26. EXCERPTS FROM THE "LAWS OF HENRY I"[1]

7. Concerning the general pleas of the counties, how and when they should be held.... If any one of the king's barons or other men is lawfully present at the county [court],[2] he may acquit all the land that he there has in his demesne. The same is true if his steward is lawfully present. If both are of necessity absent, the reeve, the priest, and four of the better men of the vill shall attend on behalf of all who are not summoned to the court by name.[3] We have decreed the same to be observed in the hundred ... with regard to the presence of the lord and his steward, or of the priest, the reeve, and the better men....

8. Concerning the holding of the hundreds. If, however, there is need for a specially full session, all freemen shall assemble twice a year in their hundred ... for the sake of determining, among other matters, whether the tithings are full.... The tenth man, indeed, is to be in charge of each group of nine,[4] and one of the better men, likewise, [is to be in charge of] the whole hundred, and he is called the alderman....

15. Concerning Danegeld. If Danegeld, which earlier was given to the house-carls[5] — that is to say, 12d. annually from every hide — is not paid on time, compensation is made with a fine (wita)....

20. Concerning soke.[6]... For all soke is either exclusively or jointly held. In the custody [of subordinates], indeed, there is a threefold distinction [of soke]: under the reeves of manors in the appurtenant hall-motes,[7] under the men in charge of hundreds and boroughs, and under the sheriffs. Archbishops, bishops, earls, and other magnates in the lands under their own authority have sac and soc, toll and team, and infangžeof[8] over their own men and in their own [property], and occasionally over the men of another, especially when those men are seized or accused in [the act of] misdoing, and then they are to have adequate compensation; moreover, in other [lands], acquired by purchase or exchange or in any [such] way, they have sac and soc in ordinary cases and [such cases are tried] in the appurtenant hall-motes. Finally, jurisdiction in capital cases over all barons and magnates, clerical or lay, belongs to the king, no matter where they hold land and whether it is soke of the king or not.[9]...

25. Concerning the privileges of the nobles of England. If a plea arises between men of any baron having soke, in case of an ordinary action,[10] the plea is tried in the court of their lord. If it is between

men of two lords having soke, the accused man shall respond in the court of his lord,[11] in case of an ordinary action....

29. Those who should be the king's judges.[12] The king's judges are to be barons of the county, who there have freeholds; by them the cases of individuals should be decided on the prosecution of either party. But villeins, cotters, virgators,[13] or poor and mean persons of this sort are not to be included among the judges....

31. Concerning capital pleas.... The county [court] should be attended by bishops, earls, and other magnates, who through just deliberation are to define God's laws and worldly concerns.[14] No one is permitted to dispute the record[15] of a court of the king; elsewhere it may be done by credible men of the court. And no one is to be convicted in capital pleas by testimony [alone].[16]... Every one ought to be judged by his peers[17] and [by men] of the same province [in which he lives]....

32. That no one should judge his lord.... No one shall judge his lord or bring judgment against one of whom he is the liegeman, even if the case belongs to the prince.[18] If a lord brings suit against his man, he can, if necessary, make use of his counsellors as judges.[19]

33. Concerning the trial of a plea. If any one has a plea tried in his court or in any place of judicial business [under him], he shall summon the peers[20] and his neighbours, so that, when judgment is enforced, he may administer justice that is free and not liable to be contradicted by any one....

51. Concerning the summoning of the hundred.... Moreover, as aforesaid, the hundred [court] ought to be assembled every month — that is to say, twelve times a year — and the county [court] twice, unless there is need for it more often....

52. Concerning the king's own plea. If any one is impleaded by the king's justice in a crown plea, whosesoever man he may be, he ought not to refuse the justice gage of right.[21]...

55. Concerning the privilege of a lord with regard to his man. It is lawful for every lord to summon his man for judgment in his court. Even if the man is residing at a more remote manor in the honour of which he holds, he shall go to court when his lord summons him. If the lord holds various fiefs, a man of one honour is not compelled by law to go to court in another, unless it is a case affecting some one else to which his lord summons him. If a man holds of various lords and honours, no matter how much he holds of the others, his primary obligation ... is to the lord whose liegeman he is. Every man owes fealty to his lord for life and limbs and earthly honour and the keeping of counsel in all that is honest and worthy, saving fealty to God and to the prince of the land. Theft, treason, murder, and whatever is opposed to God and the catholic faith are, indeed, to be undertaken and carried out for no one. But fealty is to be kept toward all lords, and especially toward the lord of whom he is the liegeman, saving fealty to those mentioned above....

80. Concerning homicide in the king's court, army, borough, or castle. If any one commits homicide in a house, court, borough, castle, army, or militia of the king, he shall be in the king's mercy[22] for his chattels or limbs. If assault is committed on any one in the king's highway, it is forsteal,[23] and compensation of 100s. shall be paid to the king.... And a royal highway is defined [as a road] which is always open, which no one can close or divert from its termination, and which leads to a royal city, borough, castle, or port....

87.... If any one can prove by judgment of hot iron, or battle, or the production of lawful witnesses or oath-helpers, or [other] fit mode of proof, that he was assaulted and was forced to commit homicide in self-defence, such demonstration on his part shall be considered Satisfactory and justice shall accordingly be done....

88.... And no one shall forfeit his fief to the deprivation of his legitimate heirs except through felony[24] or the voluntary surrender [of the property]....

91. Concerning the payment of murder [fine].[25] If any Frenchman or any Norman or, lastly, any man from beyond the sea is slain, and the affair turns out so calamitously that it is considered murder and the slayer is unknown and eventually flees, so that within seven days he is not handed over to the king's justice for the carrying out of whatever may be right, 46m. of silver shall be paid — 40m. to the king and 6m. to the relatives of the slain man. If the relatives have no accusers or provers,[26] these [6m.] shall go to him who does prove [who committed] the murder. Where, however, [the slain man] is found, there must investigation be made according to the law, and the alderman of the hundred and [the lord] on whose land [the slain man] lies should give security that he will be paid for.... If the murder is discovered in a house or in a hall or in a close, when it comes to paying the aforesaid 46m., whatever is in that manor ... should first be sold.... And if thereby the 46m. are forthcoming, nothing is to be sought elsewhere; but if there is a deficiency, it is made up by the hundred in common. If, moreover, the manor in which the murder is discovered is of the king's demesne farm, and if the king so orders, composition for it shall be made by the entire hundred. If the murder is discovered in fields that are open and generally accessible, [the money] shall be supplied by the whole hundred in common, and not merely by him to whom the land belongs. If it happens on the boundary, [the obligation] shall fall on both [territories]. If it is on the king's highway, compensation is to be paid by him who owns the adjacent land....

92.... [The death of] an Englishman is not regarded or paid for as murder, but only [that of] a Frenchmen; indeed, should there be no one to prove that the slain man is English, he is held to be French.... If the hundred wishes to prove concerning some one that he is not a Frenchman and that [accordingly] there is no murder, this [obligation] is to be entrusted to twelve of the better men from the same hundred, swearing [to that effect]....

(Latin) Liebermann, Gesetse, I, 553 f.


[1] Not a collection of royal enactments, but a private compilation which is often obscure or inaccurate: see above. p. 33, also Pollock and Maitland, I, 99.

[2] See below, art. 31.

[3] As Liebermann remarks (Gesetse, III, 316), this article may reflect the provisions of a lost ordinance of Henry I. See also Pollock and Maitland, I, 545 f., and cf. no. 21.

[4] The tithing was really a group of ten; see above, p. 37, n. 6, and below, pp. 78, 109, etc.

[5] Here called žingemanni, the members of the royal standing guard under Canute and Edward the Confessor. [0] See above, p. 30, n. 23.

[7] On the nature and origin of these manorial courts, see Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, pp. 80 f.

[8] Cf. nos. 15G, 20A, 27F.

[9] The meaning is that in crown pleas the great men were personally subject to the king's justice, without regard to the privileges which they might enjoy within their own fiefs.

[10] One not reserved to the king or under ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

[11] But see Henry I's ordinance, no. 24.

[12] Iudices regis, meaning doomsmen or judgment-finders who declare the royal law.

[13]Ferdingus (feoršing) designated a man holding a fourth — presumably of a hide, i.e., a virgate. See above, p. 43, n. 16.

[14] A reflection of Edgar, III, 5 (above, p. 19); but see no. 17.

[15] Either written or oral testimony as to a previous action.

[16] Without ordeal, compurgation, or battle.

[17] His social equals; cf. Magna Carta, art. 39 (below, p. 121).

[18] That is to say, unless it is a crown plea.

[19] As well as his vassals who are to be specially summoned; cf. arts. 29, 55.

[20] The vassals who owed suit to the court.

[21] I.e., security for appearing in court and defending the suit.

[22] See above, p. 48, n. 6.

[23] See Canute, II, 12 (above, p. 22).

[24] Default of feudal obligations. Because it involved forfeiture, felony was later made to embrace all sorts of crimes under English law; for examples see no. 54.

[25] See above, p. 36, n. 2.

[26] Through whom to determine the guilty party.