69. STATUTES (1399-1483)

(A) 1 Henry IV: Restriction of Appeals (1399)

14. Item, on account of the many great inconveniences and mischiefs that have occurred in consequence of the numerous appeals[1] heretofore made in the kingdom of England, it is ordained and established that henceforth all appeals for acts accomplished within the kingdom shall be tried and determined according to the good laws of the kingdom made and used in the time of the most noble progenitors of our said lord the king; and that all appeals for acts accomplished outside the kingdom shall be tried and terminated before the constable and marshal of England for the time being. And besides it is granted and agreed that henceforth no appeals shall in any way or at any time be made or pursued in parliament....

(French) Statutes of the Realm, II, 116.

(B) 3 Henry IV: For the Burning of Heretics (1401)

15.... With regard to which innovations and excesses,[2] set forth above, the prelates and clergy aforesaid, and also the commons of the said realm assembled in the same parliament, prayed the said lord king that his royal highness would in the said parliament deign to make provision for a suitable remedy. The same lord king then ... , by the assent of the magnates and other nobles of the said realm assembled in parliament, has granted, ordained, and established ... that no one within the said kingdom or the other dominions subject to his royal majesty shall presume to preach in public or in secret without having first sought and obtained the licence of the local diocesan,[3] always excepting curates in their own churches, persons who have hitherto enjoyed the privilege, and others to whom it has been granted by canon law; and that henceforth no one either openly or secretly shall preach, hold, teach, or impart anything, or compose or write any book, contrary to the catholic faith or the decisions of Holy Church, or anywhere hold conventicles or in any way have or maintain schools for such a sect and its nefarious doctrines and opinions; and also that in the future no one shall favour anybody who thus preaches, holds such or similar conventicles, has or maintains such schools, composes or writes such a book, or in any such fashion teaches, instructs, or excites the people.[4]... And if any person within the said kingdom and dominions is formally convicted before the local diocesan or his commissioners of the said nefarious preachings, doctrines, opinions, [holding of] schools, and heretical and erroneous instruction, or any of them, and if he refuses properly to abjure the same ... , or, after abjuration has been made by the same person, he is declared by the local diocesan or his commissioners to have relapsed, so that according to the sacred canons he ought to be relinquished to the secular court ... , then the sheriff of the local county and the mayor and sheriffs or sheriff, or the mayor and bailiffs of the city, town, or borough of the same county nearest the said diocesan or his said commissioners ... , shall, after the pronouncement of such sentences, receive those persons and every one of them and shall have them burned before the people in some prominent place, so that such punishment shall inspire fear in the minds of others and prevent such nefarious doctrines and heretical and erroneous opinions, or their authors and protagonists in the said kingdom and dominions, from being supported or in any way tolerated against the catholic faith, the Christian religion, and the decisions of Holy Church — which God forbid! And in all and singular of the aforesaid matters regarding the said ordinance and statute, the sheriffs, mayors, and bailiffs of the counties, cities, towns, and boroughs aforesaid are to be attentive, helpful, and favourable to the said diocesans and their commissioners....

(Latin) Ibid., II, 126-28.

(C) 7 Henry IV: On Succession to the Throne and Elections to Parliament (1406)

2. Item, it is ordained and established in the said parliament at the request and by the assent of the said lords and commons that the inheritance of the crown and of the kingdoms of England and France and of all the other dominions of our said lord the king beyond the sea, together with all their appurtenances, shall be settled upon and shall remain with the person of our same lord the king and the heirs of his body. And at the request and by the assent aforesaid it is especially ordained, established, pronounced, decreed, and declared that my lord Prince Henry, eldest son of our said Lord the king, is to be heir apparent of our same lord the king to succeed him in [the possession of] the aforesaid crown, kingdoms, and dominions, and, after the death of our said lord the king, to have them with all their appurtenances for himself and the heirs of his body. And if he dies without heir of his body, then the aforesaid crown, kingdoms, and dominions, together with their appurtenances, shall all remain to my lord Thomas, second son of our said lord the king, and to the heirs of his body. And if he dies without heir of his body, then the aforesaid crown, kingdoms, and dominions, together with their appurtenances, shall all remain to my lord John, third son of our same lord the king, and the heirs of his body. And if he dies without heir of his body, then the aforesaid crown, kingdoms, and dominions, together with their appurtenances, shall all remain to my lord Humphrey, fourth son of our said lord the king, and to the heirs of his body....

15. Item, on the grievous complaint of the commons regarding improper election to parliament of knights of the shires, which, to the great scandal of the counties and to the retardation of the business of the community in the said courts, is sometimes made through the favouritism of the sheriffs or in other ways contrary to the writs directed to the said sheriffs, our sovereign lord the king, wishing to provide a remedy for these [abuses], by the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal and of all the commons in this present parliament, has ordained and established that henceforth elections of such knights shall be carried out according to the form that follows. That is to say, at the next county [court] to be held after the delivery of the writ for [elections to] parliament, proclamation shall be made in the full county [court] of the day and the place of the parliament; and all who are there present, as well suitors duly summoned for this purpose as others, shall attend to the election of their knights for the parliament, then freely and impartially proceeding with that election, any command or request to the contrary notwithstanding. And after the election has been held, whether the persons elected are present or absent, their names are to be written in an indenture under the seals of all who elected them, and [this indenture is to be] attached to the said writ for parliament. Which indenture, thus sealed and attached, shall be kept [by the sheriff] for return of the said writ when it comes to [certifying] the knights of the shire.[5] ...

(French) Ibid., II, 151-56.

(D) 1 Henry V: On Elections to Parliament (1413)

First, that the statutes made concerning the election of knights of the shires to attend parliament shall be held and kept in all particulars, with the addition that henceforth in each county no knights of the shire shall be elected unless, on the date of the writ of summons to parliament, they are resident within the county where they are thus to be elected; and that the knights, squires, and others who are to be electors of such knights of the shires shall also be residents within the same counties in the manner and form aforesaid. And it is furthermore ordained and established that men, citizens, and burgesses resident, domiciled, and enfranchised in the same cities and boroughs are to be elected as citizens and burgesses of cities and boroughs [to attend parliament], and by no means any others....

(French) Ibid., II, 170.

(E) 8 Henry VI: On Elections to Parliament (1429)

7. Item, whereas in many counties the elections of knights of the shires, those chosen to attend the king's parliaments, have of late been carried out by too great and excessive a number of people dwelling within those same counties, of whom the larger part have been people of little substance or of no worth, each pretending to have the same voice in such elections as the most worthy knights or squires dwelling in the same counties, whereby homicides, riots, assaults, and feuds are very likely to arise among the gentlefolk and other people of the same counties unless a suitable remedy is provided in this connection: [therefore] our lord the king, considering the premises, has provided and ordained by the authority of this parliament that knights of the shires, elected to attend parliaments hereafter to be held in the kingdom of England, shall be chosen in each county by persons dwelling and resident therein, each of whom shall have a freehold to the value of at least 40s. a year beyond the charges [on the estate][6]...; and that every sheriff of England shall, by the aforesaid authority, have power to examine on the Holy Gospels each such elector, [to determine] how much he is able to spend annually.[7]...

(French) Ibid., II, 243 f.

(F) 23 Henry VI: On Elections to Parliament (1445)

14. Item, ...[8] the king, considering the premises, has ordained by the aforesaid authority that the said statutes shall be duly kept and observed in all particulars; and furthermore that each sheriff, after the delivery to him of every such writ [for elections to parliament], shall without fraud draw up and deliver a sufficient precept under his seal to each mayor and bailiff, or to the bailiffs or bailiff where there is no mayor, of the cities and boroughs within his county, reciting the same writ and commanding them by the same precept to have two citizens elected to attend parliament by the citizens of the same city, in case it is a city, or [two] burgesses in the same way, in case it is a borough[9] ...; and that the knights of the shires henceforth to be elected to parliament shall be notable knights of the same counties from which they are elected, or else such notable squires of those counties, gentlemen by birth, as are able to be knights;[10] and that no man who is of the rank of valet or lower is to be such knight [of the shire]....

(French) Ibid., II, 340-42.

(G) I Edward IV: Validation of Lancastrian Acts (1461)

... First — for the avoidance of ambiguities, doubts, and differences of opinion that might arise, ensue, or be entertained concerning the judicial acts ... made or secured in the time of Henry IV, of his son Henry V, and of his son Henry VI, recently in succession de facto and not rightful kings of England, or any of them — our said lord the king, by the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and at the special request of the said commons in the said parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, has declared, established, and enacted in the same parliament that all fines and final concords[11 ]levied or made concerning any lands, tenements, possessions, rents, inheritances, or other things, and all judicial acts, recoveries, and processes ... made or secured in any court or courts of record ... during the pretended reign of any of the said recent kings de facto and not of right[12]... shall have the same force, validity, and effect as if the said fines, final concords, acts, recoveries, processes, and other premises ... were begun, sued, had, or determined in the time of any king lawfully reigning in this kingdom and obtaining the crown of the same by just title. And [it is ordained] also that all letters patent made by any of the pretended kings to any person or persons for the creation, appointment, or promotion of any of them to any estate, dignity, or pre-eminence shall have, for the said person or persons or for such of their heirs as are specified in the said letters patent, the same force, validity, and effect with regard to such creation, appointment, or promotion as if the same letters patent had been made or granted to any of them by any king lawfully reigning in this kingdom and obtaining the crown of the same by just title; and that persons thus created, appointed, or promoted shall have from the king new grants of annuities for the support of their estates as has been anciently accustomed; always excepting the persons, and each of them, whom our said lord the king considers and holds as rebels or enemies....

(French) Ibid., II, 380 f.

(H) 1 Richard III: Abolition of Benevolences (1483)

... Item, our lord the king, remembering how the commons of this his realm, through new and unlawful inventions and inordinate avarice, against the law of the realm have been subjected to great servitude and unbearable charges and exactions, and especially so through a new imposition called benevolence, whereby in divers years the subjects and commons of this land have, against their will and freedom, paid great sums of money to their almost complete ruin — for many and divers honourable men of this realm were on that account compelled of necessity to break up their households and to live in great penury and wretchedness, with their debts unpaid and their children unpreferred, and such memorials as they had ordered for their souls' health were set at naught, to the great displeasure of God and the destruction of this realm — therefore wills and ordains by the advice and consent of his said lords and commons in the said parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that henceforth his subjects and the commonalty of this his realm shall in no way be burdened with any such charge or imposition called benevolence, or anything like it; and that such exactions called benevolences as before this time have been taken shall not be held as a precedent for placing such or similar charges upon any of his said subjects of this realm in the future, but that they are to be condemned and annulled forever.

(French) Ibid., II. 478.


[1] That is to say, for felony and treason; cf. no. 63G.

[2] Of the Lollards, "a certain new sect," accused in the long preamble of holding damnable opinions concerning the sacraments and the authority of the Church and of doing all the things which the statute proceeds to forbid.

[3] That is to say, the bishop.

[4] Such persons are to be subjected to canonical trial in the episcopal court and, if convicted, to imprisonment in ecclesiastical prison as well as to royal fine.

[5] Cf. no. 72D.

[6] That is to say, clear annual income. The act then repeats the requirement of the preceding statutes, that knights of the shire must be resident in the county and that the sheriff must make returns by indenture.

[7] Enforcement is provided through the justices of assize, with a penalty of 100 on the sheriff for a false return.

[8] A long preamble recites the statutes of 1413 and 1429, enumerating their defects and the misdeeds of the sheriffs.

[9] The mayors and bailiffs are to make return by indenture to the sheriff; the latter is to make similar return to the king. Heavy penalties are provided for infraction of the law; also new legal remedies for persons aggrieved in fraudulent elections.

[10 ]That is to say, persons having the requisite income; distraint of knighthood (see no. 50A) had by now pretty well lapsed.

[11] Sums of money paid in the king's courts in order to secure legal records of agreements.

[12] Judicial acts in parliament are excepted from the force of this statute.


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