Sunday, 20 April 2008

THE WITAN

NOTE: For other posts in this series, click HISTORY OF BRITAIN on posts/pages (right)

The Anglo-Saxon incursions, and the kingdoms they eventually formulated, led to a great unity in England, but in great measure this was also due to a system of government that arose in the 9th century known as the Witan.
Meaning ‘moot’ or meeting, they guaranteed that a king would not have absolute power. This uniquely English anomaly to absolute monarchy, it was made up of local dignitaries and bishops.

BEGINNING OF MODERN POLITICS

The Witan discussed grants of land, taxation, law, prosecutions and defence and foreign policy, being an excellent think-tank for kings, who came to rely on the Witan so much that a succession could only take place with the Witan's approval.
Tying the duties of the king to the people, and always ready to curb any monarchial excess, the Witan can be seen as the beginnings of the Parliamentary system that would find its first great expression in a much later England.

© Anthony North, April 2008

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