THE NORMAN KINGS
The more important constitutional documents of the Norman period naturally fall into two divisions: those connected with the reign of William I (1066-87) and those connected with the reign of his talented son, Henry I (1100-35). Here included are such ordinances of the Conqueror as have survived, together with a selection of typical writs emanating from his chancery. The great inquest of 1086 is illustrated by the famous Cambridgeshire return, as well as by characteristic excerpts from the final condensation that became known as Domesday Book. Although Henry I's reign is especially noteworthy for the development of a more efficient central government, it has little to offer in the way of formal enactments. His Coronation Charter was, in all probability, never intended to be enforced, and is chiefly significant because it served as a precedent for Magna Carta. We have one brief ordinance, dealing with the shire and hundred courts, but it tells us almost nothing about their composition. For additional details we have to fall back on the wretched compilation misnamed Leges Henrici Primi. The few passages translated below (no. 26) are among those which apparently give authentic information on the legal usages of the early twelfth century. With regard to the organization of the exchequer, and the other financial measures now generally attributed to Henry I, our best source is the pipe roll of 1130;1 so a considerable portion of it has been included in the following pages. And since Henry's reign marked the opening of a new era in British municipal history, three famous records of his activity in that respect have been placed under one heading, together with William I's vague grant to the Londoners.
Throughout the Norman period feudal tenures were established and regulated by oral agreement rather than by charter. We have, however, ample proof that enfeoffment for knight service and serjeanty, as well as in free alms, was extended to all parts of his conquered kingdom, and that the feudal aids and incidents perhaps even scutage were quite familiar features of the system from the beginning. The illustrations here presented have been chosen because they are among the earliest and most specific available. Finally, within the present section, it has seemed well to give a complete English version of the Constitutio Domus Regis (no. 29), apparently an official survey of the king's household arrangements drawn up shortly after the death of Henry I. It is a most remarkable document, graphically revealing how, in a feudal age, matters of government and of domestic economy were intimately combined.
An exhaustive catalogue of the acts of William I and William II, with full bibliographical references, will be found in the Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum of H. W. C. Davis, additional volumes of which are promised in the near future. The original texts of the Conqueror's ordinances, Henry I's Coronation Charter, his writ concerning the shire and hundred courts, and the two charters to London are available, not only in the books of Liebermann and Robertson already cited (above, p. 1), but also in Stubbs, Select Charters. Along with the other Anglo-Norman compilations, the Leges Henrici Primi are excellently edited, though not translated, in Liebermann's Gesetse. The greater part of Domesday Book is translated, and usually provided with valuable introductions, in the appropriate volumes of the Victoria History of the Counties of England.
The constitutional history of this period, like that of the one preceding, can no longer be accepted as it appears in the classic pages of Stubbs. The revisions forced by the penetrating criticisms of J. H. Round, F. W. Maitland, Paul Vinogradoff, R. L. Poole, and other scholars have been admirably summarized by Petit-Dutaillis; but since he wrote his Supplementary Studies many additional contributions have been made to the subject prominent among them F. M. Stenton's First Century of English Feudalism. On all phases of borough development during this period the student is referred to the books of J. Tait and C. Stephenson cited above (p. 2). More specific references are from time to time given in the footnotes.
So far as legal history is concerned, the chapters in Pollock and Maitland must long remain our chief authority and inspiration.
1 Originally published by the Record Commission in 1833 and reprinted by the Pipe Roll Society in 1929.