Constitutional developments 14th and early 15th c.—The frame of government

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English Legal History--Outline




1.How do law and society relate in this period?

2.The 14th century

a.William of Ockham (c. 1288 to c. 1348)

b.Legal thought

i.English common law: pleaders

ii.Canon law: encyclopedists and conciliarists

iii.Roman law: Bartolus and Baldus

c.Social and economic

i.The Black Death (1348-9)

ii.The Peasants Revolt (1381)

d.Religion: John Wyclif (c. 1325–1384) and Jan Hus (c. 1372-1415), Juliana of Norwich (c. 1342 to c. 1416) and the Beguines (flourished 13th and 14th ceturies)

e.English Kings who met disasterous ends

i.Edward II (1307-1327)

ii.Edward III (1327-1377)

iii.Richard II (1377-1399)

f.Chaucer (c. 1343–1400), Gower (c. 1330–1408), York Minster and the Percy tomb in Beverly Minster

3.A glimpse at the 15th century: Henry IV — 1399–1413; Henry V — 1413–1422 (age 35); Henry VI — 1422 (age 9 mos.)–1461, 1470–1471 (Lancastrian kings); Edward IV — 1461–1470, 1471–1483; Edward V — 1483; Richard III — 1483–1485 (Yorkist kings)

4.Crises of the 14th century (Chronology, Mats., p. VI–1)

a.1311--Ordinances and the Lords’ Ordainers

b.1322--Statute of York

c.1327--The deposition of Edward II

d.1341--The Stratford crisis

e.1348-9--The Black Death

f.1376--The Good Parliament

g.1381--The Peasants’ Revolt

h.1386-7--The Crisis of 1386-7

i.1388--The Merciless Parliament

j.1399--The Deposition of Richard II


a.The articles against Gaveston (Mats., p. VI-2; see below)

b.The Statute of York (Mats., p. VI-7; see over)

6.Incremental Change—e.g., the lower clergy cease to come to parliament (cf. Mats., pp. VI-10, VI-17).

7.The Seals:

a.12th century-chancellor-chancery-great seal

b.13th century-wardrobe-privy seal

c.14th century-the chamber-the secret seal-signet

d.15th century-the council-privy seal-the secretary and the signet

8.Incremental change as seen in administration

a.The household ordinance of Edward II (Mats., pp. VI-3 to VI-6)

b.Household ordinance of Edward I (Mats., p. V-28)

c.Hints of double-entry bookkeeping (Mats., pp. VI-19 to VI-21)

d.Chamber finance (Mats., pp. VI-13 and VI-14)

Articles Against Gaveston (1308)

“Homage and the oath of allegiance are more in respect of the crown than in respect of the king’s person and are more closely related to the crown than to the king’s person; and this is evident because, before the right to the crown has descended to the person, no allegiance is due to him. And, therefore, if it should befall that the king is not guided by reason, then, in order that the dignity of the crown may be preserved the lieges are bound by the oath made to the crown to reinstate the king in the dignity of the crown or else they would not have kept their oath. The next question is how the king should be reinstated, whether by an action at law or by constraint. It is not, however, possible by recourse to the law to obtain redress, because there would be no other judge than the royal judge, in which case, if the king’s will was not accordant with right reason, the only result would be that error would be maintained and concerned. Hence, in order that the oath may be saved, when the king will not right a wrong and remove that which is hurtful to the people at large and prejudicial to the crown, and is so adjudged by the people, it behoves that the evil must be removed by constraint, for the king is bound by his oath to govern his people, and his lieges are bound to govern with him and in support of him.”

Statute of York (1322)

“[§1] Whereas our lord King Edward, son of King Edward, on March 16, in the third year of his reign, granted to the prelates, earls, and barons of his realm did grant unto the prelates, earls, and barons of his realm that they might choose certain persons of the prelates, earls, and barons and of other lawful men whom they should be deemed sufficient to be called unto them, for the ordaining and establishing the estate of the household (estat del hostel) of our said lord the king, and of his kingdom, according to right and reason, and in such manner that their ordinances should be made to the honour of God, and to the honour and profit of Holy Church, and to the honour of the said king, and to his profit and the profit of his people, according to right and reason, and to the oath which our lord the king made at his coronation; and whereas the archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and the bishops, earls, and barons chosen for the purpose, drew up certain ordinances ... , which ordinances our said lord the king caused to be rehearsed and examined in his parliament at York three weeks after Easter in the fifteenth year of his reign ... ; [§2] and whereas, through that examination in the said parliament, it was found that by the ordinances thus decreed the royal power of our said lord the king was wrongfully limited in many respects, to the injury of his royal lordship (le poair royal) and contrary to the estate of the crown (lestat de la coronne), and whereas, furthermore, through such ordinances and provisions made by subjects in times past against the royal authority of our lord the king’s ancestors, the kingdom has incurred troubles and wars, whereby the land has been imperilled: [therefore] it is agreed and established at the said parliament by our lord the king, by the said prelates, earls, and barons, and by the whole community of the realm assembled in this parliament, [§3] that everything ordained by the said Ordainers and contained in the said ordinances shall henceforth and forever cease [to be valid], losing for the future all title, force, virtue, and effect; and that the statutes and establishments duly made by our lord the king and his ancestors prior to the said ordinances shall remain in force. And [it is decreed] [§4] that henceforth and forever at all times every kind of ordinance or provision made under any authority or commission whatsoever by subjects of our lord the king or of his heirs concerning the royal power (poair roial) of our lord the king or of his heirs, or against the estate of our said lord the king (lesat nostre dit seigneur le roi) or of his heirs, or against the estate of the crown (lestat de la coronne), shall be null and shall have no validity or force whatever; but [§5] that matters which are to be determined with regard to the estate of our lord the king (lesat nostre seigneur le roi) and of his heirs, or with regard to the estate of the kingdom and of the people (lesat du roialme et du poeple), shall be considered, granted, and established in parliament by our lord the king and with the consent of the prelates, earls, and barons, and of the community of the kingdom, as has been accustomed in times past.”

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