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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 is the parliament of 1399. Formed in September of 1399, this parliament convened consequent to the deposition of King Richard II of England and the dissolution of the previous parliament which accepted Henry Bolingbroke as King Henry IV of England. Although this parliament is not often referred to as a 'convention parliament,' it meets the definition of the term.

Convention Parliament of 1660

The second example is the Convention Parliament also known as the English Convention which was elected in March 1660. It was elected after the Long Parliament had finally voted for its own dissolution. Elected as a "free parliament", i.e. with no oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth or to the monarchy, it was predominantly Royalist in its membership. It assembled for the first time on 25 April 1660.

The Convention, after the Declaration of Breda had been received, proclaimed on 8 May 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 régime 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 was elected in May 1661, and was called the Cavalier Parliament. It set about both systematic dismantling of all the legislation and institutions which had been introduced during the Interregnum, and the confirming of the Acts of the Convention Parliament.

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, was not summoned by the King, but arguably by lawful authority of the Regent appointed by the House of Lordsmarker. It decided that the King had abdicated by fleeing the capital and throwing the Great Seal of the Realm in the River Thames. It also offered the throne jointly to King William III and Queen Mary II, formally recognising Prince William of Orange as King by passing the Bill of Rights 1689.

The Scottish equivalent was the Convention of the Estates, leading to the Claim of Right Act 1689, having a similar effect on the Scottish crown.

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

See also


  1. Pepys' Diary
  2. History of England, Thomas Babington Macaulay pp 109-110

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