Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Parliament, the supreme national council and legislature of England, which developed from the king's council of barons and tenants in chief of the Crown and the great officers of court. The first move in a popular direction was opposition to the sovereign on the part of his councillors; next came the establishment by Magna Charta (1215) of a fixed supreme civil court; thirdly, the admission of knights of the shires towards the end of John's reign; next, the election of twelve representatives by the commonalty (1258), when a permanent council of fifteen - the forerunner of the Privy Council and the Cabinet, was instituted - and, lastly, the summoning of elected knights and burgesses to the parliaments or councils of 1205 and 1295. The division of Parliament into two houses was completed by 1341, and during the reign of Edward III. its powers developed substantially. After a fluctuating but gradually progressive career, the authority of Parliament was finally confirmed on the accession of William III. Its constitution has been modified by the Triennial Act (1694), when party government began, the Septennial Act (1716), and the reforms of the House of Commons dated 1832, 1867, 1884, and 1885. The Imperial Parliament now consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords (containing about 600 peers), and the House of Commons (containing 670 members, each member representing one electoral division). In addition to their legislative functions, either house, "in High Court of Parliament assembled," sits as a judicial court to try certain special cases, such as high treason, contempt of Parliament, and misconduct of public officers. There was a Scots Parliament until the Union (1707), and an Irish Parliament from 1782 to 1799. The self-governing colonies of the British Empire have Parliaments, and the term is applied to foreign legislative bodies. [Diet, Rigsdag, Reichstag, Skbpshtina, Storthing.]