GLANVILL, RANULF DE (sometimes written Glanvil, Glanville) (d. 1190), chief justiciar of England and reputed author of a book on English law, was born at Stratford in Suffolk, but in what year is unknown. There is but little information regarding his early life. He first comes to the front as sheriff of Yorkshire from 1163 to 1170. In 1173 he became sheriff of Lancashire and custodian of the honour of Richmond. In 1174 he was one of the English leaders at the battle of Alnwick, and it was to him that the king of the Scots, William the Lion, surrendered. In 1175 he was reappointed sheriff of Yorkshire, in 1176 he became justice of the king’s court and a justice itinerant in the northern circuit, and in 1180 chief justiciar of England. It was with his assistance that Henry II. completed his judicial reforms, though the principal of them had been carried out before he came into office. He became the king’s right-hand man, and during Henry’s frequent absences was in effect viceroy of England. After the death of Henry in 1189, Glanvill was removed from his office by Richard I., and imprisoned till he had paid a ransom, according to one authority, of £15,000. Shortly after obtaining his freedom he took the cross, and he died at the siege of Acre in 1190. At the instance, it may be, of Henry II., Glanvill wrote or superintended the writing of the Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae, which is a practical treatise on the forms of procedure in the king’s court. As the source of our knowledge regarding the earliest form of the curia regis, and for the information it affords regarding ancient customs and laws, it is of great value to the student of English history. It is now generally agreed that the work of Glanvill is of earlier date than the Scottish law book known from its first words as Regiam Majestatem, a work which bears a close resemblance to his.
The treatise of Glanvill was first printed in 1554. An English translation, with notes and introduction by John Beames, was published at London in 1812. A French version is found in various MSS., but has not yet been printed. (See also English Law: History of.)