The Committee of Estates of the Scottish Parliament, 1640-1651: an exercise in provisional government

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This article provides a detailed study of the powers of the Committee of Estates of the Scottish Parliament between 1640 and 1651. The Committee of Estates was the most important committee established by the Scottish Parliament during these years. Parliaments were held on a regular basis between 1639 and 1651, primarily due to the 1640 Triennial which required parliaments to be held in Scotland at least once every three years. The Scottish Parliament was under the control of the Covenanting movement during these years, as a movement of opposition that emerged against Charles I's administration of his kingdom of Scotland. The Covenanting movement and the Scottish Parliament played an important role in the turbulent conflicts that erupted in the three Stuart kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland. The powers of the Scottish Parliament were considerably enhanced in the constitutional settlement that was enacted in 164-41. A new committee system emerged, with the de facto abolition of the controversial Lords of the Articles, the parliamentary committee that had been so controversial in the Scottish Parliaments of 1621 and 1633 respectively. The system that emerged was based on session and interval committees. Session committees usually had the lifespan of a parliamentary session, whereas interval committees sat between parliamentary sessions or parliaments. The Committee of Estates was first established in the June 1640 parliamentary session and it was the most important interval committee of the Scottish Parliament until 1651 when Scotland was conquered by Oliver Cromwell. This article therefore explains the origins of the Committee of Estates and it then proceeds to examine the powers of the Committee of Estates, membership trends, the role of supernumeraries on the Committee of Estates, sessional structures of the Committee, executive control and presidential functions, the role of subcommittees, and factionalism within the Committee. This article also provides information on the manuscript registers of the Committee of Estates that are located in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. It also concludes by pointing out that Committees of Estates were later used in Scotland in 1660 with the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, and the Revolution of 1688-90 with the replacement of James VII and II with William of Orange.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPoders a l'ombra
Subtitle of host publicationles comissions de les institucions parlamentaires i representatives (segles XV-XX)
EditorsMaria Betlem Castella i Pujois
Place of PublicationBarcelona
Number of pages375
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2015

Publication series

NameTestimonis Parlamentaris


  • Scottish Parliament
  • committee of estates
  • Scottish history


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