16 December 1689: Parliament passes the Bill of Rights

A written part of the country's “unwritten constitution”, the Bill of Rights, was passed on this day in 1689, asserting Parliamentary superiority over the monarch.

Britain – or indeed England – may not have a written constitution, but there are a couple of documents which, oddly perhaps, form part of the unwritten one. The first was Magna Carta, sealed in 1215 when King John got a bit too uppity for his barons' liking. The second was the Bill of Rights.

In the 17th century, the country was in the grip of religious turmoil – “popery”, of course, was the number one threat. So after the death of the protestant Charles II in 1685, the ascension of his Catholic brother James to the throne was not well received. His appointment of Catholics to high places in the law and academia, along with officers in the army, led to a big falling out with Parliament. Eventually, he was forced to abdicate and fled the country in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange – good protestants both – were invited to take the throne but only once they had accepted the demands of Parliament.

On offering them the crown on 13 February 1689, the Declaration of Rights was read out, which set out the rights of the monarch's subjects, and the monarch's relationship with Parliament. It established Parliament's supremacy in matters of taxation and legislation, and the principle of parliamentary privilege. It forbade the monarch from maintaining a standing army without Parliament's consent, and outlawed the use of "cruel and unusual punishments".

The declaration was formalised on this day in 1689, when Parliament passed the Bill of Rights. Scotland published a similar Act in the Claim of Right Act 1689. It directly influenced the United States Bill of Rights, which received approval in 1791; the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; and the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified in 1953.

 

Recommended

Just how powerful is artificial intelligence becoming?
Tech stocks

Just how powerful is artificial intelligence becoming?

An uncannily human response from an artificial intelligence program sparked a minor panic last month. But just how powerful are machines getting – and…
2 Jul 2022
Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?
Share tips

Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?

With a dividend yield of 12.3%, Persimmon looks like a highly attractive prospect for income investors. But that sort of yield can also indicate compa…
1 Jul 2022
The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market

Merryn and John talk about he need for higher wages and lower house prices, and why the fact that this is the least dramatic bear market they’ve ever …
1 Jul 2022
Here are the best savings accounts on the market now
Savings

Here are the best savings accounts on the market now

With inflation at more than 9%, your savings are not going to keep pace with the rising cost of living. But you can at least slow the rate at which yo…
1 Jul 2022

Most Popular

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?
House prices

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?

UK house prices hit a fresh high in June, but as interest rates start to rise, the market is cooling John Stepek assesses just how much of an effect h…
30 Jun 2022
The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100
Income investing

The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100

Rupert Hargreaves looks at the FTSE 100’s top yielding stocks for income investors to consider.
22 Jun 2022
Five dividend stocks to beat inflation
Share tips

Five dividend stocks to beat inflation

During periods of high inflation, dividend stocks tend to do better than the wider market. Here, Rupert Hargreaves pick five dividend stocks for incom…
30 Jun 2022