Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series
Chapter 1: The New Constitutionalism
In 1688 seven English peers sent a letter of invitation to William of Orange, the Protestant king of Holland, and indicated to him that the country wanted political change. After William had landed in England and the reigning King, James II, had fled the country, the Convention of Lords and Commons declared that the throne was vacant and officially offered it to William and his wife, Mary. However, the Crown the Parliament offered to them was not the same as before: by adopting the Bill of Rights 1689, the Parliament imposed strong limits on the prerogative powers of the Crown. The conflict between the Crown and Parliament, which was at the centre of the political controversies in the seventeenth century, ended with the victory of the Parliament. The settlement between William and the Parliament transformed England into a limited constitutional monarchy. Although the English (and later the British) constitution has undergone many changes since then, the 1688 settlement has laid down the foundations of a new, distinctive constitutional arrangement with the principle of parliamentary supremacy at its heart. The doctrine of parliamentary supremacy received its most influential exposition in AV Dicey’s treaty on constitutional law in the nineteenth century. The Orthodox Model of Parliamentary Supremacy can be characterized by three main tenets: Although in functional terms one can speak about constitutional laws, in legal terms there is no formal distinction between ‘constitutional statutes’ and ‘ordinary statutes’; all Acts of Parliament have equal legal status.