Over the course of history, many important actions have been taken by English monarchs which has shaped society. The list below only goes through the first nineteen monarchs of England from William the Conqueror to King Henry VIII, while not mentioning Lady Jane Grey or other disputed monarchs. This is my opinion after researching each of the Monarchs of England.
In no specific order of importance:
- Ordinances of 1311
King Edward II was in a financial disaster as he owed £22,000 to Frescobaldi Italian bankers after engaging in war against Scotland. The people believed that he was using his authority to steal supplies from the people to supply a perceived selfish war. In February 1310 the King and Parliament met and instead of discussing Scotland they discussed domestic issues. King Edward II had appointed a friend who was unqualified to the office of councilor and Parliament suggested that he be replaced with 21 elected barons who would be called Ordainers. King Edward II reluctantly agreed. The Ordainers wrote up the Ordinances of 1311 which limited the King’s right to go to war, prevented the King from granting land without Parliament’s approval, gave Parliament control over the royal administration, and introduced a system to monitor that the Ordinances were followed.
- Act of Supremacy
Between 1532 and 1537 King Henry VIII instituted several statutes which made clear the relationship between the Pope and the King. During this time called the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy,” the Papal enclave was moved to France. King Henry VIII’s statutes included the Statute in Restraint of Appeals which made it punishable by death to enforce Papal law in England as superseding the King’s law, Supplication Against the Ordinaries, and the Submission of the Clergy, both of these recognized Royal Supremacy over the Church. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy declared that the King was “the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England.” This is seen by some to be the start of the English Reformation.
- Domesday Book
On Christmas in 1085 William the Conqueror had a survey taken of all the landholdings in his realm. This survey took record of who owned the land, how many people were on the land, the value of the land, and who was the previous owner of the land. The information was compiled into one text: The Domesday Book. This is considered important because it was the first step in a number of financial, military, and financial developments in England.
- Magna Carta
The first Magna Carta was signed by King John after he displayed a pattern of tyrannical behavior. The Magna Carta protected Church rights, protected nobility from illegal imprisonment, and limited the amount that the King could request in taxes from his vassals. Now, after a very short time the document was annulled but it set the groundwork for rights belonging to the people in much of the Western world.
- Keeping England and Normandy separate
In my opinion, this would be the most important action taken by William the Conqueror. William already owned Normandy before he went to war and conquered England. Once he had England he split his schedule between the two lands, set up two courts; one for each land, and acknowledged French authority only when in Normandy. By separating both of his holdings, William the Conqueror’s separation of the Kingdom of England from the Duchy of Normandy set the precedent of English claim on France and centuries of war and feuding.