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Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Glossary of Political, Property & Government Terms (K to P)

Definitions of political, legal, & property terms, as well as terms related to government; from medieval times until the present day.


Note. For brevity, some definitions on this webpage refer to eg. "King" or "Emperor" rather than eg. "King or Queen" or "Emperor or Empress" etc. Throughout history, there have been examples where women held power in their own right; rather than as consorts.


Kangaroo Court:

Unofficial court or tribunal, outside normal judicial process. Notorious for unfair decisions & penalties. Also used to describe non-judicial, unofficial tribunals.

Kick the Can Down the Road:

Shelve or postpone the task of resolving a difficult situation. See also: Long Grass.


See Types of Government

Knight's Fee:

In theory, a Fief which provided sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight. This was approximately twelve hides or 1500 acres, although the terms applied more to revenue a fief could generate than its size; it required about thirty marks per year to support a knight.


Lady Day:

25th March. Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. A quarter day.

Latin Quarter (of Paris):

District of Paris (France) where scholars used to speak in Latin. Left Bank area in the 5th and 6th arrondissements near the Sorbonne.

Law Lords:

Common name for the judicial functions of the UK House of Lords; which in 2009 were transferred to the new UK Supreme Court.


Term used in Kent for a subdivision of land equivalent to a hundred; also the court leet held by some lords of manors.

Left Bank, La Rive Gauche (Paris):

District of central Paris popular with artists, writers, and philosophers. It is on the southern, left bank where the River Seine flows East – West. Includes the Latin Quarter.

Life Peerage:

UK Honour which is awarded to a particular person, and their spouse. The title is not inherited by their children or relatives. In modern times, these have replaced hereditary peerages.

Livery Company:

One of the chartered companies of the City of London. These originate from the craft guilds.

Lobby, Central Lobby:

UK Parliament: See Central Lobby.

Lobby, Division Lobby:

UK Parliament: See Division Lobby.

Lobby Correspondent:

UK Parliament: Journalist who has special privileges & access to UK politicians; supposed to behave with discretion.

Lobbyist, Lobby Group:

People & organizations which try to influence politicians & government policy.

Lobby Terms:

UK Parliament: An promise given eg. by a Lobby Correspondent that they will not reveal private information or who their "inside information" came from.

Local Government:

Part of government which provides most local services. Recently, UK national government "localisation" policy has been to make more services the responsibility of local rather than national government. At best, this makes those services more responsive to the wishes & needs of local people; at worst, these services become starved of funds, and are supervised by local councils which have great difficulty attracting politicians or employees with the necessary talents... but national politicians are able to escape the blame.

Long Grass, Into the Long Grass:

Shelve or postpone the task of resolving a difficult situation. Term probably comes from sport such as cricket or golf. See also: Kick the Can Down the Road.

Lower Deck:

Originally, the lower decks of a ship or warship where sailors who were not officers lived. Also used to describe people who were promoted from humbler origins, rather than being entitled to their position through birth. See also: Other Ranks.


Formerly, the extra-judicial killing or injuring of suspects, by a mob of people; particularly in the Southern states of the USA. Also, where a (large) number of people ignore the normal legal processes & laws, then take the law into their own hands to seek retribution on a person or group who they believe to be guilty. See also Mob Rule.



Modern: Person who wields power & influence in a particular area. eg. Media Magnate = Owner of newspaper(s) or media outlet(s). See also Media Baron.

Medieval England: "A great man," originally a noble or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities; usually included counts, earls, dukes, some bishops & abbots. Originally, one of the more than one hundred tenants-in-chief who held their lands directly from the crown. Later, this was reduced to fewer than about sixty families, particularly by Kings Henry VII & VIII, who distrusted powerful nobles & also deliberately gave power to "new men."

Maharaja, Maharajah, Moharaja, Maharani, Maharanee, Moharani:

Ruler of an Indian state. Feminine: Maharani, Maharanee, Moharani.


In this sense to be a lord's man, to owe obligations to him in the forms of labour or service. A woman could be someone's man.


Soldier holding his land, generally 60-120 acres, specifically in exchange for military service. Sometimes called a Yeoman.

Mandamus, Writ of Mandamus:

Order issued by a court to a lower court, official, or person.

Note. In England and Wales, the writ of mandamus, orders of mandamus, prohibition and certiorari, have now been renamed as mandatory, prohibiting and quashing orders.


Small holding, typically 1200-1800 acres, with its own court and probably its own hall, but not necessarily having a manor house. The manor as a unit of land was generally held by a knight (knight's fee) or managed by a bailiff for some other holder. In later years, the power of the manor declined progressively in favour of the vill.


Frontier territory, especially the Welsh Marches and the Scottish Marches. In medieval times they were subject to continual feuding.

The East, Middle, and West Marches on the Scottish border were the administrative districts on both the Scottish and English sides of the border. Each March had a Warden who was responsible for keeping the peace.


Place where goods could be bought or sold, established in a village or town with the authorisation of a King or lord. This noble extended his protection to the market for a fee, and allowed its merchants various economic and judicial privileges. See also fair.

Media Baron:

Owner newspaper(s) or media outlet(s), who therefore wields power & influence. See also: Media Magnate.

Mercantilism, Neomercantilism:

Economic policy which seeks to increase a country's wealth (especially of precious metals & in competition with rival countries) by maximising its export surplus and minimising imports. Usually by high import tariffs, especially on finished goods, now also by "non-tariff barriers" to imports (neomercantilism). Often a feature of Imperialism & Colonialism.

Merchet (also called formariage):

Sum commonly paid by a serf to his lord when the serf's daughter married a man from another manor.


See Types of Government


Southern Common Market. South American trade bloc established by the Treaty of Asunción in 1991 and Protocol of Ouro Preto in 1994. Its full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Mesne Lord:

Feudal System term. A lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who himself was a vassal to a higher lord.

Michaelmas Day:

29th September. Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. A quarter day.

Michels's Iron Law of Oligarchy:

Wry observation that the permanent officials in any organization will gradually obtain influence to ensure that its day-to-day workings increasingly reflect their own interests rather than its stated philosophy; not least by increasing their own pay & benefits.

See also, Conquest's Laws.

Midsummer Day:

24th June. Feast of St. John the Baptist. A quarter day.

Military-Industrial Complex, Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex:

The secretive, unofficial alliance which is said to exist and to influence public political policy: The military gets the expensive new weapons it wants; arms industries develop, market & sell these expensive new weapons; quite possibly, these expensive weapons are then used. The cycle continues; at everyone else's expense.

Ministerial Boxes, Red Boxes:

UK Government: See: Red Boxes.

Mob Rule:

Where a (large) number of people ignore the normal legal processes & laws, then take the law into their own hands to seek retribution on a person or group who they believe to be guilty. See also Lynching.


See Magnate.

Mogul Empire, Mughal Empire:

The Muslim dynasty which ruled the Indian sub-continent from about 1526 until its decline in the mid 18th century. Its rule ended when the Government of India Act 1858 allowed the British Crown to gain direct rule over India.

Monarch, Monarchy:

Head of State, King or ruler, normally by inheritance. Types include "Absolute" & "Constitutional" Monarch. See also Types of Government

Money Bill, Supply Bill:

UK Parliament: An act of Parliament which concerns only taxation or government spending; rather than making changes to public law.


Gaelic Title (Great Steward) given to the rulers of the seven provinces of Celtic Scotland.

Mughal Empire:

See Mogul Empire.



Originally: Muslim official or governor under the Mogul empire; Now: Someone of conspicuous wealth or high status.

Neo-corporatism, Social-democratic Corporatism:

See Types of Government


See Types of Government

New Money:

Wealth acquired recently, often through less socially acceptable activities such as trade, rather than inheritance. See also Nouveau Riche.


The belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical scepticism (USA skepticism) that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy; rejects general or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values or meaning; holds that human values are baseless, that life is meaningless, that knowledge is impossible, or that some set of entities do not exist or are meaningless or pointless.

Noble, Nobility:

Aristocrat. Person who belongs to the aristocracy, through their rank, title or birth.

No Names, No Pack Drill:

Decision to conceal the names of (military) offenders, so that they do not individually suffer the full usual penalty.

No Rank, No Pack Drill:

Temporary agreement, particularly between military people of greatly different military ranks who have to live or travel closely together: Temporarily, they agree to ignore normal rules of protocol and to treat each other equally.

No Taxation without Representation:

Campaign to extend the right to vote in UK elections, to everyone who pays UK tax.

Nouveau Riche:

People who have acquired their wealth recently, rather than inherited it. Particularly, people who make public display of their wealth. See also New Money.


Oblast, voblast, oblys:

Political and administrative division of a country, sometimes autonomous, particularly in former parts of the USSR. Similar to states or provinces.

Other terms used in place of oblast are: viloyat (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), welayat (Turkmenistan), mkhare (Georgia), voblast (Belarus), and mar (Armenia).

Old Boy's Club:

Suspected system, where friends and colleagues secretly help each other to advance in their careers or perhaps even to escape normal punishments. See also: Old School Tie.

Old enough to die: Old enough to vote:

Campaign to reduce the minimum age for voting in UK elections, by comparing the minimum age to vote with the minimum age to join the UK's armed forces.

Old Money:

Inherited wealth, particularly land. See also: New Money.

Old School Tie, Regimental Tie:

Visual symbol, worn in the expectation that other people will recognise it & grant the wearer special privileges.


See Types of Government

One Party State:

Type of government where only one political party – the ruling party – is permitted; and no opposition parties are permitted. However, even states which hold democratic votes can become virtual one party states if one political party is (almost) continuously in power; and the representatives of significant minorities (almost) never gain power. This can happen where there are deep divisions. Proportional Representation voting schemes are an attempt to overcome this unfairness.

One Person One Vote:

Electoral system where each voter in an election has one, & only one, vote. Until quite recently, some voters in British elections had extra votes, eg. because they owned a business.

On The QT:

On the quiet. In secret. Keep confidential.


A method of trial in which the accused was given a physical test (usually painful and/or dangerous) which could be met successfully only if they were innocent & so protected by God. Eg. Ordeal by fire.

Other Ranks:

Someone below the rank of officer. Sometimes used in a derogatory way. See also: Lower Deck.

Outlaw, Outlawry, Waived (Women):

Criminal declared to be outside the protection of the law, under a "writ of outlawry" (Caput lupinum: May he bear a wolfish head). Legally, such a person could be persecuted or even killed "like a wolf." Women could be declared "waived."

Out of Politics, Take Something Out of Politics:



Person who wields power over other lords.


Page, Page Boy:

Formerly, a young noble boy who was sent between the ages of 7 & 14, to serve and be trained by a nobleman or knight. An assistant.

Palatinate, County Palatine, Electoral Palatinate:

In England, a county in which the tenant in chief exercised powers normally reserved for the King, including the exclusive right to appoint justiciary, hold courts of chancery and exchequer, and to coin money. The King's writ was not valid in a County Palatine.

In Germany: The County Palatine of the Rhine, aka the Electorate of the Palatinate, aka Electoral Palatinate: Was a palatinate in the Holy Roman Empire administered by the Count Palatine of the Rhine. This region was the source for many of the "Poor Palatines" refugees who began migrating to England in 1709.

Parkinson's laws:

Parkinson's First Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Deduced from Cyril Northcote Parkinson's observations on the behaviour of bureaucrats:

  • Officials want to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
  • Officials make work for one another.
Parliament Acts 1911 & 1949:

UK Parliament: Laws which limit the power of the House of Lords & which limit the maximum time between General Elections.

  • Parliament Act 1911: House of Lords could now delay House of Commons Money Bills by a maximum of one month, and other House of Commons bills by a maximum of two years. Each Parliament was limited to a maximum of five years. Originally introduced as a temporary measure, pending "reform" of the House of Lords.
  • Parliament Act 1949: House of Lords could now delay other House of Commons bills by a maximum of only one year.
Parliamentary Bills, Readings & Stages:

UK Parliament: The current stages in introducing a new Act of Parliament: A new law. For a new Parliamentary Bill (new law) which is first introduced in the House of Commons:

  • First Reading: Bill's title is read; Parliament decides whether to proceed
  • Second Reading: The bill and any proposed amendments are debated
  • Committee Stage: The amended bill is scrutinised in detail
  • Report Stage: Report from Committee stage is presented to Parliament
  • Third Reading: Final, normally brief, debate on the bill

If the new bill passes its third reading, ie. Members of Parliament approve it, the bill is then passed to the House of Lords. Here, it follows a similar process:

  • First Reading: Bill's title is read; Lords decide whether to proceed
  • Second Reading: The bill and any proposed amendments are debated
  • Committee Stage: The amended bill is scrutinised in detail
  • Report Stage: Report from Committee stage is presented to the Lords
  • Third Reading: Final, normally brief, debate on the bill

The House of Lords may (often does) amend the proposed bill and pass it back to the House of Commons for re-consideration; before debating it again. If the new bill passes its third reading, ie. Members of the House of Lords approve it, the bill is then passed to the Monarch for their Royal Assent.

Parliamentary Privilege:

UK Parliament: Legal immunity granted to Members of Parliament, for any statements made or acts undertaken as an MP within the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. But only if those statements or acts occur as part of a proceeding in Parliament, such as during a Parliamentary debate or while asking a question. A Parliamentary committee examines complaints about the misuse of Parliamentary privilege.

Party List Electoral System:

Form of proportional representation in a multi-member constituency, where voters vote for a political party rather than for a particular candidate. Each political party publishes their list of candidates. The election decides how many candidates to take from each party; and each party then declares which of their candidates have been elected.

The electoral system used since 1999 in England, Scotland and Wales for the election of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). At present, these European elections use the d'Hondt System of proportional representation – regional closed list. (Note. At present, Northern Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system.)

In EU elections, in each regional election, each political party can nominate no more candidates than the number of seats available. The ballot paper shows the order in which each party has decided that their candidates would be elected. Independent candidates are each treated as a party of one.

In EU elections, each voters get only one vote and can only vote for a party. ie. They cannot vote for a particular candidate or indicate any extra preferences.

See: European Parliament, Liaison Office in the United Kingdom: The EU Voting System

This party list electoral system does not provide a clear link between individual voters & their representatives. However, the winning candidates sometimes later agree amongst themselves how best to subdivide and represent the different areas of the constituency; thereby trying to improve the representation.


Originally, the Roman aristocracy. Later, the governing elites of cities in parts of Europe.

Peer, Peer of the Realm, Noble Lord:

UK: Someone who holds a Life or hereditary peerage. Lord.

Permanent Secretary, Permanent Under-Secretary of State:

UK Government: Principal civil servant in a UK government department. A non-political, paid employee, who is required to carry-out the policies of the current government.

Plebiscite, Referendum:

Opportunity for all registered voters to vote directly on a proposal.


See Types of Government

Political Party:

Group of people who work together to contest elections & possibly to form governments. Often encompass a range of different opinions, so have internal tensions. But in practice, it is very difficult for individual elected representatives to achieve much, or even to get elected, without the support of a political party, so political parties are necessary.

Politics, Political Process:

Method of allocating or sharing scarce resources & taking difficult decisions – peacefully – so that most people accept the outcome.

Frequently derided as too slow & inefficient & open to errors; especially by people convinced of the rightness of their own opinions & causes, or who prefer a more authoritarian system; but at its best, does produce good long-term outcomes.


Collecting & counting people's votes. See also: Ballot.

Polling Booth:

Screened cubicle large enough for only one person at a time, designed so that a person can vote in private; to avoid the risk of them being pressurised to vote for a particular candidate or proposal.

Polling Card:

Voter's official notification of an election, giving date, opening times, and the location of the polling station. At present in UK, it is not compulsory for voters to show this card to officials at the polling station.

Polling Organization, Opinion Polling Organization:

A commercial organization which aims to discover 'public opinion.' Although results are often influential; they are often highly inaccurate.

Polling Station:

Official place where people can vote, ie. cast their ballot. In recent times, the UK has used public buildings such as schools, community centres & church halls. Normally, a registered voter must go to the particular polling station which serves their home address.

Postal Ballot:

Vote cast by sending the completed ballot paper by post, rather than in person at a polling station. Has fewer inherent safeguards than voting in person; weak protection against someone pressurising the voter to vote in a particular way; also risk of being intercepted.


Someone who wields great power or influence. Monarch.


Elected Head of State.

Press Baron:

Owner newspaper(s), who therefore wields power & influence. See also: Media Magnate.

Primary Election, USA Presidential Primary Election, Caucus:

Indirect voting process run by the two major USA political parties to select their nominated candidate for USA President. Each USA state's primaries or caucuses, selects representatives who later attend that party's National Convention meeting where that party's candidate is finally nominated.

In Primary Elections, registered voters normally vote at a polling place, governed by ordinary election laws; in caucuses, voters meet elsewhere, governed only by party regulations.

Prime Minister (PM):

Chief minister responsible for day to day government. Theoretically, the UK Prime Minister is appointed by the UK's sovereign; the head of state.

Principal Private Secretary:

UK Government: Civil servant who runs the private office of their department's UK government minister.

Private Member's Bill:

UK Parliament: A new bill (new law), proposed by an ordinary Member of Parliament, rather than by the government. Unless later supported by government or major political parties, has little chance of success to become law. Periodically, MPs hold a ballot to decide which of them will get the best opportunity to introduce a Private Member's Bill.

Privy Council:

UK Government: Formal advisers to the UK monarch. Mainly comprises senior politicians & former politicians, in 2022 has 719 (mostly inactive) members. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council performs some judicial functions, particularly for some Commonwealth countries. Many of the previous functions have been taken over by the UK Cabinet or the UK Supreme Court. Members of the Privy Council have the title: The Right Honourable.

In 1540, King Henry VIII's "Privy Council" of 19 clerical & secular advisers replaced King Richard II's 1386 "King's Council." In 1708, following the Union of England & Scotland, was reformed into its current form by Anne, Queen of Great Britain.

Proof of Age Inquisition:

Formal process using testimony from witnesses to a person's birth or Christening, proving their age. This permitted minors to exit wardship and to acquire their inheritance. The age was 21 for men and 16 for women. Such feudal tenures and rights were abolished in the Interregnum, and again by Charles II in the 1660s.

See the proof of age of John Dynham, first son of Sir John Dynham & Margaret Hydon

Property is Theft, All Property is Theft:

Claim by 19th Century French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Proportional Representation (PR):

Electoral system which aims to represent minorities better, by ensuring that the final proportions of representatives elected, better matches the proportions of voters in each part of the political spectrum. There are many different types of proportional representation, including:

  • Mixed Member Proportional, also known as Additional Member Proportional.
  • Party List also known as Closed List.
  • Single Transferable Vote.

Fairer to minority parties; but more complicated to administer & slower to produce the winners. Because constituencies usually have to be larger and to return several representatives each, there is often a weaker link between the individual voters & their representatives. Also, proportional representation often means that political parties have to form coalitions of parties, rather than forming a government from a single party. Coalition governments are often less stable & less able to introduce difficult policies... although that also means that they are less likely to do daft things! See also: First Past the Post.


Attempt to overthrow the previous ruler or government, usually by force. Often used to describe a failed Coup d'état.

Pyrrhic Victory:

Victory which brings such small gains but has such bad short-term and / or long-term effects on the victor, that it acts more like a defeat than a win, and does not justify the victor's effort.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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