24. HENRY I: ORDINANCE ON LOCAL COURTS

Henry, king of the English, to Samson, bishop [of Worcester], Urse d'Abetot, and all his barons of Worcestershire, French and English, greeting. Know that I grant and command that henceforth [the courts of] my counties and hundreds shall meet in the same places and at the same times as they did in the time of King Edward, and not otherwise. And I am unwilling that my sheriff, on account of any business that peculiarly concerns him, should have them meet in any other way. For I, when I please and on my own decision, will have them adequately summoned for the sake of my royal needs ( dominica necessaria ). And henceforth, if a plea arises concerning the division or occupation of lands, and if it is between my own barons ( dominicos barones meos ), let it be tried in my court. [1] And if it is between vassals of some baron who holds an honour of me, let the plea be tried in the court of their lord. And if it is between vassals of two lords, let it be tried in the county [court]. And this [trial] shall be by combat unless it is given up through their own fault ( nisi remanserit in eis ). Also I will and command that all men of the county shall attend the county [court] and the hundred [courts] as they did in the time of King Edward, and no peace or quittance of mine shall excuse them from following my pleas and judgments according to the usage of that time. [2]

Witnesses: R[ichard], bishop of London; Roger, Bishop [of Salisbury]; Ralph the Chamberlain; Robert, count of Meulan. At Reading.

(Latin) Ibid., I, 524.


[1] His feudal court, made up of his vassals.

[2] Nevertheless, specific exemption from suit to shire and hundred courts was not infrequent in royal grants of immunity; e.g., no. 27A. For a general discussion of the principles involved, see Pollock and Maitland, I, 537 f.; and cf. no. 26.