Thursday, 6 August 2015

The King's Peace

History concerns societies. Societies are ruled by laws. How those laws come into being, evolve and change and are interpreted by the rulers, by the people, by significant groups in those societies are significant historical issues, and a matter of History. Such is the nature and essence of the King's Peace.

The Constitutions of Clarendon were definitely about king Henry II wanting firmly to extend the areas of his legal jurisdiction into areas which the Church believed to be exclusively its own. The extent of the King's legal jurisdiction is sometimes known as the King's Peace [Pax Regis], just as Pax Romana might describe the extent of Roman rule and justice handled by Roman Law, and enforced by the Roman legions. This is a question of the King's own rights. The Church's rights are seen as those defined by Canon Law, whereas the King's own rights are more driven by custom and regal precedence.

Breaches of the King's Peace were serious matters. Committing a breach was an Injury against the King's Majesty [Laese Majeste], a kind of treason, and very definitely a felony. Breaches of the King's Peace were to be tried in the King's Courts by the King's Justices, or even himself personally. Indeed this can possibly be seen as the legal and theoretical origin of the king's law, and his very system of justice, and his authority and right to rule.

The extent of the King's Peace was defined sometimes by time, particular days, sometimes by place or region, sometimes by category of offence and/or legal topic. Overtime the extent of the King's Peace gradually got larger.

Pax Regis was a term which applied to a certain privileged area, a kind of sanctuary. The pax regis, or verge of the court extended from the king's palace-gate or royal court to the distance of three miles, three furlongs, three acres, nine feet, nine palms, and nine barleycorns. This was the formal area under the control of the lord steward of the royal household.

Henry I in his coronation charter stated

Clause 12: Pacem firmam in toto regno meo pono et teneri amodo precipio.

I set an immutable peace on all of my realm and order it to be held henceforth.


John Hudson (2012). The Oxford History of the Laws of England Volume II: 871-1216. The king's peace: OUP Oxford. pp. 386–. ISBN 978-0-19-163003-3.

John Hudson (2014). The Formation of English Common Law: Law and Society in England from the Norman Conquest to Magna Carta. Routledge. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-317-89801-6.

Benjamin Thorpe (1840). Ancient laws and institutes of England: comprising laws enacted under the Anglo-Saxon kings from Aethelbirht to Cnut,  De Pace Curia Regis G. E. Eyre and A. Spottiswoode, printers to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty. pp. 526–.

Chartes des libert├ęs anglaises - Henry I Coronation Charter- Clause 12 

Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz (1997). The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Princeton University Press. pp. 168–. ISBN 0-691-01704-2.

Henry Hallam (1829). The Constitutional History of England. CUP Archive. pp. 109– 

R. Allen Brown (1985). The Normans and the Norman Conquest. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. pp. 55–. ISBN 978-0-85115-367-4. 

Alan Harding (2002). Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State. Oxford University Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-0-19-821958-3.

The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward i. CUP Archive. pp. 463–

Stephen Morillo (2003). Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History, 2002. The Rise and Fall of the Anglo-Saxon Law of the Highway: Boydell Press. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-1-84383-008-5.

Francis Palgrave (1832). The rise and progress of the English Commonwealth: Anglo-Saxon period. The King as Supreme Conservator of the Peace: John Murray. pp. 284–.

The Archaeological Journal: . The Four Roman Ways: Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 1857. pp. 99–.
Bracton Thorne Edition English. Volume 2, Page 413

The Peace and the Truce of God in the Eleventh Century
H. E. J. Cowdrey
Past & Present
No. 46 (Feb., 1970), pp. 42-67
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society


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