Rise of the Commons

Edward III came to the throne in 1327, and from that point the representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) and of the towns (burgesses) became a permanent part of Parliament. After 1332 they sat together in one chamber and were known as the House of Commons. After 1341 these Commons deliberated separately from the King and his nobles.

Edward III also stated his resolution that a Parliament should be summoned annually, and between 1327 and 1485 there were only 42 years in which a Parliament did not meet.

With increasing regularity during the 14th century, the Lords and particularly the Commons acted on a sense that they should have an active say in government, instead of merely consenting to the taxation decisions of the King.

Emergence of a Speaker

By 1376 people were getting tired of the elderly Edward III's rule, and the influence of his favourites. In the Parliament of that year the Commons chose Sir Peter de la Mare to act as its spokesman before the King in joining its complaints with that of the Lords.

De la Mare was thus the forerunner of the office of Speaker of the House of Commons - a member selected by the Commons to chair its business and represent its views. The following year Thomas Hungerford was the first spokesman to be termed Speaker in the official record.

Good Parliament

The Parliament of 1376 was called the Good Parliament. This was because the Commons prosecuted before the nobles some of the King's corrupt ministers, a process known as impeachment. This became a frequent procedure over the following years as Parliament turned against Edward III's successor Richard II.

Wonderful Parliament

In the Parliament of 1386, called the Wonderful Parliament, the Commons forced Richard II to dismiss his Lord Chancellor, whom it then impeached as well.

Merciless Parliament

Two years later the Merciless Parliament condemned to death the former Lord Chancellor and other royal officials, and in October 1399, Parliament (packed with supporters of Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV) deposed Richard II by a trial and process, in an assembly which met at Westminster.

Did you know?

Some of the most valuable medieval taxes were on England's greatest exports  wool and cloth. The importance of the wool trade at this time is commemorated by the existence of the Woolsack.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Edward III
Peter de la Mare
Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV)
Richard II

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.

Related information

Read about the current role and daily business of the House of Commons