Knights of the Shire

Knights Of The Shire

Knights of the Shire

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From the creation of the Parliament of England in mediaeval times until 1826 each county of England and Wales sent two Knights of the Shire as members of Parliament to represent the interests of the county, when the number of knights from Yorkshire was increased to four. With the Great Reform Act of 1832 different counties sent different numbers of knights to Parliament until the abolition of the seats in the Reform Act of 1884.

The term is now used informally for English and Welsh members of parliament representing rural rather than urban areas.

Middle ages

The precursor to the English parliamentary system was a council of advisers to the King, consisting of noblemen and members of the aristocracy, and Knights of the Shire. Two Knights of the Shire were sent from each county. In 1264 this council evolved to include representatives from the boroughs (burgesses) and require that all members be elected (de Montfort's Parliament). The parliament gained legislative powers in 1295 (the Model Parliament). In the reign of Edward III parliament split into its current day format of two houses—the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Knights of the Shire, together with the representatives from the boroughs, formed the House of Commons.

Until legislation in the fifteenth century the franchise for elections of knights of the shire to serve as the representatives of counties in the Parliament of England was not restricted to forty shilling freeholders.

Seymour, discussing...
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