1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oxford, Provisions of
OXFORD, PROVISIONS OF, the articles constituting a preliminary scheme of reform enacted by a parliament which met at Oxford (England) on the 11th of June 1258. King Henry III. had promised on the 2nd of May that the state of his realm should be rectified and reformed by twenty-four counsellors who were to meet at Oxford for this purpose five weeks later. Twelve of these counsellors were chosen by the king, and twelve by the earls and barons. When the parliament met each twelve of these twenty-four chose two from the other twelve, and this committee of four was empowered, subject to the approval of the whole body, to elect a king's council of fifteen members. The twenty-four then provided that the new council should meet three times a year in parliaments to which twelve commissioners were to be summoned to discuss the affairs of the realm on behalf of the whole community. Another body of twenty-four was appointed to treat of an aid, which was probably the aid which had been demanded earlier in the year. On the 22nd of June the king appointed new wardens of some of the castles which were then in the custody of his Poitevin half brothers and their friends, and on the same day he gave directions that the twenty-four should proceed with the work of reform, and the committee of four with the election of the council of fifteen. Meanwhile it was provided that the sheriffs and the three great officers of state were to hold office for a year only, and to render accounts at the expiration of their terms of office. On the 24th of August in pursuance of a provision by the parliament the king directed four knights in each county to inquire into the trespasses and wrongs which had been committed by sheriffs, bailiffs and other officials. For many of the grievances of the barons the Oxford parliament provided no remedy, and they were only partly redressed by the Provisions of Westminster in the autumn of 1259. The king declared his adhesion to the Provisions of Oxford on the i8th of October by proclamations in English, French and Latin, but in 1261, having obtained a papal dispensation from his oath of observance, he entirely repudiated them. The barons, however, insisted on his obligation to observe the provisions, and the dispute was eventually referred to the arbitration of Louis IX. of France, who formally annulled them on the 23rd of January 1264, but expressly declared that his decision was not to invalidate the privileges, liberties and laudable customs of the realm of England, which had existed before the time of the provisions.
No official record of the Provisions of Oxford has been preserved, and our knowledge of them is chiefly derived from a series of notes and extracts entered in the Annals of Burton Abbey, which are probably neither exhaustive nor in correct order. Sec the Annales monaslici, vol. i. (Burton), edited by H. R. Luard for the Rolls series; Patent Rolls, Henry III. (printed text); Foedera (Record Commission edition); W. Stubbs, Constitutional History and Select Charters, and Charles Bémont, Simon de Montfort (1884).