Saturday, 21 September 2013

Great Officers of State and The Exchequer ca 1164

Great Officers of the Realm

Barons [Maiores] of the Exchequer or Great Officers of the King's Court [Curia Regis/Aula Regis], essentially they were the Lords of the Treasury, known by the name of the Exchequer. All generally held lands from the king as tenants-in-chief or grand-serjeantry, making them either greater or lesser barons. The Barons together with the King formed the government of England. These Barons essentially were constituted as a King's Court judging the receipt of monies into the Treasury by the County Sheriffs, and for monitoring any payments made from it. They decided on the exact amounts to be paid to the Treasury by each County and its Sheriff, and counted the quantity, assessing or assaying the quality of the receipt of the coins comprising those monies paid in. They interrogated the sheriffs and audited their accounts, compiling records of these transactions in the Pipe Rolls, keeping copies of these. These Barons were also justices and could hold their own courts in the name of the king.

Chief Justiciar
Viceroy [ruler] or Steward of the kingdom during the absence of the king when he was overseas. He was the chief officer of the Curia Regis, President of the Exchequer, and was responsible for organising and administering the royal judicial system [King's Courts] in England. Sometimes known as the procurator.

In France this post was called the Seneschal, or Justiciar-Senescal in Normandy

A knight. Was responsible for the command of the army. Was responsible for the keeping and maintenance of the king's armaments. The office of the constable at the exchequer was, in the case of royal writs whenever the issue of treasure or any matter concerning any account that had to be settled, he was needed to act as a witness, together with the President of the Exchequer. All such writs, according to ancient custom, required two witnesses. It was likewise his responsibility, when the king's soldiers came to the exchequer for their pay, whether or not they resided in the king's castles. Later the post became a hereditary one belonging to the Earls of Hereford.

A knight, technically he was in charge of the king's horses and stables under the Constable. After the King, he had command of the army, and was the highest military rank. The Marshal was responsible for the organization of the troops in the field, retainers, banners, insignia, crests, badges, and standards, which identified and distinguished the combatants. These tasks later evolved into an important role in the diplomatic decisions, negotiations in the field, and in declarations of war. Sometimes he was represented by a deputy at the Exchequer as the burden of his office was quite onerous.

The Marshal of the exchequer made payments to his own knights which belonged to him by reason of his office; not however to alien ones (mercenaries). Likewise, in common with the other greater Barons of the Exchequer, no important decision could be taken without consulting him.

Chief financial officer of the kingdom, responsible for making safe and physically securing the monies that was received in taxation. And for issuing payments subject to receipt of a writ order for such payments. The Treasurer was responsible for receiving the accounts from the sheriffs.  The Treasurers were in charge of all of the crown's revenue, signing and approving all orders accepting money and paying it out. It was the Treasurer who interrogated the County Sheriffs during the sessions of the Exchequer, difficult questions arising from which were put the team of the Barons who sat at the Exchequer Table for an answer, and who may decide to go in camera when discussing the matter.

The Treasurer was a special kind of Chamberlain. When accounts had to be made up it was necessary to have an educated and literate person who was the Treasurer. The other chamberlains were lay persons. The Treasurer ranked higher than the Chamberlain.

One of the great officers of state, the chancellor was in charge of the king's team of chancery clerks. 
The chancellor had custody of the royal seal, which was kept in the Treasury, by the Keeper of the Royal Seal. The Chancellor was in charge of the Royal Chancery, the body responsible for issuing all written documents, writs, the drawing up of charters and other instruments of royal government. It dealt with both domestic and foreign affairs. The position was generally always filled by an ecclesiastic as it was expected that they could both read and write; originally they were archdeacons, but later, as the post acquired more importance, bishops were appointed.  Without the Chancellor's consent and advice nothing important could be done by the Exchequer. During the absence of the king from the kingdom the Chancellor was one of three persons who had the right to order the sheriffs to collect taxes; the other two persons were the Chief Justiciar and the Queen.

The Chancery [Chancellery] was part of the king's administrative division of government, a secretariat, the record keeping division. The Chancellor was expected to be omnicompetent, and conduct a multitude of duties, including being a justice out and about in the country on circuit. 

Becket was appointed to the vacant post of Lord Chancellor in January 1155. As Chancellor it was his duty to manage the receipt of the king's revenue from and the estates of vacant bishoprics, abbacies and the like.

In Henry I's time the chancellorship had been sold by the king to its postholder for £3000. It is not known whether this post was sold by private contract to an individual the king wished to nominate or whether the king put the vacnt post up for auction. 

Chamberlain(s) of the Exchequer
The chamberlain was originally the officer who controlled access to the king. The term had its origins in the royal chamber: the king's private room was his responsibility. The chamberlain was also the administrator of the king's household and any private estates the king might have. Sometimes the same man was both Treasurer and Chamberlain at the same time; for example around  1126 a Geoffrey de Clinton was both. The Chamberlains were among the great officers of the Exchequer and were numbered among its Barons, who sometimes sat in person at the Exchequer table and at other times were deputed by a representative. It became a hereditary position, which was given to the de Veres, the Earls of Oxford.

The Chamber was the place where the money was kept. There were two guardians or chamberlains, deputies of the Lord Chamberlain. These were laymen. Each had a key to the Chamber. The Treasury was kept in the king's castle at Winchester These chamberlains were endowed with land in the neighbourhood. These chamberlains made tallies of the monies which were received, and in common with the treasurer's clerk, they made payments out of the Treasure upon receipt the king's command or writ.

Thomas Brown (aka Brunus) 

was probably so-named as he very likely had a dark complexion; he was a Sicilian, possibly of Moorish or Saracen origin. He had previously had a very important position in the privy council of the Norman king of Sicily [Roger II who died 1154], but was forced to flee as a refugee, when a new king came to the throne there. He was given a position in Henry II’s Exchequer at the time of the composition of the fitzNeal's Dialogus . He was highly thought of by the king. He seems he was either the king's personal representative at  the Exchequer or may have acted as a kind of consultant, being very experienced in financial administration.

Hiroshi Takayama (1 January 1993). The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. BRILL. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-90-04-09865-7

Richard of Ilchester
Archdeacon of Poitiers, Bishop of Winchester (from 1 May 1173)
Egbert Türk (31 December 1976). "Richard d'Ilchester". NUGAE CURIALIUM: LE REGNE D'HENRI II. Librairie Droz. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-2-600-03378-7. 

He was a Baron of the Exchequer and was considered necessary by the king, in the words of the Dialogus "by reason of his trustworthiness and industry, and very apt and ready at making reckonings, and in the writing of rolls and writs; wherefore a special place was assigned to him at the exchequer, between the presiding justiciar and the treasurer, that he might watch over the writing of the roll and all suchlike matters".

References and Persons


Online Etymology Dictionary - Seneschal

Online Etymology Dictionary - Marshal  

Dapifer: One who brings meat to the table; hence, in some countries, the official title of the grand master or steward of the king's or a nobleman's household. Discthegn


Geoffrey de Clinton,_Geoffrey_de_(DNB00)

Robert de Beaumont

Richard de Luci

Becket as Chancellor

Miles FitzWalter of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford

John Marshall

Humphrey III de Bohun

The Court and Household of King Henry II, 1154-1189 
Lally, J. 
University of Liverpool 1970

W. L. Warren (1977). Henry II. Chapter 8: The King's Government: University of California Press. pp. 301–16. ISBN 978-0-520-03494-5

Thomas Madox (1711). The History and Antiquities of the Exchequer of the Kings of England ... Chapter II: Of the Judicature off the King's Court: Knaplock. pp. 56–.

Thomas Hearne (1773). Collection of curious discourses. Evans.
Thomas Frederick Tout
Chapters in the Administrative History of Medieval England: The Wardrobe, The Chambers and the Small Seals (1920–33)
Volume 1
The Exchequer in the Reign of Stephen
Author(s): Kenji Yoshitake
The English Historical Review
, Vol. 103, No. 409 (Oct., 1988), pp. 950-959
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL:

The Reforms at the Exchequer (1232-1242)
Author(s): M. H. Mills
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 10 (1927), pp. 111-133
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Royal Historical Society
Stable URL:

Experiments in Exchequer Procedure (1200-1232)
Author(s): Mabel H. Mills
Source: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 8 (1925), pp. 151-170
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Royal Historical Society
Stable URL:

Gneist on the English Constitution
Chapter XVI The Curia Regis - The Great Officers of the Realm

Joseph Edmondson (1780). A Complete Body of Heraldry. The Marshal. T. Spilsbury. pp. 30–90.

The Tenure of Offices in the Exchequer
J. C. Sainty
The English Historical Review
Vol. 80, No. 316 (Jul., 1965), pp. 449-475
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL:

The  Exchequer

A very ancient court of record, set up by William the Conqueror to recover debts and duties owed to the king. It was a division of his Aula Regis.

It was called the exchequer from the chequered cloth, resembling a chess board, which covered the table there which was used to perform the accounts.

It was not originally known as the Exchequer but the Thesaurus or Fiscus. Not long after Henry I came to the throne it began to be called Scaccarium.
The primary and original business of this court was to call the King's debtors to account for and to recover any lands, tenements or hereditaments, any goods, chattels, or other profits or benefits, belonging to the Crown..

In the Court of Exchequer, which was to adjust and recover his revenue, the king generally was plaintiff, as the withholding and nonpayment thereof was an injury to his jura fiscalia [his right to collect the fisc or the public revenue].

It was presided over by a chief baron usually the Chief Justiciar and three or four puisne [junior or of lesser rank] barons: the treasurer and the chancellor of the exchequer also originally formed a part of this court, It was assigned all cases touching upon the king's revenue, and especially the collection of debts due to him, in which light were regarded not only all fines, forfeitures, and feudal dues, but the imposts and aids occasionally granted to him by Parliament.

Exchequer or Scaccarium Regis
King's Counting House

The Exchequer Board [tabularium]
The Exchequer [scaccarium] was a rectangular table about ten feet in length, five in breadth; all around it it had an edge about the height of four fingers, to prevent anything placed upon it from falling off. On top of the Exchequer table a cloth was placed: this cloth was replaced every year at Easter term. It was not an ordinary one, but a black one marked with [white] stripes, spaced from each about breadth of a hand, forming a 7x4 chequered grid of rectangles. In these rectangles or spaces were placed counters according to their values. The table was so-named as it has an appearance similar to that of a chess board.

The seven columns of the chequered cloth along its length represented in sequence from right to left the values: pence, shillings [12 pence], pounds [20 shillings], scores of pounds [20 pounds], hundreds of pounds, thousands of pounds, ten thousands of pounds, like a kind of abacus with a mixed duo-decimal [base-12], vigesimal [base-20] and decimal [base-10] system. The sum required from the Sheriff [his farm or debt] was expressed in piles of counters in the squares of the chequered cloth along its top row [Row A]. The next row represented what he has already paid in [Row B]. The row beneath that represented the amount still owed for the year. If the amount owed by the Sheriff [his farm] was reckoned by tale or count then the amount owed was simply expressed as a deduction of the lower from the upper sum [Row C = Row A - Row B]. If the amount owed was to be calculated in blanched coinage [assayed sterling silver] then the adjusted value to be paid by the Sheriff was represented  the counters in the fourth row [Row D]. In this sense the Exchequer table was not so much an abacus but a means for all sitting at the table to see exactly and unambiguously all the calculations and amounts involved. Some have argued that the arrangement derives more from the popular Game of Tables, a precursor to the modern game of backgammon, rather than the abacus. It is suggested that the Game of Tables was introduced to Western Europe by the crusaders following their return from Outremer.

Those who sat at this table formed the board of Barons called the Exchequer.  There were four benches one of each being placed along the four sides of the Exchequer table.

The seating plan was as follows:

At one (the right hand) end of the table along one of the shorter sides sat, in order, the Barons of the Exchequer: [the bishop of Winchester], the Justiciar, the Chancellor, the Constable, two Chamberlains, and the Marshall. At the opposite end sat [Thomas Brown], the Sheriff who was under interrogation, and the Sheriff's Clerk.

Along one long sides sat the clerk of the constabulary, chancellor's clerk, chancellor's scribe, treasurer's scribe, the Treasurer, [behind whom sat Thomas Brown's clerk]. On the opposite long side sat the clerk in charge of the writing house,  the calculator or reckoner, and a tally-stick cutter.

The Author of the Dialogue of the Exchequer described it as

As, in a game of chess, there are certain grades of combatants and they proceed or stand still by certain laws or limitations, some presiding and others advancing: so, in this, some preside, some assist by reason of their office, and no one is free to exceed the fixed laws.

As in a game chess a battle is fought between kings, so in this it is chiefly between two that a conflict takes place and war is waged, between the Treasurer and the Sheriff under audit, who sits there to render account with the others sitting by as judges, to see and to judge the proceedings, and to settle disagreements.

The sheriffs had to render accounts and submit the taxes for their counties twice a year, once at Easter and again at Michaelmas.

Under Henry I, the procedure adopted for the audit involved the Treasurer drawing up a summons to be sent to each Sheriff, which he was required to answer. The Treasurer called on each Sheriff to give an account of the income in his shire due from royal demesne lands and from the county farm. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then questioned him concerning debts owed by private individuals. The results of the audit were documented in a series of records known as the Pipe Rolls.

Lower Exchequer

This was the Exchequer of Receipt where the monies from the sheriffs of each county were physically handed over and counted, and sent for assay, if necessary, with records of the same being made.

There is a lower exchequer which is also called the Receipt, where the money is handed over to be counted, and is put down in writing and on tallies, so that afterwards, at the upper exchequer, an account may be rendered of them.

On the nature or arrangement of the lower exchequer

Upper Exchequer

This was the main room of the Exchequer, in which the principal barons sat, the Exchequer of Audit. It was where the sheriffs were interrogated by the Barons of the Exchequer and were brought to answer for their accounts, where the outstanding sums owing were calculated, and the accounts were audited and recorded. It was a court which sat twice a year, at Easter and again at Michaelmas. The process be tween the Treasurer and the Sheriffs was confrontational one: in essence it was a court of law dealing with cases related to the King's Revenue.

What is the competency of the Upper Exchequer, and whence it takes its origin.


Charles Petit-Dutaillis; Georges Lefebvre (1969). Studies and Notes Supplementary to Stubbs' Constitutional History. Origin of the Exchequer: Manchester University Press. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-7190-0341-7. 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

Rapin de Thoyras (Paul, M.); Nicolas Tindal (1757). The history of England. Printed for T. Osborne. pp. 385–.

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

Matthew Bacon; Henry Gwillim (1798). A new abridgment of the law. Printed by A. Strahan. pp. 147–.

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

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1 January 1987). The Governance of Norman and Angevin England, 1086-1272. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-1307-8.

The Abacus and the King's Curia
C. H. Haskins
The English Historical Review
Vol. 27, No. 105 (Jan., 1912), pp. 101-106

Accounting, Business & Financial History
Volume 19, Issue 3, 2009, pp. 259-85
Michael John Jones

Hubert Hall (15 November 2012). The Red Book of the Exchequer. Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-108-05324-2
Hubert Hall (15 November 2012). The Red Book of the Exchequer. Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-05325-9.
Hubert Hall (15 November 2012). The Red Book of the Exchequer. Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-108-05326-6.

Black Book of the Exchequer
England. Exchequer., . (1774). Liber niger Scaccarii: nec non Wilhelmi Worcestrii Annales rerum anglicarum. Editio altera / Londini: B. White.
cum præfatione et appendice Thomæ Hearnii ad editionem primam Oxoniæ editam.
Hathitrust Library
Full view v. 1 (original from University of Michigan)
Full view v. 2 (original from University of Michigan)

England. Exchequer; Thomas Hearne; William Worcester (1774). Liber Niger Scaccarii: Nec Non Wilhelmi Worcestrii Annales Rerum Anglicarum. Volume I. B. White.

Great Britain. Exchequer (1774). Liber niger Scaccarii: nec non Wilhelmi Worcestrii Annales rerum anglicarum, cum præfatione et appendice Thomæ Hearnii ad editionem primam Oxonæ editam. Volume II. B. White.

Exchequer of Ireland

Patrick J. Geary (2010). Readings in Medieval History: The Later Middle Ages. University of Toronto Press. pp. 716–. ISBN 978-1-4426-0117-8.

Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. Boydell Press. pp. 242–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.

Richard Fitzneale; Nigel (Bishop of Ely); Emilie Amt; S. D. Church (8 November 2007). Dialogus de Scaccario: The Dialogue of the Exchequer. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-925861-1.

Paul Millman (30 July 2012). "Chapter 3 - Ludus Scacarri: Games and Governance in Twelfth-Century England". In Daniel E. O'Sullivan. Chess in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: A Fundamental Thought Paradigm of the Premodern World. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-3-11-028881-0.

Emilie Amt (1 January 1993). The Accession of Henry II in England: Royal Government Restored, 1149-1159. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 111–. ISBN 978-0-85115-348-3.

Paul Vinogradoff (1 January 2005). "Taxation"English Society in the Eleventh Century: Essays in English Mediaeval History. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-1-58477-476-1.

The Exchequer at Westminster
by GJ Turner
English Historical Review (1904) XIX (LXXIV): 286-288
doi: 10.1093/ehr/XIX.LXXIV.286

The Origins of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer
Nicholas C. Vincent
The English Historical Review
Vol. 108, No. 426 (Jan., 1993), pp. 105-121

King Henry II and the Earls: The Pipe Roll Evidence
Thomas K. Keefe
Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies
Vol. 13, No. 3 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 191-222

A Charter of William, Earl of Essex (1170)
J. H. Round
The English Historical Review
Vol. 6, No. 22 (Apr., 1891), pp. 364-367
Published by: Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL:

John Campbell Baron Campbell (1846). The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England: Volume I. Chapter III - Thomas a Becket: J. Murray. pp. 61–.
David Roffe (2012). The English and Their Legacy, 900-1200: Essays in Honour of Ann Williams. Boydell Press. pp. 245–. ISBN 978-1-84383-794-7.

Lachaud Frédérique. La notion d'office dans la littérature politique en France et en Angleterre, XIIe-XIIIe siècles. In: Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 153e année, N. 4, 2009. pp. 1543-1570.
doi : 10.3406/crai.2009.92735
url : /web/revues/home/prescript/article/crai_0065-0536_2009_num_153_4_92735

Constitutio domus regis

Red Book of the Exchquer, Part III

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