Monday, 25 May 2015

Historical Notes on Clause 10: Persons cited for ecclesiastical offences but who are tenants of the king

Qui de civitate, vel castello, vel burgo, vel dominico manerio domini regis fuerit, si ab archidiacono vel episcopo super aliquo delicto citatus fuerit, unde debeat eisdem respondere et ad citationes eorum satisfacere noluerit, bene licet eum sub interdicto ponere, sed non debet excommunicari priusquam capitalis minister domini regis villae illius conveniatur, ut justiciet eum ad satisfactionem venire. Et si minister regis inde defecerit, ipse erit in misericordia domini regis, et exinde poterit episcopus ipsum accusatum ecclesiastica justitia coercere.

Anyone who is from a city, castle, borough, or demesne manor of the king [essentially fiefholders [tenants/vassals] of the king and/or their men] and who has been cited by an archdeacon or bishop for any offence for which he ought to be held answerable to them and despite their summonses has refused to do what is right [attend the ecclesiastical court and make contrition], it is fully permissible to have him put under interdict [a personal interdict - forbidden to be present at any religious rite and the celebration or the receipt of any sacrament] , but he ought not to be excommunicated before the king's chief minister [administrator] of that manor [vill etc.] has agreed, in order that he may be judicially constrained to attend his trial. But if the king's official fail in this, he himself [the accused] shall be at the mercy of the lord king, and then the bishop will have the power [authority] to coerce the accused man by ecclesiastical justice.

I can find no specific precedence for this clause or for it being the precedent of any specific subsequent law, other than it being an extension of the law expressed in Clause 7 or an extension of Lesé Majesté, a petty treason or political crime. It was clearly Henry II's intention that he wanted to exert greater control over the Church's right to excommunicate anyone who the royal person might have the remotest possibility of coming into direct contact with,  after all excommunicated persons are severely tainted spiritually, and are meant to be shunned at all costs especially by a person like the king who had a deep spiritual role when governing the kingdom. A possible case where this Clause and Clause 7 were actually put into use was the case against Anthony Beck [Bek/Beke], Bishop of Durham, in King Edward I's time. 

Fourthly, That for any archbishop or prelate to excommunicate any person in the king's service, or attending on his royal person by his command, and under his protection, or any other, for temporal affairs, is a very high contempt, offence against the king's crown and dignity [Lesé Majesté], tending to the king's and his heirs disinheriting, by the unanimous resolution of the king, and of all his nobles, barons, judges, council, in this parliament; which they adjudged to be punished not only then, but in all succeeding ages, by imprisonment of the persons of such archbishops, bishops, and others, who should be found guilty thereof, and also by great fines and ransoms to the king.

Some References

William Hutchinson (1785). The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham. S. Hodgson & Robinsons. pp. 243–.

J. C. Holt (2015). Magna Carta. Cambridge University Press. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-1-107-09316-4.

Szabo, M. D. (1972). Political Crimes: A Historical Perspective. Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y2, 7.


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