In reply to what you wrote to us about holding parliament, we tell you that we do not wish that any parliament should be held in the realm while we are absent, since that would be unfitting.
It is our desire that during our absence, justice and rule should be by Hugh Bigod, justiciar of England. We also order that no new ordinance or change to the law should be made in our realm without our presence and consent.
In this document it seems that King Henry III is beginning to see the growing importance of the new institution of Parliament. He does not want it to meet when he is out of the country and wants the country to be run by his chief official Hugh Bigod when he is absent. But it is puzzling to know whether this document suggests Henry believes in Parliament because he wants to be involved in it or whether he is looking for a way to control it and prevent it meeting too often for his liking.
Letter from King Henry III to the Archbishop of Canterbury February 1260
The National Archives
Test your understanding
What was Hugh Bigod’s role?
Not quite right, I’m afraid... Why don’t you try studying the document and listening to the transcript again…?
Excellent — you have obviously studied the document carefully...the answer is Justiciar of England. This meant Hugh Bigod was a sort of medieval ‘prime minister’.
Why have the barons rebelled against Henry III?
- Is it because Simon de Montfort is an ambitious traitor who wants power for himself? Is he not really interested in the liberties granted by Magna Carta and is acting like a revolutionary dictator by seizing power?
- Or is it Henry who cannot be trusted? Has he ruled the kingdom badly and he is also trying to get out of commitments he has made to rule according to Magna Carta and the Provisions of Oxford?
- It is the view of this chronicle that the barons have rebelled against King Henry III because…