The Unique Constitutional Framework


There is a document that is found in almost all the countries which contains the principals that govern the country and it is known as the constitution. The UK is an exception since it does not have a written constitution. The constitution is unwritten since the laws that govern the land are not contained in a single document. However, the unwritten constitution is as a result of the historical evolution that has happened over a long time. Additionally, the government of UK is not headed by a president. Instead, the constitution allows the monarch who inherits the position because they come from the royal family to head the state. The evolution and development of the UK constitution have been motivated by democratic factors.

Evolution and development of the UK constitution.

The UK constitution has undergone a lot of evolution. Its development process is divided in six periods which include the following:


Anglo-Saxon Period (400AD-1066AD)

The first development of the UK constitution can be traced during the settlement of Saxon. 1066 is the year when the Saxon rule ended because England had been conquered by William. England at the time was composed of seven kingdoms which include Northumberland, Wessex, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Merica and East Anglia. Wessex started to dominate over the other kingdoms around the 9th Century and it absorbed them hence expanding its territory. The Kingship institution came in to existence around that time. During the Anglo-Saxon era, small villages were the residences of most people. A township was formed by each village and town assemblies formed the machinery of the local government and certain officers held elective posts.

1066 is the year when there was a conquest in the UK which was referred to as the Norman Conquest. The constitution of Britain was developed and grew over this period. The royal power grew in this period and is was a major step towards development. The great council which consisted of church dignitaries, men who were leaders of the kingdom and royal officers assisted the king to rule. In the absence of the great council, the little council took up the role of the great council. The great council gave rise to the British parliament and at the same time, the Curia gave rise to the High Court which was concerned with Justice, the Exchequer and the Privy Council.

During this period, Henry II revived the institutions that were dealing with political issues which had been founded by William. At this time, there was an increase in the powers that were given to parliament. 1341 is the year when the king agreed that he would not impose any tax unless through the consent of the parliament. He also agreed that the parliament was responsible for appointing ministers. A king would also be dethroned by the parliament since they had the powers to so and 1327 is the year when the parliament exercised its rights and dethroned King Edward II. Lastly, there was an agreement that the ministers had to make a resignation before the start of the meeting that heard their charges.

During this period, the Tudor monarchs had a great influence on the Kingship since they had a lot of concentration on acquiring more powers. There were no serious restrictions that were made by the parliament in the royal despotism path. Between 1558 and 1603, Queen Elizabeth did not disagree with the parliament frequently and she accepted most of its judgment.

The throne was passed to King James I in 1566 after Queen Elizabeth's death. He however conflicted with the parliament since he believed that the rights that ought to have been given to the king were divine. This made him to lay stress on the powers that were given to the king. King Charles I took over from King James I and the matters continued to deteriorate. There was a very great conflict that arose between the parliament and the king which latter led to the emergence of a civil war. Charles I was tried and he was found guilty and this led to his execution. Later, there was an abolishment of the House of Lords and kingship. England was formally declared as a republic by the parliament in 1649.

Additionally, the Instrument of Government which was a constitution that had been written down was adopted and the Lord Protector was Oliver Cromwell between 1653 and1658. This did not go as planned since the protector disagreed with the parliament leading to the failure of the new Constitution. Restoration of the monarchy to England was done after the death of Cromwell which led to the crowning of Charles II. He was succeeded by James II who disagreed with the parliament not long after his ascension to power over the rights that he had over suspending certain laws which he wanted to impose by force. It ultimately led to the Glorious Revolution which led to the overthrow of the king in 1688.

Hanover Period (1714-1837)

The powers of the parliament and the king were redefined after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. The bill of rights was passed by the parliament in 1689. It gave the restrictions to the powers given to the monarch and the supremacy of legislation by the Parliament. The UK is a constitutional monarchy and the parliament is more supreme than the Monarchy till date.

The U.K. Government

There are several sources in which the UK constitution is formulated. The laws which the parliament passes are referred to as the statutes and they take the highest form of law. The practices that are unwritten which are also referred to as the conventions have been developing over time. They regulate the governing businesses. The judges and courts develop common laws through the cases that they determine. The international law is also a law that governs the United Kingdom. Additionally, the constitution of UK is not contained in a single document and the constitutional authority is relied on for the understanding and location of the constitution.

The arms of state in the UK are three. The executive which comprises of the ministers who have the responsibility of running the country and proposing new laws is the first. The second is the legislature which consists of elected members who have the responsibility of passing new laws. Lastly is the judiciary which consists of the courts and the judges. Their responsibility is to make sure that the law is obeyed by everyone. The UK parliament is bicameral. There are two houses where all the ministers in the government have to come from. The House of Lords is the first and the House of Commons is the other. Consensus has been the key factor that has led to the success of the development and the evolution of the UK constitution.

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To conclude, these developments have been motivated by democratic factors. The parliament has over the time been very keen on the powers that are given to the monarch. They do so in order to prevent dictatorship and control the powers given to the monarchs. At the same time, the interest of the UK citizens is very important and it should be protected through the laws governing the land.


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  • Markesinis B, The British Contribution To The Europe Of The Twenty-First Century (Hart Pub 2002)
  • Singh U, Decentralized Democratic Governance In New Millennium (Concept Pub Co 2009)
  • Stevenson J, The History Of Europe (Facts on File 2002)
  • Thomas H, The Norman Conquest (Rowman & Littlefield 2008)
  • Turvey R, AQA AS and A Level History (2015)

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