The Chiltern Hundreds

The House of Commons in Session

The House of Commons in Session

Let us say that you were a member of Britain’s House of Commons and wanted to quit your job. If it were anyplace other than the United Kingdom, it would probably be a no-brainer. But in Britain, you have to apply to quit, whereupon you are assigned to a royal stewardship from which you can ease out of office. The two stewardships available for this purpose are:

  • Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough, and Burnham—located in Buckinghamshire.
  • Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead—located in North Yorkshire.

The Chiltern Hundreds figure in two novels by Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn and The Three Clerks.

In 1624, the House of Commons passed a measure making it illegal for an Member of Parliament to quit or willfully give up his seat. The Act of Settlement of 1701, amended by subsequent legislation, MPs were excepted who accepted an office of profit under the crown. (Originally, MPs were not paid.)

Over the years, there have been several other crown offices which served the same purposes, but only the Chiltern Hundreds and Northstead remain.