Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights

  • Bill of Rights 1689 often viewed as one of the foundational documents of British constitutional law.
  • Designed to control the power of the monarch and establish certain civil and political liberties of individuals.
  • Key provisions include the prohibition of royal interference with the law; freedom to petition the monarch without fear of retribution; freedom from taxation by Royal Prerogative; freedom from the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments.

Provisions of the Bill

  • Requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech within Parliament; later interpreted as establishing parliamentary sovereignty.
  • Laws should not be dispensed with or suspended without Parliament’s consent; a reference to the mediaeval legal principle that “The King is under God and the law”.
  • Established important legal principles such as habeas corpus.


  • The Bill of Rights directly influenced the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • In the UK, the Bill of Rights is further accompanied by Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as some of the basic documents of the uncodified British constitution.

Modern Relevance

  • Bill of Rights still holds legal force and several of its stipulations, particularly regarding freedom of speech and the right to petition the monarch, continue to operate today.
  • Despite its age, the Bill of Rights remains a significant document, often referenced in legal cases and debates about civil liberties and the role of the monarchy in the UK system of government.
  • It outlines for the first time limitations on the powers of a monarch, set out the rights of Parliament, and made free elections to Parliament a right. This moved the United Kingdom further towards a constitutional monarchy.