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Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Glossary of Political, Property & Government Terms (Q to S)

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.


QANGO, Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organization, Arms Length Organization:

Non-governmental organization which carries-out governmental activities. At best, a way to take an important service "out of politics"; at worst an expensive semi-independent bureaucracy which lacks proper accountability, and often seems to provide very well-paid jobs for former politicians & their friends.


Exempt, normally from specific taxes or duties. Also acknowledgement of payment.


Exemption, normally from specific taxes or duties. Also a receipt or acknowledgement of payment.



Sussex equivalent of a hundred.


Money given or pledged for the performance of a legal obligation to do, or not to do, some particular act.

Red Boxes, Ministerial Boxes:

UK Government: The Red Boxes (Red Despatch Boxes) are used to transport ministerial papers; notably the government's annual budget proposals. See also: Despatch Box.


Royal official, or a manor official appointed by the lord or elected by the peasants.

Referendum, Plebiscite:

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

Reform Act, First Reform Act, Great Reform Act, Third Reform Bill:

1832 British Act of Parliament which abolished many of the unacceptable voting practices, & introduced a much more uniform level of representation; especially in the growing industrial towns. But it also excluded women, even property owners, from the voting franchise. It also excluded those men who did not meet its minimum property qualification level; mostly the working class. The Second Reform Act 1867 resolved some of these problems.

In 1928, the voting franchise was finally extended equally to all men & women aged over 21 years; The 1918 Representation of the People Act had extended it to all men over 21 but only to some women aged over 30.

Subsequent changes have reduced the minimum voting age for both men & women to 18, in most British elections. In some elections, the minimum age is 16.

There is pressure to reduce the minimum voting age; initially under the former "Old enough to die: Old enough to vote!" campaign from the days of compulsory national military service; also under the "No taxation without representation!" campaign. But there are fears that some younger people would not have the maturity, life experience, or independence from the influence of teachers & parents etc. necessary to cast an informed vote.

Some Principal British Acts of Parliament about Voting Reforms:
  • 1832 "First Reform Act": Abolished unacceptable voting practices; made representation much more uniform. But restricted voting to men only.

  • 1867 "Second Reform Act": Reduced the minimum property qualification; enfranchised more of the urban working-class men; redistributed Parliamentary seats.

  • 1868 Representation of the People (Scotland) Act: Extended reforms to Scotland, and also further redistributed English seats.

  • 1868 Representation of the People (Ireland) Act: Extended reforms to Ireland.

  • 1884 "Third Reform Act": Further reduced the minimum property qualification; enfranchised more urban working-class men; redistributed Parliamentary seats; made representation fairer between urban & rural areas; changed to the modern system of electing only one member of parliament from each constituency. 60% of male householder could now vote.

  • 1885 Redistribution of Seats Act: Redistributed seats to give more representation to urban areas, especially to London.

  • 1918 "Fourth Reform Act": Most women over 30; all men over 21; some service & ex-service men over 19; could now vote. Some seats were redistributed.

  • 1928 "Fifth Reform Act" aka Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act: All men & women over 21 could now vote.

At present in 2018, according to the UK Electoral Commission, to vote at the UK general election people must be registered to vote and:

  • be 18 years of age or over on polling day
  • be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • be resident at an address in the UK (or a UK citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years)
  • not be legally excluded from voting

The following people cannot vote in a UK Parliament election:

  • members of the House of Lords
  • EU citizens (other than UK, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) resident in the UK
  • anyone other than British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens
  • convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences, excluding contempt of court (though remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners can vote if they are on the electoral register)
  • anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election

The franchise is different for local government election: At present in 2018 to vote, a person must be registered to vote and:

  • be 18 or over in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, or 16 or over in Scotland

and also be one of the following:

  • a British citizen living in the UK
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen living in the UK
  • a citizen of the Republic of Ireland living in the UK
  • a European Union citizen living in the UK
  • someone registered to vote as a Crown Servant
  • someone registered to vote as a service voter
Regent, Regency:

Someone appointed to rule temporarily because the Monarch is considered to be to ill or too young to rule. See also Types of Government


Killing the King or Monarch.


Fee paid by the heir of a deceased person on securing possession of a fief. Effectively, inheritance tax. The amount demanded was determined by tradition.

Report Stage:

UK Parliament: The report provided to Members of Parliament or The Lords, about a proposed Parliamentary bill (new law), following the committee stage. Next, comes the bill's third reading.

Republic, Republican:

State where ruling power is not inherited, but is a public matter. Normally the Head of State is elected & not a hereditary monarch. However, it is interesting how many republics come to be dominated by people from just a few powerful families & groups. See also, GOP.


Administrative unit of land. Third part of a shire, eg. the Yorkshire Ridings (North Riding, East Riding, West Riding) which were established in the 9th century by the Danes. (Not necessarily exactly a third.)

Riperian Rights, Riperian Water Rights:

Common law rights & duties of owners of land adjacent to watercourses.

Rise Above One's Station, Rise Above Their Station:

See: Station.

Royal Assent:

UK Parliament: When the UK Monarch (Head of State) gives formal approval to a new Parliamentary Bill (new law). The UK's constitutional monarch does not withhold their assent.


River marking the one-time northern border of Italy during the Roman Republic. Governors of Roman provinces were forbidden to bring their armies into Italy: It was a capital offence both for the commanders and for their troops. In January 49BC, Julius Caesar led his 13th Legion across The Rubicon into Italy; triggering the Roman Civil War and to him eventually becoming Emperor. See also Crossing the Rubicon.


Salisbury Convention, Salisbury Doctrine, the Salisbury-Addison Convention:

UK Parliament: Constitutional convention that the House of Lords may briefly delay but may not oppose the second or third reading of government legislation which was promised in that party's election manifesto.


Originally, a ruler of one of the twenty provinces (satrapies) of Persia, under King Darius I. These Satraps had wide autonomous powers, collected & paid tributes to the king, were subject to periodic inspections by royal officials. Similar to Viceroys.

Satrap now means someone with considerable local power & autonomy but who is answerable to higher authorities, who may be distant geographically.


Sum that the holder of a knight's fee could pay his lord in lieu of military service. Sometimes used as a form of tax.

Second Reading:

UK Parliament: The stage where a proposed Parliamentary bill (new law) & any proposed amendments are debated by Members of Parliament or The Lords. If approved, the bill is passed to its Committee Stage.

Secretary of State:

UK government Cabinet Minister who is responsible for a government department.


Bonded peasant who worked his lord's demesne and paid him certain dues in return for the use of land, the possession of which (not the ownership) was heritable, and protection. These dues, usually called corvee, were usually in the form of labour on the lord's land. Generally this averaged three days a week. Some serfs worked as craftsmen, provided transport or other specialized service.

Usually, serfs were bonded to the land rather than to a particular lord: This meant that they could not be sold to a new "owner" unless the relevant parcel of land was also sold. Serfs were generally classified as: Cottagers, small-holders, or villeins although villeins originally meant free peasants who were burdened with additional rents and services.


Servant who accompanied his lord to battle, or a horseman of lower status used as light cavalry. Also meant a type of non knightly "tenure in service" owed to a lord. Such persons might carry the lord's banner, serve in the wine cellar, make bows/arrows, or any of a dozen other occupations. Sergeants paid the feudal dues of wardship, marriage, and relief but were exempt from scutage (non knightly).


Also called Viscount. Official who was the chief administrative and judicial officer of a shire. Many of his jobs were carried out by the itinerant justice, coroner, and justice of the peace. He collected taxes and forwarded them on to the exchequer, after taking his share. He was also responsible for making sure that the King's table was well stocked while King was in his county (ie Royal Game Preserve). In Devonshire, the post was usually hereditary.


From Arabic. Hereditary ruler of a tribe. Feminine: Sheikha.


English county. The shire court conducted the administrative, judicial and financial business of people living in the county.

Shoulders of Giants, Standing on the:

Observation by Isaac Newton in letter to Robert Hooke: If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.

Silovik, Siloviki:

A "securocrat." (Russian) politician who came into politics from the security, military, or similar services; often the officers of the former KGB, GRU, FSB, SVR, FSO, the Federal Drug Control Service, or other armed services who came into power. Also used to describe all troops and officers of all law enforcement agencies of Russia or Belarus, not necessarily just high-ranking ones.

Also "people of force" or "strongmen" or "KGB mafia."

Single Member Constituency:

Electoral system where each constituency (electoral area) elects only one representative; meaning that the representative is more closely associated with their voters.

Single Transferable Vote:

Form of proportional representation where each voter has only one vote in a multi-member constituency but can also state preferences for other candidates if their first choice is unsuccessful. To win, a candidate needs their total number of votes and preferences to exceed the quota. At each stage of the count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second preferences of people who votes for that losing candidate are given to their second choice. The same happens to any surplus votes when a candidate's total exceeds the quota. This process continues until all vacancies for the multi-member constituency have been filled by winning candidates.

Six Acts:

Six new British laws, introduced after the 1819 "Peterloo Massacre."

  • Training Prevention (Unlawful Drilling) Act: (Finally repealed in 2008, except in Northern Ireland.) Banned military training of any sort, unless conducted by municipal bodies & above.
  • Seizure of Arms Act: Gave local magistrates the powers, within the disturbed counties (initially, Counties of Lancaster & Chester, the West Riding of the County of York, the Counties of Warwick, Stafford, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland, Durham, Renfrew & Lanark, the Counties of the Towns of Newcastle-upon-Tyne & Nottingham, & of the City of Coventry) to search any private property for weapons, seize them & arrest the owners.
  • Misdemeanours Act: Reduced the opportunities for bail & allowed for speedier court processing; to speed up the administration of justice.
  • Seditious Meetings Act: Any public meeting of more than 50 people, required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate if that meeting was concerned with "church or state" matters. Additional people could not attend such meetings unless they were inhabitants of the parish.
  • Blasphemous & Seditious Libels Act (or Criminal Libel Act): Toughened existing laws, providing more severe punishments for the authors of such writings.
  • Newspaper & Stamp Duties Act: Extended & increased taxes to cover publications which previously had escaped duty by publishing opinion & not news. Publishers were also required to post a bond for their behaviour.

Property of his lord, or occasionally of a wealthier peasant. Normally had no land or other property. Could be bought and sold. People were sometimes "sold into slavery" or forced to accept it because of misfortune, poverty or as a punishment for crime. See also serf.

In 1086, Devon seems to have had a high proportion of slaves – almost one in five people – and church lands often had the highest numbers of slaves.

Small Holder:

Middle ranking peasant, farming more land than a cottager but less than a villein. A typical small holder would have 10-20 acres of land, often as separate strips in different fields. He was also required to work on his lord's land or to provide a service to his lord. Also known as a Bordar.


What makes liberal democracy possible; Nationhood, shared patriotism respect for the law and election results – even (especially) when judgements and election results go against us. Described by the late Roger Scruton as a "the politics of the first-person plural."


Term in Northern Danelaw for land considered to be the property of the occupying peasants, rather than the lord. See also Inland and Outland.


Another name for a free villager, especially in Danelaw regions.


See: Monarch, Head of State.

Special Adviser, Special Parliamentary Advisor, SPAD:

Adviser or assistant to a UK government minister. Employed & paid as a temporary civil servant, but loyal to the minister or political party. Often used as a means for people to enter a career in politics. At best, a way to make special expertise available to government rapidly and when needed; at worst, political appointees who draw significant salaries & wield considerable power without being properly accountable.

Speaker of the House of Commons:

UK Parliament: Elected person who chairs the debates, and rules on matters of procedure & behaviour.


Formerly, a shield or armour bearer to a knight; often a knight's apprentice. Later, a key public leader such as lord of a manor.

Star Chamber:

Originally the English Court of Law at the royal Palace of Westminster, between the late 15th & mid 17th centuries. Composed of Privy Councillors and common-law judges; originally to provide fair justice in cases against socially & politically powerful people, who ordinary courts would hesitate to convict. Named after the star patterns on the ceiling of the chamber where this court met. Later became synonymous with social & political oppression through the arbitrary use & abuse of its powers.

Station, Station in Life:

Formerly, a person's "rightful" or even "god-given" position or status or rank in society. According to this belief, people should remain in their allotted station & not seek to rise above their station; ie. not to usurp the status or privileges of their betters.

Statute Law:

The body of law based on statutes rather than on custom and judicial decisions. See also common law, customary law and equity.


Man responsible for running the day to day affairs of the manor or castle in absence of the lord. See also Bailiff.

Suffrage, Universal Suffrage, Women's Suffrage:

The right to vote in elections; particularly its extension to permit women & everyone to vote.


Supporter of the universal right to vote in elections, universal suffrage, particularly its extension to include women, women's suffrage.


Militant supporter of women's rights to vote in elections, women's suffrage. Especially members of the British Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Note. Suffragettes in USA were less militant.

Sultan, Sultana, Sultanah, Sultanate:

Powerful ruler or governor of a Sultanate. Feminine: Sultana or Sultanah.

Summary Conviction, Summary Justice, Summary Offence:

An offence which can be punished without requiring, or perhaps even permitting, full recourse to the normal legal processes. At worst, can be a form of Frontier Justice; such as lynchings & gunfights.

Summary Judgement:

Judgement decided without a full trial. At best, an agreed outcome which avoids the expense & delay of a full hearing.

Supreme Court:

The highest legal court in the state. In 2009, the UK Supreme Court took over the powers of the judicial functions of the House of Lords (the Law Lords) & some powers of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


To (try to) combine the best ideas or people, taken from a variety of backgrounds & sources. See also Types of Government

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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