Political displays

During the 13th century, Westminster Hall became the place for political displays intended to be seen by the largest possible audience.

Threat of rebellion

When the citizens of London threatened rebellion against the king in 1250, Henry III summoned them to the Hall, and confessed his wrongdoings and sought their pardon with tears in his eyes.

In 1313, following an amnesty, Edward II sat on the throne in the Hall, where the barons knelt before him, expressed their sorrow at having offended him and acknowledged his clemency.

Armed men

There was also plenty of room in the Hall for large mobs to gather to make a point. At a meeting of the Great Council in 1321, the barons filled the Hall with armed men to ensure the banishment of Edward II's favourites, the Despensers.

On 7 January 1327, Parliament met in a room close to the Hall, within earshot of a London mob inside, and brought charges against Edward II. A week later, a large number of earls, knights, bishops and abbots assembled in the Hall and agreed that the King's son (Edward III) should reign in his place.

Proclamations

Other political proclamations and reconciliations were also staged in Westminster Hall during the 14th century. In 1337, war against France was declared in the Hall amidst great ceremony.

In 1388, when three lords and their followers took up arms against Richard II, the King summoned the rebels to meet him in Westminster Hall, where he sat on the throne and staged a reconciliation.

Cromwell's inauguration

Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord Protector in the Hall in 1653; in 1657, adorned in princely state, he took his seat in the Coronation Chair, which had been brought over from Westminster Abbey.

In 1661 several Acts of the Interregnum Parliaments (parliaments which occurred between 1649 and 1660) were burnt in the Hall.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Henry III
Edward II
Edward III
Richard II
Oliver Cromwell

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Also within Living Heritage