Friday, August 17, 2012

The Parliament of Bats and other strange nomenclature

The Parliament of Bats was called in 1426. When I first noticed the name, I pictured this:

but naturally, it was not a batty Parliament.

It was an argument about freedom to carry weapons for self-defense.  The Duke of Gloucester had made a rule that members of Parliament were not allowed to carry swords. So they armed themselves with clubs (bats) instead. 

I started noticing some of the strange names that various sessions of the English Parliament acquired throughout history.  The Mad Parliament, called in 1258, brought to mind this:
but naturally, the Parliament was not nutty, or crazy.

They were very angry (mad, in fact) and they summoned the King (rather than the other way around) to Oxford, where they imposed what became known as the Oxford Provisions, limiting the arbitrary power of the king. The Provisions specified that King Henry keep to the agreement signed by King John known as Magna Carta [now you just knew we'd be getting back to Runnymede with this, didn't you?].  Well, like Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford were undone in short order - but the English are a stubborn bunch, and it didn't matter what they named it, they kept telling the king they had rights and would insist on them.

So the Parliament of Bats wasn't batty, and the Mad Parliament wasn't nuts. Next: a more ominous name "The Parliament of Fire and Faggots". 

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