Chancellors, Presidents and Speakers: Presiding Officers in the Scottish Parliament Before the Restoration

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    As a unicameral assembly for most of its history, the Scottish parliament was presided over by the chief officer of state, the chancellor. Before 1603, he presided in the presence of the monarch, who was an active participant in parliaments, in contrast to the custom in England. After the union of the crowns, the chancellor presided in the presence of the monarch's representative, the king's commissioner. As with the Speaker and the lord chancellor in the English parliament, it was customary for him to operate as an agent of the crown. He also presided over the drafting committee, the lords of the articles. During parliamentary sessions, there were also semi-formal deliberative meetings of the individual estates (prelates, nobles, burgesses and, from 1592, 'barons', that is, lairds sitting as commissioners of the shires), each presided over by one of their own number. The Covenanting revolution of 1638 led to radical procedural reform. This included replacing the chancellor with an elected 'president' (Latin preses), chosen by the membership at the beginning of each session. With separate meetings of the estates becoming a formal part of parliament's procedures, there was an elected president for each estate, sometimes referred to as 'Speakers' for they would speak for their estates in plenary sessions of parliament.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-61
    Number of pages13
    JournalParliamentary History
    Issue number1
    Early online date14 Jan 2010
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


    • Scotland
    • Chancellor
    • President
    • Speaker
    • James VI
    • James I
    • Charles I
    • Covenanters
    • Estates


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