Journal Article

Quo Warranto and Borough Corporations in Early Stuart England: Royal Prerogative and Local Privileges in the Central Courts*

Catherine Patterson

in The English Historical Review

Volume 120, issue 488, pages 879-906
Published in print September 2005 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cei239
Quo Warranto and Borough Corporations in Early Stuart England: Royal Prerogative and Local Privileges in the Central Courts*

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Quo Warranto proceedings have long been interpreted as one of the means by which the English crown attempted to enforce its will on local people. The later Stuarts used this tool to redraw borough constitutions, as even the charter of the city of London came into question under the pressure of quo warranto. This article takes a close look at the use of this prerogative writ in the early seventeenth century in reference to incorporated boroughs, and reveals a more complicated story of relations between crown and local government. It argues that quo warranto resulted in many instances not from the intentions of the crown to curb local franchises, but rather from internal struggles in a locality that were brought to the attention of the central courts by local people. While many towns encountered quo warranto proceedings at some point in the early seventeenth century, very few suffered any significant loss of privileges as a result. At the same time, the crown did view quo warranto as one way to gain its own ends vis-à-vis incorporated towns. The 1630s, in particular, saw some cases of quo warranto being used to punish or constrain town governments considered errant. While its legal impact may have been muted, quo warranto had, by the time of the calling of the Long Parliament, become associated with a perception of arbitrary power.

Journal Article.  14436 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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