In first century B.C. Roman Empire was spread through out whole Europe including Southern Britain which including modern England. Roman Empire prevails not only by military means but also their culture, law and political system. At that time Rome was ruled by Senate, with the principles of ancient Democracy. That was a legacy of Greece to Rome. While conquering the world these Roman donate Democracy all over its territory as well as England. After the collapse of Roman Empire in 3rd century A.D. British people enjoyed some kind of independence from outer world. After some time whole island scattered to a number of kingdoms. Then, there was nothing left something called Democracy anymore. Only monarchs were left there which relies on feudalism.
Various invasions and migrations made mixed nation in Britain. British history was intermingled with dozens of cultures like Celtic, Roman, Anglo Saxon, Jute, French, Dane, Norse and Norman.
The main turning point of British history is invasion of William of Normandy in 1066.He beat the Saxon King Harold at the battle of Hastings. William and his descendants over England with violent and totalitarian regime and there was no liberal democracy. Gradually Norman Knights and those Saxons, who had some land and money, secure great power over the Kings. They had their own army as well as taxation process. Therefore Kings couldn’t rule country without their help (both military and financially).Especially the reign of inept Kings. However, the main characteristic of the British Constitution is there is no book or archive in written form. We can figure it out as series of bills consent in parliament and customs evolved time to time. These Bills and Customs built up evolution rather than revolution. From here let us consider main archives to prove that.
In the reign of such inept King John in 1215,the great barons of the land rose up in mutiny and forced the King to sign an agreement called “Magna Carta”(Great Charter). They were questioned whether the King really should have total power over the country. From signing Magna Carta “the king to renounce certain rights and respect certain legal procedures, and to accept that the will of the king could be bound by law. Magna Carta was the first step in a long historical process leading to the rule of constitutional law.”
This is a revolutionary moment in British history. Probably, the preamble to the British constitution. Actually, the incident is seems like a revolutionary one, though it didn’t change structure of Monarch or abolish it. Feudalism continues. Only change was Nobles and Pope gets some power rather than before and some human rights were accepted as inviolable. Below mention the most valuable clause in the Charter even modern constitutions also added as fundamental right of human beings. That was;
“No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send against him, unless by legal judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land”.
In particular it set up the right of habeas corpus, which means the right to appeal against imprisonment. However the successors of King John broke the clauses of Charter and again move to power of absolute monarch again. Therefore Magna Carta can’t consider as a revolutionary incident of world history.
Church and Monarch
Monarch is not the only section which used the power in Medieval England; The Roman Catholic Church acted significant character in great deal. The Church owned large acres of land, had power of charge and raise taxes, and even its own system of courts to try people who had broken its laws – called Canon law. So, for on these issues there was a clash between Monarch and The Church in England.
Clear example for that, is the matter of divorce Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The Church wasn’t let the king do so. The monarch turned on the Church with a vengeance. He seized Church lands, closed ancient monasteries, and took all the property of them and finally appointed himself as head of the Church, which meant the Pope was no longer be obeyed in England. This was a major turning point in English history because it increased power and wealth of the monarch, and because the Church land was sold to wealthy merchants, it also created a new group of landowners, who in time went into parliament and took part in government. This is the first event the members of the parliament took sufficient power. This is revolutionary act, but it last only in Henry’s regime, then his daughter Mary convert the country to Catholic, but again in the era of Elizabeth I, she followed Henry’s path. That demonstrated, this revolutionary act not accepted at once by people of England. This (independence from Church) was the second step of the evolution of British Constitution.
The Monarch and the Parliament work together peacefully most of the British history, except some incident. Elections to the House of Commons were held regularly but only landowners got to vote.
Struggle between King Charles I and Parliamentarians is the most crucial incident happened in British history. King Charles I refuse to ruling with the agreement of Parliament, and wanted absolute monarch. In 1642, civil war broke out, Charles I defeated and executed. Finally Britain became a republic under leadership of Oliver Cromwell for 11 years without a monarchy. After his death again the country became a monarch.
From this example we see the British people react revolutions very slowly. There was no much power given to the King by Parliament after this incident. So, these two institutions have compromised there power to neutralize hostilities with each other from here. Eventually, parliament gains the power over monarch.
After the incident so called “English Revolution” which overthrew King James II and gave the throne to William of Orange is dynamic example for how much power parliamentarians gained after 1642 civil war. Before that had no power to decide and appoint the King. That showed slightly some of the King’s power slightly leaked to Parliament by passing Bills and Acts. So, King’s absolute power and divinity reduce by time but not in instant. People introduce this incident as a revolution, but still it didn’t change the former political structure significantly.
Thenceforth, despite the monarch have some power, the King or Queen would only govern the country with the agreement of Parliament. In effect, power shifted from a single monarch to the members of an elected parliament and the unelected House of Lords.
After the power centralized in the Parliament factions of society rose up as parties, which carried out their own policy. Not only parties, some wealthy individuals also rose up independent candidates.
The first two great political parties are Liberal Democrats (Whigs) and Conservatives (Tories).In eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these two parties’ bitter rivals, but once one party came to power they ruled the country in harmony as a one nation.
These two parties had their own policies, which always gave priority when they come to power. Conservatives were generally Catholic or Anglican while were from a more Calvinist or radical Protestant tradition. Religion in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries was a big issue and it was the root of the enmity between the two parties.
Power of Lords
House of Lords is not elected from election, though at the time, the House of Lords could in effect veto any laws drawn up by the House of Commons. In 1911, then Liberal Government introduced Parliament Act and removed veto power of House of Lords. As a result of the Parliament Act, the House of Lords has the right to scrutinize proposed laws drawn up in the Commons and to ask members of that House to think again three times. If the Lords reject a law a third time, the House of Commons can say enough and the proposed Act passes into law despite objection from the Lords. After that, the House of Commons secure their primacy over the House of Lords. This is another example for evolution of British Constitution; because they change it according to temporary demands arises at that time. Veto power is always be a threat to modern Democracy. It was indirectly reduce of the power of monarch and wealthy families, because all of Lords are appointed by monarch, and also many of the Lords are descend from wealthy families who didn’t like common people’s welfare. Whatever the matter abolishment of veto power of the House of Lords; House of Commons didn’t try to abolish that institution. For this reason we can’t pointed it as a revolution.
Earning Full Democracy
There was no full Democracy in Britain until first two decade in twentieth century. Women were granted voting power at those days. Prior to that only men had the power to vote, even earlier only for the wealthy; and also majority of population didn’t have the power to choose who govern them.
Today, we see Britain as one of the best democratic country of the world. It earns and continues Democracy from evolution. When comparing France, Russia and USA it took too much time to change in to one political structure to another. Their democracy still evolving and turning more freely. That democracy affects them today more harshly because any party who form a government has to make a coalition. This is very bad to country’s stability. However, they manage to keep the country safe on the name of Democracy.