Constitutions and the Classics: Sir John Fortescue

Constitutions and the Classics, 2008

32 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2012

Date Written: December 3, 2008


The paper analyzes the approach of Sir John Fortescue to the law and politics of constitutions, and especially constitution-making in fifteenth century England in his works De Laudibus Legum Angliae, and The Governance of England. In these mirrors for princes, Fortescue outlines the optimum means of governance of the people, through involvement of the people in the parliament, juries, and a council advising the king. His view was that all parts of the body politic must contribute to the continuing health of the nation, and that in this the support and involvement of the people was pivotal. The paper argues that Fortescue was prescient in many ways, his approach to constitutions, constitutional law and the politics of governance affecting later scholars and lawyers in a significant fashion, and that there is still much to be gained from his work.

Keywords: Sir John Fortescue, body politic, De Laudibus, Governance, people, constitutions, fifteenth century, Mirrors of Princes, Machiavelli, St Germain, Selden

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Margaret R.L.L., Constitutions and the Classics: Sir John Fortescue (December 3, 2008). Constitutions and the Classics, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Margaret R.L.L. Kelly (Contact Author)

Macquarie Law School ( email )

Macquarie University
Balaclava Road, North Ryde NSW, 2109, Australia
Sydney, New South Wales 2109


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