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History of England
UK Law and Legal Issues
Century - 1600s

What did the English Bill of Rights do?

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April 26, 2018 5:24PM

It limited the power of the monarch. The Bill of Rights, 1689, in British history, one of the fundamental instruments of constitutional law. It registered in statutory form the outcome of the long 17th-century struggle between the Stuart kings and the English Parliament.

Its principles were accepted by William III and Mary II in the Declaration of Rights as a condition for ascending the throne after the revolution in which James II was dethroned (1688).

The Bill of Rights stated that certain acts of James II were illegal and henceforth prohibited; that Englishmen possessed certain inviolable civil and political rights; that James had forfeited the throne by abdication and that William and Mary were lawful sovereigns; that the succession should pass to the heirs of Mary, then to Princess Anne (later queen) and her heirs; and that no Roman Catholic could ever be sovereign of England.

By its provisions and implications it gave political supremacy to Parliament and was supplemented (1701) by the Act of Settlement.

The 1689 Bill of Rights is considered part of the UK uncodified constitution. It limited the power of the monarch and defined the rights of Parliament. Its terms included:

  • no royal interference with the law. The sovereign cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as judge
  • no taxation by Royal Prerogative. Parliament must agree to the taxation.
  • freedom to petition the monarch without fear of reprisals
  • no standing army may be maintained during peacetime without the agreement of Parliament
  • no royal interference in the freedom of the people to bear arms. This allowed people to own guns, which has since been repealed.
  • no royal interference in the election of members of parliament