HENRY II AND HIS SONS
The signal importance of Henry II's reign (1154-89) in the
constitutional history of England is well known to all students of the subject.
Such a collection as this can hardly omit the major enactments of a king who
restored the lost efficiency of the Norman monarchy, regulated anew the
troubled relations of church and state, enormously extended the resources of
the crown, and laid the foundations of the English common law. In addition to
the more familiar sources, such as the Constitutions of Clarendon and Henry's
famous assizes, the present section includes some of the baronial returns that
Round made the subject of a characteristically brilliant study.1
These are supplemented by a series of scutage accounts from the pipe roll of
1187, and further examples of the king's financial measures are provided by
entries concerning tallage and items of judicial income. Typical of this reign
were also two remarkable essays in Latin: the Dialogue on the
Exchequer2 and the Treatise on the Laws and Customs of
England,3 attributed respectively to Richard Fitz-Nigel and
Ranulf de Glanville. However interesting and authoritative, such lengthy
unofficial works cannot be incorporated in a brief volume of documents; only
some of the commoner writs quoted by Glanville are given here. For additional
illustration and comment on these two works, the student is referred to the
scholarly introductions by the editors, to R. L. Poole, The Exchequer in the
Twelfth Century, and to Pollock and Maitland, History of English
Constitutionally, the reigns of Richard and John (1189-1216) were a mere
prolongation of their father's reign. It is largely by virtue of more
systematic chancery enrolment that we henceforth gain fuller information with
regard to the working of the central courts and the activities of local
officials. Alongside of the pipe rolls, which are continuous from the second
year of Henry II, there appear by 1216 such great compilations as the charter
rolls, patent rolls, close rolls, curia regis rolls, and fine rolls.
From this formidable mass of material a few extracts are presented to
illustrate, not only the general character of the records, but also, when
possible, significant phases of legal and constitutional development. In the
former connection particular reference should be made to the very helpful
criticism of T. F. Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval
England, vol. I. In the latter connection the principal guides are the
books already cited for the previous section — expecially those of Pollock
and Maitland, Petit-Dutaillis, Round, and Stenton.
Thanks to a careful reworking of the pertinent records by a number of
scholars,4 the history of London and the other boroughs is much
better known to us than it was to Stubbs. One result of their research has been
to enhance our appreciation of Henry I's activity. Despite the increased output
of borough charters under the Angevins, which may be readily perceived by a
glance at Ballard's collection,5 actual innovations within the field
of municipal privileges were few in the later twelfth century. Lesser towns
normally enjoyed customs like those of Newcastle; larger towns commonly
received the liberties of London. But under Henry II the latter ceased to
include exemption from arbitrary taxation and the right to choose magistrates.
It was not until the closing decade of the century that the capital regained
some degree of autonomy under an elected mayor and board of aldermen. The more
definite of our meagre sources for that advance are given below. Meanwhile
Henry II had apparently allowed a few boroughs to have elected reeves, and such
arrangements were formally confirmed by Richard in charters which served as
precedents for that of John to Ipswich. The latter grant has been selected for
translation (no. 39A) because the ensuing action of the Ipswich burgesses is
graphically described in a surviving record (no. 39B) — truly an
outstanding monument in the history of local self-government.
This section appropriately ends with Magna Carta, which so admirably
summarizes the developments of the previous century and introduces those of the
century to come. And since the Great Charter has too often been thought of as
an inflexible and definitive enactment, it has seemed advisable to indicate, by
a sort of gloss on the original text, the changes made in the reissues. A list
of the principal works dealing with the wider significance of Magna Carta in
the constitutional history of England will be given at the head of the
following section. For the moment it will suffice to refer the student to W. S.
McKechnie's scholarly monograph, Magna Carta, together with the
citations made in the footnotes.
1Feudal England, pp. 236 f.
2 Edited by Crump, Hughes, and Johnson (Oxford, 1902);
translated in Henderson, Historical Documents, pp. 20 f.
3 Edited by G. E. Woodbine (Yale University Press, 1932).
4 J. H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, pp. 347 f., and
The Commune of London, pp. 219 f.; Mary Bateson, in the English
Historical Review, XVII, 480 f.; M. Weinbaum, Verfassungsgeschichte
Londons, and London unter Eduard I und II, vol. II. See also
Petit-Dutaillis and Lefebvre, pp. 91 f.; F. M. Stenton, Norman London;
W. Page, London; C. Stephenson, Borough and Town, pp. 179 f.: J.
Tait, The Medieval English Borough.
5British Borough Charters, 1042-1216