OUR LEGAL HERITAGE The first thousand years: 600 - 1600 King AEthelbert - Queen Elizabeth

Part 2 out of 7

Most of the nation was either wooded or bog at this time.

London was a walled town of one and two story houses made of mud,
twigs, and straw, with thatched roofs. There were churches, a
goods market, a fish market, quays on the river, and a bridge
over the river. Streets probably named by this time include Bread
Street, Milk Street, Honey Lane, Wood Street, and Ironmonger
Lane. Fairs and games were held outside the town walls in a field
called "Smithfield". The freemen were a small percentage of
London's population. There was a butchers' guild, a pepperers'
guild, a goldsmiths' guild, the guild of St. Lazarus, which was
probably a leper charity, the Pilgrims' guild, which helped
people going on pilgrimages, and four bridge guilds, probably for
keeping the wooden London Bridge in repair. Men told the time by
sundials, some of which were portable and could be carried in
one's pocket. London could defend itself, and a ringing of the
bell of St. Paul's Church could shut every shop and fill the
streets with armed horsemen and soldiers led by a soldier

William did not interfere with land ownership in London, but
recognized it's independence as a borough in this writ:
"William the King greets William, Bishop of London, and Gosfrith
the portreeve, and all the burgesses of London friendly. Know
that I will that you be worthy of all the laws you were worthy of
in the time of King Edward. And I will that every child shall be
his father's heir after his father's day. And I will not suffer
any man to do you wrong. God preserve you."

So London was not subjected to the Norman feudal system. It had
neither villeins nor slaves. Whenever Kings asserted authority
over it, the citizens reacted until the King "granted" a charter
reaffirming the freedoms of the city and its independence.

William was a stern and fierce man and ruled as an autocrat by
terror. Whenever the people revolted or resisted his mandates, he
seized their lands or destroyed the crops and laid waste the
countryside and so that they starved to death. He had a strict
system of policing the nation. Instead of the Anglo-Saxon
self-government throughout the districts and hundreds of resident
authorities in local courts, he aimed at substituting for it the
absolute rule of the barons under military rule so favorable to
the centralizing power of the Crown. He used secret police and
spies and the terrorism this system involved. This especially
curbed the minor barons and preserved the public peace.

The English people were disarmed. Curfew bells were rung at 7:00
PM when everyone had to remain in their own dwellings on pain of
death and all fires and candles were to be put out, This
prevented any nightly gatherings, assassinations, or seditions.
Order was brought to the kingdom so that no man dare kill
another, no matter how great the injury he had received. William
extended the King's peace on high roads to include the whole
nation. Any individual of any rank could travel from end to end
of the land unharmed. Before, prudent travelers would travel only
in groups of twenty.

William's reign was a time of tentative expedients and simple
solutions. He administered by issuing writs with commands or
prohibitions. These were read aloud by the sheriffs in the county
courts and other locations. Administration was by the personal
servants of his royal household, such as the Chancellor, steward,
butler, chamberlain, and constable. The constable was in charge
of the knights of the royal household. Under pressure from the
ecclesiastical judges, William replaced the death penalty by that
of the mutilation of blinding, chopping off hands, and castrating
offenders. Castration was the punishment for rape. But these
mutilations usually led to a slow death by gangrene.

The Normans used the Anglo-Saxon concepts of jurisdictional
powers. Thus when William confirmed "customs" to the abbot of
Ely, these were understood to include the following: 1) sake and
soke - the right to hold a court of private jurisdiction and
enjoy its profits, 2) toll - a payment in towns, markets, and
fairs for goods and chattel bought and sold, 3) team - persons
might be vouched to warranty in the court, the grant of which
made a court capable of hearing suits arising from the transfer
of land, 4) infangenthef - right of trying and executing thieves
on one's land, 4) hamsocne, 5) grithbrice - violation of the
grantees' special peace, for instance that of the sheriff, 6)
fihtwite - fine for a general breach of the peace, 7) fyrdwite -
fine for failure to appear in the fyrd [national militia].

Every shire had at least one burh, or defensible town. Kings had
appointed a royal moneyer in each to mint silver coins for local
use. On one side was the King's head in profile and on the other
side was the name of the moneyer. When a new coinage was issued,
all moneyers had to go to London to get the new dies. William's
head faced frontally on his dies, instead of the usual profile
used by former Kings.

William held and presided over his council three times a year, as
was the custom, at Easter, Christmas, and Whitsuntide. This was
an advisory council and consisted of earls, greater barons,
officers of the King's household, archbishops, and bishops. It's
functions were largely ceremonial. William's will was the motive
force which under lay all its action. The justiciar was the head
of all legal matters and represented the King in his absence from
the realm. The Treasurer was responsible for the collection and
distribution of revenue. The Chancellor headed the Chancery and
the chapel.

Sheriffs became powerful figures as the primary agents for
enforcing royal edicts. They collected the royal taxes, executed
royal justice, and controlled the hundred and shire courts. They
also took part in the keeping of castles and often managed the
estates of the King. Most royal writs were addressed to the
sheriff and shire courts.

Royal income came from customary dues, profits of coinage and of
justice, and revenues from the King's own estates. A threat of a
Viking invasion caused William to reinstitute the danegeld tax.
To impose this uniformly, he sent commissioners to conduct
surveys by sworn verdicts of appointed groups of local men. A
detailed survey of land holdings and the productive worth of each
was made and compiled as the "Doomsday Book" in 1086. For
instance, one estate had "on the home farm five plough teams:
there are also 25 villeins and 6 cotters with 14 teams among
them. There is a mill worth 2s. a year and one fishery, a church
and four acres of meadow, wood for 150 pigs and two stone
quarries, each worth 2s. a year, and two nests of hawks in the
wood and 10 slaves." This estate was deemed to be worth 480s. a

Laxton "had 2 carucates of land [assessed] to the geld. [There
is] land for 6 ploughs. There Walter, a man of [the lord]
Geoffrey Alselin's has 1 plough and 22 villeins and 7 bordars [a
bordar had a cottage and a small amount land in return for
supplying small provisions to his lord] having 5 ploughs and 5
serfs and 1 female serf and 40 acres of meadow. Wood [land] for
pannage [foraging by pigs] 1 league in length and half a league
in breadth. In King Edward's time it was worth 9 pounds; now [it
is worth] 6 pounds."

That manor of the town of Coventry which was individually held
was that of the Countess of Coventry, who was the wife of the
earl of Mercia. "The Countess held in Coventry. There are 5
hides. The arable land employs 20 ploughs. In the demesne lands
there are 3 ploughs and 7 ploughs. In the demesne lands there are
3 ploughs and 7 bondmen. There are 50 villeins and 12 bordars
with 20 ploughs. The mill there pay[s] 3 shillings. The woodlands
are 2 miles long and the same broad. In King Edward's time and
afterwards, it was worth 22 pounds [440 s.], now only 11 pounds
by weight. These lands of the Countess Godiva Nicholas holds to
farm of the King."

The survey shows a few manors and monasteries owned a salt-house
or salt-pit in the local saltworks, from which they were entitled
to obtain salt.

This survey resulted in the first national tax system of about
6s. per hide of land.

The courts of the King and barons became schools of chivalry
wherein seven year old noble boys became as pages or valets, wore
a dagger and waited upon the ladies of the household. At age
fourteen, they were advanced to squires and admitted into more
familiar association with the knights and ladies of the court.
They perfected their skills in dancing, riding, fencing, hawking,
hunting and jousting. Before knighthood, they played team sports
in which one team tried to put the other team to rout. A knight
usually selected a wife from the court at which he grew up.

The eldest son began to succeed to the whole of the lands in all
military tenures.

Astrologers resided with the families of the barons. People went
to fortune tellers' shops. There was horse racing and steeple
races for recreation.

The state of medicine is indicated by this medical advice brought
to the nation by William's son after treatment on the continent:

"If thou would have health and vigor
Shun cares and avoid anger.
Be temperate in eating
And in the use of wine.
After a heavy meal
Rise and take the air
Sleep not with an overloaded stomach
And above all thou must
Respond to Nature when she calls."

Many free sokemen were caught up in the subjugation by baron
landlords and were reduced almost to the condition of the unfree
villein. The services they performed for their lords were often
indistinguishable. This formed a new bottom class as the
population's percentage of slaves declined dramatically. However,
the free man still had a place in court proceedings which the
unfree villein did not.

William allowed Jewish traders to follow him from Normandy and
settle in separate sections of the main towns. They loaned money
for the building of castles and cathedrals. Christians were not
allowed by the church to engage in this usury. The Jews could not
become citizens nor could they have standing in the local courts.
Instead, a royal justiciar secured justice for them. The Jews
could practice their own religion.

William was succeeded as King by his son William II, who imposed
on many of the customs of the nation to get more money for

- The Law -

The Norman conquerors brought no written law, but affirmed the
laws of the nation. Two they especially enforced were:

Anyone caught in the act of digging up the King's road, felling a
tree across it, or attacking someone so that his blood spilled on
it shall pay a fine to the King.

All freemen shall have a surety who would hand him over to
justice for his offenses or pay the damages or fines due. Also,
the entire hundred was the ultimate surety for murder and would
have to pay a "murdrum" fine.

William made these decrees:

No cattle shall be sold except in towns and before three

For the sale of ancient chattels, there must be a surety and a

No man shall be sold over the sea. (This ended the slave trade at
the port of Bristol.)

The death penalty for persons tried by court is abolished.

- Judicial Procedure -

"Ecclesiastical" courts were created for bishops to preside over
issues concerning the cure of souls and criminal cases in which
the ordeal was used. When William did not preside over this
court, an appeal could be made to him.

The hundred and shire courts now sat without a bishop and handled
only "civil" cases. They were conducted by the King's own
appointed sheriff. Only freemen and not bound villeins had
standing in this court.

William held court or sent the Justiciar or commissioners to hold
his Royal Court [Curia Regis] in the various districts. The
commissioner appointed groups of local men to give a collective
verdict upon oath for each trial he conducted. A person could
spend months trying to catch up with the Royal Court to present a

William allowed, on an ad hoc basis, certain high-level people
such as bishops and abbots and those who made a large payment, to
have land disputes decided by an inquiry of recognitors.

A dispute between a Norman and an English man over land or a
criminal act could be decided by trial by battle. Each combatant
first swore to the truth of his cause and undertook to prove by
his body the truth of his cause by making the other surrender by
crying "craven" [craving forgiveness]. Although this trial was
thought to reflect God's will, it favored the physically fit and
adept person.

London had its own traditions. All London citizens met at its
folkmoot, which was held three times a year to determine its
public officers, to raise matters of public concern, and to make
ordinances. It's criminal court had the power of outlawry as did
the shire courts. Trade, land, and other civil issues were dealt
with by the Hustings Court, which met every Monday in the
Guildhall. The city was divided into wards, each of which was
under the charge of an elected alderman [elder man]. (This was
not a popular election.) The aldermen had special knowledge of
the law and a duty to declare it at the Hustings Court. Each
alderman also conducted wardmoots in his ward and decided
criminal and civil issues between its residents. Within the wards
were the guilds of the city.

William made the hundred responsible for paying a murder fine for
the murder of any of his men, if the murderer was not apprehended
by his lord within a few days. The reaction to this was that the
murderer mutilated the corpse to make identification of
nationality impossible. So William ordered that every murder
victim was assumed to be Norman unless proven English. This began
a court custom in murder cases of first proving the victim to be

The Royal Court decided this case:
"At length both parties were summoned before the King's court, in
which there sat many of the nobles of the land of whom Geoffrey,
bishop of Coutances, was delegated by the King's authority as
judge of the dispute, with Ranulf the Vicomte, Neel, son of Neel,
Robert de Usepont, and many other capable judges who diligently
and fully examined the origin of the dispute, and delivered
judgment that the mill ought to belong to St. Michael and his
monks forever. The most victorious King William approved and
confirmed this decision."

Chapter 5

- The Times: 1100-1154 -

King Henry I, son of William of Normandy, furthered peace between
the Normans and native English by his marriage to a niece of King
Edward the Confessor called Matilda. She married him on condition
that he grant a charter of rights undoing some practices of the
past reigns of William I and William II. Peace was also furthered
by the fact that Henry I had been born in England and English was
his native tongue. Private wars were now replaced by mock

Henry was a shrewd judge of character and of the course of
events, cautious before taking action, but decisive in carrying
out his plans. He was faithful and generous to his friends. He
showed a strong practical element of calculation and foresight.
He was intelligent and a good administrator. He had an efficient
intelligence gathering network and an uncanny knack of detecting
hidden plans before they became conspiratorial action. He made
many able men of inferior social position nobles, thus creating a
class of career judges and administrators in opposition to the
extant hereditary aristocracy. He loved books and built a palace
at Oxford to which he invited scholars for lively discussion.

Queen Matilda served as regent in Henry's absence. She was
literate and a literary patron. Her compassion was great and her
charities extensive. She founded a hospital and had new roads and
bridges built.

Henry issued charters restoring customs which had been
subordinated to royal impositions by previous Kings, which set a
precedent for later Kings. His coronation charter describes
certain property rights he restored after the oppressive reign of
his brother.

"Henry, King of the English, to Samson the bishop, and Urse of
Abbetot, and to all his barons and faithful vassals, both French
and English, in Worcestershire, greeting.

[1.] Know that by the mercy of God and by the common counsel of
the barons of the whole kingdom of England I have been crowned
king of this realm. And because the kingdom has been oppressed by
unjust exactions, I now, being moved by reverence towards God and
by the love I bear you all, make free the Church of God; so that
I will neither sell nor lease its property; nor on the death of
an archbishop or a bishop or an abbot will I take anything from
the demesne of the Church or from its vassals during the period
which elapses before a successor is installed. I abolish all the
evil customs by which the kingdom of England has been unjustly
oppressed. Some of those evil customs are here set forth.

[2.] If any of my barons or of my earls or of any other of my
tenants shall die his heir shall not redeem his land as he was
wont to do in the time of my brother [William II (Rufus)], but he
shall henceforth redeem it by means of a just and lawful
'relief`. Similarly the men of my barons shall redeem their lands
from their lords by means of a just and lawful 'relief`.

[3.] If any of my barons or of my tenants shall wish to give in
marriage his daughter or his sister or his niece or his cousin,
he shall consult me about the matter; but I will neither seek
payment for my consent, nor will I refuse my permission, unless
he wishes to give her in marriage to one of my enemies. And if,
on the death of one of my barons or of one of my tenants, a
daughter should be his heir, I will dispose of her in marriage
and of her lands according to the counsel given me by my barons.
And if the wife of one of my tenants shall survive her husband
and be without children, she shall have her dower and her
marriage portion [that given to her by her father], and I will
not give her in marriage unless she herself consents.

[4.] If a widow survives with children under age, she shall have
her dower and her marriage portion, so long as she keeps her body
chaste; and I will not give her in marriage except with her
consent. And the guardian of the land, and of the children, shall
be either the widow or another of their relations, as may seem
more proper. And I order that my barons shall act likewise
towards the sons and daughters and widows of their men.

[5.] I utterly forbid that the common mintage [a forced levy to
prevent loss tothe King from depreciation of the coinage], which
has been taken from the towns and shires, shall henceforth be
levied, since it was not so levied in the time of King Edward
[the Confessor, before the Norman conquest]. If any moneyer or
other person be taken with false money in his possession, let
true justice be
visited upon him.

[6.] I forgive all pleas and all debts which were owing to my
brother [William II], except my own proper dues, and except those
things which were agreed to belong to the inheritance of others,
or to concern the property which justly belonged to others. And
if anyone had promised anything for his heritage, I remit it, and
I also remit all 'reliefs` which were promised for direct

[7.] If any of my barons or of my men, being ill, shall give away
or bequeath his movable property, I will allow that it shall be
bestowed according to this desires. But if, prevented either by
violence or through sickness, he shall die intestate as far as
concerns his movable property, his widow or his children, or his
relatives or one his true men shall make such division for the
sake of his soul, as may seem best to them.

[8.] If any of my barons or of my men shall incur a forfeit, he
shall not be compelled to pledge his movable property to an
unlimited amount, as was done in the time of my father [William
I] and my brother; but he shall only make payment according to
the extent of his legal forfeiture, as was done before the time
of my father and in the time of my earlier predecessors.
Nevertheless, if he be convicted of breach of faith or of crime,
he shall suffer such penalty as is just.

[9.] I remit all murder-fines which were incurred before the day
on which I was crowned King; and such murder-fines as shall now
be incurred shall be paid justly according to the law of King
Edward [by sureties].

[10.] By the common counsel of my barons I have retained the
forests in my own hands as my father did before me.

[11.] The knights, who in return for their estates perform
military service equipped with a hauberk [long coat] of mail,
shall hold their demesne lands quit of all gelds [money payments]
and all work; I make this concession as my own free gift in order
that, being thus relieved of so great a burden, they may furnish
themselves so well with horses and arms that they may be properly
equipped to discharge my service and to defend my kingdom.

[12.] I establish a firm peace in all my kingdom,, and I order
that this peace shall henceforth be kept.

[13.] I restore to you the law of King Edward together with such
emendations to
it as my father [William I] made with the counsel of his barons.

[14.] If since the death of my brother, King William [II], anyone
shall have seized any of my property, or the property of any
other man, let him speedily return the whole of it. If he does
this no penalty will be exacted, but if he retains any part of it
he shall, when discovered, pay a heavy penalty to me.

Witness: Maurice, bishop of London; William,
bishop-elect of Winchester; Gerard, bishop of Herefore; Henry the
earl; Simon the earl; Walter Giffard; Robert of
Montfort-sur-Risle; Roger Bigot; Eudo the steward; Robert, son of
Haimo; and Robert Malet.

At London when I was crowned. Farewell."

Henry took these promises seriously, which resulted in peace and
justice. Royal
justice became a force to be reckoned with by the multiplication
of justices. Henry had a great respect for legality and the forms
of judicial action. He became known as the "Lion of Justice".

The center of government was a collection of tenants-in-chief
whose feudal duty included attendance when summoned and certain
selected household servants of the King. When it met for
financial purposes, Henry called it the Exchequer and it became a
separate body. It received yearly from the sheriffs of the
counties taxes and fines due to the Crown and also the income
from royal estates, which were then comingled. Henry brought
sheriffs under his strict control, free from influence by the

A woman could inherit a fief if she married. The primary way for
a man to acquire land was to marry an heiress. If a man were in a
lower station than she was, he had to pay for his new social
status as well as have royal permission. A man could also be
awarded land which had escheated to the King. If a noble woman
wanted to hold land in her own right, she had to make a payment
to the King. Many widows bought their freedom from guardianship
or remarriage from the King. Women whose husbands were at war
also ran the land of their husbands.

Barons were lords of large holdings of farmland called "manors".
Many of the lesser barons left their dark castles to live in
semi-fortified stone houses, which usually were of two rooms with
rug hangings for drafts, as well as the sparse furniture that had
been common to the castle. There were shuttered windows to allow
in light, but which also let in the wind and rain when open. The
roof was of thatch or narrow overlapping wood shingles. The floor
was strew with hay and there was a hearth near the center of the
floor, with a louvered smoke hole in the timber roof for escape
of smoke. There were barns for grain and animals. Beyond this
area was a garden, orchard, and sometimes a vineyard. The area
was circumscribed by a moat over which there was a drawbridge to
a gatehouse.

The smaller room was the lord and lady's bedroom. It had a
canopied bed, chests for clothing, and wood frames on which
clothes could be hung. Life on the manor revolved around the
larger room, or hall, where the public life of the household was
passed. There, meals were served. The daily diet typically
consisted of milk, soup, porridge, fish, vegetables, and bread.
Open hospitality accompanied this communal living. There was
little privacy. Manor household villeins carried the lord's
sheaves of grain to the manor barn, shore his sheep, malted his
grain, and chopped wood for his fire. At night some slept on the
floor of the hall and others, cottars and bordars, had there own
dwellings nearby.

Games with dice were sometimes played. In winter, youths
ice-skated with bones fastened to their shoes. They propelled
themselves by striking the ice with staves shod with iron. On
summer holydays, they exercised in leaping, shooting with the
bow, wrestling, throwing stones, and darting a thrown spear. The
maidens danced with timbrels.

The cold, indoors as well as outdoors, necessitated that people
wear ample and warm garments. Men and women of position dressed
in long full cloaks reaching to their feet, sometimes having
short full sleeves. The cloak generally had a hood and was
fastened at the neck with a brooch. Underneath the cloak was a
simple gown with sleeves tight at the wrist but full at the
arm-hole, as if cut from the same piece of cloth. A girdle or
belt was worn at the waist. When the men were hunting or working,
they wore gown and cloak of knee length. Humble folk also wore
knee-length garments, with a band about the waist.

There was woodland, common pasture land, arable land, meadow
land, and wasteland on the manor. The arable land was alloted to
the villeins in strips to equalize the best and worst land and
their distance from the village where the villeins lived. There
was three way rotation of wheat or rye, oats or barley, and
fallow land. Cows, pigs, sheep, and fowl were kept. The meadow
was allocated for hay for the lord's household and each
villein's. The villeins held land of their lord for various
services such as agricultural labor or raising domestic animals.
The villeins, who worked the farm land as their ancestor ceorls
had, now were so bound to the land that they could not leave or
marry or sell an ox without their lord's consent. If the manor
was sold, the villein was sold as a part of the manor. The
villeins worked about half of their time on their lord's fields
[his demesne land], which was about a third of the farmland. This
work was primarily to gather the harvest and to plough with oxen
and to sow in autumn and Lent. Work lasted from sunrise to sunset
and included women and children. Life expectancy was probably
below thirty-five.

The villeins of a manor elected a reeve to communicate their
interests to their lord, usually through a bailiff, who directed
the labor. Sometimes there was a steward in charge of several of
a lord's manors, who also held the manorial court for the lord.
The steward held his land of the lord by serjeanty, which was a
specific service to the lord. Other serjeanty services were
helping in the lord's hunting expeditions and looking after his

The majority of manors were co-extensive with a single village.
The villeins lived in the village in one-room huts enclosed by a
wood fence, hedge, or stone wall. In this yard was a garden of
onions, leeks, mustard, peas, beans, and cabbage and apple, pear,
cherry, and plum trees, and bee-hives. The hut had a high-pitched
roof thatched with reeds or straw and low eaves reaching almost
to the ground. The walls are built of wood overlaid with mud or
plaster. Narrow slits in the walls serve as windows. Which have
shutters and are sometimes covered with coarse cloth. The floor
is dirt and may be covered with straw or rushes for warmth. At
one end of the hut was the family living area, where the family
ate on a collapsible trestle table with stools or benches and
used drinking horns and wooden bowls and spoons, along with jars
and other earthenware. Their usual food was beans and peas, and
some bacon, butter, cheese, and vegetables, bread made from a
mixture of wheat, barley, and rye flour, and occasionally fish.
They drank water, milk, buttermilk, apple cider, mead, and ale
made from barley malt. Cooking was done over the fire with iron
tripod and kettle. Most of the food was boiled. They slept on the
floor or on benches. The villein regarded his bed area as the
safest place in the house, as did people of all ranks, and kept
his treasures there, which included his farm implements. Around
the room are a couple of chests to store salt, meal, flour, a
broom made of birch trigs, some woven baskets, the distaff and
spindle for spinning, and a simple loom for weaving. All clothes
were homemade. The man wore a tunic of coarse linen embroidered
on the sleeves and breast, around with he wore a girdle of rope,
leather, or folded cloth. Sometimes he also wore breeches
reaching below the knee. The woman wore a loose short-sleeved
gown, under which was a tight fitting garment with long
loose sleeves. If they wore shoes, they were clumsy and patched.
Some wore a hood-like cap. At the other end of the hut were the
horses, cattle, pigs, and poultry. In the middle is a wood fire
burning on a hearthstone. The smoke rises through a hole in the

The villein and his wife and children worked from daybreak to
dusk in the fields, except for Sundays and holydays. He had
certain land to farm for his own family, but had to have his
grain milled at his lord's mill at the lord's price. He had to
retrieve his wandering cattle from his lord's pound at the lord's
price. He was expected to give a certain portion of his own
produce, whether grain or livestock, to his lord. However, if he
fell short, he was not put off his land. When his daughter or son
married, he had to pay a "merchet" to his lord. He could not have
a son educated without the lord's permission, and this usually
involved a fee to the lord. His best beast at his death, or
"heriot", went to his lord. If he wanted permission to live
outside the manor, he paid "chevage" yearly. Woodpenny was a
yearly payment for gathering dead wood. Sometimes a "tallage"
payment was taken at the lord's will. The villein's oldest son
usually took his place on his land and followed the same customs
with respect to the lord. For an heir to take his dead ancestor's
land, the lord demanded payment of a "relief", which was usually
the amount of a year's income but sometimes as much as the heir
was willing to pay to have the land. The usual aids were also
expected to be paid.

Markets were about twenty miles apart because a farmer from the
outlying area could then carry his produce to the nearest town
and walk back again in the daylight hours of one day. In this
local market he could buy foodstuffs, livestock, household goods,
fuels, skins, and certain varieties of cloth.

The cloth was crafted by local weavers, dyers, and fullers, who
made the cloth full and dense. Some cloth was sold to tailors to
make into clothes. Butchers bought, slaughtered, and cut up
animals to sell as meat. Some was sold to cooks, who sold
prepared foods. The hide was bought by the tanner to make into
leather. The leather was sold to shoemakers and glovemakers.
Millers bought harvested grain to make into flour. Flour was sold
to bakers to make into breads. Wood was bought by carpenters and
by coopers, who made barrels. Tilers, oil-makers and rope-makers
also bought raw material to make into finished goods for sale.
Smiths, locksmiths, and wheelwrights worked over their hot fires.

The nation grew with the increase of population, the development
of towns, and the growing mechanization of craft industries.
There were watermills for crafts in all parts of the nation.
There were also some iron furnaces.

Stone bridges over rivers could accommodate one person traveling
by foot or by horseback and were steep and narrow.

Merchants, who had come from the low end of the knightly class or
high end of the villein class, settled around the open market
areas, where main roads joined. They had plots narrow in frontage
along the road and deep. Their shops faced the road, with living
space behind or above their stores. Town buildings were typically
part stone and part timber as a compromise between fire
precautions and expense.

Towns, as distinct from villages, had permanent markets. As towns
grew, they paid a fee to obtain a charter for self-government
from the King giving the town judicial and commercial freedom.
These various rights were typically expanded in future times.
Such a town was called a "borough" and its citizens or
land-owning freemen "burgesses". They were literate enough to do
accounts. Selling wholesale could take place only in a borough.
The King assessed a tallage [ad hoc tax] usually at ten per cent
of property or income. Henry standardized the yard as the length
of his own arm.

London had at least twenty wards, each governed by its own
alderman. Most of them were named after people. London was ruled
by sixteen families linked by business and marriage ties. These
businesses supplied luxury goods to the rich and included the
goldsmiths [sold cups, dishes, girdles, mirrors, purses knives,
and metal wine containers with handle and spout], vintners [wine
merchants], mercers [sold textiles, haberdashery, combs, mirrors,
knives, toys, spices, ointments, and drugs], drapers, and
pepperers, which later merged with the spicerers to become the
"grocers". These businesses had in common four fears: royal
interference, foreign competition, displacement by new crafts,
and violence by the poor and escaped villeins who found their way
to the city.

London in Middlesex county received this charter for
self-government and freedom from the financial and judicial
organization of the shire:

"Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, to the Archbishop
of Canterbury and the bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars,
sheriffs and all his loyal subjects, both French and English,
throughout the whole of England - greeting.

1. Be it known to you that I have granted Middlesex to my
citizens of London to be held on lease by them and their heirs of
me and my heirs for 300 pounds paid by tale [yearly], upon these
terms: that the citizens themselves [may] appoint a sheriff, such
as they desire, from among themselves, and a justiciar, such as
they desire, from among themselves, to safeguard the pleas of my
Crown [criminal cases] and to conduct such pleas. And there shall
be no other justiciar over the men of London.

2. And the citizens shall not take part in any [civil] case
whatsoever outside the City walls.

1) And they shall be exempt from the payment of scot and
danegeld and the murder fine.

2) And none of them shall take part in trial by combat.

3) And if any of the citizens has become involved in a plea
of the Crown, he shall clear himself, as a citizen of London, by
an oath which has been decreed in the city.

4) And no one shall be billeted [lodged in a person's house
by order of the King] within the walls of the city nor shall
hospitality be forcibly exacted for anyone belonging to my
household or to any other.

5) And all the citizens of London and all their effects
[goods] shall be exempt and free, both throughout England and in
the seaports, from toll and fees for transit and market fees and
all other dues.

6) And the churches and barons and citizens shall have and
hold in peace and security their rights of jurisdiction [in civil
and criminal matters] along with all their dues, in such a way
that lessees who occupy property in districts under private
jurisdiction shall pay dues to no one except the man to whom the
jurisdiction belongs, or to the official whom he has placed

7) And a citizen of London shall not be amerced [fined by a
court when the penalty for an offense is not designated by
statute] to forfeiture of a sum greater than his wergeld, [hereby
assessed as] 100 shillings, in a case involving money.

8) And further there shall be no miskenning [false plea
causing a person to be summoned to court] in a husting or in a
folkmoot [meeting of the community], or in any other court within
the City.

9) And the Hustings [court] shall sit once a week on Monday.

10) And I assure to my citizens their lands and the property
mortgaged to them and the debts due to them both within the City
and without.

11) And with regard to lands about which they have plead in
suit before me, I shall maintain justice on their behalf,
according to the law of the City.

12) And if anyone has exacted toll or tax from citizens of
London, the citizens of London within the city shall [have the
right to] seize [by process of law] from the town or village
where the toll or tax was exacted a sum equivalent to that which
the citizen of London gave as toll and hence sustained as loss.

13) And all those who owe debts to citizens shall pay them or
shall clear themselves in London from the charge of being in debt
to them.

14) But if they have refused to pay or to come to clear
themselves, then the citizens to whom they are in debt shall
[have the right to] seize [by process of law] their goods
[including those in the hands of a third party, and bring them]
into the city from the [town, village or] county in which the
debtor lives [as pledges to compel appearance in court].

15) And the citizens shall enjoy as good and full hunting
rights as their ancestors ever did, namely, in the Chilterns, in
Middlesex, and in Surrey.

Witnessed at Westminster."

The above right not to take part in any case outside the city
relieved London citizens from the burden of traveling to wherever
the King's court happened to be, the disadvantage of not knowing
local customs, and the difficulty of speaking in the language of
the King's court rather than in English. The right of redress for
tolls exacted was new because the state of the law was that the
property of the inhabitants was liable to the King or superior
lord for the common debt.

Craft guilds grew up in the towns, such as the tanners at Oxford,
which later merged with the shoemakers into a cordwainers' guild.
There were weavers' guilds in several towns given royal sanction.
They paid an annual tribute and were given a monopoly of weaving
cloth within a radius of several miles. Guild rules covered
attendance of the members at church services, the promotion of
pilgrimages, celebration of masses for the dead, common meals,
relief of poor brethren and sisters, the hours of labor, the
process of manufacture, the wages of workmen, and technical

Newcastle-on-Tyne was recognized by the King as having certain
customs, so the following was not called a grant:

"These are the laws and customs which the burgesses of Newcastle
upon Tyne had in the time of Henry King of England and ought to

[1] Burgesses can distrain [take property of another until the
other performs his obligation] upon foreigners within, or without
their own market, within or without their own houses, and within
or without their own borough without the leave of the reeve,
unless the county court is being held in the borough, and unless
[the foreigners are] on military service or guarding the castle.

[2] A burgess cannot distrain upon a burgess without the leave of
the reeve.

[3] If a burgess have lent anything of his to a foreigner, let
the debtor restore it in the borough if he admits the debt, if he
denies it, let him justify himself in the borough.

[4] Pleas which arise in the borough shall be held and concluded
there, except pleas of the Crown.

[5] If any burgess be appealed [sued] of any plaint, he shall not
plead without the borough, unless for default of [the borough]

[6] Nor ought he to answer without day and term, unless he have
fallen into 'miskenning'[error in pleading], except in matters
which pertain to the Crown.

[7] If a ship have put in at Tynemouth and wishes to depart, the
burgesses may buy what they will [from it].

[8] If a plea arise between a burgess and a merchant, it shall be
concluded before the third ebb of the tide.

[9] Whatever merchandise a ship has brought by sea must be
landed, except salt; and herring ought to be sold in the ship.

[10] If any man have held land in burgage for a year and a day,
lawfully and without claim, he shall not answer a claimant,
unless the claimant have been without the realm of England, or a
child not of age to plead.

[11] If a burgess have a son, he shall be included in his
father's freedom if he be with his father.

[12] If a villein come to dwell in the borough, and dwell there a
year and a day as a burgess, he shall abide altogether, unless
notice has been given by him or by his master that he is dwelling
for a term.

[13] If any man appeal [sue] a burgess of any thing, he cannot do
battle with the burgess, but the burgess shall defend himself by
his law, unless it be of treason, whereof he is bound to defend
himself by battle.

[14] Neither can a burgess do battle against a foreigner, unless
he first go out of the borough.

[15] No merchant, unless he be a burgess, may buy [outside] the
town either wool or leather or other merchandise, nor within the
borough except [from] burgesses.

[16] If a burgess incur forfeit, he shall give six ounces [10s.]
to the reeve.

[17] In the borough there is no merchet [payment for marrying off
a daughter] nor heriot nor blodwite [fine for drawing blood] nor
stengesdint [fine for striking with a stick].

[18] Every burgess may have his own oven and hand-mill if he
will, saving the right of the King's oven.

[19] If a woman be in forfeit for bread or beer, no one ought to
interfere but the reeve. If she forfeit twice, she shall be
chastised by her forfeit. If three times, let justice be done on

[20] No one but a burgess may buy webs [woven fabrics just taken
off the loom] to dye, nor make nor cut them.

[21] A burgess may give and sell his land and go whither he will
freely and quietly unless there be a claim against him."

In the boroughs, merchant and manufacturing guilds controlled
prices and assured quality. The head officer of the guild usually
controlled the borough, which excluded rival merchant guilds.

Trades and crafts, each of which had to be licensed, grouped
together by speciality in the town. Cloth-makers, dyers, tanners,
and fullers were near an accessible supply of running water, upon
which their trade depended. Streets were often named by the trade
located there, such as Butcher Row, Pot Row, Cordwainer Row,
Ironmonger Row, Wheeler Row, and Fish Row. Hirers of labor and
sellers of wheat, hay, livestock, dairy products, apples and
wine, meat, poultry, fish and pies, timber and cloth all had a
distinct location.

The nation produced sufficient iron, but a primitive steel was
imported. Steel was used for tools, instruments, weapons and

Plays about miracles wrought by holy men or the sufferings and
fortitude of martyrs were performed. Most nobles could read,
though writing was still a specialized craft. There were books on
animals, plants, and stones. The lives of the saints as told in
the book "The Golden Legend" were popular. The story of the early
King Arthur was told in the book "The History of the Kings of
England". The story at this time stressed Arthur as a hero and
went as follows: Arthur became King at age 15. He had an inborn
goodness and generosity as well as courage. He and his knights
won battles against foreign settlers and neighboring clans. Once,
he and his men surrounded a camp of foreigners until they gave up
their gold and silver rather than starve. Arthur married
Guenevere and established a court and retinue. Leaving Britain in
the charge of his nephew Modred, he fought battles on the
continent for land to give to his noblemen who did him service in
his household and fought with him. When Arthur returned to
Britain, he made battle with his nephew Modred who had crowned
himself King. Arthur's knight Gawain, the son of his sister, and
the enemy Modred were killed and Arthur was severely wounded.
Arthur told his kinsman Constantine to rule Britain as King in
his place.

The intellectual world included art, secular literature, law, and
medicine. There were about 90 physicians.

Forests were still retained by Kings for their hunting of boars
and stags. The bounds of the Forest were enlarged. They comprised
almost one-third of the kingdom.

Barons and their tenants and sub-tenants were offered an
alternative of paying shield money ["scutage"] of 2 marks per fee
in commutation for and instead of military service for their
fiefs. This enabled Henry to hire soldiers who would be more
directly under his own control and to organize a more efficient

A substantial number of barons and monasteries were heavily in
debt to the Jews. The King taxed the Jews at will.

During rivalry for the throne after Henry I's reign, the bishops
gained some independence from the Crown and strenthened their
ties with the Pope.

- The Law -

Henry restored the death penalty for thievery and robbery, but
maintained William I's punishment of the mutilation of blinding
and severing of limbs for other offenses.

The forest law stated that: "he that doth hunt a wild beast and
doth make him pant, shall pay 10 shillings: If he be a free man,
then he shall pay double. If he be a bound man, he shall lose his
skin." A "verderer" was responsible for enforcing this law, which
also stated that: "If anyone does offer force to a Verderer, if
he be a freeman, he shall lose his freedom, and all that he hath.
And if he be a villein, he shall lose his right hand." Further,
"If such an offender does offend so again, he shall lose his

A wife's dower is one-third of all her husband's freehold land,
unless his endowment of her at their marriage was less than

Counterfeiting law required that "If any one be caught carrying
false coin, the reeve shall give the bad money to the King
however much there is, and it shall be charged in the render of
his farm [payment] as good, and the body of the offender shall be
handed over to the King for judgment, and the serjeants who took
him shall have his clothes."

Debts to townsmen were recoverable by this law: "If a burgess has
a gage [a valuable object held as security for carrying out an
agreement] for money lent and holds this for a whole year and a
day, and the debtor will not deny the debt or deliver the gage,
and this is proved, the burgess may sell the gage before good
witnesses for as much as he can, and deduct his money from the
sum. If any money is over he shall return it to the debtor. But
if there is not enough to pay him, he shall take distress again
for the amount that is lacking."

Past due rent in a borough was punishable by payment of 10s. as

There are legal maxims which are becoming so well established and
known that there will never be a need to write them down as
statutes. As delineated by St. Germain in "Doctor and Student" in
1518, they are:

1. If a man steals goods to the value of 12d., or above, it is
felony, and he shall die for it. If it is under the value of
12d., then it is but petit larceny, and he shall not die for it,
but shall be punished at the discretion of the judges. This not
apply to goods taken from the person, which is robbery, a felony
punishable by death.

2. If an exigent, in case of felony, is awarded against a man, he
has thereby forthwith forfeited his goods to the King.

3. If the son is attainted [convicted of treason or felony with
the death penalty and forfeiture of all lands and goods] in the
life of the father, and after he purchases his charter of pardon
of the King, and after the father dies; in this case the land
shall escheat to the lord of the fee, insomuch that though he has
a younger brother, yet the land shall not descend to him: for by
the attainder of the elder brother the blood is corrupt, and the
father-in-law died without heir.

4. A man declared outlaw forfeits his profits from land and his
goods to the King.

5. He who is arraigned upon an indictment of felony shall be
admitted, in favor of life, to challenge the number of inquirers
for three whole inquests peremptorily. With cause, he may
challenge as many as he has cause to challenge. Such peremptory
challenge shall not be admitted in a private suit because it is a
suit of the party.

6. An accessory shall not be put to answer before the principal.

7. If a man commands another to commit a trespass, and he does
it, the one who made the command is a trespasser.

8. The land of every man is in the law enclosed from other,
though it lies in the open field and a trespasser in it may be
brought to court.

9. Every man is bound to make recompense for such hurt as his
beasts do in the growing grain or grass of his neighbor, though
he didn't know that they were there.

10. He who has possession of land, though it is by disseisin, has
right against all men but against him who has right.

11. The rents, commons of pasture, of turbary [digging turf],
reversions, remainders, nor such other things which lie not in
manual occupation, may not be given or granted to another without

12. If a villein purchase lands, and the lord enter, he shall
enjoy the land as his own. But if the villein alienates before
the lord enters, he alienation is good. And the same law is of

13. Escuage (shield service for 40 days) uncertain makes knight's
service. Escuage certain makes socage.

14. He who holds by castle-guard, holds by knight's service, but
he does not hold by escuage. He that holds by 20s. to the guard
of a castle holds by socage.

15. A descent takes away an entry.

16. No prescription [assertion of a right or title to the
enjoyment of a thing, on the ground of having had the
uninterrupted and immemorial enjoyment of it] in lands makes a

17. A prescription of rent and profits out of land makes a right.

18. The limitation of a prescription generally taken is from the
time that no man's mind runs to the contrary.

19. Assigns may be made upon lands given in fee, for term of
life, or for term of years, though no mention be made of assigns;
and the same law is of a rent that is granted; but otherwise it
is of a warranty, and of a covenant.

20. He who recovers debt or damages in the King's court when the
person charged is not in custody, may within a year after the
judgment take the body of the defendant, and commit him to prison
until he has paid the debt and damages.

21. If a release or confirmation is made to him who, at the time
of the release made, had nothing in the land, the release or
confirmation is void, except in certain cases, such as to vouch.

22. A condition to avoid a freehold cannot be pleaded without a
deed; but to avoid a gift of chattel, it may be pleaded without

23. A release or confirmation made by him, that at the time of
the release or confirmation made had no right, is void in law,
though a right comes to him after; except if it is with warranty,
and then it shall bar him to all right that he shall have after
the warranty is made.

24. If land and rent that is going out of the same land, comes
into one man's hand of like estate, and like surety of title, the
rent is extinct.

25. If land descends to him who has right to the same land
before, he shall be remitted to his better title, if he will.

26. If two titles are concurrent together, the oldest title shall
be preferred.

27. If a real action be sued against any man who has nothing in
the thing demanded, the writ shall abate at the common law.

28. If the demandant or plaintiff, hanging his writ, will enter
into the thing demanded, his writ shall abate.

29. By the alienation of the tenant, hanging the writ, or his
entry into religion, or if he is made a knight, or she is a
woman, and takes a husband hanging the writ, the writ shall not

30. A right or title of action that only depends in action,
cannot be given or granted to none other but only to the tenant
of the ground, or to him who has the reversion or remainder of
the same land.

31. In an action of debt upon an agreement, the defendant may
wage his law: but otherwise it is upon a lease of lands for term
of years, or at will.

32. The King may disseise no man and no man may disseise the
King, nor pull any reversion or remainder out of him.

33. The King's excellency is so high in the law, that no freehold
may be given to the King, nor be derived from him, but by matter
of record.

34. If an abbot or prior alienate the lands of his house, and
dies, though his successor has right to the lands, yet he may not
enter, but he must take legal

35. If an abbot buys a thing that comes to the use of the house,
and dies, then his successor shall be charged.

Judicial activity encouraged the recording of royal legislation
in writing which both looked to the past and attempted to set
down law current in Henry's own day. The "Liberi Quadripartitus"
aimed to include all English law of the time. This showed an
awareness of the ideal of written law as a statement of judicial
principles as well as of the practice of kingship. In this way,
concepts of Roman law used by the Normans found their way into
English law.

Church law required that only consent between a man and woman was
necessary for marriage. There needn't be witnesses, ceremony, nor
consummation. Consent could not be coerced. Penalties in marriage
contracts were deemed invalid. Villeins and slaves could marry
without their lords' or owners' permission. A couple living
together could be deemed married. Relatives descended from the
same great great grandfather could not marry, nor could relatives
by marriage of the same degree of closeness. A legal separation
could be given for adultery, cruelty, or heresy. Fathers were
usually ordered to provide some sustenance and support for their
illegitimate children. The court punished infanticide and

- Judicial Procedure -

Courts extant now are the Royal Court, the King's Court of the
Exchequer, shire courts, and hundred courts, which were under the
control of the King. His appointed justices administered justice
in these courts on regular circuits. Also there are manor courts,
borough courts, and ecclesiastical courts.

The King's Royal Court heard issues concerning the Crown and
breaches of the King's peace, which included almost all criminal
matters. The most serious offenses: murder, robbery, rape,
abduction, arson, treason, and breach of fealty, were now called
felonies. Other offenses were: housebreaking, ambush, certain
kinds of theft, premeditated assault, and harboring outlaws or
excommunicants. Henry personally presided over hearings of
important legal cases. He punished crime severely. Offenders were
brought to justice not only by the complaint of an individual or
local community action, but by official prosecutors. A prosecutor
was now at trials as well as a judge. Trial is still by

These offenses against the King placed merely personal property
and sometimes land at the King's mercy. Thus the Crown increased
the range of offenses subject to its jurisdiction and arrogated
to itself profits from the penalties imposed.

The Royal Court also heard these offenses against the King:
fighting in his dwelling, contempt of his writs or commands,
encompassing the death or injury of his servants, contempt or
slander of the King, and violation of his protection or his law.
It heard these offenses against royal authority: complaints of
default of justice or unjust judgment, pleas of wrecks of ships,
coinage, treasure-trove [money buried when danger approached],
forest prerogatives, and control of castellation.

Henry began the use of writs to intervene in civil matters. These
writs allowed people to come to the Royal Court on certain
issues. He had some locally based justices, called justiciars.
Also, he sent justices out on eyres [journeys],with wide
responsibilities, to hear and decide all manner of Crown pleas.
This brought royal authority into the localities and served to
check baronial power over the common people. He created the
office of chief justiciar, which carried out judicial and
administrative functions.

The Royal Court also decided land disputes between barons. There
was a vigorous interventionism in the land law subsequent to
appeals to the King in landlord-tenant relations, brought by a
lord or by an undertenant. Assizes [those who sit together] of
local people who knew relevant facts were put together to assist
the court.

Records of the verdicts of the Royal Court were sent with
traveling justices for use as precedent in shire and hundred

The King's Court of the Exchequer reviewed the accounts of
sheriffs, including receipts and expenditures on the Crown's
behalf as well as sums due to the Treasury, located still at
Winchester. These sums included rent from royal estates, the
Danegeld land tax, the fines from local courts, and aid from
barional estates. It was called the "Exchequer" because it used a
chequered cloth on the table to facilitate calculation in Roman
numerals of the amount due and the amount paid. It's records were
the "Pipe Rolls", so named because sheets of parchment were
fastened at the top, each of which dropped into a roll at the
bottom and so assumed the shape of a pipe.

The shire and hundred courts assessed the personal property of
individuals and their taxes due to the King. The shire court
decided land disputes between people who had different barons as
their respective lords.

The Crown used its superior coercive power to enforce the legal
decisions of other courts.

The shire courts heard cases of theft, brawling, beating, and
wounding, for which the penalties could be exposure in the
pillory or stocks where the public could scorn and hit the
offender. It met twice yearly. If an accused failed to appear
after four successive shire courts, he was declared outlaw at the
fifth and forfeited his civil rights and all his property. He
could be slain by anyone at will.

The hundred court heard neighborhood disputes, for instance
concerning pastures, meadows and harvests. It policed the duty of
frankpledge, which was required for those who did not have a lord
to answer for him. It met once a month.

The free landholders were expected to attend shire, hundred, and
baronage courts. They owed "suit" to it. The suitors found the
dooms [laws] by which the presiding officer pronounced the

The barons held court on their manors for issues arising between
people living on the manor, such as bad ploughing on the lord's
land or letting a cow get loose on the lord's land, and land
disputes. They also made the decision of whether or not a person
was a villein or free. The manor court took over issues which had
once been heard in the vill or hundred court. The baron charged a
fee for hearing a case and received any fines he imposed, which
amounted to significant "profits of justice".

Boroughs held court on trading and marketing issues in their
towns such as measures and weights, as well as issues between
people who lived in the borough. The borough court was presided
over by a reeve who was a burgess as well as a royal official.

Wealthy men could employ professional pleaders to advise them and
to speak for them in a court.

The ecclesiastical courts dealt with family matters such as
marriage, annulments, marriage portions, legitimacy,
wife-beating, child abuse, bigamy, adultery, incest, fornication,
personal possessions, slander, usury, mortuaries, sanctuary,
sacrilege, blasphemy, heresy, tithe payments, church fees, and
breaches of promises under oath, e.g. to pay a debt, provide
services, or deliver goods. It decided inheritance and will
issues which did not concern land, but only personal property.
This developed from the practice of a priest usually hearing a
dying person's will as to the disposition of his goods and
chattel when he made his last confession. It provided
guardianship of infants during probate of their personal
property. Trial was by compurgation. An alleged offender could be
required to answer questions under oath, thus giving evidence
against himself. The court's penalties were intended to reform
and determined on a case-by-case basis. They could include
confession and public repentance of the sin before the parish,
making apologies and reparation to persons affected, public
embarrassment such as being dunked in water (e.g. for women
scolds), walking a route barefoot and clad only in one's
underwear, whippings, extra work, fines, and imprisonment in a
"penitentiary" to do penance. The ultimate punishment was
excommunication with social ostracism. Then no one could give the
person drink, food, or shelter and the only people he could speak
to were his spouse and servants. Excommunication included denial
of the sacraments of baptism, penance, eucharist, and extreme
unction at death; which were necessary for salvation of the soul;
and the sacrament of confirmation. However, the person could
still marry and make a will. Excommunication was usually imposed
for failure to obey an order or showing contempt of the law or of
the courts. It required a due process hearing and a written
reason. If this measure failed, it was possible to turn the
offender over to the state for punishment, e.g. for blasphemy or
heresy. Blasphemy [speaking ill of God] was thought to cause
God's wrath expressed in famine, pestilence, and earthquake and
was usually punished by a fine or corporal punishment, e.g.
perforation or amputation of the tongue. It was tacitly
understood that the punishment for heresy was death by burning.
The state usually assured itself the sentence was just before
imposing it. The court of the rural dean was the ecclesiastical
parallel of the hundred court of secular jurisdiction and usually
had the same land boundaries.

Chapter 6

- The Times: 1154-1215 -

King Henry II and Queen Eleanor, who was twelve years older, were
both intelligent, educated, energetic, well-traveled, and
experienced in affairs of state. Henry was the first Norman King
to be fully literate. Eleanor often served as regent during
Henry's reign and the reigns of their two sons: Richard, the
Lion-Hearted, and John, a short man. After Eleanor's death,
John's heavy-handed and arbitrary rule quickly alienated all
sectors of the population, who joined to pressure him to sign the
Magna Carta. Since John had extracted many heavy fines from
barons by personally adjudging them blameworthy in disputes with
others, the barons insisted on judgment by their peers under the
established law of the courts. The story of Robin Hood portrays
John's attempt to gain the crown prematurely while Richard was on
the Crusades to recover Jerusalem for Christendom.

Henry II was a modest, courteous, and patient man with an
astonishing memory and strong personality. He was indifferent to
rank and impatient of pomp to the point of being careless about
his appearance. He usually dressed in riding clothes and was
often unkempt. He was thrifty, but generous to the poor.

Henry revived and augmented the laws and institutions of his
grandfather, Henry I, and developed them to a new perfection.
Almost all legal and fiscal institutions appear in their first
effective form during his reign. For instance, he
institutionalized the assize for a specific function in judicial
proceedings, whereas before it had been an ad hoc body used for
various purposes.

Henry's government practiced a strict economy and he never
exploited the growing wealth of the nation. He abhorred bloodshed
and the sacrifice of men's lives. So he strove diligently to keep
the peace, when possible by gifts of money, but otherwise with
armed force. Merchants with precious goods could journey safely
through the land from fair to fair. Frankpledge was revived. No
stranger could stay overnight (except for one night in a
borough), unless sureties were given for his good behavior. A
list of such strangers was to be given to itinerant judges.

Henry had character and the foresight to build up a centralized
system of government that would survive him. He learned about the
shires' and villages' varying laws and customs. Then, using the
model of Roman law, he gave to English institutions that unity
and system which in their casual patch-work development had been
lacking. Henry's government and courts forged permanent direct
links between the King and his subjects which cut through the
feudal structure of lords and vassals.

He developed the methods and structure of government so that
there was a great increase in the scope of administrative
activity without a concurrent increase of personal power of the
officials who discharged it. The government was self-regulating,
with methods of accounting and control which meant that no
official, however exalted, could entirely escape the surveillance
of his colleagues and the King. At the same time, administrative
and judicial procedures were perfected so that much which had
previously required the King's personal attention was reduced to

The royal household translated the royal will into action. In the
early 12th century, there had been very little machinery of
central government that was not closely associated with the royal
household. Royal government was largely built upon what had once
been purely domestic offices. Kings had called upon their
chaplains to pen letters for them. By Henry II's reign, the
Chancery was a highly efficient writing office through which the
King's will was expressed in a flow of writs, and the Chancellor
an important and highly rewarded official, but he was still
responsible for organizing the services in the royal chapel.
Similarly, the chamberlains ran the household's financial
departments. They arranged to have money brought in from a
convenient castle-treasury, collected money from sheriffs or the
King's debtors, arranged loans with the usurers, and supervised
the spending of it. It was spent for daily domestic needs, the
King's almsgiving, and the mounting of a military campaign. But
they were still responsible for personal attendance upon the King
in his privy chamber, taking care of his valuable furs, jewels,
and documents, and changing his bedlinens. There were four other
departments of the household. The steward presided over the hall
and kitchens was responsible for supplying the household and
guests with food supplies. The butler had duties in the hall and
cellars and was responsible for the supply of wine and ale. The
marshall arranged lodgings for the King's court as it moved about
from palaces to hunting lodges, arranged the pay of the household
servants, and supervised the work of ushers, watchmen,
fire-tenders, messengers and huntsmen. The constable organized
the bodyguard and escorts, arranged for the supply of castles,
and mustered the royal army.

Henry brought order and unity by making the King's Royal Court
the common court of the land. Its purpose was to guard the King's
peace by protecting all people of free status throughout the
nation. Heretofore, the scope of the King's peace had varied to
as little as the King's presence, his land, and his highway. The
royal demesne had shrunk to about 5% of the land. The Common Law
for all the nation was established by example of the King's Royal

A system of writs originated well-defined actions in the royal
courts. This system determined the Royal Court's jurisdiction as
against the church, lords, and sheriffs. It limited the
jurisdiction of all other courts and subordinated them to the
Royal Court. Inquests into any misdeeds of sheriffs were held,
which could result in their dismissal.

Before Henry's reign, the church had become more powerful and
asserted more authority. Henry tried to return to the concept of
the King being appointed by God and as he head of the church as
well as of the state, as in Henry I's time. Toward this end, he
published the Constitutions of Clarendon. But the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Thomas Becket, refused to agree to them. The
disageement came to a head in Henry's attempt to establish the
principle of "one law to all" by having church clerics punished
by the civil courts as before, instead of having "benefit of
clergy" to be tried only in ecclesiastical courts, even for
secular crimes. Clerics composed about one-sixth the population.
The church courts had characteristically punished with a fine or
a penance, and at most defrocking, and never imposed a death
penalty, even for murder. When Archbishop Becket was murdered and
became a martyr, "benefit of clergy" became a standard right.
Appeals could be made to the Pope without the King's permission.
The King could take a criminal cleric's chattels, but not his
life. However, though theoretically the bishops were elective, as
a practical matter, the King appointed the bishops and the

Henry and Eleanor spoke many languages and liked discussing law,
philosophy, and history. So they gathered wise and learned man
about them, who became known as courtiers, rather than people of
social rank. They lived in the great and strong Tower of London.
On the west were two strongly fortified castles surrounded by a
high and deeply entrenched wall, which had seven double gates.
Towers were spaced along the north wall and the Thames River
flowed below the south wall. To the west was the city, where
royal friends had residences with adjoining gardens near the
royal palace at Westminster. The court was a center of culture as
well as of government. The game of backgammon was played. People
wore belts with buckles, usually brass, instead of knotting their

London extended about a mile along the river and about half a
mile inland. Most of its houses were two stories, the ground
floor having booths and workshops, and the upper floor living
space. Walls between houses had to be stone and thatched roofs
were banned because there had been many fires. There were over a
hundred churches in the city, which celebrated feast days, gave
alms and hospitality to strangers, confirmed betrothals,
contracted marriages, celebrated weddings, conducted funerals,
and buried the dead. Fish and no meat was eaten on Fridays and
during lent. There was dark rye bread and expensive white wheat
bread. Vegetables included onions, leeks, and cabbage. Fruits
included apples, pears, plums, cherries, and strawberries. Water
was obtained from streams running through the town to the river
and from springs. There were craft guilds of bakers, butchers,
clothworkers, and saddlers, as well as of weavers. Vendors,
craftsmen, and laborers had their customary places, which they
took up every morning.

Some vendors walked the streets announcing their wares for sale.

In London, bells heralded the start and finish of all organized
business. At sunset, the gates of the town were closed for the
night. Only the rich could afford wax candles; others had
home-made tallow or fat lights which smelled and gave off smoke.
Most people washed their bodies. Few babies survived childhood.
If a man reached 30, he could expect to live until age 50. The
sellers of merchandise and hirers of labor were distributed every
morning into their several localities according to their trade.
Outside one of the gates, a horse market was held every week.
They wore horseshoes made of iron or of a crude steel. In other
fields, countryfolk sold pigs, cows, oxen and sheep. London
Bridge was built of stone with such a width that a row of wood
houses and a chapel was built on top of it.

The weavers guild of London received a charter by the King in
1155, the first granted to any London craft: "Know that I have
conceded to the Weavers of London to hold their guild in London
with all the liberties and customs which they had in the time of
King Henry [I], my grandfather; and that none may intermeddle
with the craft within the city, nor in Southwark, nor in other
places pertaining to London except through them and except he be
in their guild, otherwise than was accustomed to be done in the
time of King Henry, my grandfather ...So that each year they
render thence to me two marks [26s. 8d.] of gold at the feast of
St. Michael. And I forbid that any shall do injury or contumely
to them on this account under penalty of 10 pounds [200s.].
Witness T[homas], Chancellor, and Warinus, son of Gerard,
Chamberlain, at Winchester." These liberties were: 1) The weavers
may elect bailiffs to supervise the work of the craft, to punish
defaulters, and to collect the ferm. The bailiffs were chosen
from year to year and swore before the Mayors of London to do and
keep their office well and truly. 2) The bailiffs may hold court
from week to week on pleas of debt, agreements, covenants, and
minor trespasses. 3) If any of the guild members are sued in any
other court on any of the above pleas, the guild may challenge
that plea to bring it to the guild court. 4) If any member is
behind in his share of the payment to the King, the bailiffs may
distrain his loom until he has paid this.

Paying an annual payment freed the weavers from liability to
inconsequent royal fines. Failure to make this payment promptly
might have led to loss of the right, hence the rigorous penalty
of distraint upon the looms of individual weavers who fell into

The weavers' guild punished members who used bad thread in their
weaving or did defective weaving by showing the default to the
Mayor, with opportunity for the workman to make entreaty, and the
Mayor and twelve members of the guild then made a verdict of
amercement of 1/2 mark [6s. 8d.] and the workman of the cloth was
also punished by the guild bailiffs according to guild custom.

The weavers' guild tradition of brotherliness among members meant
that injury to a fellow weaver incurred a severe penalty. If a
weaver stole or eloigned [removed them to a distance where they
were unreachable] any other weaver's goods falsely and
maliciously, then he was dismissed from the guild and his loom
was taken by the guild to fulfill his portion of the annual
payment to the King. The weavers were allowed to buy and to sell
in London freely and quietly. They had all the rights of other
freemen of the city.

Thus from the middle of the 12th century, the weavers enjoyed the
monopoly of their craft, rights of supervision which ensured a
high standard of workmanship, power to punish infractions of
their privileges, and full control of their members. In this they
stand as the prototype of English medieval guilds. These rights
represented the standard which all bodies of craftsmen desired to
attain. The right of independent jurisdiction was exceptional.

London growth led to its replacing Winchester as the capital.
Over its history,
it generally chose or elected its own mayor every year. (This was
not a popular election.) But there were many periods when royal
authority was asserted over it.

On the north side of the city was a great forest with fields and
wells where students and other young men from the city took walks
in the fresh evening air. Vendors on the river bank sold cooked
fish caught from the river and wine from ships and wine cellars.

London's chief magistrate was the port-reeve, who was appointed
by the King, until 1191. Then the port-reeve was replaced by a
mayor, who was elected yearly by the city wards. Each ward was
headed by an alderman and there were city sheriffs and
councilors. The mayors were typically rich merchant princes.
There were three ways to become a citizen of London: being the
son of a citizen, apprenticeship in a craft for seven years, and
purchase of citizenship.

St. Barthomew hospital was established in London for sick
pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury.

Trading was facilitated by the stabilization of the amount of
silver metallic content of the English coinage, which was called
"sterling" [strong] silver. The compass assisted the navigation
of ships and London became a major trading center for foreign
goods from many lands.

About 5% of the knights were literate. Wealthy men sent their
sons to school in monasteries to prepare them for a livelihood in
a profession or in trade or to the town of Oxford, whose
individual teachers had attracted disciples for a long time.
These schools grew up around St. Mary's Church, but had not been
started by the church as there was no cathedral school in Oxford.
Oxford had started as a burh and had a royal residence and many
tradesmen. It was given its basic charter in 1155 by the King.
This confirmed to it all the customs, laws and liberties [rights]
as those enjoyed by London. If became a model charter for other

Bachelors at Oxford studied the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and
logic, and then music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, until
they mastered their discipline and therefore were authorized to
teach it. Teaching would then provide an income sufficient to
support a wife. The master of arts was analogous to the master
craftsman of a guild. From 1190, the civil law was studied, and
shortly thereafter, canon law. Later came the study of medicine.
The use of paper supplemented the use of parchment for writing.

In this era, the English national race and character was formed.
Stories of good King Arthur were popular and set ideals for
behavior and justice in an otherwise barbaric age where force was
supreme. His last battle in which he lay wounded and told a
kinsman to rule in his place and uphold his laws was written in
poem ("Layamon's Brut"). Romantic stories were written and read
in English.

The only people distinguishable as Anglo-Saxon by their look and
speech were manor villeins who worked the farm land, who composed
over half the population. Intermarriage had destroyed any
distinction of Normans by look or speech alone. Although the
villeins could not buy their freedom or be freed by their lord,
they became less numerous because of the preference of landowners
for tenants motivated to perform work by potential loss of
tenure. Also, the Crown's protection of all its subjects in
criminal matters blurred the distinction between free and unfree

The boroughs were dominated by lords of local manors, who usually
had a house in the borough. Similarly, burgesses usually had
farmland outside the borough. Many boroughs were granted the
right to have a common seal for the common business of the town.
Each borough was represented by twelve reputable burgesses. Each
vill was represented by a reeve and four reputable men. Certain
towns sponsored great seasonal fairs for special goods, such as
cloth. Less than 5% of the population lived in towns.

London guilds of craftsmen such as weavers, fullers, bakers,
loriners (makers of bit, spurs, and metal mountings of bridles
and saddles), cordwainers (makers of leather goods such as
shoes), pepperers, and goldsmiths were licensed by the King, for
which they paid him a yearly fee. There were also five Bridge
Guilds (probably raising money for the future construction of
London Bridge in stone) and St. Lazarus' Guild. The wealthy
guilds, which included the goldsmiths, the pepperers, and three
bridge guilds had landholding members who had been thegnes or
knights and now became a class of royal officials: the King's
minters, his chamberlain, his takers of wines, his collectors of

Sandwich was confirmed in its port rights by this charter:
"Henry II to his sheriff and bailiffs of Kent, greeting. I will
and order that the monks of the Holy Trinity of Canterbury shall
have fully all those liberties and customs in Sandwich which they
had in the time of King Henry my grandfather, as it was adjudged
in pursuance of his command by the oath of twelve men of Dover
and twelve men of Sandwich, to wit, that the aforesaid monks
ought to have the port and the toll and all maritime customs in
the same port, on either side of the water from Eadburge-gate as
far as markesfliete and a ferry-boat for passage. And no man has
there any right except they and their ministers. Wherefore I will
and firmly command you and the men of Sandwich that ye cause the
aforesaid monks to have all their customs both in the port and in
the town of Sandwich, and I forbid any from vexing them on this
account." "And they shall have my firm peace."

Henry gave this charter to the town of Bristol in 1164:
"Know ye, that I have granted to my burgesses of Bristol, that
they shall be quit both of toll [a reasonable sum of money or
portion of the thing sold, due to the owner of the fair or market
on the sale of things tollable therein. It was claimed by the
lord of the fee where the fair or market was held, by virtue of a
grant from the Crown either ostensible or presumed] and passage
[money paid for crossing a river or for crossing the sea as might
be due to the Crown] and all custom [customary payments]
throughout my whole land of England, Normandy, and Wales,
wherever they shall come, they and their goods. Wherefore I will
and strictly command, that they shall have all their liberties
and acquittances and free customs fully and honorable, as my free
and faithful men, and that they shall be quit of toll and passage
and of every other customs: and I forbid any one to disturb them
on this account contrary to this my charter, on forfeiture of ten
pounds [200s.]."

John, when he was an earl and before he became King, granted
these liberties to Bristol about 1188:

1) No burgess may sue or be sued out of Bristol.

2) The burgesses are excused from the murder fine (imposed by the
King or lord from the hundred or town where the murder was
committed when the murderer had not been apprehended).

3) No burgess may wage duel, unless sued for death of a stranger.

4) No one may take possession of a lodging house by assignment or
by livery of the Marshall of the Earl of Gloucester against the
will of the burgesses (so that the town would not be responsible
for the good behavior of a stranger lodging in the town without
first accepting the possessor of the lodging house).

5) No one shall be condemned in a matter of money, unless
according to the law of the hundred, that is, forfeiture of 40s.

6) The hundred court shall be held only once a week.

7) No one in any plea may argue his cause in miskenning.

8) They may lawfully have their lands and tenures and mortgages
and debts throughout my whole land, [from] whoever owes them

9) With regard to debts which have been lent in Bristol, and
mortgages theremade, pleas shall be held in the town according to
the custom of the town.

10) If any one in any other place in my land shall take toll of
the men of Bristol, if he does not restore it after he is
required to, the Prepositor of Bristol may take from him a
distress at Bristol, and force him to restore it.

11) No stranger-tradesman may buy within the town from a man who
is a stranger, leather, grain, or wool, but only from a burgess.

12) No stranger may have a shop, including one for selling wine,
unless in a ship, nor shall sell cloth for cutting except at the

13) No stranger may remain in the town with his goods for the
purpose of selling his goods, but for forty days.

14) No burgess may be confined or distrained any where else
within my land or power for any debt, unless he is a debtor or
surety (to avoid a person owed a debt from distraining another
person of the town of the debtor).

15) They shall be able to marry themselves, their sons, their
daughters and their widows, without the license of their lords.
(Lords had the right of preventing their tenants and mesne lords
and their families from marrying without his consent.)

16) No one of their lords shall have the wardship or the disposal
of their sons or daughters on account of their lands out of the
town, but only the wardship of their tenements which belong to
their own fee, until they become of age.

17) There shall be no recognition [acknowledgement that something
done by another person in one's name had one's authority] in the

18) No one shall take tyne [wooden barrel with a certain quantity
of ale, payable by the townsmen to the constable for the use of
the castle] unless for the use of the lord Earl, and that
according to the custom of the town.

19) They may grind their grain wherever they may choose.

20) They may have their reasonable guilds, as well or better than
they had themin the time of Robert and his son William [John's
wife's grandfather and father, who were earls of Gloucester when
the town and castle of Bristol were part of the honor of

21) No burgess may be compelled to bail any man, unless he
himself chooses it, although he may be dwelling on his land.

We have also granted to them all their tenures, messuages, in
copses, in buildings on the water or elsewhere to be held in free
burgage [tenant to pay only certain fixed services or payments to
his lord, but not military service (like free socage)]. We have
granted also that any of them may make improvements as much as he
can in erecting buildings anywhere on the bank and elsewhere, as
long as the borough and town are not damaged thereby. Also, they
shall have and possess all waste land and void grounds and
places, to be built on at their pleasure.

Newcastle-on-Tyne's taxes were simplified in 1175 as follows:

"Know ye that I have granted and by this present charter have
confirmed to my burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne, and to all
their things which they can assure to be their own, acquittance
from toll and passage and pontage and from the Hanse and from all
other customs throughout all my land. And I prohibit all persons
from vexing or disturbing them therein upon forfeiture to me."

We grant to our upright men on Newcastle-on-Tyne and their heirs
our town of Newcastle-on-Tyne with all its appurtances at fee
farm for 100 pounds to be rendered yearly to us and our heirs at
our Exchequer by their own hand at the two terms, to wit, at
Easter 50 pounds and at Michaelmas 50 pounds, saving to us our
rents and prizes and assizes in the port of the same town.

Ranulph, earl of Chester, made grants to his burgesses of
Coventry by this charter: "That the aforesaid burgesses and their
heirs may well and honorably quietly and in free burgage hold of
me and my heirs as ever in the time of my father and others of my
ancestors they have held better more firmly and freer. In the
second place I grant to them all the free and good laws which the
burgesses of Lincoln have better and freer. I prohibit and forbid
my constables to draw them into the castle to plead for any
cause, but they may freely have their portimote [leet court] in
which all pleas belonging to me and them may be justly treated
of. Moreover they may choose from themselves one to act for me
whom I approve, who a justice under me and over them may know the
laws and customs, and keep them to my counsel in all things
reasonable, every excuse put away, and may faithfully perform to
me my rights. If any one happen to fall into my amercement he may
be reasonably fined by my bailiff and the faithful burgesses of
the court. Furthermore, whatever merchants they have brought with
them for the improvement of the town, I command that they have
peace, and that none do them injury or unjustly send them into
court. But if any foreign merchant shall have done anything
improper in the town that same may be regulated in the portimote
before the aforesaid justice without a suit at law."

Henry confirmed this charter of the earl's by 1189 as follows: I
have confirmed all the liberties and free customs the earl of
Chester granted to them, namely, that the same burgesses may well
and honorably hold in free burgage, as ever in the time of the
father of the beforesaid earl, or other of his ancestors, they
may have better or more firmly held; and they may have all the
laws and customs which the citizens of Lincoln have better and
freer [e.g. their merchant guilds; all men brought to trade may
be subject to the guild customs and assize of the town; those who
lawfully hold land in the town for a year and a day without
question and are able to prove that an accuser has been in the
kingdom within the year without finding fault with them, from
thence may hold the land well and in peace without pleading;
those who have remained in the town a year and a day without
question, and have submitted to the customs of the town and the
citizens of the town are able to show through the laws and
customs of the town that the accuser stood forth in the kingdom,
and not a fault is found of them, then they may remain in peace
in the town without question]; and that the constable of the
aforesaid earl shall not bring them into the castle to plead in
any case. But they may freely have their own portmanmote in which
all pleas appertaining to the earl and to them may be justly
treated of. Moreover they may choose one from themselves to act
for the earl, whom I approve, who may be a justice under the earl
and over them, and who to the earl may faithfully perform his
rights, and if anyone happen to fall into the earl's forfeiture
he shall be acquit for 12 pence. If by the testimony of his
neighbors he cannot pay 12 pence coins, by their advice it shall
be so settled as he is able to pay, and besides, with other
acquittances, that the burgesses shall not provide anything in
corrody [allowance in food] or otherwise whether for the said
earl or his men, unless upon condition that their chattels shall
be safe, and so rendered to them.

Furthermore, whatever merchants they have brought with them for
the improvement of the town they may have peace, and none shall
do them injury or unjustly send them into suit at law. But if any
foreign merchant has done anything improper in the town that
shall be amended [or tried] in the portmanmote before the
aforesaid justice without a suit. And they who may be newcomers
into the town, from the day on which they began to build in the
town for the space of two years shall be acquit of all charges.

Mercantile privileges were granted to the shoemakers in Oxford
"Know ye that I have granted and confirmed to the corvesars of
Oxford all the liberties and customs which they had in the time
of King Henry my grandfather, and that they have their guild, so
that none carry on their trade in the town of Oxford, except he
be of that guild. I grant also that the cordwainers who
afterwards may come into the town of Oxford shall be of the same
guild and shall have the same liberties and customs which the
corvesars have and ought to have. For this grant and
confirmation, however, the corvesars and cordwainers ought to pay
me every year an ounce of gold."

A guild merchant for wool dominated and regulated the wool trade
in many boroughs. In Leicester, only guildsmen were permitted to
buy and sell wool wholesale to whom they pleased or to wash their
fells in borough waters. Certain properties, such as those near
running water, essential to the manufacture of wool were
maintained for the use of guild members. The waterwheel was a
technological advance replacing human labor whereby the cloth was
made more compact and thick, "fulled". The waterwheel turned a
shaft which lifted hammers to pound the wet cloth in a trough.
Wool packers and washers could work only for guild members. The
guild fixed wages, for instance to wool wrappers and flock
pullers. Strangers who brought wool to the town for sale could
sell only to guild members. A guildsman could not sell wool
retail to strangers nor go into partnership with a man outside
the guild. Each guild member had to swear the guildsman's oath,
pay an entrance fee, and subject himself to the judgment of the
guild in the guild court, which could fine or suspend a man from
practicing his trade for a year. The advantages of guild
membership extended beyond profit in the wool trade. Members were
free from the tolls that strangers paid. They alone were free to
sell certain goods retail. They had the right to share in any
bargain made in the presence of a guildsman, whetheer the
transaction took placein Leicester or in a distant market. In the
general interest, the guild forbade the use of false weights and
measures and the production of shoddy goods. It maintained a
wool-beam for weighing wool. It also forbade middlemen from
profiting at the expense of the public. For instance, butchers'
wives were forbidden from buying meat to sell again in the same
market unless they cooked it.

A baron could assemble an army in a day to resist any perceived
misgovernment by a King. Armed conflict did not interfere much
with daily life because the national wealth was still composed
mostly of flocks and herds and simple buildings. Machinery,
furniture, and the stock of shops were still sparse. Life would
be back to normal within a week.

Henry wanted to check this power of the barons. So he restored
the older obligation of every freeman to serve in defense of the
realm, which was a military draft. At the King's call, barons
were to appear in mail suit with sword and horse, knights in coat
of mail with shield and lance, freeholders with lance and hauberk
{coat of armor], burgesses and poorer freemen with lance and
helmet, and such as millers with pike and leather shirt. The
master of a household was responsible for every villein in his
household. Others had to form groups of ten and swear obedience
to the chief of the group. This was implemented in a war with

However, the nobility who were on the borders of the realm had to
maintain their private armies for frequent border clashes. The
other nobility now tended towards tournaments with mock battles
between two sides.

A new land tax replaced the Danegeld tax. Freeholders of land
paid taxes according to their plowable land ("hidage", by the
hide, and later "carucage", by the acre). It was assessed and
collected for the King by knights with little or no remuneration.
The villein class, which in theory included the boroughs, paid a
tax based on their produce ("tallage"). Merchants were taxed on
their personal property, which was determined by an inquest of
neighbors. Clergy were also taxed. This new system of taxation
increased the royal income about threefold.

- The Law -

The peace of the sheriff still exists for his shire. The King's
peace may still be specially given, but it will cease upon the
death of the King.

Law required every good and lawful man to be bound to follow the
hue and cry when it was raised against an offender who was
fleeing. The village reeve was expected to lead the chase to the
boundary of the next jurisdiction, which would then take the
responsibility to catch the man.

No one, including the lord of a manor, may take land from anyone
else, for instance, by the customary process of distress, without
a judgment from the Royal Court. This did not apply to London,
where a landlord leasing or renting land could take distress in
his fee.

No one, including the lord of a manor, shall deprive an heir of
the land possessed by his father, i.e. his birthright.

A tenant may marry off a daughter unless his lord shows some just
cause for refusing to consent to the marriage. A tenant had to
pay an "aid" to his lord when the lord's daughter married, when
the lord's son was knighted, or when the lord's person was

A man [or woman] may not will away his land, but he may sell it
during his lifetime.

The land of a knight or other tenant of a military fee is
inherited by his eldest son. The socage land of a free sokeman
goes by its ancient custom before the Norman Conquest.

If a man purchased land after his marriage, his wife's dower is
still one-third of the land he had when they married, or less if
he had endowed her with less. But he could then enlarge her dower
to one-third of all of his lands. The same rule applied if the
man had no land, but endowed his wife with chattel or money

Dower law prevented a woman from selling her dower during the
life of her husband. But he could sell it or give it away. On his
death, its possessor had to give the widow the equivalent worth
of the property.

A widower had all his wife's lands by curtesy of the nation for
his lifetime to the exclusion of her heirs.

The Capital Messuage [Chief Manor] could not be given in dower or
divided, but went in its entirety to its heir.

Heirs were firstly sons, then daughters, then grandsons per
stirpes, then granddaughters per stirpes, then brothers, and then
sisters of the decedent. Male heirs of land held by military
service or sons of knights who were under the age of twenty-one
were considered to be in custody of their lords. The lord had
wardship over the heir's land, excluding the third that was the
widow's dower for her life. He had to maintain the heir in a
manner suitable to his dignity and restore to him when he came of
age his inheritance in good condition discharged from debts. Male
heirs of sokemen who were under the age of fifteen were in the
custody of their nearest kindred. The son of a burgess came of
age when he could count money, measure cloth, and manage his
father's concerns.

Female heirs remained in the custody of their lords until they
married. The lord was bound to find a marriage for his ward when
she became fourteen years of age and then deliver her inheritance
to her. She could not marry without her lord's consent, because
her husband was expected to be the lord's ally and to do homage
to him. But if a female heir lost her virginity, her inheritance
escheated to
her lord.

Bastards were not heirs, even if their father married their
mother after their birth.

Any adult inheriting land had to pay a "relief" to the lord of
the land. For a knight's fee, this was 100s. For socage land,
this was one year's value. The amount for a barony depended upon
the King's pleasure.

Heirs (but not widows) were bound to pay the debts of their
fathers and ancestors. A man who married a woman who had
inherited land could not sell this land without the consent of
its heirs.

When a man dies, his wife shall take one-third and his heirs
shall take one-third of his chattels [moveables]. The other third
he may dispose of by will. If he had no heirs and no will
[intestate], all his chattels would escheat to his lord. Any
distribution of chattels would take place after all the
decedent's debts were paid from the property.


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