 1330, when the tensions created by the rule of Mortimer and Isabella were finally coming to a head. It is also known that the knights and burgesses were sometimes dismissed before the end of a parliament: this occurred during the parliament of January to March 1315 and that of March 1332. They were, however, present on other important occasions, such as October 1318 when the agreements between Lancaster and Edward II were confirmed, in July 1321 when Edward II was forced to accept the exile of the Despensers, and in January 1327 at the time of Edward II's deposition. They were invariably present when grants of taxation were approved and when petitions were received and heard. There is evidence from the parliament rolls for 1332 and 1333 that the knights and burgesses met separately from the prelates and magnates to consider their advice to the king on policy towards France and Scotland. Just what political role they played is very difficult to assess. For most, if not all, of the reign of Edward II, the community was to all intents and purposes the magnates, with the prelates often playing an important role as expert administrators or as political mediators. It was the magnates who made all the major political decisions, perhaps considering the opinions of the knights and burgesses, but not deferring to them in any obvious way. The same was probably true in the early years of the reign of Edward III. The deposition of Edward II was essentially the work of the magnates, whatever attempt there may have been to obtain as broad a range of consent (and complicity) as possible; so too was the fall of Roger Mortimer in 1330. Once these early crises had been surmounted there was a greater possibility of other social groups increasing in political importance. The evidence of commune petitions reflecting grievances beyond those of the magnates alone, the growing need for consent to taxation as the wars with Scotland and France took hold, and, above all, perhaps, the political sense of the young king, Edward III, suggest that this may have been the case.

The lower clergy were also usually summoned, with the exception of March, April and October 1308, July 1309, February 1310, January and October 1320, November 1322, October 1324, June 1325, March and November 1330, September and December 1332, and January 1333.

Assemblies designated as councils were summoned on numerous occasions, often at times of political tension. In February 1309, prior to the parliament which met in April, a large assembly was held at Westminster. Although the meeting was described in the writs of summons as a 'consilium' and 'tractatum', and the numbers summoned were smaller, it was in its composition of prelates, magnates, and royal judges and clerks not unlike the three parliaments held during 1308. The king used the occasion to discover whether the earls were prepared to consider allowing his favourite Piers Gaveston to return to England. During the long period between the Lincoln parliament of January-February 1316 and the summoning of the York parliament of October 1318, several councils were held. In late May 1316 an assembly of knights was held at Westminster to discuss the perambulation of the forest. On 29 July 1316 another meeting of knights before the king's council was held at Lincoln. Writs and returns survive for twenty-seven counties, two of the sheriffs' returns incorrectly referring to the assembly as a parliament. In February 1317 a council of prelates, magnates, royal clerks and justices met at Clarendon to consider 'great and arduous affairs touching the king and the state of the realm'. Similar councils met at Westminster and Nottingham in April and July 1317 and at Northampton in July 1318. All of these councils were connected in one way or another with the crisis in relations between the king and the earl of Lancaster, and were held at a time when it was politically difficult or impossible to hold a parliament.

In May 1323 an important council of prelates, magnates and royal clerks was held at Bishopsthorpe near York to discuss a truce with the Scots. A council of prelates, magnates, royal clerks and knights was held at Westminster in late May 1324 to discuss relations with France and was followed by another meeting at Westminster in October. This was attended by the same groups and was considered by the king as a parliament, although not designated as such in the writs of summons. In the spring of 1325 Edward II planned to hold an assembly of prelates and magnates, first at Winchester and then at Westminster, before finally changing his plans and summoning the parliament which met to discuss the war with France at Westminster in June. Edward II also planned to hold a council of prelates and magnates at Stamford in October 1326, but this intention was overtaken by the landing of Mortimer and Isabella and the meeting was never held.

The assembly of prelates, magnates and knights which met at York in July 1328 was described both in the writs of summons and in the margin of the Close Roll as a council rather than a parliament - perhaps, as already noted, because of the absence of the earl of Lancaster and his allies. In July 1329 another large assembly of prelates, magnates and royal clerks, but not including knights and burgesses, was held at Windsor to discuss relations with France. This meeting, from which Lancaster was probably again absent, was described as a 'colloquium'. In 1330 two similar assemblies were held at Osney abbey near Oxford in July and at Nottingham in October. It was during this last meeting that Roger Mortimer, earl of March, was arrested and the tensions that had dogged the early years of the reign finally came to a head.

A meeting of prelates and magnates was held at Westminster in January 1332 to discuss relations with France in preparation for the parliament held there in March. A similar meeting was held at Nottingham in March 1335 to discuss the war in Scotland before the York Parliament held in May. In September 1336 an assembly designated as a council, and consisting of prelates, magnates, royal clerks, knights and burgesses was held at Nottingham to discuss the deteriorating relations with France. This meeting was a parliament in all but name, as was the very similar assembly held at Westminster in September 1337.

Thus there were many kinds of assemblies held during the first forty years of the fourteenth century, some of them involving the knights, burgesses and lower clergy as representatives, and others not, and there is no reason to believe either that the author of the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum was describing any particular parliament or that he believed that a parliament was the only forum in which important business might be concluded. Finally, it is worth noting that although most of the evidence suggests that in its earliest form the Modus was composed towards the end of the reign of Edward II, a recent study by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steven Justice has argued strongly for a date during the reign of Edward III. (fn. GI-11) This is not, however, the place to attempt to resolve these conflicting views.

Section B: The Rolls of Parliament 1340 - 1504

B(i) The Form and Development of the Rolls, 1340-1504

During the reign of Edward III, the survival of the parliament rolls continues to be imperfect. There is, as already noted, a major gap between 1334 and 1339, and there is another gap between 1357 and 1361, when four parliaments were held, for none of which is there a surviving roll. (See the introductions to the parliaments of October 1339 and 1362; some attempt has already been made to reconstruct some of the parliamentary business undertaken during the first of these lacunae, (fn. GI-12) but no concerted attempt has previously been made to penetrate the 'missing' parliaments of 1357, 1358, 1360 and 1361.) From the 1360s onwards, however, the series of parliamentary rolls is almost complete: of the ninety-one parliaments held between 1362 and 1504, the rolls survive for eighty-nine, with only those of the September 1388 and November 1470 assemblies missing.

After the very varied formulations of the early fourteenth century, the parliament rolls began to take on a more standardised format during the 1340s. This involved two particularly significant changes in content. First, private petitions largely ceased to be recorded on the parliament rolls after about 1332 (they were to return in the fifteenth century, although their enrolment remained incomplete). Secondly, the clerks of parliament began to enrol, as a matter of course, the common petitions: this is more or less standard practice from 1341. There has been some debate on the extent to which early common petitions represent the petitions of the commons, as distinct from matters raised by private petitioners, by the lords, or by the commons and deemed by the clerks of parliament to be of general concern to the realm at large. It has been generally agreed, however, that at least by the mid-fourteenth century the 'common petitions' did indeed represent the agenda of the commons. (fn. GI-13) Again, this did not remain the case and by the later fifteenth century it is clear that not only was the crown to some extent setting the agenda, but that that agenda was deliberately echoed in the preambles to some of the common petitions that probably did originate outside government circles.

Even before this development, we cannot be altogether certain that the common petitions recorded on the parliament rolls always represented the totality of the business identified as 'common': there is evidence that the clerks of parliament exercised some discretion over which of the bills before them to include in the official record. However, the increasing tendency of the commons under Edward III to present their own petitions in an 'indented schedule' (a document apparently in the manner of a chirograph that presumably allowed both crown and commons to possess a record of the agreed formulation) (fn. GI-14) makes it likely that the clerks of parliament worked more and more from continuous lists of petitions rather than from many individual scraps of parchment, and that the common petitions recorded on the rolls came more and more to represent verbatim copies of these schedules. There remained those private petitions which the clerks themselves deemed matters of common interest or which, indeed, were adopted or 'avowed' by the commons themselves: these may not always have been part of the schedules but were inserted into the lists of common petitions as the parliament rolls were assembled. It is to be noted that the common petitions on the parliament rolls of 1371, 1373 and 1377 are not, as was usual, fair copies, but appear to represent drafts (perhaps penultimate drafts) compiled by the clerks: for some reason, it was decided to attach these drafts to the main parliament roll and have them stand as the official record of the common petitions rather than transcribing them on to further membranes of 'fair copy' added to the rolls.

The 'developed' form of the rolls of parliament - the form which, with modifications and additions, was to be used for the rest of the middle ages - really dates from 1341. The speed with which this change in record-keeping was effected and took root is remarkable: as late as the assembly of March-May 1340, we find that the roll records neither the grant of the wool subsidy nor the common petitions: were it not for a record of the former on the statute roll and the chance survival of the latter in the cartulary of Winchester Cathedral, these important elements within the business of this parliament would be extremely difficult to reconstruct (see the introduction to the parliament of March-May 1340). It may be that the change was effected by the clerk of the parliament at this time, Thomas Drayton. Before the reign of Edward III, there is only occasional information about the clerks of parliament. William Airmyn, who was keeper of the rolls of chancery between 1316 and 1324, was probably also clerk of the parliament. He composed the roll of the 1316 Lincoln Parliament (SC 9/20), in which a detailed account of proceedings was recorded for the first time, and was probably also responsible for the transfer of the rolls of parliament from the exchequer to the chancery towards the end of the reign of Edward II. (fn. GI-15) Henry of Edwinstowe, also a chancery clerk, was clerk of the parliament early in the reign of Edward III and was responsible for delivering to the chancery the records of the proceedings of the six parliaments from November 1330 to January 1333 (C 65/2). Edwinstowe was again clerk of the parliament in February 1334, but the 1341 roll is known to have been the work of Thomas Drayton (another chancery clerk), and since this roll has been identified as something of a template for subsequent records of parliamentary business, and since Drayton continued to function in this role down at least to 1346, it may be suggested that he had a significant and (by comparison with the likes of William Airmyn and others) a still rather neglected part to play in the development of the parliament rolls as an established form of royal record. (fn. GI-16)

By the middle of Edward III's reign, the parliament roll usually recorded the following items of business within a session: the 'charge' or opening speech and (where relevant) the parliamentary sermon; the appointments of the receivers and triers of private petitions; grants of taxation; the common petitions and the king's answers to them; and (though not regularly) the statutes arising from the assembly. This format was subject to variation according to the business of the moment: not all parliaments, after all, granted taxes, and not all generated statutes. The clerks of parliament continued to see the rolls as an appropriate place to record various legal cases heard during a session of parliament, even when these arose from the private petitions that were otherwise now dropped from the official record: the case of Lady Wake's dispute with the bishop of Norwich in 1355 is a notable example of this type of entry (see the parliament roll of 1355, item 30). They also included on the rolls memoranda of the state trials that took place in parliament: witness the accounts of the trial of Sir John Lee in 1368 (parliament roll of 1368, items 20-26) and of the impeachments in the Good Parliament of 1376 (parliament roll of 1376, items 15-16 and passim).

All of these features of the evolving rolls add both quantitatively and qualitatively to the historian's understanding of the development of parliament as a political, fiscal and legislative assembly. It should not, however, be thought that these developments are all to the advantage of historians or that they made the rolls into comprehensive memoranda of parliamentary business. The decision in the early 1330s no longer to record in enrolled form the private petitions entered in parliament (discussed further below), has serious consequences for modern understandings of the use of parliament as a forum for the resolution of individual suits during the later middle ages. Moreover, the records that emerge during and after Drayton's 'reform' of the parliament rolls indicate that the chancery clerks charged with recording the business of parliament continued to take a highly selective approach to the items of business that they deemed appropriate for permanent record, and did not find it desirable or necessary even to record those elements of business that were part of their standard repertoire in a real historical sequence. The records of oral business are very largely confined to the plenary sessions of lords and commons often (though not always) held in the presence of the king or his representative: these sessions of 'full parliament' held at the beginning and end of each assembly, and sometimes convened at interludes during the session, were evidently seen by the clerks as the occasions that warranted most attention, not least because they were usually also the moments at which royal policy was declared, taxes were announced, and the answers to the common petitions were declared. Separate meetings of the lords were sometimes recorded, especially when important items of diplomatic business were discussed; but often the only mention of the work being undertaken by the commons in their separate sessions occurs when the knights and burgesses requested discussion with the lords and/or were sent deputations of peers in order to advise and guide their debates. (fn. GI-17) The consequence of this highly selective approach to the recording of business is that, while the opening sections of the parliament rolls from the 1340s onwards generally provide a readily accessible chronology of the preliminaries and early proceedings, they tend subsequently to degenerate into a rather formless and non-chronological series of memoranda. It follows from this that it is often very difficult to reconstruct some of the later stages of particular parliaments. Indeed, since the later practice of announcing the grants of taxation and the crown's answers to the common petitions on the last day of the assembly was not yet established under Edward III, the rolls often give no clue as to when the final plenary meeting was held, and the only evidence we have of the terminal dates of most assemblies in the mid-fourteenth century is provided by the writs de expensis issued to the knights and burgesses at the completion of each parliament. The editors of the Handbook of British Chronology used the dates of the writs de expensis as the closing date of those parliaments for which no other direct evidence was provided on the roll; it ought to be noted, however, that evidence within and outside the rolls has resulted in the fixing of revised terminal dates for the parliaments of 1362, 1363 and 1373, and the questioning of some of the assumptions behind the orthodox chronology of a number of the parliaments of the reign of Edward III.

One reason why the parliament rolls of the reign of Edward III provide a less than infallible guide to the business and chronology of each assembly may simply be to do with the imperfect memories of the clerks. We know little of how the parliament rolls were compiled; presumably the clerks kept working notes and had privileged access to ancillary texts such as the opening sermons and the common petitions. Nevertheless, it would not be unreasonable to suppose that, at the end of a relatively long parliament, the clerk responsible for the roll had gathered only a very imperfect account of the assembly in written and memorised form. In another respect, however, the selective nature of the record reminds us that the parliament roll was an official, not (despite its modern definition) a 'public' record; consequently, it was presumably deemed unseemly, as well as unnecessary, that discussions and events within parliament that revealed less than unanimous support for the crown ought to be written down in the roll. On some rare occasions, the level of opposition and the consequent disruption to the normal course of business were sufficient to force the clerks into a highly cursory and anodyne account of events: in reading the roll of the Good Parliament of 1376 it is particularly instructive to consider the enormous and unenviable challenge faced by the clerk of this assembly when he came to piece together what might be regarded as an 'acceptable' account of the most disruptive and controversial parliament of the reign of Edward III. There is no particular evidence to suppose that the crown itself attempted to censor the parliament rolls in this period (although Richard II would later stand accused of manipulating the records to his advantage); the clerks were presumably self-regulating in this respect. Indeed, it should not be forgotten that the common petitions, which take up significant amounts of space in the parliament rolls of Edward III's reign, were themselves often highly critical of the processes of royal government. Nevertheless, the formulation worked out by Drayton in the 1340s did not apply itself easily to parliaments disrupted by extraordinary political crises and/or sensitive procedural novelties; and the written record leaves a very strong sense of the genuine concern and confusion that faced the clerk responsible for the parliament roll of 1376.

One of the most notable developments in parliamentary procedure during the last quarter of the fourteenth century was the gradually developing habit by the commons of electing a Speaker through whom it became customary for them to express their opinions and negotiate with the king and the lords. The first known Speaker of the commons was Sir Peter de la Mare, knight of the shire for Herefordshire, who was chosen by his colleagues to fulfil that role in the Good Parliament, although it is worth noting that the roll of the parliament makes no mention of this fact, which is known only from chronicle accounts. The first Speaker to be named on a parliament roll was Sir Thomas Hungerford, chosen by his colleagues in the January 1377 parliament (item 87). For the next seventeen years, although it seems likely that a Speaker for the commons was elected in every parliament, this is only intermittently recorded on the roll, and for several of the parliaments of the 1380s and early 1390s the name of the Speaker is not even known. From 1394 onwards, however, the formal 'presentation' by the commons of their Speaker to the king came to occupy a regular place on the parliament rolls, and it became increasingly common for the clerks of the parliament to refer to him as, in effect, the personification of the commons and their views. A good example of this, and of a Speaker who clearly had considerable influence on events, is the prominent role accorded by the clerk to Speaker Sir John Tiptoft on the roll of the 1406 parliament.

By the end of the fourteenth century, then, the 'preliminary' matters recorded on the roll were usually four: (i) the declaration of the opening of parliament, followed by the opening speech or sermon (usually though not always delivered by the chancellor); (ii) the appointment of triers and receivers of petitions; (iii) the presentation of the Speaker, his 'protestation' (that he would attempt neither to misrepresent his colleagues nor to offend the king), and his acceptance by the king; (iv) where applicable, the grant of the subsidy, which, although not formally granted until the end of the parliament, was usually recorded near the beginning of the roll. Apart from the common petitions, which will be discussed shortly, the remainder of the roll was typically taken up with matters such as the requests of the commons and the debates to which they gave rise (the recording of debates, as opposed simply to decisions, is by no means uncommon at this time, especially in some of the parliaments of the 1380s and during the reign of Henry IV); great matters of state or judgments concerning the peers; private suits; ordinances concerning, for example, financial or mercantile matters; and, when they were held, state trials (which might, however, be recorded on separate rolls, as for example in 1388, September 1397, 1399, 1406 and 1478). One of the disappointing aspects of the rolls is how little they tell us about the lords. It was common enough, naturally, to record formal items relating to the lords, such as promotions, inheritances or trials, but very rarely are they shown as debating or expressing opinions, either individually or as a group. It is almost always the commons who 'come before the king', or 'deliver a request', or protest about their privileges. Indeed, this seems to be the accepted protocol according to which the rolls were written - that of a reciprocal, and not infrequently adversarial, exchange between the commons on the one side and the 'government' on the other. The problem with this is that although it paints one side of the picture of parliament in the late middle ages, in almost all matters apart from tax-granting and petitioning, the voice of the lords would have carried considerably more weight than that of the commons. For all their undoubted value, then, there can be little doubt that the rolls have left us with a rather one-sided picture of parliament at this time. (fn. GI-18)

As with those of Edward III's reign, the later fourteenth and fifteenth-century rolls tend to be considerably more helpful in revealing the chronology of the early stages of parliaments than the later stages. Once the formal preliminaries had been concluded (the opening speech, the appointment of triers and receivers, and the presentation of the speaker, which were usually dated), the clerks frequently seem not to have bothered to insert many more dates into the roll, although they did sometimes note, at the very end of the roll, the day on which the parliament was dissolved and the knights and burgesses were invited to sue out their writs de expensis - which, it is worth noting, usually tallies well with the date for the issue of writs de expensis recorded on the Close Rolls. In the second half of the fifteenth century it was the exception, rather than the rule, for the roll to give any indication of some sort of closing ceremony. It seems indeed to have been taken as axiomatic by contemporaries that many of those attending the parliament would have been drifting away before the end and this is supported by the payments to members of the commons recorded in borough accounts. They can show a surprisingly wide variation in the number of days attendance claimed by members of the same parliament, a variation far greater than can be explained merely by different journey times. (fn. GI-19)

During the fifteenth century, when it became increasingly common to hold parliaments over more than one session, it is at times difficult even to discover which items were dealt with during which session. Some parliaments even lasted four or five sessions, spread over two or three years - see for example the parliaments of 1463 and 1472 ? but in these very long assemblies the clerk did make a particular effort to assign business explicitly to individual sessions. Contemporary citations of parliamentary business could also make clear the session concerned, adopting the form 'in the parliament of 29 April 1463, continued by prorogation until x'. It seems to have been the two-session parliaments where the record was more likely to fudge the division of business. An extreme example is Henry VII's first parliament where the roll itself not only makes no reference to parliament's reassembly on 23 January 1486 but appears to omit at least some of the business of the second session altogether.

Entries such as private petitions can sometimes be dated by a resulting chancery enrolment which customarily notes that the response was made as a result of parliamentary assent. This usually makes it possible to assign matters to a particular session, and sometimes reveals that the decision must have been taken well before the end of that session. But it was not uncommon, and by the middle of the fifteenth century had become invariable, for all the business completed in a particular parliament to be dated formally by reference to the first day of the parliament. The only exception, mentioned above, was the practice in very long parliaments of identifying the session concerned by the date of its opening. It is also likely that matters of great import ? such as the petition for resumption in the 1450 parliament ? were introduced in one session but continued to be debated in subsequent sessions. It is, however, worth noting that in the 1437 parliament, when a new Speaker was appointed after the first became ill, the ordering of material on the roll makes a clear distinction between the common petitions dealt with under each speakership. In 1453, on the other hand, when Henry VI suffered a mental breakdown in the middle of a parliament, although the matters dealt with in the different sessions (before and after the king's incapacity) seem to be dealt with in 'blocks' of text, these blocks are still interspersed with each other in a potentially confusing manner. Given the very different political complexions of the two sessions, this is doubly surprising, but may be simply the result of economizing on parchment rather than a desire to emphasise continuity (see the introduction to the 1453 parliament).

Once the rolls took on a standard format, from the mid-fourteenth century onwards, the last section of the roll was almost invariably made up of the common petitions. From the 1370s onwards, these were normally written out, frequently in a different hand from that of the main body of the roll, on separate membranes which were then stitched to the latter. This meant that the rolls frequently included quite lengthy blank spaces between one section and the next - and not just where the common petitions began, but also sometimes at the start of other major items which were similarly written out on separate membranes and then attached to the main roll. As a result of this, rolls increasingly became composite productions, possibly in an attempt to save time, for there seems to have been an expectation (even if it was not always realised) that the roll would be written up fairly quickly once the parliament had ended. In 1406, for example, Speaker Tiptoft asked for a committee of lords and commons to be set up to be present at the 'engrossment' of the roll, and named twelve members of the commons who were prepared to act in that capacity - which presumably entailed remaining behind at Westminster after the dissolution, although since the parliament ended just three days before Christmas, the business must have been concluded with considerable haste (parliament of 1406, item 65). Following the parliament of 1422, we know from the privy council records that the acts of the parliament were read to a meeting of the council by the clerk of parliament on 26 January 1423. The clerk was ordered to show them to the justices of both Benches in order that those acts which were to be statutes might be seen and redacted by them, and shown to the lords and then proclaimed, and that copies of all other acts which touched the conduct of the lords of the council and realm should be sent to the clerk of the council and all enrolled in the chancery as was the custom. (fn. GI-20) The parliament had ended on 18 December, so this might suggest that the rolls were being checked over and compiled within the month following its closure.

It may not have been simply for the sake of speed, however, that the commons in 1406 asked to be present at the engrossment of the roll. Richard II, it is worth remembering, had been accused at the time of his deposition in 1399 of having 'altered and deleted' items on the roll of the September 1397 parliament in order to justify his subsequent behaviour (see the introduction to the September 1397 parliament), and there were times too when both Henry IV and Henry V had to be reminded that misrepresenting the decisions of parliament was not acceptable. (fn. GI-21) Later medieval kings seem not to have needed the reminder, or perhaps the heat had gone out of the issue. Edward IV gave orders that retrospective exemptions from the 1463 act of resumption be appended to the roll but (although the warrants do not say so) in his assent to the act he had reserved the right to make exemptions. The later additions made at the end of the 1487 roll and signed by the two clerks concerned are also belated exemptions.

Attempts to maintain the integrity of the roll serve to underline the importance which parliament had by now acquired as a court of record, and the importance of the rolls in providing that record. It is, on the other hand, true that there is an awful lot that went on in parliaments that was omitted from the rolls, and, as already noted in relation to the Good Parliament, it is tempting at times to see such omissions as politically motivated. There were, undoubtedly, times when omissions (or obfuscations) were indeed politically motivated, but it would perhaps be unwise to fall into the trap of an over-politicised interpretation of omissions - of why, for example, there is no opening sermon recorded for a particular parliament, or why debates are frequently not recorded. As already noted, it must often have been very difficult for the clerks to know what to include or omit. Take for example the impeachment of the duke of Suffolk in 1450. The clerk here provided a narrative-based account which included the initial charges against the duke, but additional charges, which also usefully give indications of his replies to the initial charges, are not found on the roll but in another manuscript (see the appendix to the parliament of November 1449, item 1). Clearly, the parliament roll is not a full record of the trial, but whether this is to be explained by ignorance, forgetfulness, the inability of the clerk to lay his hands on the requisite documents, or a desire on his (or the king's) part to say as little as was decently possible about what was, for the government, an embarrassing and unwelcome episode, is really very difficult to know.

The importance of not over-politicising omissions is further emphasised by the fate of private, or, in late fifteenth-century terminology, particular petitions. These had made a return to the rolls, albeit not in large numbers. Where they were enrolled it was often, as one might expect, either because they concerned the king's own interests or because they exemplified an issue of general concern. Edward IV, as is well known, used parliament to sanction the royal manipulation of property descents in the crown's interests, a precedent enthusiastically followed by Henry VII. Several of the 'particular' petitions in both reigns concern parties to the resettlement of land, and in Henry VII's reign are sometimes no more than the terms of the settlement imposed by the crown couched as a petition from the individual concerned. In the second category can be placed the various private suits for justice expounded at length in the 1472 parliament, which was much concerned with the matter of domestic order.

The second half of the fifteenth century also brought a new category of private petition. The development in the 1450s of the parliamentary act of attainder meant that the reversal of such acts also became a matter for parliament and this remained the case until 1504 when Henry VII, who was not planning to call another parliament in the near future, gained the authority to annul individual attainders by letters patent. Almost all parliaments in the second half of the fifteenth century thus dealt with petitions for the reversal of attainder. Many were enrolled, but others (equally successful) were not and there is no obvious explanation for the distinction.

The partial, and at times apparently arbitrary, enrolment of private business raises the question of the authority of the roll. It was of the first importance for the individuals concerned that the reversal of their attainders should be accepted by the courts and by the exchequer. In practice it is clear that enrolment was not necessary for parliamentary decisions to be accepted as legally binding. Several successful but unenrolled petitions from the late fifteenth century are known precisely because other royal agencies accepted their validity and noted them in their own records. In Trinity Term 1492 the legal status of enrolment cropped up, rather as an aside, in a discussion among Henry VII's judges of whether letters patent authorised by parliament had the status of a parliamentary act. Justice Keble believed that an act must have the assent of commons, lords and king and be enrolled . Read demurred and reckoned that only the three assents were necessary, not enrolment. (fn. GI-23) Discussion then moved on, perhaps because in practical terms Read was right. It is a reminder of the ambiguous status of the medieval rolls.

B(ii) Other Significant Sources for the History of Parliament, 1340-1504

As in the period before 1340, TNA: PRO class SC 8 (Special Collections: Ancient Petitions) is a particularly rich resource, discussed further below. Within the resources of the public records, the statute rolls (consulted in published form) and classes C 49 (Chancery: Parliament and Council Proceedings) and E 175 (Exchequer: Parliament and Council Proceedings) have long been recognised as providing an abundance of evidence relating to the workings of the medieval parliament, and have been exploited systematically here for the period 1340-1504. It should be noted, however, that from the 1491 parliament no independent texts of the statute rolls survive for the reign of Henry VII and the compilers of the printed Statutes of the Realm simply transcribed what they considered relevant material from the parliament rolls, including material that by no stretch of the imagination can be considered a statute. Much further incidental evidence is provided by the Charter, Patent, Close and Fine Rolls (consulted in their published, calendared, form), which frequently mention grants, pardons or other matters as having been warranted 'by petition of parliament' at times when there is no mention of the matter in question on the roll. These too have been systematically exploited for the period 1340-1504, with much of the resulting additional information being placed in the appendices to individual parliaments. For Edward III's reign, the Gascon rolls (C 61) and (to a lesser extent) the Treaty rolls (C 76) have also been used. The records of the privy council frequently provide interesting notices of parliamentary business, and have generally been consulted in the edition of Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of England edited by N. H. Nicolas ( POPC ), although the original documents in The National Archives (E 28) have also been used on occasion. Among other things, these conciliar records throw light on the relationship between parliament and the council - a topic of particular interest during the long minority of Henry VI.The records of the royal council are notoriously thin for the Yorkist period, however, and it is not until the reign of Henry VII that conciliar sources again begin to shed light on parliament, most notably in the case of discussion in advance of summoning a parliament about what its 'agenda' should be.

Beyond the public records, there are many incidental documents found in ecclesiastical records and other archives that relate to and supplement our knowledge about parliament: some of these are to be regarded as strays that have wandered from their rightful place in the public records, but others exist there because their owners thought it suitable to preserve documents passed on to them by the crown or other sources and which were not recorded, or have not survived, in the public records themselves. Yet others were clearly never 'public' records at all. One of the best known is the 'Durham Newsletter' (so-called because it is preserved in Durham cathedral library), an anonymous letter to an anonymous recipient, presumably in the north if not in Durham itself, describing in graphic detail the verbal sword-play between the king and Speaker Arnold Savage during the opening stages of the parliament of January 1404. It opens with the words, 'May it please you to know that I send you diverse news of the parliament', an indication perhaps of the interest which meetings of parliament might arouse by this time (see the introduction and appendix to the January 1404 parliament). In many cases (as with the Durham Newsletter), such materials have already been identified, transcribed and published; where they are known, they are included in the appendices to the relevant parliaments, but no attempt has been made to search systematically for new resources outside The National Archives, although certain well-known sources such as the Paston Letters and the calendars of Letter-Books of the city of London have been searched for 'news' of parliament, by no means fruitlessly.

Before 1340, it is rare for a chronicle to add substantially to our knowledge of a parliament. From 1341, and more especially after 1376, they are often sources of great value for parliaments, going much further than the official records and providing genuinely independent and alternative accounts of particular parliaments. The assembly of 1341, for example - the first parliament to have attracted widespread interest among chroniclers - is reported in some detail in the Continuatio Chronicarum of Adam Murimuth, in the French Chronicle of London, and in the Canterbury chronicle ascribed to Stephen Birchington. In each case, information would appear to have been taken from eye witnesses: Murimuth himself was summoned to this assembly in his capacity as a royal clerk active in international diplomacy, and while he might be said to take an official line and is more useful for the later than for the earlier actions of the parliament, both the French Chronicle and Birchington provide highly dramatic accounts of Edward III's alleged exclusion of Archbishop Stratford from the parliament chamber (which is omitted from the official version) and therefore do much to explain the stand taken by the magnates in this session on the right of the lords temporal and spiritual to be put to trial before their peers in parliament (see the introduction to the parliament of 1341).

As for the Good Parliament of 1376, it has already been remarked above that the composition of the official roll of this assembly was probably particularly problematic; it follows that the roll alone provides only a partial and in places rather garbled version of events. That we understand the degree of this imperfection is attributable to the existence of two detailed chronicle accounts of the assembly, contained in the Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham and a French prose continuation of the Brut known as the Anonimalle Chronicle . Again, the sources appear to have been eye witnesses: in Walsingham's case, perhaps Sir Thomas Hoo, knight of the shire for Bedfordshire in the Good Parliament; and in the case of the Anonimalle Chronicle , perhaps a member of the royal chancery present at Westminster in the summer of 1376 (see the introduction to the parliament of 1376). The Anonimalle Chronicle is especially valuable in that it purports to record the discussions held by the commons in their separate sessions in the chapter house of Westminster abbey, business which was normally excluded completely, as we have seen above, from the official record on the parliament roll, and essential evidence that explains the manner in which the commons came to select their first Speaker, Sir Peter de la Mare, and to instigate the procedure of parliamentary impeachment. Neither Walsingham nor even the much-cited Anonimalle Chronicle is without imperfections and lacunae; yet without these sources, especially the latter, we would know considerably less not only about the events of the Good Parliament but also, more generally, about the nature of parliamentary procedure in the late fourteenth century.

After 1376, inspired it seems by the drama of the Good Parliament, chroniclers began to provide lengthier and more systematic accounts of parliaments. Sometimes these appear to have been based either on the roll or on information derived directly from the clerk of parliament (such as the accounts of the Merciless Parliament of 1388 found in the Westminster Chronicle and Thomas Favent's Historia Mirabilis Parliamenti , or the tract which forms the basis of both Adam Usk's and the Evesham chronicler's description of the September 1397 parliament), but at other times they seem to be based on eye witness report rather any official source, as is the case for example with the St Albans chronicler's account of the trials which took place during Henry IV's first parliament in 1399 (for these and the examples that follow, see the introductions to the parliaments concerned). Important documents are also found in the chronicles of this period, such as the 'Lollard Disendowment Bill' apparently submitted to the parliament of 1410 but omitted from the roll, and, in the Gesta Henrici Quinti , a considerably longer version of chancellor Henry Beaufort's opening speech to the parliament of March 1416 than is to be found on the roll. With the decline of monastic chronicle-writing in England after the 1420s, the role of chroniclers in filling in the gaps in our knowledge of parliament falls away somewhat, although it remains not uncommon to find in chronicles petitions, speeches or memoranda which are not preserved elsewhere. The London chronicles, for example, which frequently mention parliaments held during the fifteenth century, even if they do not often say a great deal about them, preserve the text of the Speaker's address to the baby king Henry VI in 1423 and the full details of the dispute between the duke of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort in the 1426 parliament, while the various St Albans chronicles include yet another Lollard petition calling for disendowment of the church in 1431, and the famous description of the duke of York laying his hand upon the royal throne as if to claim it for himself in the parliament of October 1460.

In the fifteenth century historians of parliament can begin to glimpse types of source which were to assume much greater importance in the early modern period. The first substantial fragment of a Lords' Journal survives from Edward IV's first parliament and it is a comment on the difficulties inherent in reconstructing business from the rolls that even a fragmentary listing of daily business can shed so much additional light on what was going on. (fn. GI-24) Private letters are an increasingly valuable source. The Paston Letters are the best-known example, but the Plumpton Letters constitute a major source for the otherwise barely documented second session of the 1485 parliament. From the same parliament comes the first major example of a genre that was to assume increasing importance: the semi-formal letter of members of the commons to their associates back home. Enrolled in Colchester's 'Red Paper Book' is a diary of commons' business in the first session which, among other things, gives some indication of how little ordinary members were able to see and hear during a plenary session. (fn. GI-25)

B(iii) Petitions, 1340-1504

Under Edward I, as already noted, the crown had actively encouraged its subjects to use parliament as a place in which to petition for remedy of grievances, especially those arising from the improprieties of royal officials in central and local government. The sorting and trial of such petitions soon became a major element in the business of parliament, its importance reflected in the regular appointment, from at least 1290, of special panels of 'triers' or 'auditors' of private petitions. Then, in the early fourteenth century, there occurred a gradual change in the character of parliamentary business: the clerks of parliament began to identify 'common petitions', signifying matters of more general concern to the realm and supported, or even drafted, by the emergent representative element, the knights and burgesses; these became increasingly distinct from private petitions in that they were not sent for review before the committees of triers but were referred directly to the king and council. (fn. GI-26) As a result, matters of general importance to the crown and its subjects increasingly took precedence over individual problems: there were already complaints in the first decade of the century that private petitions went unanswered in parliament, and from the late 1330s private petitions were effectively squeezed out of an agenda increasingly dominated by Edward III's great enterprise against France and the domestic political dynamics thus generated. Insofar as the archival evidence is clear, these trends are neatly reflected in the parliamentary record: as noted above, after about 1332 the clerks of parliament gave up the practice of enrolling the private petitions judged by the panels of auditors, and within a decade, by 1341, they were instead directing their attention to the common petitions, which now began to be recorded as a matter of course on the principal series of parliament rolls.

The fact that the private petitions went 'off the record' from the 1330s and ceased as a matter of course to be enrolled in a form that makes them easily identifiable as parliamentary petitions and readily ascribable to a particular parliament would not in itself be a major impediment to research, were it not for the fact that the bundles in which such petitions continued to be kept (and which were labelled either contemporaneously or later with the date of the parliament to which they related) do not appear to have been preserved systematically and were subsequently broken up before and during the creation of the modern SC 8 class of 'Ancient Petitions' in The National Archives. When the editors of RP decided to include unenrolled private petitions in their edition, they made no systematic searches but relied partly on material readily available in the public records and partly on existing transcriptions made by Hale and Ryley. Although it can be demonstrated that these transcriptions were often editorially defective and were sometimes ascribed to the wrong parliaments, it may at least be said that the unenrolled petitions published in RP represent something of the undisturbed parliamentary archive as it existed in the eighteenth century.

The accuracy of the RP editors' ascriptions of specific bundles of petitions to specific parliaments was, however, variable. For the period between 1340 and 1377, they were for the most part accurate, as they were too for the reign of Henry VI, but for the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV they seem to have made a rather high number of errors. To take the reign of Henry IV as an example, they dated to the 1399 parliament a bundle of petitions which were in fact from Richard II's parliament of January 1397; they dated to 'anno iii Henrici IV' (a year in which no parliament was held) a bundle of petitions which were in fact submitted to the parliament of October 1404; and they dated to the October 1404 parliament a large bundle of petitions in fact submitted to the parliament of 1406 ( RP , III.447-8, 483-4, 560-6). Ascriptions seem to be even more slapdash for the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, where petitions are often printed with no attempt at dating beyond the reign. Where such petitions can be securely dated they are included in the appendices to the relevant parliaments, where appropriate with additional dating evidence derived from actions taken upon them in the chancery or occasionally elsewhere. Where the originals survive and have been identified, they too are listed; one way in which the original petitions can be identified is through the copy of the RP in The National Archives library, which includes nineteenth- or early twentieth-century handwritten notes made by various keepers in the margins indicating the SC 8 class numbers of many of the petitions included by the eighteenth-century editors. Many of these have been included in the present edition, sometimes in the appendices, or sometimes (if the petition was enrolled) in the footnotes to the text and translation. But where it has not proved possible to identify the original, the transcript in RP remains the only extant record of the petition.

All this means, naturally, that the evidence relating to private petitions submitted to different parliaments is very uneven: for example, there are 56 such petitions recorded in RP for 1328, 84 for 1330, and 159 for the two parliaments of 1348, but only 16 for 1338, 2 for 1354, 3 for 1372, and none at all for the majority of assemblies under Edward III. One way to try to fill the gaps would be to trawl systematically through the 17,600 or so SC 8 petitions, and when the current Ancient Petitions Project, which is doing just this, is complete, it should reveal a good deal more evidence about the process of private petitioning in late medieval England. Some problems with the SC 8 class are, however, worth noting - for it is, of course, an entirely artificial class, a product of nineteenth-century rationalisation, and the material collected there has undergone numerous re-sortings in the course of its history. Three of the resulting problems need particularly to be highlighted here. First, although the transcripts made by the Record Commission allow us to reconstruct what little was left by the early nineteenth century of the original series of bundles of parliamentary petitions, no adequate record was made of the ordering and provenance of a substantial body of new material discovered in 1805-6, which may have included at least a proportion of the losses from the original series, and it was simply re-sorted into an entirely artificial arrangement in alphabetical order of petitioners. Although the products of this rationalisation, surviving in the first 157 files of Ancient Petitions, are conventionally referred to specifically as 'Parliamentary Petitions', the provenance of a large proportion of the group is actually, to say the least, insecure. Secondly, and following from this, the address clauses of petitions presented prior to the 1370s do not in themselves provide any positive evidence of parliamentary provenance, since almost all petitions of this period, whether entered in or outside parliament, were simply addressed to the king and council. After the 1370s, it is at least possible to trace 'parliamentary' petitions (if not necessarily to date them, for petitions were not dated as a matter of course) by the protocols and/or by explicit references within the body of the request. As will be seen from the appendices to parliaments of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, large numbers of petitions were now specifically addressed 'to the king and council in parliament', 'to the lords in parliament', and so forth. (fn. GI-27) Before the 1370s, however, the actual content of a petition almost never yields evidence of the context (parliamentary or otherwise) in which it was first presented for audience.

Thirdly, the creation of the class of Ancient Petitions, and its subsequent enlargement through the introduction of additional material from a range of other locations, had the effect of removing petitions from the only context by which they can often be dated: namely, the warrants that were sewn to them instructing the chancery and other administrative and judicial agencies of central government to take appropriate action. Two concerted campaigns on the class, in the 1890s and the 1920s, admittedly went a long way to making good these defects: the calendars of chancery rolls were searched for references to actions that were taken in response to petitions, thus providing a good proportion of Ancient Petitions with dates (which are commonly scribbled on the guards of the manuscripts themselves); and the relevant documents in class C 81 (Chancery Warrants) were annotated with cross-references to demonstrate the appropriate location and context for the relevant petitions. Partly as a result of this process, considerable emphasis was placed by scholarship upon one particular type of warranty note appended to chancery instruments: the note 'by petition of parliament' (or, closely related for these purposes, 'by petition of council'). (fn. GI-28) As will be seen from the appendices to individual parliaments in this edition, the principle adopted has been to include all references to petitions in chancery instruments warranted 'by petition of parliament'; sometimes it has proved possible to trace these back to originals in the class SC 8, but this has not always been done systematically.

It does need to be emphasised, however, that these lists of petitions can by no means be complete: not only does this principle exclude the possibility that parliamentary petitions resulted in chancery instruments with other forms of warranty; it also neglects the fact that significant numbers of petitions were passed on from parliament to the exchequer and to the central courts for trial and judgment. Where the latter type of petitions have been identified from the records of the exchequer, King's Bench and Common Pleas, they are included in the appendices (especially for the reign of Edward III), but no attempt has been made to search those records systematically. Above all, of course, this principle of selection ignores the fact that a proportion of private petitions presented in parliament were either not answered or were rejected, with the result that no further action was taken. (fn. GI-29)

It will be evident from the discussion above that, unless such petitions are published in RP and therefore have a prima facie case for inclusion in the body of petitions presented in a particular parliament, it is actually impossible to identify and date what may be a considerable number of additional such petitions still extant in the class of Ancient Petitions. Once the Ancient Petitions Project is complete, it should be possible to ascribe a much greater number of the surviving documents in TNA: PRO class SC 8 to the parliaments to which they properly belong. For the moment, however, while the searches undertaken for this edition have certainly added to our knowledge of the matters dealt with in a substantial number of late medieval parliaments, this remains a task which is still some way from completion.

It should also be noted that the class of Ancient Petitions, although nominally spanning the reigns of Henry III to James I, contains very little parliamentary material that can be identified as later than the 1472 parliament. The parliamentary petitions in C 49 dry up at the same time. Some idea of the extent of the change can be gained by comparing the number of extant petitions for exemption from the acts of resumption in the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII, as reflected in the notes to the relevant rolls in the present edition. It is by no means clear what produced this change. The simplest explanation would be the wholesale loss of the original bundles of parliamentary petitions for this period. Whatever the cause, it would be unwise to assume that the rolls from 1478 onward record all successful petitions, even admitting that the growth of conciliar jurisdiction may well have been diverting private suits away from parliament.

B(iv) Introductions and Appendices, 1340-1504

Introductions have been written to every parliament held between 1340 and 1504. The principal types of information which these are intended to convey are as follows: some indication of the physical dimensions and condition of the manuscripts, including any unusual features in terms of content and presentation; the relevant background in terms of the diplomatic or political context in which the assembly met; comment on the membership of the parliament, including new summonses of peers and the composition of the commons and the proctors of the lower clergy (if any); a chronology of the parliament as it may be reconstructed from the roll and from additional material in the public records and in chronicles; details of the tax grants (if any) made in the assembly; discussion of other business, including the common petitions, recorded on the roll; discussion of particular matters known to have been discussed and/or determined in the parliament but not recorded on the roll. The introductions are designed to provide a critical apparatus for the study of the rolls. Although they contain much background material and incidental discussion on matters such as the choice of speaker, they are not intended to be general or comprehensive introductions to the history of parliament itself.

The appendices are intended to provide references to and, where appropriate, a precis of, material which adds significantly to our knowledge of the proceedings of the parliament but which is not included on the roll. In some cases a full transcript has been provided. Where the texts have already been published a reference to the printed version is supplied. Although chroniclers' accounts of parliaments are not reproduced in the appendices, an indication of the major narrative sources for each parliament is included in each introduction. The foregoing discussions of 'Other Significant Sources' and 'Petitions' will have given a good idea of the sort of information which can be found in the appendices.


  • GI-1. KB 26/116C, m. 2d: printed in \emph{Curia Regis Rolls}, VX, no. 2047 and in Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages , II, 749-50.
  • GI-2. For the text and the different MSS. in which it is found, see R. F. Treharne and I. J. Sanders, Documents of the Baronial Movement of Reform and Rebellion, 1258-1267 (Oxford, 1973), 96-112.
  • GI-3. Treharne and Sanders, Documents of the Baronial Movement , 148-56.
  • GI-4. Sayles, The King's Parliament of England , 75-84; Paul Brand, 'Petitions and Parliament in the Reign of Edward I' in Parchment and People: Parliament in the Middle Ages , ed. Linda Clark (2004), 14-38, at 14-16.
  • GI-5. Sayles, The King's Parliament of England , 71; Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, I, 163-6; V, 132-4.
  • GI-6. See Richardson & Sayles, 'The early records of the English Parliaments: II, The English Parliaments of Edward II, BIHR , 6 (1928-29), 85-88; for a discussion of the surviving rolls of parliament in the Exchequer series (SC 9) see Richardson and Sayles, 'The early records of the English Parliaments: III, The Exchequer Parliament Rolls and other Documents', BIHR , 6 (1928-29), 129, 134-144, and Appendix III A, The 'Exchequer series of Parliament Rolls', 146-152 (which describes the extant rolls as well as the Vetus Codex), and Appendix III B, 'Parliament Rolls no longer extant', 153.
  • GI-7. Richard Huscroft, The Royal Charter Witness Lists of Edward I (1272-1307) (List and Index Society 279, 2000)
  • GI-8. Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages , xxv, 9-17.
  • GI-9. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 289-92.
  • GI-10. Parliamentary Texts of the Later Middle Ages , ed. Nicholas Pronay & John Taylor (Oxford, 1980), 1-63, especially 13-35.
  • GI-11. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steven Justice, 'Reformist Intellectual Culture in the English and Irish Civil Service: the Modus tenendi parliamentum and its Literary Relations', Traditio , 53 (New York, 1998), 149-202.
  • GI-12. E. B. Fryde, 'Parliament and the French war, 1336-1340', in Historical Studies of the English Parliament , ed. E.B. Fryde and E. Miller, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1970), I.242-61; Sayles, The Functions of the Medieval Parliament 417-28.
  • GI-13. D. Rayner, 'The Forms and machinery of the 'commune petition' in the fourteenth century', EHR 56 (1941), 198-233, 549-70, is highly cautious of the equation between the commons and the common petition; W.M. Ormrod, 'Agenda for legislation, 1322-c.1340', EHR 105 (1990), 1-33, surveys more recent thinking.
  • GI-14. Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages , chapter XXI, 9; G. L. Harriss, King, Parliament and Public Finance in Medieval England to 1369 (Oxford, 1975), 361.
  • GI-15. Parliamentary Texts , ed. Pronay and Taylor, 30-31.
  • GI-16. For Airmyn, see Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages , chapter XIX, 141-2; for Drayton (or Brayton, as he is sometimes known), see B. Wilkinson, The Chancery under Edward III (Manchester, 1929), 81 (n. 2), 154-6.
  • GI-17. J. G. Edwards, The Commons in Medieval English Parliaments (London, 1958), 5-25, 28-36; W. N. Bryant, 'Some earlier examples of intercommuning in parliament, 1340-1348', EHR 85 (1970), 54-8.
  • GI-18. C. Given-Wilson, 'The Rolls of Parliament, 1399-1421', in Parchment and People , ed. Clark, 57-72.
  • GI-19. J. C. Wedgwood, History of Parliament: register of the ministers and of the members of both houses 1439-1509 (HMSO, 1938), collects the evidence of such payments.
  • GI-20. POPC , III.22.
  • GI-21. Given-Wilson, 'The Rolls of Parliament, 1399-1421', in Parchment and People , ed. Clark, 59.
  • GI-22. Maddicott, 'Parliament and the constituencies', 68-72; Ormrod, 'Agenda for legislation', 1-2, 25-6.
  • GI-23. S. B. Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1936), appendix item 90.
  • GI-24. W. H. Dunham (ed.), The Fane Fragment of the 1461 Lords' Journal (New Haven, 1935). Further pages were found by Roger Virgoe, but list only the lords present, not the business done, on 5 and 12 December: 'A new fragment of the Lords' Journal of 1461', reprinted in East Anglian Society and the Political Community of late medieval England , ed. C. Barron, C. Rawcliffe and J. T. Rosenthal (Norwich, 1997), pp. 309-14.
  • GI-25. The relevant section of the 'Red Paper Book' has been edited by N. Pronay and J. Taylor, Parliamentary Texts of the later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1980), item V (pp. 177-93).
  • GI-26. For what follows, see R. L. Atkinson and H. C. Maxwell-Lyte, 'Report (1924) on Ancient Petitions', in Index of Ancient Petitions (PRO Lists and Indexes No. 1, reprinted 1966), 2-9; and the 'Introduction' in R & S , vii-xxviii.
  • GI-27. G. Dodd, 'Crown, Magnates and Gentry: The English Parliament, 1369-1421', D.Phil. thesis, University of York (1998), 189-93.
  • GI-28. Richardson and Sayles, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages , chapter XXI, 3 (n. 6).
  • GI-29. Dodd, 'Crown, Magnates and Gentry', 177.