5. DOOMS OF ALFRED (871-901)
I, then, King Alfred, have collected these [dooms] and ordered [them] to
be written down — [that is to say,] many of those which our predecessors
observed and which were also pleasing to me. And those which were not pleasing
to me, by the advice of my witan, I have rejected, ordering them to be
observed only as amended. I have not ventured to put in writing much of my own,
being uncertain what might please those who shall come after us. So I have here
collected the dooms that seemed to me the most just, whether they were from the
time of Ine, my kinsman, from that of Offa, king of the Mercians,
or from that of Aethelberht, the first of the English to receive baptism; the
rest I have discarded. I, then, Alfred, king of the West Saxons, have shown
these [dooms] to all my witan, who have declared it is the will of all
that they be observed....
4. If any one plots against the king's life, either by himself or by
harbouring outlaws or their men, he shall forfeit his life and all that he
has. If he wishes to clear himself, he must do so through [an oath
equal to] the king's wergeld. So likewise we command with regard to all ranks
of men, eorl or ceorl: he who plots against the life of his lord
shall forfeit his life and all that he has, or else clear himself through [an
oath equal to] his lord's wergeld....
7. If any one fights or draws his weapon in the king's hall
(healle) and is then caught, at the king's judgment he may be put to
death or allowed his life in case the king is willing to forgive him....
15. If any one fights or draws his weapon in the presence of an
archbishop, he shall pay 150s. compensation; if this happens in the
presence of some other bishop or in that of an alderman, he shall pay
22. If any one at the popular court (folces gemote) brings an
accusation [for theft] before the king's reeve and wishes to withdraw it, let
him make his complaint against the right person if he can; if he cannot, he
shall lose his angyld and also pay a fine....
34. It is further ordained with regard to traders that they shall bring
before the king's reeve at the popular court all the men whom they are taking
with them, declaring how many there are. And they should take with them such
men as [when necessary] they can later bring to justice in the popular court.
And in case they need more men with them on their journey, as often as such
need arises, a similar declaration must be made to the king's reeve in the
35. One who binds an innocent ceorl shall pay [him] 10s.
compensation. One who flogs him shall pay [him] 20s. One who puts him
under duress shall pay [him] 30s. One who, as a shameful
insult, cuts his hair shall pay [him] 10s. One who shears him like a
priest, but without binding him, shall pay [him] 30s. One who cuts off
his beard shall pay [him] 20s. One who binds him and then shears him
like a priest shall pay [him] 60s....
37. If any one wishes to go from one settlement into another
to seek a lord, he must first have as witness the alderman in whose shire he
was at first a follower. If he does so without such witness, the lord who takes
him as a man shall pay a fine of 120s., dividing his payment so that the
king will get half in the shire where the man was at first a follower and half
in that to which he comes....
38. If any one fights at a court before the king's alderman, he shall
pay whatever wergeld and fine (wer ond wite) may be due, but before that
[he must pay] 120s. fine to the alderman. If he disturbs the court by
[merely] drawing a weapon, [he shall pay] a fine of 120S. to the alderman. If
anything of the sort occurs before a subordinate of the king's alderman, or
before a priest of the king, 30s.. fine shall be paid.
39. If any one fights in the house of a ceorl, he shall pay the
ceorl 6s. compensation. If he draws his weapon but does not
fight, the compensation shall be half as much. If either of these offences is
committed in the house of a six-hundred man, the compensation shall
be three times that paid to a ceorl; if in the house of a twelve-hundred
man, the compensation shall be twice that of the six-hundred man.
40. [Compensation for] burhbryce of the king is
120s.; of an archbishop 90s.; of any other bishop or of an
alderman 60s.; of a twelve-hundred man 30s.; of a six-hundred man
15s. [Compensation for] breaking through the hedge of a ceorl
[is] 5s. If any of these offences occurs while the army is in the field or
during the fast of Lent, the penalty shall be doubled....
41. We now ordain that any one who has bookland left him by
his kinsmen is not to give it outside his kindred if there is written or oral
evidence (gewrit oððe gewitnes) that to do so was forbidden by
the man who originally acquired it or by those who gave it to him. And this
should be proved in the presence of the kindred, and with the witness of the
king or of the bishop, by any one [wishing to annul such an alienation ].
42. We also command that any one knowing his enemy to be at home shall
not fight him before demanding justice of him [in court]. If [the accuser] has
strength to surround and besiege his enemy inside [the latter's house], let him
be held there seven nights and not attacked so long as he will remain inside.
Then, after seven nights, if the [besieged] enemy will surrender and give up
his weapons, let him be kept unharmed for thirty nights while news of him is
sent to his kinsmen and friends.... If, however, [the accuser] lacks the
strength to besiege his enemy, he shall ride to the alderman and ask him for
aid; if the latter refuses him aid, he shall ride to the king before beginning
a fight.... We declare furthermore that one may fight for his lord without
incurring blood-feud, if the lord has been attacked. So also the
lord may fight for his man. In the same way one may fight for his
blood-relative, should the latter be unjustly attacked, except against his own
lord — that we do not permit....
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., I, 46 f.
 The dooms of Offa have not come down to us.
 This crime may be called treason, but it should be noted
that no idea of lèse majesté appears in the doom. As yet
the king is treated like any other lord, and he has a wergeld like any other
 See above, p. 8, n. 12.
On hengenne — e.g., locks him up or fastens him
 Cf. Ine, 39 (above, p. 9).
 One whose wergeld is 600s.
 Cf. Aethelberht, 27, and Ine, 45 (above, pp. 3, 9).
 Land held by book, that is to say, by charter; see the
examples under no. 15, below.
 The lawful vengeance of the kindred.
 Here follows in the text a detailed schedule of
compensations for physical injuries: e.g., an ear, 30s.; an eye, the
tongue, a hand, or a foot, 66s. 3 1/3d.; the nose, 60s.; a
front tooth, 8s.; a molar, 4s.; an eye-tooth, 15s.; a
thumb, 30s.; a thumbnail, 5s.; a first finger, 15s.; its
nail, 3s.; a little finger 9s.; its nail, 1s.; a big toe,
20s.; a little toe, 5s.