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privy Council


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The fate of most councils or committees is to grow too large to be effective and to be replaced by an executive or inner caucus, like a series of Russian dolls. The council of late medieval times became too big and in the late 1530s a smaller Privy Council was set up. To a considerable extent this was the work of Thomas Cromwell. In 1540 the Privy Council, with some 20 members, acquired a clerk and a minute book. It became the work‐horse of late Tudor government. The Long Parliament replaced it in 1649 by a Council of State, but Richard Cromwell restored it, and it was continued by Charles II after 1660. But its great days were by then over. The emergence of the cabal in the 1670s and James II's use of an inner cabinet in the 1680s heralded its fate, and it began to lose importance, first to the cabinet council, then to the cabinet. As the Privy Council continued to grow, its duties became almost purely formal, and by 1994 membership had risen to more than 400.

Subjects: History.


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