W[illiam], by the grace of God king of the English, to R[alph] Bainard, G[eoffrey] de Mandeville, P[eter] de Valognes, and my other faithful men of Essex, Hertfordshire, and Middlesex, greeting.[1] Be it known to all of you, and to my other faithful men resident in England, that, by the common counsel of the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and all the princes of my realm, I have decided to amend the ecclesiastical law,[2] which up to my own time has not been rightly observed in England, nor in accordance with the holy canons. I ordain and, by my royal authority, command that henceforth, when ecclesiastical law is involved, no bishop or archdeacon shall hold pleas in the hundred [court], nor shall he bring to judgment before laymen any cause that pertains to the cure of souls; but whoever has been accused in any cause, or of any offence, under ecclesiastical law shall come to the place named and selected for this purpose by the bishop, and shall there respond in such cause or concerning such offence, submitting to the justice of God and of His bishop, not according to the [judgment of the] hundred, but according to the canons and to ecclesiastical law. If indeed any one, puffed up with pride, neglects or refuses to come for justice before the bishop, let him be summoned once, twice, and thrice. But if, even then, he will not come to make amends, let him be excommunicated; and should there be need to enforce this [ban], let the power and justice of the king or of the sheriff be invoked. Moreover, he who, being summoned, refuses to come before the bishop for justice shall be fined for each [neglect of] summons as contempt of ecclesiastical law. I likewise prohibit and, by my royal authority, forbid that any sheriff or reeve or minister of the king, or any layman [whatsoever], shall interfere with the administration of law pertaining to the bishop. Nor shall any layman bring another man to trial [under such law] save by the judgment of the bishop. The trial, indeed, shall be carried out nowhere except at the bishop's see, or in such place as he shall appoint for that purpose.

(Latin) Ibid., I, 485 f.

[1] Similar writs were presumably sent to the other shires.

[2] Leges episcopales, literally "episcopal laws." For the presence of the bishop in the shire court during the previous period, see Edgar, III, 5 (above, p. 19), and Canute, II, 18 (above, p. 23). And on the "common counsel" in the earlier part of the sentence, see A. B. White, in the American Historical Review, XXV, 15 f.