7th April 1258.
The Provisions of Oxford have been regarded as England’s first written Constitution, though Magna Carta and the Law Codes of the Saxon, Ethelbert are also of significance.(1)
Today in 1258 there was a confrontation at Westminster between the English barons and Henry III regarding the powers of the Crown.
Although no formal concessions were agreed at that parliament, the King was forced to conceded a meeting at Oxford a couple of months later.
A major concern was Henry had provided money for a war in Sicily on behalf of the Pope Innocent IV against the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope in exchange had offered to make Henry’s son Edward King of Sicily.
The resulting Provisions of Oxford, which might be considered as England’s first written constitution, came in 1258 when a group of barons led by de Montfort forced Henry III to accept new powers in a council of 24 members: 12 representing the Crown and 12 the Barons.
One of the Provisions stipulated that there be three parliaments a year: 1st on the Octave of St. Michael; the 2nd on the Morrow of Candlemas, and the 3rd on the first day of June or three weeks before [the Feast of] John.
A written confirmation of the Provisions was then sent to Sheriffs of the Counties, written unusually, for that age, in Latin, French and Middle English, for the first time since the Conquest, and was meant as an antidote to the increased ‘Francization’ of the language of the previous decades.
However The Provisions of Oxford (2) and those of Westminster 1259 (3), were overthrown by Henry, just as King John had eventually rejected Magna Carta half a century previously.
To add insult to injury Henry was assisted in this renunciation by a Papal Bull of 1261, which didn’t go down well with the barons.
Thus we now see the beginning of the 2nd Barons’ War 1263-7, which was won by the King and his supporters. The Dictum of Kenilworth in 1266 was some attempt to reconcile the warring factions after the death of Simon de Montfort.
Also certain legalities were confirmed by the Statute of Marlborough commonly called Marlbridge in 1267, which dealt with the grievances of the smaller landowners, regulated wardship and prevented people outside the lord’s jurisdiction from attending his court.
This went some way to hold the peace for some time, when England was groping towards some kind of parliamentary government.
The Statute of Marlborough, is the oldest piece of law in the UK not yet repealed.
(1) The Provisions are known from two main sources: Annals of Burton, Published by Fulman 1684. scriptores viteres pp 412-16. Secondly H.R. Luard Rolls Series. annales monastici. pp 446-53.
(2) The Provisions of 1258 had an effect on the English Common Law in that Royal Writs which had proliferated after Henry II saw no further expansion.
(3) After the Provisions of Westminster a ‘statute’ was adopted against aliens [foreigners] in July 1263.
Ref: ianvisits.co.uk/750th anniversary of provisions of oxford.
Ref:englandcalling.wordpress/provisions of oxford.
Ref: wikipedia.org/provisions_of _oxford.
Ref: escholar.manchester.ac.uk/provisions-of-oxford. re texts.