Convention Parliament

The term Convention Parliament has been applied to three different English Parliaments, of 1399, 1660 and 1689.

The definition of the term convention parliament is generally taken to be:

A parliament which does not derive its authority or legitimacy from an existing or previously enacted parliamentary action or process.

Convention Parliament of 1399

The first example of a convention parliament (a parliament which is not often referred to as a 'convention parliament' but is always recognised as being one) in September 1399, came about as a result of the deposition of King Richard II of England and a parliament which accepted Henry Bolingbroke as King Henry IV of England.

Convention Parliament of 1660

The second example is the Convention Parliament also known as the English Convention which was elected in April 1660. It was elected after the Rump of the Long Parliament had finally voted for its own dissolution. It was predominantly Royalist in its constitution. It assembled for the first time on the April 25, 1660.

The Convention, after the Declaration of Breda had been received on the 8th of May, declared that King Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the death of Charles I in January 1649. The Convention Parliament then proceeded to conduct the necessary preparation for the Restoration Settlement. These preparations included the necessary provisions to deal with land and funding such that the new regime could operate.

Reprisals against the establishment which had developed under Oliver Cromwell were constrained under the terms of the Indemnity and Oblivion Act which became law on 29 August, 1660. Nonetheless there were prosecutions against those accused of regicide, the direct participation in the trial and execution of Charles I.

The Convention Parliament was dissolved by Charles II on 29 December 1660. The succeeding parliament, which was elected in May 1661 was called the Cavalier Parliament and it set about the systematic dismantling of all the legislation and institutions which had been introduced during the reign of Cromwell's 'Commonwealth and Protectorate'.

Convention Parliament of 1689

The third example of a convention parliament is the first parliament of the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688.

This parliament, which met in 1689 after the departure of King James II of England, formally recognised Prince William of Orange as King William III of England.

Features of the convention parliaments

The features which unite the three convention parliaments and which mandate their status as convention parliaments, are:

  • The recognition by the convention of the preceding parliamentary process as having come to an end of its powers in terms of determining future parliamentary proceedings
  • The implicit self-empowerment of the parliamentary convention to act in place of the preceding process, thereby establishing its own legitimacy in determining the future of parliamentary proceedings

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