Sunday, 1 September 2013

Civil Justice

Laws belonging to King's Justice

Curia Regis

[also known as aula regis, curia nostra or curia magna]

The Norman Curia Regis was very similar in constitution, function and purpose to the Anglo-Saxon Witan. It was "the supreme central court where the business of government in all its branches was transacted." It was a legislative, an administrative and a judicial body.

The King's Justice a the superior court in England was dealt with in the King's Court or Aula Regis, sometimes known as the Curia Regis or later as the Court of the King's Bench, because its records ran in the name of the king (coram rege = in the presence of the king), and because in former times the sovereign often sat in judgment in person.

The innovations of William the Conqueror and his successors having reduced the old local Anglo-Saxon tribunals to comparative insignificance, the whole judicial authority in England, was concentrated in the king's Aula Regis.

All process issuing out of the court in the king's name was returnable "ubicunque fuerimus in Anglia" [ wheresoever we shall be in England], the style of the return of writs in the court of king’s or queen’s bench; it being in theory a movable court, attendant upon the sovereign’s person.

The Curia Regis generally met three times a year, at the three great ecclesiastical festivals of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost [Whitsun]. The Norman Curia Regis was composed of all the kings tenants-in-chief, who held per baroniam, all the principal officials of the royal government officers of his household, and anyone else the king chose to summon. It met wherever the king happened or chose to be. Writs of summons for these three particular occasions were not necessary.  For any other occasion writs of summons to attend the Curia Regis were issued by the king personally to all barons [bishops and magnates] when they needed to appear. The king always wore his crown on these occasions.

There were large or full assemblies of the Curia Regis comprising all the principal landowners in the country, called the Magnum Concilium. Or a much smaller assembly, simply called the Curia Regis of just the royal officials [sometimes dubbed as the Lesser Curia Regis], typically the chief justiciar, the chancellor, the treasurer, the chamberlain, the constable, the marshall,  and the king's justices, and any other personal advisers. The king presided over his curia, as he was considered to be the fount of all justice in the land.

The Curia Regis was an itinerant court of justice as Henry II was an itinerant monarch. the Curai Regis was originally the personal court which the king attended in person. Wherever he went he was the law. Wherever he could not be an itinerant justices could hold a court in his name, in coram regis.

The chief justiciar was the lieutenant or viceroy of the king when he was absent from England. The postholder's duties included direction of the whole judicial and financial arrangements of the kingdom. He was President of the Exchequer. Litigants were summoned were issued to appear in court “before the king or before his chief justice ” [coram ipso rege vel capitali justiciario suo], dependent on whether the king was in the country and was personally going to preside over the proceedings, or not.

The chancellor, who was generally always an ecclesiastic, was keeper of the Royal Seal. Chief of the royal chaplains, charged with the administration of the royal revenue deriving from vacant benefices, he was generally secretary of state for all departments. He drew up and sealed the royal writs. He was a prominent member of the Exchequer division of the Curia Regis. The Royal Seal itself was kept for safekeeping in the Treasury.

When the king needed to enact new laws, the full Curia Regis [Magnum Consilium] was summoned and its counsel and consent sought. It did not necessarily have any special power to overrule or oppose the king's will, but acted in an advisory capacity. Henry I consulted it, for example, whenever bishops were to be dismissed or appointed. As a feudal court it exercised jurisdiction over the magnates and prelates of the kingdom. The members of the court acted as judges in this respect. When it passed sentence, it was the Chief Justiciar who read out the decision of the court, not the king.

Henry II sent justices on circuits around the country from county to county as itinerant justices [justitiae errantes]  (later called justiciarii itinerantes or justices in eyre).  From quite early on in the reign king Henry II there are records of pleas held on circuit by Richard Lucy the chief justiciar, by Henry of Essex the constable, and also by Thomas Becket the chancellor. The visitation of the counties by these itinerant justices eventually became more systematic and their circuits formalised.

The courts held by these itinerant justices on circuit were also called curia regis, as they extensions of the king's authority, but were later to be distinguished from the principal or central capitalis curia regis. Westminster eventually became the permanent home for the latter.

Aula Regis was later known as The King's Bench, as it was held in Westminster Hall on benches.

Royal Courts [Curiae Regis] stood above the assembies of freemen.

In theory everyman's [every vassal normal judge was his lord. The denial of justice was a crime. Justice and appeals rose through the various levels of homage. An appeal essentially was "suing" the judge of the lower court.

The customary mode of proof was trial by battle.

Great Seal of Henry II

Justicesi n Eyre

justiciarii totius Angliae = Justiciars/Justices/Judges in eyre (All England)

capitalis justicarius = Chief Justiciar

The Origins of the General Eyre in the Reign of Henry I
William T. Reedy, Jr.
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 688-724
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Medieval Academy of America
DOI: 10.2307/2852319


Curia Regis [King's or Royal Court]

The Curia Regis was multifunctional: it was a legislative, an administrative, and a judicial body. 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lord Chief Justice - Wikisource, the free online library.

Project Gutenberg: 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1911. Curia Regis 2013. Stubbs: The constitutional history of England: Curia Regis p. 387

Mrs. J. R. Green (1892). Henry the Second. Chapter IV The First Reforms: Library of Alexandria. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-4655-2279-5.

Procedure in the Feudal Curia Regis
George Burton Adams
Columbia Law Review  Vol. 13, No. 4, Apr., 1913 
pp 277-93

Egbert Türk (31 December 1976). NUGAE CURIALIUM: LE REGNE D'HENRI II. Librairie Droz. ISBN 978-2-600-03378-7.

The Descendants of the Curia Regis
by George Burton Adams
The American Historical Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, Oct., 1907
pp. 11-15

Christopher Nugent Lawrence Brooke; Christopher Robert Cheney (1976). Church and Government in the Middle Ages:. Caernegem: Public Prosecution of Crime in Twelfth Century England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 41–.ISBN 978-0-521-21172-7.

Exchequer Avalon Project : The Dialogue Concerning the Exchequer. circa 1180

Richard fitz Neal and the Dialogus de Scaccario
H. G. Richardson
The English Historical Review
Vol. 43, No. 170 (Apr., 1928), pp. 161-171
Published by: Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL:

Geoffrey Gilbert (1758). A treatise on the Court of Exchequer. Lintot. pp. 1–.

Tout, T. F. (1920) Chapters in the administrative history of mediaeval England : the wardrobe, the chamber, and the small seals.

Hundred Courts

Common law

Readings on the history and system of the common law
by Pound, Roscoe

Reginald Allen Brown; R. Allen Brown (1982). Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies IV, 1981. Paul Hyams: The Common Law and the French Connections: Boydell & Brewer. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-85115-161-8.

Forest Law  Stubbs - The constitutional history of England: The Royal Forests.

Studies and notes supplementary to Stubbs' Constitutional history (1908)
Volume 2
by Ch. Petit Dutaillis
The Forest.


Henry de Bracton . De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-05165-1.
Henry de Bracton . De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae. Cambridge University Press. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-1-108-05167-5.
Henry de Bracton . De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-05169-9.

Cary J. Nederman
History of Political Thought
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring 1984), pp. 61-77
Published by: Imprint Academic Ltd.
Stable URL:


Sir Matthew Hale (1820). The History of the Common Law of England: And An Analysis of the Civil Part of the Law. Henry Butterworth. pp. 7–.

Frederick Pollock (Sir)); Frederic William Maitland (1966). The History of English Law. CUP Archive.

William Holdsworth: A History of English Law: Chapters in the administrative history of mediaeval England : the wardrobe, the chamber, and the small seals : Tout, Thomas Frederick, 1855-1929 . 

Reeves' History of the English Law (1879)
Volume 1: Chapter II p. 225-

Melville Madison Bigelow (1974). Placita Anglo-Normannica: Law Cases from William I to Richard I, Preserved in Historical Records. Georg Olms Verlag. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-3-487-40534-6.

History of Law Blog. 2011. The Kings household and the administration of government.

William Stubbs (1874)
The constitutional history of England
Volume 1. p. 337-
Chapter XI: Administration during the Norman Period

Chief Justiciar

For the first twenty-five years of Henry
II's reign the office was held by Richard de Lucy

A high judicial officer, baron and special magistrate, who presided over the Aula Regis of the Norman kings, and who was also the principal minister of state, the second man in the kingdom, and, by virtue of his office, guardian of the realm in the king's absence. 

Law Dictionary Definition of CHIEF JUSTICIAR (Black's Law Dictionary)

The Chief Justiciar presided over the King's Court of the Exchequer, assisted by 5 puisne or junior barons.

King's Bench

Famous cases and trials

1088 Trial of William of Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham

1095 Trial of Anselm at Rockingham Castle Heritage History: Anselm by E. M. Wilmot-Buxton. Anselm: Meeting at Rockingham.

Martin Rule (1883)
The Council of Rockingham 

1157 Battle Abbey case
Robert B. Patterson (1 January 1995). Studies in Medieval History 1994. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-85115-604-0.

1164 Trial of Thomas Becket, archbichop of Canterbury at Northampton

Pleas of the crown (placita coronae)
Pleas of the crown (placita coronae): the punishment of crimes for which the crown has/had a monopoly of the justice in and reserved the trying of cases for

The prosecution of serious crimes [typically felonies]  was fundamental to the holding of crown pleas, but the latter’s scope extended further than that, to all sorts of royal rights and responsibilities, which were continually expanded.  Defining them as `rights which the king of England has in his land solely and over all men’, the early twelfth-century treatise Leges Henrici Primi listed as crown pleas such crimes as treason, serious theft, murder, counterfeiting coinage, arson and rape, along with the harbouring of those who committed these offences, and also the infringement of royal rights like treasure trove and forest law.

Immediately after 1066 crown pleas were usually administered by the sheriff of a given county, often an important baron, who presided in the county court along with the bishop and the earl. Later the latter two were removed from the king's courts leaving on the sheriff as sole judge. Later justices appointed and sent by Westminster on eyre replaced the sheriiff.


Leges Henrici Primi - Wikipedia

Matthew Hale; George Wilson; Thomas Dogherty (1800). The History of the Pleas of the Crown: In Two Volumes. Payne.

Hundred Court v. Shire Court

The Shire Court tended to act in cases in which the Hundred Court was not competent particularly in cases which were inimical to the public peace, [offences against the King's Peace]. The Shire Court comprised a jury of freemen. The Shire Court had responsibility to determine the customary law in the territory of the shire. Shires often followed the boundaries of the different tribes or kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. Later the representatives from the freemen of the shire formed the basis of the House of Commons in Parliament.

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