Magnum Concilium

For the medieval French magnum consilium, see Conseil du Roi.

In the Kingdom of England, the Magnum Concilium, or Great Council, was an assembly convened at certain times of the year when church leaders and wealthy landowners were invited to discuss the affairs of the country with the king.

It was established in the reign of the Normans. In ancient times the king would call the Great Council and the King's Court (Curia Regis), semi-professional advisors who would stay behind until the work was done. The former grew into the Parliament (concilium regis in parliamento) and, especially as it split into the House of Lords and House of Commons, thereby assumed the participation of the nobility.

In Plantagenet times the Magnum Concilium was a gathering of these aristocrats, who advised the king when there was no issue that required hearing the commons.

According to The Oxford History of England, Henry VII summoned Great Councils half a dozen times in the last years of the fifteenth century,[1] but thereafter it fell into disuse. After a lapse of generations, in the autumn of 1640 Charles I summoned a Great Council at York after being defeated by the Scots. He had dissolved the Short Parliament and hoped to avoid summoning another. They offered a guaranteed loan of £200,000 sterling to pay the army, and attempted to negotiate with the Scots (to no avail),[2] but would not undertake the powers of a Parliament,[3] and advised Charles to summon Parliament. Since then the Great Council has never met.

In 2008 Christopher Russell Bailey, 5th Baron Glanusk, suggested that the time had come for a recall of the Magnum Concilium, since hereditary peers had lost their right to sit in the House of Lords under the House of Lords Act 1999.[4]

See also


  1. Mackie, J. D. The Earlier Tudors 1485–1558. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1952. p.201
  2. Bowle, John. Charles I, A Biography. Little, Brown & Co., Boston and Toronto, 1975. p. 177
  3. Macaulay, Thomas Babington. The History of England from the Accession of James II. J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 1878. Vol I, p. 75
  4. 2008 Newsletter Hereditary Peerage Association, April 1 2008

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