At the state opening on 19 Feb. 1593 the Lord Keeper Sir John Puckering stressed the ‘weightie and urgent causes of this present tyme’, principally the ongoing threat of Spanish invasion, and the queen’s ‘extraordinarye and most excessive expenses’ as the reasons for summoning this Parliament despite Elizabeth being generally ‘most loth’ to do so. She bade him instruct both Houses ‘only to conferre upon speedie and effectuall remedies against these great and fearse dangers, and not to spend the tyme in devising of new lawes and statutes; whereof there is already so great store’. Solicitor-general Edward Coke was appointed Speaker, and in response to his customary request for freedom of speech Elizabeth granted the Commons ‘liberall but not licentious speech, libertie therefore, but with dew limitacion’, and furthermore charged Coke to decline ‘any bill that passeth the reach of a subiecte’s brayne’.1 We have two private accounts of this Parliament: the journal of an anonymous Member which survives in several copies, and a recently discovered diary kept by George Strode, MP for Wareham.2 On the first full day of business, 26 Feb., a standing committee for privileges and returns was appointed upon a motion by Robert Wroth; this became standard practice in Parliaments thereafter.
Contrary to Elizabeth’s commandment an experienced troublemaker Peter Wentworth approached Puckering on 24 Jan. with a petition and bill ‘for intayling the [royal] succession’, which he proposed might be presented to the queen jointly by both Houses. For this he was sent to the Tower, wherein he had been incarcerated between Aug. 1591-Feb. 1592 for writing a tract on the succession. Four other Members involved in Wentworth’s scheme were also imprisoned in the Fleet for the duration of the session.3 Much greater disturbance was caused by James Morice, who a few days later delivered a ‘long premeditated speach’ introducing two bills ‘against the bushoppes’ jurisdiction’. The diarist Strode greatly sympathized with Morice, as did many other Members; even the aged privy councillor Sir Francis Knollys called for the bills to be read. Nevertheless Speaker Coke refused and instead delivered a reprimand from Elizabeth, who was ‘heightlie offended’ and re-iterated her orders that the Commons should not ‘medle in matters of state or in causes ecclesiasticall’. Morice underwent a thorough cross-examination in which he admitted that he had been approached by Wentworth but refused to endorse the latter’s petition. Although unrepentant about his own speech he was spared the fate of his colleague and instead held under house arrest until after the end of the Parliament.