Thursday, 13 September 2012

Constitutions of Clarendon in English : Joseph Berington (1790)


Extract from


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The congress assembled the next morning, and the ancients resumed their inquiry. As the king, from his youth, could know nothing of the customs, he implicitly relied on them; and it is thought, they, in many instances, rather, aimed to widen the breach, than to conciliate by the production of uncontrovertible facts. The committee withdrew to a separate apartment, and, after some time, returned with the following list of customs. They are now styled the Constitutions of Clarendon, though the authors nearest to the times, are unanimous in branding them with the most opprobrious epithets.
1. " All suits, concerning the advowson and presentation of churches, to be tried and determined in the king's court." •
2. " Churches, belonging to the king's fee, not to be granted in perpetuity, without his consent."
3. " Clerks arraigned and accused of any matter, being summoned by the king's justiciary, shall come into his court, to answer there, concerning that which it shall appear to the king's court is cognizable there; and shall answer in the ecclesiastical court, concerning that which it shall appear is cognizable there: so that the king's justiciary shall send to the court of holy church, to see in what manner the cause shall be tried there. And if a clerk shall be convicted, or confess his crime, the church must not any longer protect him."
4. " No archbishops, bishops, or dignified clergymen of the realm, to go out of the kingdom, without the king's licence."
5. " Persons excommunicated not to make any deposit for appearance, or to take any oath, but only to find security to stand to the judgment of the church, in order to absolution."
6. " Laics [Lay persons] not to be accused in spiritual courts, except by reputable and legal promoters and witnesses."
7. " No tenant in chief of the king, nor any officer of his household, to be excommunicated, nor the lands of any of them to be put under an interdict, unless the king or his justiciary shall have been first apprised."
8. " All appeals to proceed from the archdeacon to the bishop, and from the bishop to the archbishop. If the latter fail in doing justice, the cause to go to the king, that by his precept it may be determined in the archbishop's court, so that it may proceed no further without the king's consent."
9. " Should any dispute arise between a layman and a clergyman, concerning a tenement, and it be litigated whether it be a lay or an ecclesiastical fee, it shall first be decided by the verdict of twelve lawful men, before the king's chief justice, to what class it belongs; and if it be found to be a lay fee, the suit shall be pleaded in the civil court, otherwise in the ecclesiastical."
10. " If any one in the demesne of the king be cited by the archdeacon or bishop on account of an offence, for which he should answer to them, and refuse to appear, he may be put under an interdict: but he must not be excommunicated, before the king's officer of the place be applied to, that he may compel him judicially to make satisfaction. If the officer fail therein, the bishop may punish the accused by ecclesiastical censures."
11. " Archbishops, bishops, and such clergy, as are tenants in chief of the king, hold their possessions from him, as barons of the realm, and are subject to the same duties: they must attend with the barons in the king's courts, and assist at trials, till judgment proceed to the loss of members or death."
12. " When an archbishopric, or bishopric, or abbey, or priory, of the king's demesne, falls vacant, it shall be in the hands of the king, to receive all the rents and issues thereof. And when the place is to be supplied, he shall send for the principal clergy, and the election shall be made in the king's chapel, with his assent, and the advice of those whom he called for that purpose. And the person elected shall there do homage and fealty to him, as his liege lord, of life, limb, and worldly honour, (saving his order,) before he be consecrated.
13. " If any nobleman of the realm shall refuse to submit to the spiritual courts, the king shall oblige him to the submission : and if any refuse obedience to the king, the church shall use her power to reduce them."
14. " Chattels forfeited to the king may not be protected in churches or church-yards, because they are the king's wherever they be found."
15. " Pleas of debt, whether owing by faith solemnly pledged, or otherwise, pertain to the king's judicature."
16. " The sons of villeins (husbandmen) not to be ordained clerks, without the consent of the lord, on whose land they were born."

The preamble states that, in the presence of the king, was made this remembrance or recognition of some part of the customs, and liberties, and honours of his predecessors, that is, of Henry his grandfather, and of others, which shall be observed and held in the realm. And, on account of the dissentions and discords, which had happened between the clergy and the king's officers, and the barons of the land, about its customs and honours, this recognition, it adds, was made before the archbishops, and bishops, and clergy, and earls, and barons, and nobles. The customs being thus solemnly acknowledged, the prelates, it says, on the word of truth, promised to observe them. Then come their names: the two archbishops, Gilbert of London, Henry of Winchester, Nigel of Ely, William of Norwich, Robert of Lincoln, Hilary of Chichester, Jocelin of Salisbury, Richard of Chester, (Lichfield,) Bartholomew of Exeter, Robert of Hereford, David of St. David's, and Roger elect of Worcester. Then follow the names of thirty seven nobles, English and Norman, with a general mention of the rest.
The statute closes thus: " But there are many more and great customs and honours of our holy mother the church, and of our lord the king, and of the barons of the realm, which are not contained in this writing. They shall remain untouched to the church, and to the king and to his heirs, and to the barons, and shall be observed forever inviolably."
The ordinances (such as I have stated) being produced to the assembly, and read; the king, addressing himself to the prelates, requested, for greater security and to give them stability, that they affix their seals to the deed. The bishops assented; but the primate expressed his astonishment, and shewed a reluctance to comply. He had not expected, having gone so far to satisfy the king, that a fresh demand would be made. " The matter," he again observed, " was delicate, and he wished for time to deliberate." On this, a copy of the ordinances was delivered into his hand; the archbishop of York received another; and a third was retained, to be deposited among the archives of the realm. The council of Clarendon was then dissolved.

Another translation into English

Thomas Anthony Trollope (1834). An encyclopædia ecclesiastica; or, A complete history of the Church. pp. 393–.


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