Sovereignty must - by definition - be absolute and unqualified. It is like the concept unique - it cannot be limited. Either a country is sovereign or it is not. Either a monarch is sovereign or not. The title, rank and style King is recognition of the physical embodiment of the nations sovereignty. It bears no compromise.
In the context of
todays issues, we can either have The Queen as the constitutional head of a
sovereign country, or we can have a president of the European Union. But, by
definition - and despite John Majors claim after
The 37th of the 39 Articles of Religion passed during the reign of Elizabeth I, which still have legal force, and which can be seen in any book of common prayer, says:
"The Queen's Majesty ... is not, and ought not to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction".
Clause four of The Act of Succession confirmed the power of the sovereign, the role of parliament, the common law rights and liberties of the people, and the relationship between them. It said:
"IV. And whereas the Laws of England and the Birthright of the People thereof and all the Kings and Queens who shall ascend the Throne of this Realm ought to <in the sense of must, throughout> administer the Government of the same according to the said Laws and all their Officers and Ministers ought to serve them respectively according to the same The said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do therefore humbly pray That all the Laws and Statutes of this Realm for securing the established Religion and Rights and Liberties of the People thereof and all other Laws and Statutes of the same now in Force may be ratified and confirmed. And the same are by His Majesty by and with the Advice and Consent of the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons and by Authority of the same ratified and confirmed accordingly."
The Act of Supremacy 1559 went even further. It included the words:
“all usurped and foreign power and authoritymay forever be clearly extinguished, and never used or obeyed in this realm. no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentateshall at any time after the last day of this session of Parliament, use, enjoy or exercise any manner of power, jurisdiction, superiority, authority, preeminence or privilegewithin this realm, but that henceforth the same shall be clearly abolished out of this realm, for ever.”
The Act of Supremacy is now largely repealed, but its central intentions live on through the use of almost identical words 129 years later, when The Declaration of Rights of 1688 was written. This, too, is a settlement treaty, and not an Act of Parliament. It too, therefore, cannot be repealed by parliament.
The Convention Parliament which drew up the Declaration was called when the Bishop of Salisbury invoked clause 61 of Magna Carta, and demanded the attendance of 25 barons to address his grievances - evidence that clause 61 has teeth, and that there is a precedent for such action today.
The Declaration was engrossed in parliament and enrolled among the rolls of chancery. It has never been listed, however, within the chronological tables of Acts of Parliament - a fact which might be significant.
The Bill of Rights, December 1689, incorporated all the essential clauses of the Declaration of the previous February, and may be argued to form an entrenchment of the Declaration, severely limiting parliaments ability to make changes. Indeed, it could be held to be doubly entrenched.
Clause 13 lays specific responsibilities upon members of parliament to protect the best interests of the people who elected them:
“And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example.”
The Bill of Rights includes an unequivocal and entrenching statement from the Declaration of the previous year. Its intention was:
“for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said declaration and the articles, clauses, matters and things therein contained by the force of a law made in due form by authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this Kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed and taken to be; and that all and every the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed as they are expressed in the said declaration, and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all times to come.”
The Bill of Rights included the Oath of Allegiance to the crown which was required by Magna Carta to be taken by all crown servants including members of the judiciary. Specifically they were required not to take into consequence or example anything to the detriment of the subject’s liberties". Similar words are still used today as crown servants swear or affirm that they will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law and that they will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Secondand will do right to all manner of people, after the laws and usages of this realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
Members of the armed forces swear equally unequivocal oaths of attestation which commit them to protect her from all enemies and to uphold her in her person, dignity and crown.
None of these oaths mention parliament, which clearly indicates that parliament cannot interfere with the relationships or duties established by them.
Which brings us to one of the pivotal issues of our case - the direct, indisputable and irreconcilable conflict between the oaths sworn by privy counsellors who subsequently swear oaths on appointment as European Union commissioners.
Privy counsellors swear:
“I will to my uttermost bear faith and allegiance unto the Queens Majesty; and will assist and defend all jurisdictions, pre-eminences, and authorities granted to Her Majesty and annexed to the crown by Acts of Parliament or otherwise, against all foreign princes, persons, prelates, states and potentates. And generally in all things I will do as a faithful and true servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help me God.”
EU commissioners swear:
“To perform my duties in complete independence, in the general interests of the communities; in carrying out my duties, neither to seek nor to take instruction from any government or body; to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties.”
It is impossible to comprehend how privy counsellors who subsequently become European Union commissioners live with the contradictions inherent in these conflicting promises. By definition, one oath or the other must be broken. But the legal consequences of such breaches has - to the best of our knowledge - never been put to the test in a court of law or anywhere else, despite Lord Dennings confirmation that anyone swearing an oath of loyalty to the EU should immediately resign from any public office which was held on an oath of allegiance to the crown.
“A man cannot serve two sovereigns.”
We detect an horrific prevailing mood in the highest offices in the land that mere words dont matter any more.
In times past, words and their meaning had value and were fully respected. Sir Robert Howard, a member of the Convention Parliament, and of the drafting committee for the Bill of Rights, wrote:
“The people have always had the same title to their liberties and properties that England’s kings have had unto their crowns. The several charters of the people’s rights, most particularly the Magna Carta were not grants from the King, but recognitions by the King of rights that have been reserved or that appertained unto us by common law and immemorial custom.”
In other words, any attempts to reduce the rights, freedoms and liberties enshrined in the constitution would be ultra vires.
(Few people have ever seen the whole of the original document known as The Declaration of Rights, which is housed in the records office of the House of Lords. Until very recently part of it had been rolled up for what may have been many generations. Now, the entire document - including the engrossment - has been photographed and transcribed verbatim, possibly for the first time in centuries. A complete transcription of both the Declaration and the Bill of Rights, with a supporting analysis of the contents in their historical context, is in preparation.)
The Declaration of 1688
first declared the throne vacant, and went on to clarify and confirm the future
“the said Lords and Commons, being the two Houses of Parliament, should continue to sit and make effectual provision for the settlement of the laws and liberties of this kingdom, so that the same for the future might not be in danger again of being subverted. the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same, in all time to come.”
So, neither Magna Carta nor the Declaration of Rights can be repealed, nor did they make any grant of freedom. They both proclaimed what were taken to be self-evident freedoms which exist by right. Equally, both were based on a concept of permanence.
Indeed, in 1661, one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace told a grand jury:
“If Magna Carta be, as most of us are inclined to believe it is, unalterable as to the main, it is so in every part.”
The oaths sworn by William and Mary subsequently locked those rights and that parliamentary structure into a constitutional framework which could not later be undone by parliament itself or by the monarchy.
William wrote to parliament to this effect:
“restoring the rights and liberties of the kingdom, and settling the same, that they may not be in danger of being again subverted.”
The historian GM Trevelyan writing (early 1920s) of these turbulent times some 300 years earlier, said:
"In the Stuart era the English developed for themselves... a system of parliamentary government, local administration and freedom of speech and person, clean contrary to the prevailing tendencies on the continent, which was moving fast towards regal absolutism, centralised bureaucracy, and the subjection of the individual to the State."