Robert Henry.

The history of Great Britain : from the first invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a new plan (Volume 3) online

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very frequent, vexatious, and expenfive (49).

As the king was the chief magiftrate of the king- King's
dom, and it was both his duty and prerogative to ad- court.
minifter juftice to his fubjecSls, he had a court, which
was the chief court of the kingdom, in which he per-
formed that duty and exercifed that prerogative (50).
This fupreme court was commonly called, curia or
aularegisy becaufe it was held in the great hall of the
king's palace, wherever he happened to refide (51).
In this court the king was prefumed to be always
prefent, either in perfon, or by his reprefentatives,
the judges of his court, to whom he committed the
perform.ance of his duty, and the exercife of his pre-

(48) Judge Elackflone's Comment, b. 3. c. 5. (49) Id. ibid.

(50) Madox Hift. Excheq. c. 3. p. 58.

(51) Bradon, 1. 3. c. 7. Glanvil de Confuetud, Anglije, paSim.



rogative as the fupreme judge in his kingdom. The
judges in the king's court, as it was conftituted by
William I. and continued till near the end of this period,
were, — the great oiEcers of the crown, — the king's
juftices, — together with all the great barons of the
kingdom both temporal and fpiritual, who were intitled
to feats in this court (52).
Great ofii- The great ofHcers of the crown, who were alfo the
ccrsof the leadins; members of the kind's court, were thefe feven :
crown. I, The chief jufticiary, who was an officer of the
higheft dignity and greatefl: power, the prefident of
the king's court when the prince was not perfonally
prefentj and regent of the kingdom when the fovereign
was beyond feas, which in this period very frequently
happened. 2. The conftable of England. 3. The
marifchal of England, who were both military and
civil officers : when ailing in their civil capacity, as
members of the king's court, their jurifdidion chiefly
refpeited matters of honour and of arms, 4. The
high fteward of England. 5. The great chamberlain
of England. Thefe two great officers had the chief
direction of all things in the king's court and palace.
The four lail: named officers were for the moft part
hereditary, 6. The chancellor of England, who had
the cuftody of the great feal, and the infpeftion of all
grants to which it was appended. 7. The high trea-
furer, who had the chief diredion of all things refpe6l-
ing the royal revenues (53).
Divifion of The king's juftices were perfons learned in the laws,
the king s -^vho had feats in this fupreme court, in order to inform
coyrt. ^1^^ other members what the law of the land was in

every cafe. I'his great court was divided into feveral
chambers, and certain judges fat in each of thefe
chambers, at particular times, to take cognizance of
tliofe matters with which they were beft acquainted,
and in which they were m.oft Interefted. Of thefe
chambers the exchequer (fo called from a chequered
cloth which covered the table) was one, in which the
high treafurer and certain barons fat, and regulated all
things refpe6bing the revenues of the crown (54).

(^2) Mzdox Hill. Excheq. c. a, c. 3. p, 64. Blackft. Comment.
b. 3. c. 4.

(53) Macjox Hifc. Excheq. c. 3. (J4) Dialogus dc Scaccario.


Ch. 3.§ I. CONSTITUTION, &c. 3aV

The junrdi(^ion of the king's court was univerfal^ J«nfai<aioft
extending to all parts of the kingdom, and over all aadfplcn-
the fubjeds of it, till the clergy, after long and violent ^^Lf **
ftruggles, emancipated themfelves in a great meafure cowt.
fromlts authority (55). As the Normans were re-
markably fond of pomp, forae of the feffions of this
auguft tribunal, particularly tho{e at the fefriyals of
vChriftmas, Eafter, and Whitfuntide, were attended
with much parade and (how. The king, on thefeoc-
cafions^ wore his crown and royal robes ; the great
officers of ftate appeared with the enfigns of their ref-
pecStive offices 5 and all the fpirltual and temporal
barons, in their richeft ornaments. At thefe ceremo-
nies and magnificent meetings, the ambafladors of
foreio-n princes were introduced, that they might be
ilruck with admiration at the opulence and grandeur
of the king and kingdom {56). To thefe flated
meetings all the members of the kino;*s Court came of
cburfe, without any fummons (57). In this, and in
feveral other refpe6i:s, they differed from the common
councils of the kingdom (58).

Though the powers of this fupreme court were Parlia*
great and various, thev were all mini fi:erial and execu- J^sn^*
tivej and did not extend to the making new laws or
impofing new taxes. Thefe two moft important
branches of police and government belonged to another
aflembly, that was called (ccmmune contUiumy or mag"
num concilium regni) the common council, or great
council of the kingdom; and fometimes, though very
feldom in this period, (parlia?nentum) parliament, from
the French word parler^ to fpeak*.

Who were the conftituent members of the great Who war*,
councils or parliaments of this period, is a queflion '^^^ *^*^^^^*
that hath been differently anfwered, and warmly agi- jj^^^jj^^^ £
tated (59). Though the nature and limits of this the parlia-
work will not admit a full difcuflion of this queftion mentacf
(at prefent of no great importance), yet a plain and ^^" P®^'*®'
fhort expofitibn of what appears to be the truth is ne-
ceffaryc That all archbilhops, bilhops, abbots, priors,
earls, and barons, who held each an entire barony

{SS) Mados Rift. Excheq. c. 3. (56) 'vV. Malmf. 1. 3. p. 63.

(57) Eadmer, p. 15. (58) Hen. Huiit.l. 8. p. saa.

(59) Petyt's Rights of the Commcns afierted. Jan« Anglorum
Taciec nova. Dr. Brady"*s Tra^s, &c. &c.

Vol, III. Y imm8diat«ly



immediately of the king in caplte^ were conftituent
^ members, of thefe great councils, hath never been dc-
inied, and needs not be proved. Befides thefe great
fpiritual and temporal barons, there were many others,
who held fmaller portions of land, as one, two, three,
or four knights fees, immediately of the king, by the
fame honourable tenure with the great barons, who
werealfo members of the great councils of the king-
dom, and were commonly called the lefi'er barons, or
free military tenants of the crown. Among many
evidences that might eafily be produced of this, the
fourteenth article of the great charter of king John,
is one of the moft decifive, and feems to be fufficient ;
*• To have a common council of the kingdom, to
■*' alTefs an aid otherwife than in the three forcfaid
<* cafes, or to aflefs a fcutage (60), we will caufe to
" be fummoned the archbifhops, bifliops, earls, and
*' greater barons, particularly by our letters; and be-
*' lides, we will caufe to be fummoned in general by
" our fherifFs and bailiffs, all thofe who hold of us
^"^ incapite \b\)'" The leil'er barons continued to fit
perfonally in the parliaments of Scotland till A. D.
J 427, when the a6l was made, exempting them from
perfonal attendance in parliament, on condition of
fending reprefentatives (62). But befides all thefe
great and fmall barons, who by virtue of their tenures
were obliged^ as well as intitled, to fit as members in
the great councils of the kingdom ; our hiftorians of
this period fometimes fpeak of great multitudes of peo-
ple, both of the clergy and laity, who were prefent in
fome of thefe councils (63). JKadmeru?, the friend
and fecretary of archbifliop Anfelm, thusdefcribes the
perfoiis alTembled in a great council at Rockingham,
A. D* 10953 to whom his patron made a fpeech.

(60) Thefe three forefaid cafes were, I. To make his eldeft fon a
knight; a. To marry his eldeft da\ighter; 3. To redeem his ow»
perfon. In all which cafes aids were due by tenure, without an a6l of

(61) Ad habend\im commune confilium regni, de auxilio aflidendo,
aliter quam in tribus cufibus predictis, vel de fcutagio affedendo, lum-
moniri faciemus arcniepifcopos, epifcopos, abbates, comites, et ma-
Jores barones figiliatlm, per literas noftras : et praiterea faciemus
fummoniri in generaii, per vicecomites et balivo« noilros, oinnes ilio*
quide nobis tenent in capite. Append, No I.

(6a) Eifays on Britiih Antiquities, p. 4J.
(63; Spelnmn. Concii.l. 2. p. 33.

«' Anfelm

Ch. 3. § f . CONSTITUTION, &c. 323

*' Anfelm fpoke in this manner to the bifhops, ablDOts,
*' and princes, of principal men, and lo a numerous
*' multitude of monks, clerks, and laymen ftanding
^^ by (64).'' By the biflibps, abbots, and princes, we are
certainly to underftand the fpiritual and temporal
barons. But who are we to uhderftand by " the nu-
*' merous multitude of monks, clerks, and laymen
'' ftanding by?" Were they members of this alTerri-
bly ; or were they only fpedators arid by-ftanders ? If
by the multitude of thefe clerks and laymen, the hifto-
rian did not mean the iefler barons, it is highly proba-
ble that they were only fpedlators. We are told by
feVeral contemporary hiflorrans, that the great councils
of the kingdom in thofe times were very much income'
moded by crowds of fpe6latOrs, v/ho forced their way
into their meetings. One of thefe hiftorians thus de-
fcribes a great council held by king Stephen : *' The
*' king, by an edi(St publifhed through England, called
*' the rulers of the churches, and the chiefs of the
" people, to a council at London. All thefe coming
** thither, as into one receptacle, and the pillars of
*' the churches being feated in order, and the vulgar
" alfo forcing tiiemfelves in on all hands, confufedly
** and promifcuouHy, as iifual, many things were
'• ufefuily propofed, arid happily tranfacSted, for the
*' benefit of the church and kingdom (65)." In a
great- council held at Weftminfter, May i8th, A. D.
1127, the fpe6tators, who are faid to have been innu-
merable, were fo outrageous, that they interrupted the
bufinefs of the council, and prevented fome things
from being debated (66). Upon the whole, it feems
to be almoft certain j that though great numbers of
people of all ranks, prompted by political curiofity^
t>r interefied in the affairs that were to be debated,
attended the great councils of the kingdom in this

(64) AiTiftiehtiera, monachbrum, clerlcdruiii, laicorijin, numerofaiii
inultitudineni. Eadmeri Hiji. p. a6.

( 61^ ) Edicflo per Angliarh promulgato, fumftios ecclefiaruni dudldres,
turn primis populi, ad coiicilium I^ondonlas confcivit. Illis quoque,
quail in unani fentinam, illuc confluentibus, ecclefiaruttique columnit
fedendi ordine difpofitis, \Tilgd etiam confufe et permixtim ut folet,
tibique fe ingerentes, plura ecelelise et regno profutura fuerunt, et
tttiliter oftenfa, et falubriter pertra6lata.

Gejia Stephani Regis afzid Duchlr.^j p. 933.

(66) Spclman. Cencil. 1, a. p. 2,5'

Y a periodj


period, none were properly members of thefe councils
but thofe defcribed in the grea charter of king John,
viz. the fpiritual and temporal barons, who were per-
Tonally fummoned -, and thole who held fmaller parcels
of land than baronies, immediately of the king, by
knight's fervice, who v^ere fummoned edi(5tally by the
jQieriiFs of their refpe6tive counties.
Great Befides all the prerogatives that had been enjoyed

power of by his predecefTors the Anglo-Saxon and Danifti kings
the crown. q( England, William I. acquired a great addition of
power by the introduction of the feudal fyftem, which
made him the territorial lord as well as fovereign of his
greateft fubjed;s. But the greatnels of fome of thefe
fubjecls, together with their extenfive influence over
their vaflals and tenants, fortunately formed a kind of
counterpoife to the exorbitant power of the crown,
prevented it from becoming, or at lead from continu-
ing arbitrary ; and at length, by flow degrees, and
many ftruggles (which form the moft interefting parts
of our hiftory), reduced it within proper limits. All
the hiftorians of this period are full of the moft bitter
complaints of the tyranny of William I. and of his
jbn and fucceflbr William II. reprefenting them as
acting on many occafions in the moft defpotic man-
ner, with little or no regard to law, juftice, or huma-
nity (67). " None of his bifhops, abbots, or great
*' men (fays Eadmerus of William I.), dared to
•' difobey his will on any confideration ; but all
'' things divine and human depended upon his nod.**
Whoever (fays Henry of Huntington, fpeaking of
the fame prince) defired to enjoy money, lands, or
" even life itfelf> was under a necefiity of obeying
** the king's nod in all things. Alas! how much is
** it to be lamented, that any man, who is but a
" worm and duft, fhould forget death, and arrive at
" fuch a height of pride as to trample on all the reft of

(67) Eadinerl Hift. p. 6. 83. 94. M. Paris, p. 4. col. i. M. Wcft-

incoaA. 1. 2. p. 3. W. Malml". 1. 3. Simon Dun. p; 206. Brompt.

<^(ia. Ingulph. p. 516. G. Neiibrigen. p. 357. Alurid. Beverliea,

p. 124. Hen. ilunt. p. ^13. col. i. Anj^lia Saci-a, i. 2, p. 413,

:«j\.9glica Norm.anica Camdcni, p. J a.

" mankind I


Ch.3.§i. CONSTITUTION, &c. 325

" mankind (68V" Of the ferocity and tyranny of
his fon and fuccefTor William II. the hiftorians of
thofe times fpeak in ftill ftronger terms. " He was
*' more fierce (fays one of them) than human nature
*' feemed to be capable of. By the advice of the worft
*' of men, which he always followed, he harrafled
" his neighbours with war, and his own fubje6i:s with
** armies and taxes ; and England was fo miferably
*' opprefTed that it was brought to the \e^ry brink of
« ruin (69)."

The great revenues of thefe princes contributed Great tcv^.
not a little to increafe their prWe, and fupport their ""^^°^^^*^
powier: efpecially as thefe revenues were, for the moft ® ^"'
part, confidered as their ujjdoub ted property, and did
not depend on the generolity or good- will of their fub-
je(51:s. Befides all the revenues ariiing from the royal
demefnesj and from the rents, aids, wardfhips, mar-
riages, and fcutages of all the immediate vafTals of the
crown^ which have been already mentioned 5 money
Howed into the coffers of the iirft Norman kings of
England, from all the following fources, cfcheats, va*-
cancies, tallages, taxes, tolls, cufloms, oblations, a-
merciaments, moneyage^ farms of coiinties, cities,
towns, and corporations, queen-gold, impofitions df
various kinds upon the Jews, &c. ^.

Efcheats and forfeitures formed a great branch of Efcheats
the royal revenues in thofe turbulent times, when civil *"<^ forf^
broils were frequent, when eftates efcheated into the '"^^'*
king's hands on the failure of lineal defcendants from
the perfons to whom they had befn granted, and
when the immediate vaiTals of the crown forfeited
their lands, not only for treafon againft the king as
fovereign of the fl-ate, but for various offences againft
him as their feudal lord,-~fuch as, declining to do him
homage, — to fwear fealty,^^ — to attend his court,-^t<j
ferve him in the field, — for betraying his fecrets, — abet-
ting his enemies, — afironting his perfon, — debauching
his wife, his dayghters, or near relations, — land in ^
word, for doing any thing that made them unworthy ,
of being the companions of their fuperior lord, the
|n/Embers of the court, and the peers of hi^ other bar

(68) Hen. Hunt. 1. 6. p. 213, col. 4:.
(6(^) Id, I. 7. p. ai 7. col. lo



rons (70 ). Thefe efcheats and forfeitures formed f*
capital a part of the royal revenue, that a particular
court or office, called the efcheatry^ was ere<5led for
the management of them (71).
Ecckfiafli- When an archbifhopric, bifiiopiic, abbey, or pri-
cral vacan- pj-y of royal foundation, became vacant, the tempor
^"' ralities were feized and enjoyed hy the king during th?

vacancy. This, it is probable, was intended to cor-
refpond to the profits arifmg from the wardfhip of the
temporal barpns, and in fome reigns, when many of
the richeft fees were kept vacant fcveral years, it muft
have made a great additior^ to the revenues of the
crovi^n {72),
Tallages. The kings of England, in this period, were not
always contented with the ordinary annual rents which
they received from the cities, towns, focmen, and te-
nants of their demefnes, and of the eff heats and for-
feitures in their hands j b ut on fome Gccafions they exa£led
certain extraordinary payments, called talhges^ or
> cuttings^ from the French word tailler-, to cut; be-
caufe by them a certain proportion of the goods of
thefe cities, towns, focmen, and tenants, as a tenth,
a fifteenth, a twentieth, or thirtieth part,, was cut off
and appropriated to the king's ufe (73). As neither
the frequency nor thp quantity of thefe tallages were
afcertained in the former part of this period, they ber
came the occafion of great oppreffion to the fubje<Sts,
and a fource of much treafure to the crown (74).
Taxes. The ignominious tax called danegiid, though the

reafon for which it had been impofed no longer exifted,
continued to be levied through a great part of this
period. It feems to have been a ftated article in the
annual charge againft the flierifFs of the feveral coun-
ties, who collected and paid it into the exchequer.
The annual danegild for the county of Suri'y was
j£i85:6:o, for Efiex ^^252 : 6 : o (75). Thefe

. (70) Lib. Feud. 1. i. tit. ai. 1. 4- tit. 21. 1. 39. 44, &c. Craig de
Feud. 1. 3. paflim.

(71) Madox Hift. Excheq. c. lo. p. ao.
(7a) Td. ibid. p. 207, &c.

(73) Du Cange GlolT. voc. Tallagium. Madox HiH. Excheq. c. 17.

(74) Eadmeri Hift. p. 83.

(75) Madox Hift. Excheq. c. 17. p. 476.


€h.3-§i- CONSTITUTION, &c. 327

appear at prefent to be trifling fums, but they were
of confiderable value in the times wc arc now confi-

Tolls levied at bridges, and in fairs and markets, Tolls afid
with the ouftoms on goods exported and imported, <^^^°-^**
made a part of the royal revenue, that will be more
particirlarly d-efcribed in another place 1(76).

Fines, free- gifts, and oblations, formed one of the ^m^fi. fre?-
inoft abundant fources of the riches of the kin^s ofS^^"»^^*
England in this period. It is hardly poffible to enu-
merate all the various occafions on which valuable
prefents were made to thefe princes. No franchife or
privilege of any kind could be obtained from the crown
without a fine or oblation proportioned to its value.
Great fines were paid by prodigious numbers of people^
in order to obtain juftice, and that they might be
allowed the benefit of a legal trial ; while others gave
great gifts to procure the royal interpofition for pre-
venting law-proceedings againft them ; and not a few
agreed to give one half, or a third or fourth part, of
their lawful debts, to the king, that they might pro-
cure payment by his authority (77). in a word, juf-*
tice was openly fold by thefe fovereigi^s to their fub-
je£ls ; which made the famous article in the great char-
ter againft felling, delaying and denying juftice, very
neceflary. No office, either in church or ftate, could
be obtained without a bribe j and in fome reigns, eveii
bifhoprics were expofed to fale, and beftowed on the
higheft oiFerers {78). There was ijardly any feufinefs
fo contemptible, or fo difhonourable, in which ibme
of our princes in this period dijd not engage for money ;
nor did they difdain to accept of dogs, hawks, hens^
lampreys, fhads, and fuck paultry prefeijts, when they
could not obtain more valuable bribes. - Fojr money
they fold even their love and hatred^ and were pleafed
or angry, friends or enemies, as they were paid.
To complete their fhame, all thele articles of their
revenues are regularly entered in the public records^
where they ftill remain undeniable monuments of their
penality (79).

j(76) See chap. ^. (77) Madox Hift. Exch.eq.c. la.

X7,8) JtadmerJHift. p. J4» (79) Madox Hift. Excheq. chap. 14.





Farms of


Amerciaments formed another very ample fourcfl
of wealth to the kings of England in this period.
Thcfe were often exceilive, and v/ere impofed on a
thoiifand ditFerentoceafions, not only for real crimes,
but for trivial or imaginary offences, and on the moft
frivolous p|-etences. In the records -of thofe times we
meet with many perfons who were fc arcely aniercec(
for making foolilh fpeeches, or returnmg fooliili an-
fwers, and even for having fhort memories, or being
ignorant of things which they could not poiTibly
know (8o)« On thefe accounts amerciaments were
the fources of infinite vexations to the fubjedls, as;
V!t\\ as of gr^at riches to the fovereigns of England
in this period. They fell heavy, net only on the
common people, but upon the greateft prelates and
moft powerful barons of the kingdom; which gav^
occafion to the 27th article of the great charter, ia
which it is declared,—*^ That earls and barons ihall
*^ not be amerced except by their peers, and accord-
^^ ing to the degree of their offence. (81).'*

Moneyage was a tax that had been levied in Nor-
mandy long before the conqueft, and was levied in
England by the firft and fecond Norman kings (82),
By"^it> one ihiiling- was paid on every hearth once
every three years, to prevail upon the king not to de-
bafe the coin. For thefe princes infifted on being
paid, not only for doing good, but for not doing all
the evil that was in their power. This tax vi^s abo-.
liihed by the charter of liberties granted by Henry L

The farms of counties, and of cities, towns, and
corporations, or gilds, brought very confiderable
fums into the royal coffers in this period. The profits
arifing from law-proceedings in the county-courts
were div'ided between the king and the earls of the
county, tv.'o thirds belonging to- the formev, and ona
third to the latter. The king's part of thefe profits
was farmed from year to year by the flieriffs, together

{80) Madox Hitt. Excheq. chap. 14.
(81) See Appendix, N^' 1. N". 2.
(81) Hale's Hift. Common Law, p.li6.
(83) M. Paris, p. 38. col. 2. • , "


Ch. 3^§1. CONSTITUTION, &c. 329

Vi^ith fome other fmall articles of revenue, for a cer-
tain fum of money, which they paid into the exche-
quer. 7 he far greateft part of the cities and towns of
England belonged to the royal demefnes, and their
iahabitants held. their lands and houfes immediately of
the king ; v/ho commonly granted the farm of all
the rents and gilds due to him from all the citizens or
b'Tgefles, for their lands and houfes, to the commu-
nity, or to the chief magiflrate, in name ofthecommu-
nity, for a certain rent to be paid yearly into the ex-
chequer. For the further encouragement of towns
and cities, and for promoting commerce and arts, the
monarchs of England, in this period, formed the inha-
bitants of thefe towns and cities, of certain profeffions,
as merchants, goldfmiths, weavers, &c. into corporati-
ons or gilds, to whom they granted various privilege^,
for which |hey paid certain fums of money yearly into
the exchequer (84). Queen-

When a fum of money v/as due to the king, an ad- S°^^*
ditional fum was payable to the queen- confort, called
(aurum regime) qusen-gold* The proportion in fome
cafes, perhaps in all, was one pound, mark, or (hilling,
on every hundred pounds, marks, or (hillings ^j or, as
we now exprefs it, one per cent (85). Impofltloas

The Jews fettled in England in this period were onthejews.
both very numerous and very wealthy; but their
wealth was entirely at the mercy of the king, who
feized any proportion of it he pleafed at any time h«
thought proper. A degree of power which is feldom
ufed with moderation, and which was much abufed by
fome of our princes, who extorted prodigious fums of
money from the Jews, by the moft cruel and violent
methods. Of the greatnefs of thefe fums, v/e may
form fome conception from the following examples,
Ifaac, the Jew of Norwich, was fined to king John
in the enormous fum of ten thoufand marks (equal in
value and efficacy to one hundred thoufand pounds of
our money at prefent), to be paid at the rate of one
mark a- day during life. A confiderable part of this
ium w'as accordingly paid by Ifaac in his life-time, and
the remainder by his heirs (86). A Jew of Briiloi is

(84) Madox Hift. Exetieq. chap. lo. Erady of Burgh?, pafllni,

(85) Dialogusde Scaccano, 1. a. c. 26.

(86) Madox Hift. Excheq. chap. 7. p. 153, 154.



fald to have paid an equal fum to the fame prince (87 )»

Online LibraryRobert HenryThe history of Great Britain : from the first invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a new plan (Volume 3) → online text (page 31 of 54)