Privy Council of England

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
Royal Arms of Privy Council of England 1399 to 1603.

The Privy Council of England was a group of the monarchs most trusted advisers styled as Privy Councillors they were appointed personally by the Monarch of England and dismissed from office. This was the key decision making body of Government of the Kingdom of England for over 800 years. In modern governments the central role it played in political affairs has been replaced by a cabinet of ministers. The monarch of the United Kingdom still maintains the privy council today.

Membership of the Privy Council

The Sovereign, when acting on the Council's advice, was known as the "King-in-Council" or "Queen-in-Council". The members of the Council were collectively known as "The Lords of His [or Her] Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council", or sometimes "The Lords and others of …"). The chief officer of the body was the Lord President of the Council, one of the Great Officers of State.[15] Another important official was the Clerk, whose signature was appended to all orders made. Membership was generally for life, although the death of a monarch brought an immediate dissolution of the Council, as all Crown appointments automatic.

Principal Secretary's/Secretary of State

Secretary of State (1253-1660)

The Principal Secretary to the King or Queen later called the Secretary of State was the senior member of the Privy Council.

Great Officers of State

The Ten Great Officers of State in order of precedence are listed below.

  1. Lord President of the Council, (1530-1707) Chairman of the Privy Council presides over it's meetings.
  2. Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, (1060-no appointments since 1772)
  3. Lord Chancellor, (1066-1707)
  4. Lord Great Chamberlain, (1126-1707)
  5. Lord High Treasurer, (1126-1707)
  6. Lord High Constable, (1139-1707)
  7. Lord High Steward, (1154-1707)
  8. Lord Privy Seal, (1307-1707)
  9. Lord High Admiral, (1360-1707)
  10. Earl Marshal, (1672-1707)

The 10 Great Offices of State were also joined in the Privy Council by additional senior members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, together with leading churchmen, judges, diplomats and military leaders.

Role of the Privy Council

  1. The Privy Council were a group of powerful noblemen appointed by the Monarch of England
  2. The Privy Council advised the Monarch of England but did not control them.
  3. The Privy Council was a small group of 19 men to minimise conflict between them.
  4. The Privy Council met every day and was the most powerful part of the machinery of the government.
  5. They Privy Council advised on home and foreign affairs such as how to handle challenges and threats, when to go to war, relations with foreign ambassadors, and supervising the enforcement of the Religious Settlement.

Controlled supervision of the Privy Council

  1. The Principal Secretary to the Monarch later Secretary of State was the Senior Member of the Privy Council.
  2. The monarch limited the council to 19 members and of these only eight or nine met regularly who were usually the Great Officers of State
  3. The monarch appointed councillors with different viewpoints.
  4. The monarch used flattery and played the councillors off against each other
  5. The monarch gave rewards to councilors and the threat of removing those rewards in order to maintain control
  6. The monarch discussed policies and the business of state with courtiers from the Royal Court of England who were not members of the Privy Council.

Other Councils

The Privy Council of England was one of the four principal councils of the Sovereign. The other three were the courts of law, the Commune Concilium (Common Council, or Parliament of England) and the Magnum Concilium (Great Council, of all the Peers of the Realm). None of these was ever formally abolished, but the Magnum Concilium was not summoned after 1640 and was already considered obsolete then.

The Privy Council of Scotland continued in existence along with the Privy Council of England for more than a hundred years after the Union of the Crowns. In 1708, one year after the Treaty and Acts of Union of 1707, it was abolished by the Parliament of Great Britain and thereafter there was one Privy Council of Great Britain sitting in London. Nevertheless, long after the Act of Union 1800 the Kingdom of Ireland retained the Privy Council of Ireland, which came to an end only in 1922, when Southern Ireland separated from the United Kingdom, to be succeeded by the Privy Council of Northern Ireland.