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Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book I/Statutes of William the Conqueror

I.

STATUTES OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.

(Stubbs' "Charters," p. 83-85.)

Here is shown what William the king of the English, together with his princes, has established since the Conquest of England.

1. Firstly that, above all things, he wishes one God to be venerated throughout his whole kingdom, one faith of Christ always to be kept inviolate, peace and security to be observed between the English and the Normans.

2. We decree also that every free man shall affirm by a compact and an oath that, within and without England, he desires to be faithful to king William, to preserve with him his lands and his honour with all fidelity, and first to defend him against his enemies.

3. I will, moreover, that all the men whom I have brought with me, or who have come after me, shall be in my peace and quiet. And if one of them shall be slain, the lord of his mvirderer shall seize him within five days, if he can; but if not, he shall begin to pay to me forty-six marks of silver as long as his possessions shall hold out. But when the possessions of the lord of that man are at an end, the whole hundred in which the slaying took place shall pay in common what remains.

4. And every Frenchman who, in the time of my relative king Edward, was a sharer in England of the customs of the English, shall pay according to the law of the English what they themselves call "onhlote" and "anscote." This decree has been confirmed in the city of Gloucester.

5. We forbid also that any live cattle be sold or bought for money except within the cities, and this before three faithful witnesses; nor even anything old without a surety and warrant. But if he do otherwise he shall pay, and shall afterwards pay a fine.

6. It was also decreed there that if a Frenchman summon an Englishman for perjury or murder, theft, homicide, or " ran "—as the English call evident raptj which can not be denied—-the Englishman shall defend himself as he prefers, either through the ordeal of iron, or through wager of battle. But if the Englishman be infirm he shall find another who will do it for him. If one of them shall be vanquished he shall pay a fine of forty shillings to the king. If an Englishman summon a Frenchman, and be unwilling to prove his charge by judgment or by wager of battle, I will, nevertheless, that the Frenchman purge himself by an informal oath.

7. This also I command and will, that all shall hold and keep the law of Edward the king with regard to their lands, and with regard to all their possessions, those provisions being added which I have made for the utility of the English people.

8. Every man who wishes to be considered a freeman shall have a surety, that his surety may hold him and hand him over to justice if he offend in any way. And if any such one escape, his sureties shall see to it that, without making difficulties, they pay what is charged against him, and that they clear themselves of having known of any fraud in the matter of his escape. The hundred and county shall be made to answer as our predecessors decreed. And those that ought of right to come, and are unwilling to appear, shall be summoned once; and if a second time they areunwilling to appear, one ox shall be taken from them and they shall be summoned a third time. And if they do not come the third time, another ox shall be taken: but if they do not come the fourth time there shall be forfeited from the goods of that man who was unwilling to come, the extent of the charge against him,—"ceapgeld" as it is called,—and besides this a fine to the king.

9. I forbid any one to sell a man beyond the limits of the country, under penalty of a fine in full to me.

10. I forbid that anyone be killed or hung for any fault, but his eyes shall be torn out or his testicles cut off. And this command shall not be violated under penalty of a fine in full to me.

Ordinance of William I., separating the Spiritual and Temporal Courts.

William by the grace of God King of the English, to R. Bainard and G. de Magnavilla, and P. de Valoines, and to my other faithful ones of Essex and of Hertfordshire and of Middlesex, greeting. Know all of you and my other faithful ones who remain in England, that in a common council and by the advice of the archbishops and bishops, and abbots, and of all the justices of my kingdom, I have decided that the episcopal laws, which up to my time in the kingdom of the English have not been right or according to the precepts of the holy canons, shall be emended. Wherefore I command, and by royal authority decree, that no bishop or archdeacon shall any longer hold, in the hundred court, pleas pertaining to the episcopal laws, nor shall they bring before the judgment of secular men any case which pertains to the rule of souls; but whoever shall be summoned, according to the episcopal laws, in any case or for any fault, shall come to the place which the bishop shall choose or name for this purpose, and shall there answer in his case or for his fault, and shall perform his law before God and his bishop not according to the hundred court, but according to the canons and the episcopal laws. But if any one, elated by pride, shall scorn or be unwilling to come before the judgment seat of the bishop, he shall be summoned once and a second and a third time; and if not even then he come to make amends, he shall be excommunicated; and, if it be needful to give effect to this, the power and justice of the king or the sheriff shall be called in. But he who was summoned before the judgment seat of the bishop shall, for each summons, pay the episcopal fine. This also I forbid and by my authority interdict, that any sheriff, or prevost, or minister of the king, or any layman concern himself in the matter of laws which pertain to the bishop, nor shall any layman summon another man to judgment apart from the jurisdiction of the bishop. But judgment shall be passed in no place except within the episcopal see, or in such place as the bishop shall fix upon for this purpose.