What does "estate royal" mean in this quote by Henry VIII:

  • "We be informed by our judges that we at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of Parliament."

2 Answers 2


I assume it's an inversion for royal estate and would be that order in French.

estate means state or condition. first meaning, Merriam Webster..

The king is using the royal we and the inversion is like the French expression "état royal".

Here is an entire article on French in the English court: French, the Norman Conquest, etc.

Here is a good explanation: The king is strongest when Parliament is in session.

Here is what Christopher Mulvey, Professor Emeritus of English says of Shakespeare and French:

French began to be an influence on the English language with the arrival of the French-speaking Norman kings in 1066. In the next five hundred years, English was massively refashioned by French so that by the time Shakespeare was born, English had become a fusion language, a mixture of the Germanic and the Italic. It would be to go too far to call Shakespeare a French poet, but without the French language Shakespeare’s poetry would be a very different poetry.

royal estate or estate royal as spoken by Henry the VIII, therefore, means: the state or condition of being the King of England.


Quentin Skinner explains the history of the concept.

Following the revival of Roman law studies in twelfth-century Italy, the word status came to designate the legal standing of all sorts and conditions of men, with rulers being describes as enjoying a distinctive 'estate royal' or estat du roi or status regis. (Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics, Vol 2)

The Parliament UK site explains your phrase in it's historical context.

Reformation Parliament

Henry VIII's Reformation Parliament, which sat from 1529 to 1536, fundamentally changed the nature of Parliament and of English government. The King summoned it in order to settle what was called his 'great matter', his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, which the Papacy in Rome was blocking.

There followed a massive power shift from the pope to the English crown.

Constitutional change

The Reformation Parliament thus asserted the supreme authority, or sovereignty, of Parliament in making statute, or more precisely the sovereignty of Crown-in-Parliament, the royal authority embodied in law passed by the monarch, Lords and Commons. As Henry VIII himself told the Parliament: "We be informed by our judges that we at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of parliament". He realised that royal power was at its strongest when it was expressed through parliamentary statute.

  • 1
    Well, er, the massive shift was caused by Henry VIII when he broke with Rome. For some reason, I got sidetracked into Shakespeare. ha ha. What a nutcase, I can be.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 19:47

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