English Council, Feudal Counsel, 1066–1189
This chapter traces the evolution of assemblies from the Norman Conquest to the death of Henry II. It shows that the Norman kings took over the Anglo‐Saxon institution of the witan, but transformed it in two ways: by making attendance depend on tenure (those present were the leading tenants of the crown), and by demanding counsel as a feudal right, to which the lord‐king was entitled. It analyses the king's reasons for wanting counsel—it spread responsibility for major decisions and promoted political harmony—and the magnates' reasons for attending councils to give it. Though notions of restraints on the crown were very much in the air, promoted by the coronation charters which some kings granted at the start of their reigns, there was as yet no sense that councils were able to impose those restraints. But at the end of the period the introduction of national taxation was beginning to give rise to the need for magnate consent for taxes. This was to be one of the roots of parliament.
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