chapter
E
Pages 24

Even at its best, medieval representative government was a far cry from a true democratic system. For one thing, the legitimacy of the political system still derived from the principle of divine right. Parliaments were at best equal partners to kings but never superior to them. Furthermore, rights, including the right to participate in politics at all, were restricted to at most ten percent of the population. The rest of the people belonged to no estate, had no rights and could not rely on institutional buffers between them and the state. They remained a down­ trodden mass of humanity, the wretched poor, who were protected more by demography and labor shortages than by any law or institution of government.