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62. EDWARD III: STATUTES AND ORDINANCES

(A) Second Statute of 1 Edward III: Restriction of Military Levies, Improvement of Justice, etc. (1327)

... Item, the king wills that henceforth no one shall be charged to arm himself otherwise than was accustomed in the time of his ancestors, kings of England; and that no one shall be distrained to go outside his county except in case of necessity owing to the sudden invasion of enemy aliens into the kingdom, and such procedure shall then be followed as has been accustomed in times past for the defence of the kingdom....

Likewise, whereas commissions[1] have been issued to certain people of the counties for arraying men-at-arms, and for taking them to the king in Scotland, in Gascony, or elsewhere at the cost of the counties — [for] up to this time the king has not provided wages for the said arrayers and commanders, or for the men-at-arms whom they have taken — whereby the commonalty of the counties has been greatly burdened and impoverished: the king wills that this shall no longer be done....

Item, whereas the king wishes that common law should be administered to all, the poor as well as the rich, he commands and enjoins that none of his councillors or of his household or of his other ministers, nor any lord of the land ... , nor any other man of the kingdom, small or great, shall undertake the maintenance of quarrels or suits in the country, to the disturbance of the common law....

Item, for better keeping and preserving the peace, the king wills that in each county good and loyal men — such as are not maintainers of evil and fraud in the country — shall be assigned as keepers of the peace.[2]...

(French) Statutes of the Realm, I, 255 f.

(B) Second Statute of 14 Edward III: Parliamentary Control of Direct Taxes (1340)

... Whereas the prelates, earls, barons, and commons of our realm, in our present parliament summoned at Westminster ... of their free will and grace have granted us, in aid of advancing the great enterprises that we have before us both on this side of the sea and beyond it, the ninth sheaf, the ninth fleece, and the ninth lamb[3 ]...; and [whereas] the citizens of cities and the burgesses of boroughs [have granted] the true ninth of all their goods; and [whereas] foreign merchants and other[4] men who live neither from trade nor from flocks of sheep, [have granted] the fifteenth of their goods, rightly [assessed] according to value: we, desirous of providing indemnity for the said prelates, earls, barons, and others of the said commonalty, and also for the citizens, burgesses, and merchants aforesaid, will and grant for us and our heirs to the same prelates, earls, barons, and commons, [and to the same] citizens, burgesses, and merchants, that this grant now chargeable shall not at another time be treated as a precedent or work to their prejudice in the future; and that henceforth they shall be neither charged nor burdened to make common aid or to sustain charge except by the common assent of the prelates, earls, and barons, and of the other lords and commons of our said realm of England, and this in parliament; and that all profits arising from the said aid, and from wardships, marriages, customs, and escheats, together with other profits arising from the kingdom of England, shall be devoted and spent to maintain the safeguarding of our said kingdom of England and [to advance] our wars in Scotland, France, and Gascony, and nowhere else during the [continuance of] the said wars....[5]

And whereas the said prelates, earls, barons, and commons, for the sake of the great enterprises which we have undertaken, have granted at our request that we may levy 40s. on each sack of wool passing beyond sea from now until the feast of Pentecost next; and 40s. on every three hundred wool-fells; and 40s. on a last of leather: we ... have granted that, after the said feast of Pentecost to come in one year, neither we nor our heirs shall demand, assess, levy, or cause to be levied more than half a mark of custom on a sack of wool throughout all England, half a mark on three hundred wool-fells, and one mark on a last of leather....

(French) Ibid., I, 289-91.

(C) Annulment of the Statute of 1341[6] (1342)

The king to the sheriff of Lincoln, greeting. Whereas, in our parliament summoned at Westminster on the quinzime of Easter last, certain articles expressly contrary to the laws and customs of our kingdom of England, and to our royal rights and prerogatives, were drawn up in the form of a statute on the pretence that they had been granted by us: we, considering how we were bound by oath to observe and defend such laws, customs, rights, and prerogatives, and desiring providently to revoke what had been improvidently clone [and to restore conditions] to their proper state, thereupon held a council and deliberation with the earls, barons, and other skilled men of our said realm. [To them it was explained that] we never consented to the drawing up of the said pretended statute, but secured beforehand protests for the revocation of the said statute, should it proceed de facto;[7] and then, to avoid the dangers which we feared such a denial would provoke, we dissembled, as behooved us, promising that the said pretended statute should be sealed for the time being, since otherwise the said parliament would have been dissolved in bad feeling with nothing accomplished, and so — which God forbid! — our grave enterprises would in all likelihood have been ruined. [Therefore] it appeared to the said earls, barons, and skilled men that, because the said statute did not proceed of our free will, it was null and ought not to have the name or force of a statute. And so, by their counsel and assent, we have decreed the said statute to be null, considering that it ought to be annulled in so far as it proceeded de facto; wishing, nevertheless, that the articles in the said pretended statute which have already been approved in other statutes of ours, or [in those] of our ancestors, kings of England, should in all respects be observed according to the form of the said statutes, as is proper. And we do this solely to conserve and reintegrate the rights of our crown, as we are bound [to do]; and not in any way to oppress or burden our subjects, whom we desire to rule in kindness. And therefore we command you to have all these matters publicly proclaimed in such places within your bailiwick as you shall think best. By witness of the king at Westminster, October I, in the fifteenth year [of our reign].

By the king himself and his council.

(Latin) Ibid., I, 297.

(D) Statute of Labourers (1351)

Whereas, to curb the malice of servants who after the pestilence were idle and unwilling to serve without securing excessive wages, it was recently ordained by our lord the king, with the assent of the prelates, nobles, and other men of his council, that such servants, both men and women, should be bound to serve in return for the salaries and wages that were customary in those places where they were obligated to serve during the twentieth year of the reign of our said lord the king, that is to say, five or six years earlier; and whereas the same servants, on refusing to serve in any manner, were to be punished by imprisonment of their bodies, as is more clearly set forth in the same ordinance ...; and whereas our lord the king has now, by the petition of the commons in this present parliament, been given to understand that the said servants have no regard for the said ordinance, but, to suit their ease and their selfish desires, refrain from serving the lords or other men unless they receive double or triple that which they were accustomed to have in the said twentieth year and earlier, to the great damage of the lords and the impoverishment of all men of the said commons, who now pray for remedy of these matters: therefore in the same parliament, by the assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and the other lords, and of the same commons there assembled, the following measures are ordained and established to curb the malice of the said servants....[8]

(French) Ibid., I, 311.

(E) Statute of Provisors (1351)

... Our lord the king, perceiving the mischief and damage mentioned above, and having regard to the said statute made in the time of his said grandfather[9] ... , and also giving attention to the grievous complaints made to him by his people in various parliaments held in times past ... , with the assent of all the lords and commons of his said kingdom, for the honour of God and the benefit of the said Church of England and [the welfare] of all his kingdom, has ordained and established that the free elections of archbishops and bishops, and [the elections to] all other dignities and benefices that are elective in England, shall continue to be held in such fashion as when they were granted by the ancestors of our said lord the king or founded by the ancestors of other lords; that all prelates and men of Holy Church, who hold advowsons of any benefices by gift of our lord the king and of his ancestors, or of other lords and donors ... , shall freely have their collations and presentations according to the terms of the enfeoffment by the donors. And in case reservation, collation, or provision is by the court of Rome made of any archbishopric, bishopric, dignity, or other benefice whatsoever, to the disturbance of the elections, collations, or presentations aforesaid, [it is ordained] that, at the very time of the vacancies when such reservations, collations, or provisions should take effect, our lord the king and his heirs are to have and enjoy, for the time being, the collations to archbishoprics, bishoprics, and other elective dignities that are under his advowry, just as his ancestors had them before free election was granted....[10 ]

(French) Ibid., I, 317 f.

(F) Statute of Treasons (1352)

... Item, whereas until now there have been various opinions as to which cases should be called treason and which not, the king, at the request of the lords and the commons, has made the following declarations: —

If a man compasses or imagines the death of our lord the king, of our lady his consort, or of their eldest son and heir; or if a man violates the king's consort, the king's eldest daughter being as yet unmarried, or the consort of the king's eldest son and heir; or if a man makes war against our said lord the king in his kingdom, or is an adherent of enemies to our lord the king in the kingdom, giving them aid or comfort in his kingdom or elsewhere ...; or if a man counterfeits the great or the privy seal of the king or his money; or if a man, for the sake of trading or making payments in deceit of our said lord the king or of his people, brings into this kingdom false coin, counterfeit of the money of England, ... knowing it to be false; or if a man slays the chancellor, treasurer, or justice of our lord the king ... while [such official is] in his place and attending to his office — these cases specified above, it must be understood, are to be adjudged treason against our lord the king and his royal majesty; and in such [cases of] treason forfeiture of property pertains to our lord the king, as well lands and tenements held of another as those held of [the king] himself....[11]

(French) Ibid., I, 319 f.

(G) Ordinance and Statute of Praemunire (1353)[12]

Our lord the king, with the assent and by the prayer of the lords and commons of his kingdom of England, in his great council[13 ]held at Westminster on Monday next after the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, in the twenty-seventh year of his reign — that is to say in England; in France the fourteenth — for the improvement of his said kingdom and for the maintenance of its laws and usages, has ordained and established the measures hereinunder written: —

First, whereas our lord the king has been shown by the clamorous and grievous complaints of his lords and commons aforesaid how numerous persons have been and are being taken out of the kingdom to respond in cases of which the cognizance pertains to the court of our lord the king; and also how the judgments rendered in the same court are being impeached in the court of another, to the prejudice and disherison of our lord the king and of his crown and of all the people of his said kingdom, and to the undoing and annulment of the common law of the same kingdom at all times customary: therefore, after good deliberation held with the lords and others of the said council, it is granted and agreed by our said lord the king and by the lords and commons aforesaid that all persons of the king's allegiance, of whatever condition they may be, who take any one out of the kingdom in a plea of which the cognizance pertains to the king's court or in matters regarding which judgments have been rendered in the king's court, or who bring suit in the court of another to undo or impede the judgments rendered in the king's court, shall be given a day ... [on which] to appear before the king and his council, or in his chancery, or before the king's justices in their courts, either the one bench or the other, or before other justices of the king who may be deputed for the purpose, there to answer to the king in proper person regarding the contempt involved in such action. And if they do not come in proper person on the said day to stand trial, let them, their procurators, attorneys, executors, notaries, and supporters, from this day forth be put outside the king's protection, and let their lands, goods, and chattels be forfeit to the king, and let their bodies, wherever they may be found, be taken and imprisoned and redeemed at the king's pleasure....

(French) Ibid., I, 329.

(H) Ordinance and Statute of the Staple (1353)

On Monday next after the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of our lord, King Edward III ... , a great council was summoned at Westminster....[14] On which Friday the prelates, dukes, earls, barons, and commons, assembled in the White Chamber of our lord the king, were told ... the cause for the summons of the said council....[15] Considering which mischief, our lord the king, by the assent of certain prelates and lords of his said kingdom ... had ordained that the staple of wool, wool-fells, leather, and lead should be held in certain places within his kingdom of England and his lands of Wales and Ireland. And by the assent and advice of the said prelates and lords he had ordained for the maintenance and good government of the same staple certain particulars, which he caused to be read aloud before the prelates, lords, and commons, in order to obtain their assent. And [it was said] also that, if they wished to make any additions or subtractions, they should show [their desire] in writing. And thereupon the commons asked for a copy of the said particulars, which was given them — that is to say, one [copy] for the knights of the shires and another for the citizens and burgesses. And they, after long deliberation among themselves, presented their opinion to the council in writing. And after this writing had been read and debated by the lords, the ordinances of the staple were drawn up in the form following: —

Edward, by the grace of God king of England and France and lord of Ireland, to all our sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, ministers, and other faithful men to whom these present letters may come, greeting. Whereas good deliberation has been held with the prelates, dukes, earls, barons, knights of the shires — that is to say, one from each for the whole shire — and commons of cities and boroughs of our kingdom of England, summoned to our great council held at Westminster ... , concerning the damages which have been notoriously incurred by us and by the lords, as well as by the people of our kingdom of England and our lands of Wales and Ireland, because the staple of wool, leather, and wool-fells for our said kingdom and lands has been kept outside the said kingdom and lands; and also concerning the great profits that would accrue to our said kingdom and lands if the staple should be held within them and nowhere else: so, for the honour of God and the relief of our kingdom and lands aforesaid, and for the sake of avoiding the perils that otherwise may arise in times to come, by the counsel and common assent of the said prelates, dukes, earls, barons, knights, and commons aforesaid, we have ordained and established the measures hereinunder written, to wit: —

First, that the staples of wool, leather, wool-fells and lead grown or produced within our kingdom and lands aforesaid shall be perpetually held in the following places: namely, for England at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York, Lincoln, Norwich, Westminster, Canterbury, Chichester, Winchester, Exeter, and Bristol; for Wales at Carmarthen; and for Ireland at Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Drogheda, and nowhere else....[16]

... For which grant our lord the king thanked the lords and commons. And then the said commons prayed the king that their petitions, which they had drawn up concerning divers grievances as well as benefits of his commons, should be answered. Which petitions our lord the king caused to be read and answered by the prelates, lords, and other men of his council in the following manner: —

... Item, whereas certain articles touching the state of the king and the common benefit of his kingdom have been agreed and assented to by him, and by the prelates, lords, and commons of his land in this council just held; the said commons pray that the aforesaid articles shall be recited at the next parliament and entered in the roll of the same parliament, with the intent that the ordinances and agreements made in councils shall not be of record as if they had been made by a common parliament....

As to the tenth article, it is the king's pleasure that all the ordinances made concerning the staple shall be published and proclaimed in each county of England, and in each place where a staple is [situated], so that they may be firmly kept; and at the next parliament, for the sake of greater stability, they shall be rehearsed and entered in the roll of parliament....

Also the said commons in this parliament[17] prayed that the ordinances of the staple, and all the other ordinances made at the last council ... , which they had examined with great care and deliberation, and which seemed to them good and advantageous for our lord the king and all his people, should be confirmed in this parliament and held as a statute to endure forever. To which prayer the king and all the lords unanimously agreed; to the effect that, whenever anything was to be added [to that statute], it should be added [in parliament], or whenever anything was to be subtracted, it should be subtracted in parliament, no matter at what time the need should arise, and never in any other fashion.

(French) Rotuli Parliamentorum, II, 246, 253, 257.

(I) Statute of 34 Edward III: on Justices of the Peace (1361)

These are the measures which our lord the king, the prelates, the lords, and the commons have ordained in this present parliament, held at Westminster on Sunday next before the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, to be observed and publicly proclaimed throughout the kingdom, to wit: —

First, that for the keeping of the peace, there shall be assigned in each county of England one lord, and with him three or four of the most worthy men of the county together with certain men skilled in the law,[18] and they shall have power to restrain evil-doers, rioters, and all other miscreants; to pursue, arrest, capture, and chastise them according to their trespass or offence; to have them imprisoned and duly punished according to the law and custom of the kingdom, and according to what [the justices] may think best to do at their discretion and good advisement. Also [they shall have power] to inform themselves and to make inquiry concerning all those who have been pillagers and robbers in the regions beyond [the sea], and who have now returned to become vagrants, refusing to work as they used to in times past; and to take and arrest all whom they can find on indictment or suspicion, and to put them in prison.... Also [they shall have power] to hear and determine, at the king's suit, all manner of felonies and trespasses committed in the same county, according to the laws and customs aforesaid.... And the fine to be assessed before the justices, because of trespass committed by any person, shall be just and reasonable, according to the gravity of the offence and as the causes leading to it are taken into account....

Item, it is agreed that the men assigned to keep the peace shall have power to make inquiry concerning measures and also weights, according to the statute thereupon made in the twenty-fifth year of our lord the king's reign....

Item, it is agreed in this present parliament that the Statute of Labourers earlier made shall stand in all its particulars, with the exception of the pecuniary penalty, in which connection it is agreed that henceforth labourers shall not be punished by fine and redemption....

Item, with regard to labourers and artisans who run away from their [owed] services into another vill or county, [it is provided] that the [aggrieved] party shall have his suit before the justices [of the peace]....

(French) Statutes of the Realm, I, 364 f.

( J) Statute of 36 Edward III: Regarding Purveyance, Customs, etc. (1362)

For the honour and gratification of God, for the reform of the outrageous wrongs and oppressions suffered by the people, and for the relief of their condition, King Edward, in his parliament held at Westminster on the quinzime of St. Michael in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, at the request of his commons and by their petition presented to him in the said parliament, with the assent of the prelates, dukes, earls, barons, and other lords assembled in the said parliament, has granted for him and his heirs forever the articles hereinunder written: —

First, that the Great Charter, the Charter of the Forest, and the other statutes made in his own time and in the times of his ancestors shall be well and firmly observed in all particulars.

Item, on account of the grievous complaint that has been made concerning purveyors of victuals for the households of the king, the queen, their eldest son, and other lords and ladies of the kingdom, the king, of his own will and without compulsion of lords or commons, has granted and ordained for the relief of his people that henceforth no man of the said kingdom shall take any prise except solely for [the king] himself and for the queen his consort. Furthermore, with the assent aforesaid, it is ordained and established that, in case of such purveyances to be henceforth made for the households of the king and the queen, prompt payment in hand shall be rendered — that is to say, the price at which such victuals are commonly sold in the neighbouring markets. [It is also ordained] that the heinous name of purveyor shall be changed to buyer; and if the buyer cannot well agree with the seller of that for which there is need, then the prises which are made for the said two households shall be made by the view, testimony, and appraisal of the lords, or of their bailiffs and constables, and four good men of each vill, and this through indenture to be made between the buyers and the said lords, or bailiffs and constables, and four good men, stating the amount of what has been taken, its price, and the persons from whom it was taken. And [it is ordained] that the prises shall be made in a proper and easy manner, without duress, compulsion, threats, or other villainy; that the prises and purchases shall be made in the regions and places where there is greatest plenty, and this at a convenient time; and that no more shall be taken than is needful at that season for the said two households....[19]

Item, [it is ordained] that, with the exception of the king and queen, no lord of England or other man of the said kingdom, of whatsoever estate or condition, shall of himself or through any of his servants in any way take prises of any sort of victuals; but they shall buy what they need from those who of their own free will wish to sell, and for these [victuals] they shall pay promptly in hand according to what they may agree upon with the seller....

Item, to maintain the said articles and statutes, and to redress divers mischiefs and grievances that recur day after day, parliament shall be held every year, as was earlier ordained by statute.

Item, by the assent aforesaid, the king, considering the great subsidy which the commons have granted him earlier in this parliament, to be levied for three years on wool, leather, and wool-fells, wills and grants that, after the said term has passed, nothing shall be taken or asked of the said commons except only the ancient custom of half a mark;[20] that neither the grant just made nor any that has heretofore been made shall be turned into a precedent or burden for the said commons in time to come; that resident as well as foreign merchants may pass with their wool free of restraint; and that henceforth no subsidy or other charge shall be levied or granted on woo! either by merchants or by any other persons without the assent of parliament....

(French) Ibid., I, 371 f.


[1] Cf. no. 50B.

[2] Cf. nos. 46H, 52E.

[3] Substituted for the tenth sheaf, lamb, etc., in the second parliament of 1340; see above, pp. 210 f.

[4] That is to say, other than those of cities and boroughs.

[5] The act continues with a general pardon of old debts, according to the commons' petition of 1339 (above, p. 211).

[6] Cf. no. 61E, f.

[7] That is to say, not of right, since the king had never really assented to it.

[8] The ordinance (Statutes of the Realm, I, 307) had fixed wages as here stated, at the same time prohibiting increased prices for victuals above the standard of the same years, forbidding alms to sturdy beggars, etc. The statute merely added details concerning the wages of agricultural labourers and of artisans, together with measures intended to secure the enforcement of the ordinance. See B. H. Putnam, The Enforcement of the Statutes of Labourers.

[9] The reference is to the Statute of Carlisle (1307) and the parliamentary petition against encroachments by the see of Rome: Stubbs, Constitutional History, II, 163.

[10] Similar enactment is made with regard to papal provision in religious houses; other lay patrons besides the king are given the same kind of protection; and means of enforcement is prescribed.

[11] The statute also defines "another kind of treason" — the commission of similar offenses against a lord other than the king. The distinction is that known in law as between high and petit treason.

[12] Technically, this ordinance became a statute when it was confirmed by the parliament of the ensuing year; cf. the next document. For the name, see no. 64F; for interpretation, see W. T. Waugh, in the English Historical Review, XXXVII, 173 f., and E. B. Graves, in Anniversary Essays by Students of C. H. Haskins, pp. 57 f.

[13] Cf. nos. 60b, 62H (last paragraph).

[14] Cf. no. 60B. The meeting was postponed from Monday until Friday.

[15] Principally the king's decision to change the staple, as is recited in the ordinance. On the procedure followed in drafting this statute, see H. L. Gray, The Influence of the Commons on Early Legislation, pp. 250 f.

[16] The following articles provide that all the said products, before being exported, must be taken to one of the staple towns, where they are to be officially weighed, sealed, and taxed. The prescribed customs are those of 1275 (no. 49B), except that 20s. worth of lead is to pay 3d., and that aliens are taxed at a higher rate.

[17] Of the next year, 1354.

[18] Cf. no. 62A, above; and for a résumé of the subject, together with citation of the pertinent literature, see Lodge and Thornton, Constitutional Documents, pp. 325 f.

[19] The statute gives long and elaborate provisions for the commissioning of buyers, the prevention of abuses, etc.

[20] Cf. no. 49B.


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