Friday, 13 September 2013

Trial of the Dean of Scarborough, AD 1158

This was a case which occurred early on in the reign of king Henry II, one which possibly made him want to sit up and reform the way legal cases were handled in the English ecclesiastical courts. It was a documented case about how some dignitaries of the church, deans and archdeacons in particular, who had been allegedly corrupt by accepting large bribes. It was a case where the privilegium fori [clerical immunity] was invoked to prevent the king's chief justiciar, Richard de Luci, from passing sentence against the dean of Scarborough in the king's court for this corruption.

Extract from
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). Opera. Parker. pp. 213–.
Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen
Fuit siquidem rex aliquotiens Eboraci ubi ad eum quidam Burgensis suus de Scardeburghe accessit, questus, quod quidam decanus abstulerat ei viginti et duo solidos, uxorem ipsius in capitulis plurimis vexans, et deferens sine alio accusatore ream adulterii: contra quam consuetudinem rex legem prohibitionis ediderat. Jussu regis decanus ille evocatus et coram rege conventus, praesenti archiepiscopo suo, et episcopo Lincolniensi, et Dunelmensi, et Johanne tunc Eboraci thesaurario, postea episcopo Pictavensi, respondit edoctus, quod a diacono quodam et alio laico fuerat illa accusata. Et cum neganti ei sua fuisset adjudicata purgatio, ut mitius tractaretur, hunc virum ejus archidiacono suo dedisse vigintisolidos, et sibi duos. Quum haec decanus ille coram rege testium astipulatione ibi praesentium probare non posset, exegit de eo rex judicium, dicens, quod archidiaconi et decani regni sui habitatoribus hoc modo plus pecuniae per annum extorqueant, quam ipse recipiat. Ierunt cum clero illo et barones ejus ad judicandum. Tandem Johannes thesaurarius dixit sibi videri pecuniam esse reddendam Burgensi, et decanum archiepiscopi sui subjiciendum misericordiae, de officio suo. Ad haec Ricardus de Luci: Quid ergo domino regi judicabitis, in cujus iste incidit constitutionem. Johannes: Nihil, quia clericus est. Ricardus: huic sententiae non adero. Et relictis illis, ad regem cum aliis baronibus rediit. Clerus postmodum cum hac intrat sententia, qua ab eodem Johanne formatore pronunciata: Rex aversus, ad archiepiscopum Theobaldum, diem praestituens, provocavit; et falsam esse sententiam iratus oppido dixit. Sed infra diem, nuntiata sibi morte Gaufridi fratris sui, transfretans appellationem non est persecutus.

Translation extracted from
Gourde, Leo T. (1943), "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen"
pp. 56-7

Besides, a long time before, during the time of Archbishop
Theobald, the King had taken offence against the
English Clergy in general, provoked by the insolence of
some of them.

Once when he was at York, a certain burgess
of his from Scarborough came to him with the complaint that
a certain dean had taken from him twenty-two shillings, and was
prosecuting his wife on the least charges, considering her
guilty of adultery without any other accuser [witness]. Against this
custom the King had issued a law of prohibition. At the command
of the King, this dean was removed and summoned to a
meeting before the King in the presence of his own archbishop,
the bishops of Lincoln and Durham and John treasurer of
York, later bishop of Poitiers, where he answered learnedly
that the woman had been accused by a certain Deacon and
another layman. Although at first he denied that any money
had been given him, when put to the torture, that he might
be more amenable, he confessed that the burgess had given
twenty shillings to his archdeacon and two to himself. Since
that dean could not prove those things before the King by the
agreement of the witnesses there present, the King ordered
him to trial, saying that the archdeacons and deans exacted
more money in this way in a year from the people of the Kingdom
than he himself received. Finally John the treasurer
said that it seemed to him that the money should be returned
to the burgess and the dean left to the mercy of his archbishop
as belonging to his office. To this Richard de Luci
said: "Will you not try him by our Lord the King against
whose law this man offended?"  "No," says John, "because
he is a Cleric." Richard answered, "I will not have part in
this sentence," and leaving them he rejoined the King and the
other Lords. When the Cleric was sentenced by a judgment
passed by this same John, the King indignantly summoned
Archbishop Theobald to appear on a certain day and told
the city that the sentence was false. But a day later when
the news came that his brother, Gaufridus [Geoffrey], had died, he
crossed the channel and did not continue his protest.


James Craigie Robertson (London 1877). Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (Canonized by Pope Alexander III, AD 1173). Rolls Series Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. pp. 43–5. ISBN 978-1-108-04927-6. 2013. 
Willelmus filius Stephani, Vita III S. Thomae Cantuariensis, p17
William Henry Dixon (1863). Fasti Eboracenses: Lives of the Archbishops of York. Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts. pp. 236–.

L.B. Radford. (1894) Thomas of London Before His Consecration. CUP Archive.  pp. 193-5.
Thomas of london. CUP Archive. pp. 193–5.

Gourde, Leo T. (1943), "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen"

Avrom Saltman (1956). Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Greenwood Press. p. 160

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

R. C. Van Caenegem (1991). Legal History: A European Perspective. Continuum. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-1-85285-049-4.

Christopher Nugent Lawrence Brooke; Christopher Robert Cheney (1976). Church and Government in the Middle Ages: Essays Presented to C. R. Cheney on His 70th Birthday. Cambridge University Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-0-521-21172-7.

G.J. White. Restoration and Reform, 1153-1165. Cambridge University Press. pp. 196–. ISBN 978-1-139-42523-0.

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1 January 1973). Henry II. University of California Press. pp. 434–5. ISBN 978-0-520-02282-9.

Actes Du Colloque International de Sedieres. Editions Beauchesne. pp. 77–. 


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