The Open Door Web Site
17th Century England Index
Introduction : Constitutional Government
England during the Reign of Charles II Index
BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE
17th Century England
The Bill of Rights 1689
The crown was not offered to its joint wearers unconditionally. Its transfer was accompanied by a Bill of Rights, which the new king and queen had to accept.
The monarch could no longer interfere with, or cancel, any law passed by Parliament. He was not allowed to raise taxes without consulting Parliament. He could not keep an army in peace-time and had to allow Parliament to meet frequently. Torture was abolished and the Habeas Corpus Act was made part of the Bill of Rights.
Although the Bill of Rights was not actually a constitution, it is considered one of the first and most important constitutional documents to limit the power of a monarch. Now William and Mary had a set of rules to obey. If they broke these rules they could be dismissed or replaced.
At the moment when Louis XIV was becoming France's unquestioned; absolute monarch, England had found a limited or constitutional form of monarchy. The next century would prove that parliamentary government, with a Cabinet of Ministers and a limited monarchy, could lead England to immense success both at home and around the world.
The Bill of Rights ("An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and settling the Succession of the Crown.") Dec. 1689
The Act begins by declaring the unconstitutional behaviour of James II, the abdication of the king, the vacancy of the crown and the summoning of a special parliament to assert the "ancient rights and liberties" of Lords and Commons.
The rest of the Act deals with the settlement of the Crown on the Prince and Princess of Orange.
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