Companions of the King

Alan Rogers reflects the influence of power among those surrounding the throne and how, throughout the entire medieval period during which Parliament existed, the magnates had greater sway than the Commons.

Alan Rogers | Published in History Today

In many fields of historical scholarship today, there are signs of a revived interest in those who held political power—in the persons of the ruling classes as well as in the machinery of government.

The importance of the politically potent has made historians re-open old issues; and if this means giving disproportionate attention to the very few, it can be argued that this is justified by the far-reaching results of the exercise of their power in the lives of the many.

Lords deserve greater notice because their influence over the common man was greater. From Anglo-Saxon England to the nineteenth century, historians are reappraising the place in society of the landed, the wealthy and the powerful.

It was to be expected that the medieval Parliament should soon come under review. Parliament in the Middle Ages consisted of many elements—the King, the spiritual and temporal Lords, themselves much divided, the Judges and other officials from the King’s Council and Government, the minor clergy at times, and the knights and burgesses who became ‘the Commons’.

For many years, most historical attention has been given to the Commons—and, indeed, the records and other accounts of the activities of the Commons are the most extensive. But it is arguable that throughout the whole of the medieval period in which Parliament existed, the magnates had greater influence and power than the Commons. They were frequently consulted on their own, without the Commons being present; many matters, especially those relating to war and defence, were presented to them for consideration before the Commons.

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