parliamentary question

The short story is going better, but by “better” I mean I now have pliers to pull the teeth with, rather than just my bare fingers. So I’ve decided, screw it, I’m going back to polishing the novel while I wait for my edit letter.

To that end: are any of my readers here familiar with parliamentary procedure for the House of Commons? Things like, what phrases do they use to summon the Commons up to meet with the Lords (assuming that still happens), and how do they announce a division?

(The nice thing about the UK Parliament is, I can with reasonable certainty assume these details haven’t really changed in three hundred and fifty years . . . I mean, they still drag the Speaker to his chair, and a Speaker hasn’t been murdered or executed in centuries.)

So, yeah. If you’re enough of a British political geek to answer those kinds of questions, let me know, and I’ll give you the list.

0 Responses to “parliamentary question”

  1. fhtagn

    Well, whilst I’m not a political geek, I have a friend who is and he suggested that these sites may have the sort of information you want, or at least be a good starting point:

  2. myladyswardrobe


    I’ve been lurking on your journal as I notice you write stories set in Elizabethan England.

    I don’t know a lot about 16th century parliamentary habits (my specialism in the period is social history; costuming and needlearts; Elizabeth I and the Nobility and Henry VIII and his 6 wives) but my husband does as he has played an MP in the 16th century numerous times at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk and had to find out a lot of information to make his role credible. He is also very interested in the Parliamentary system in general (I was turned right off it when I did it as a public exam at 18! Wish I’d known my husband then as he can make it sound very interesting!!)

    If you have some specific questions then I can ask him and see what he says. I know he has a couple of very useful books that may help too.

    One thing is the present Parliamentary system is actually more of a 19th century construct. The 16th century one would have a familiar feel to the present but there would be big differences as well.

    If you want to contact me directly with any questions (as specific as possible) then my private email is myladysw AT myladyswardrobe DOT com

  3. ckd

    I don’t have the absolute details of the process, but I still get childish giggles at the thought of “Black Rod” coming to knock on the door. (This is part of the process of summoning the Commons to the Lords for the State Opening; I don’t know if it applies in other circumstances.)

    I mean, really, it’s almost a “knock knock” joke. He heads for the Commons, they slam the door in his face, he knocks three times, they ask “Who is there?”, and he answers “Black Rod.”? You can’t make this stuff up.

    • myladyswardrobe

      The Office of “The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod” was created in 1350 but the title dates from 1522. There are a quite a number of duties that the holder undertakes – in summary they are sort of a medieval version of a Security system. There is, of course, more to it than that but thats the simplified version.

      The knocking on the door and being refused admittance is to symbolise the independence of the Commons’ from the Sovereign. Black Rod is based in the Lords – his Common’s equivalent is Serjeant-at-Arms. This odd ceremony dates back to the 17th century after Charles I used his authority as Monarch to override the seeming Commons’ independence and arrest 5 members’ in 1642.

      Once the monarchy was restored, the Commons’ has always maintained its right to question the authority of the Monarch to enter their chamber. However, they cannot completely bar the Monarch (or his/her representatives) from entering with Lawful Authority.

      The reason Black Rod is knocking on the door of the Commons’, is for the State Opening of Parliament. He is essentially summoning the Commons’ to attend on the Monarch. The Monarch DOES NOT go to the Commons’ – its the other way round.

      Without knowing the background of this odd ceremony, it can be very bizarre and comical but it does have a very practial symbolic reason – the Monarch cannot “own” the Commons’ because they are representative of the People.

  4. doriscrockford2

    Hansard has some good links to texts of 16th century debates and other geek-worthy things:

    And a note: I finished Midnight Never Come last week and absolutely loved it. I’ve added your lj as a friend; I hope that’s all right.

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