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Famous records

Parliamentary records have survived in varying formats. Some are in book form, many are on rolls of parchment, and an important section of modern records consists of plans and maps.

On some parchments are the original signatures of Kings, Queens and famous statesmen; others tell stories of turbulent intrigue and death, petitions that set aflame the feeling of the common people, and enactments that split the country into warring factions.

Death warrant of Charles I

Perhaps the most famous of these documents is the death warrant of Charles I, dated 1649, bearing the signature of Oliver Cromwell (a facsimile is now on display in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster). The Archives also contain the full record, handwritten in Latin on 16 membranes of parchment, of the trial of Mary Queen of Scots.

Articles of Union and other records

Equally significant are the original signed and sealed Articles of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, bearing the signatures of 13 English and 13 Scottish commissioners.

Other notable constitutional records of the United Kingdom preserved in the Archives include the Petition of Right (1628), the Declaration of Breda (1660), the Habeas Corpus Act (1679), the draft and final Bill of Rights (1689), the Abolition of the Slave Trade Acts (1807 and 1833), the Great Reform Act (1832), and successive Representation of the People Acts.

Unusual records

Among the more unusual records kept in the Victoria Tower is a mid-18th century gravestone, which had been submitted to a Committee of Privileges as proof of descent in a mid-19th century peerage claim.

There is also a sample of crude oil from a tanker disaster presented as evidence to a select committee and the commemorative silver trowel used to lay the first stone of the Clock Tower (Big Ben).

Also within Living Heritage


You can access biographies of

Charles I
Oliver Cromwell
Mary Queen of Scots

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.