In Tudor times most important decisions concerning government were made by the king or queen and a small group of advisers called the Privy Council. However, before these decisions became law, they had to be passed by Parliament.
Parliament was the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords was made up of about sixty Bishops, Dukes, Earls and Barons. It was unusual for members of the House of Lords to criticise the king's policies. If they did so, they were in danger of being stripped of their titles.
Members of the House of Commons were more independent as they were sometimes elected by the people who lived in the area they represented. However, very few people had the vote and in many cases the largest landowner in the area decided who went to Parliament.
Henry VIII was in favour of holding regular Parliaments. When Henry was in conflict with the Pope in Rome, he claimed that the votes taken in Parliament showed he enjoyed the support of the English people.
When Mary Tudor became queen she tried very hard to make sure she had a pro-Catholic House of Commons. Mary sent out instructions to the sheriffs (they organised the elections) pointing out who she wanted to be elected.
Elizabeth held fewer Parliaments than her father. On average, she held a Parliament once every four years. Elizabeth made it clear that members of the House of Commons had complete freedom of speech. However, she believed that certain issues such as religion or foreign policy were best left to her and her Privy Council.
Elizabeth became angry when Parliament asked her to get married. In 1571 Elizabeth made a speech to Parliament in which she told them they had no right to discuss issues that directly affected her.
On thirty-six occasions Elizabeth vetoed laws passed by Parliament. For example, in 1585 Parliament passed a bill that banned hunting, cock-fighting and bear-baiting from taking place on Sunday. Elizabeth believed that people had the right to enjoy themselves on their one day of rest and refused to allow the bill to become law.
Proceed to a new election... and elect the two men named in this letter... The King expects you to do this... avoid his Highness's displeasure, at your peril.
The Queen ordered her carriage... to be taken where the crowd seemed thickest, and stood up and talked to the people.
Queen Elizabeth has control in a way never seen before in previous parliaments.