English Legal History-Outline

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English Legal History--Outline




1.The medieval depositions:

a.Edward II--1327.

b.Richard II--1399.

c.Henry VI--1460. (Not a deposition, an act of accord, though a deposition of sorts took place in March of 1461. Coronation of Edward IV in June.)

d.Edward V--1483.

2.Edward II--Two sets of writs summoned a Parliament in the king’s name to meet at Westminster on 7 January 1327. The Parliament assembled but the king remained at Kenilworth in Warwickshire.

a.Was what assembled at Westminster a Parliament?

b.The chronicles tell us of an unsuccessful attempt to get Edward II to come to the Parliament.

c.They tell us of sermons, of charges against Edward, of an announcement that he had been deposed by the magnates, clergy and people, of a massive swearing of loyalty to Edward III.

d.They also tell of a commission of bishops, barons, clergy, knights and burgesses who went to Edward and secured his abdication in favor of his son.

e.Much depends on whether the events in the assembly, be it a Parliament or not, took place before or after the deputation to Kenilworth, or whether there were two deputations.

f.The earliest official version of what happened (Mats. p. VI–101):

“Whereas Sir Edward, recently king of England, of his free will and by the common counsel and assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and other nobles, and of the whole community of the realm, has abdicated the government of the realm; and whereas he has granted and wills that the government of the realm should devolve upon his eldest son and heir, Sir Edward, who should govern, reign and be crowned king; and whereas all the great men have performed their homage [to the said heir]: we proclaim and publish the peace of our said lord, Sir Edward, the son [of King Edward]; and on his part we command and firmly enjoin each and every one, on pain of disherision and loss of life or members, not to break the peace of our said lord the king; for he is and shall be ready to enforce right for each and every one of the said kingdom in all matters and against all persons, both great and small. So, if any one has some demand to make of another, let him make it by means of [legal] action, without resorting to force or violence.”

3.Richard II--From the Parliament Roll (Mats., pp. VI-119 to VI-121)

a.A committee representing the estates of the realm accepted Richard’s abdication in favor of Henry (Mats., pp. VI-119 to VI-121).

b.The abdication was proclaimed to the assembly and was accepted by the estates and the people (pp. VI-121 to VI-122).

c.Then charges were read against Richard, which were accepted by the estates and people followed by a formal sentence of deposition pronounced, again, by a representative body (pp. VI-122 to VI-124).

d.Henry then challenged the realm of England, the first piece of English that we have put in the mouth of an English king in an official record. The claim was based on inheritance and conquest (p. VI-124).

“In the name of Fadir, Son, and Holy Gost, I, Henry of Lancaster chalenge this rewme of Yngland and the corone with all the membres and the appurtenances, als I that am disendit be right lyne of the blode comyng fro the gude lorde Kyng Henry Therde, and thorghe that ryght that God of his grace hath sent me, with the helpe of my kyn and of my frendes, to recover it—the whiche rewme was in poynt to be undone for defaut of governance and undoyng of the gode lawes.”

e.There followed the acceptance of Henry by the people and a sermon by the abp of Canterbury (p. VI-124):

4.The official theory of what happened is even more complex than the events.

a.For removal of Richard from the throne we have a notion of voluntary abdication, the voluntariness of which is patently untrue, and deposition pronounced by the estates of the realm (the word parliament is never used in the official documents). This sentence is based on precedents from canon law and from the empire.

Chronicon Ade de Usk (E. Thompson, 2d ed., London, 1904), 29-30, 181: “[I]t was found by us that the perjuries, sacrileges, unnatural crimes, oppression of his subjects, reduction of his people to slavery, cowardice and weakness of rule—with all of which crimes King Richard was known to be tainted—were cause enough for setting him aside, in accordance with the chapter, Ad apostolice dignitatis, under the title: De re judicata, in the Sextus.” The reference is to Pope Innocent IV’s bull of deposition of Frederick II in the Council of Lyon (1245) [VI 2.14.2].

b.Henry’s accession to the throne is never said to be by favor of parliament, but the other claims are confused: inheritance, conquest and divine favor are all mixed in, substitutes and poor ones at that for the fact that Henry was not the next in line, but the man who was next in line, the earl of March, was four years old at the time.

5.In 1460, the king and the three estates assembled in parliament agreed to what was called an act of accord, by which Richard of York, the descendant of the bypassed heir of 1399 would succeed to the throne. They did this because the justices had refused to decide the issue (Mats., pp. VI-126 to VI-129). (In fact, Edward IV, Richard of York’s son, succeeded upon Richard of York’s death on the field of battle later in 1460.)

6.Edward V

a.Dr. Shaw preached a sermon on June 22, 1483, and the Londoners acclaimed Richard III king.

b.Buckingham on June 25 led a commission to ask Richard to take possession of the crown.

c.On June 26 Richard sat in the royal chair at Westminster.

d.On July 6 he was crowned.

e.The coronation oath takes the “have” out (English vs. French). The renunciation of homage to Edward V and the coronation ritual all recognize the role of the estates.

f.The most extraordinary part of this extraordinary tale is the document in Mats. pp. VI-129 to VI-131, particularly, the last paragraph (p. VI-131):

“Albeit that the right, title, and estate which our sovereign lord the king Richard III has to and in the Crown ... of England .. is grounded upon the laws of God and of Nature, and also upon the ancient laws and laudable customs of this said realm ... yet nevertheless, for as much as it is considered that the greater part of the people of this land is not sufficiently learned in the abovesaid laws and customs, whereby the truth and right in this matter may very likely be hidden, and not clearly known to all the people, and thereupon put in doubt and question. And moreover, as the court of parliament is of such authority and the people of this land is of such nature and disposition, as experience teaches, that the manifestation and declaration of any truth and right made by the three estates of this realm assembled in parliament, and by authority of the same, makes, before all other things, most faith and certainty and, quieting men’s minds, removes the occasion of all doubts and seditious language. Therefore at the request and by assent of the three estates of this realm, that is to say, the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons of this land, assembled in this present parliament, by authority of the same, be it pronounced, decreed, and declared, that our sovereign lord the king was and is true and undoubted king of this realm of England ... as well by right of consanguinity and inheritance, as well by lawful election, consecration, and coronation. And moreover that at the request and by the assent and authority abovesaid, be it ordained, enacted, and established, that the said crown and royal dignity of this realm ... rest and abide in the person of our said sovereign lord the king, during his life, and after his decease in his heirs begotten of his body. And especially ... that the high and excellent prince Edward, son of our said sovereign lord the king, be heir apparent of the same sovereign lord the king, to succeed to him in the abovesaid crown and royal dignity.”

7.The Act of Succession of Henry VII (Mats., p. VI-71):

“To the pleasure of Almighty God, the wealth, prosperity, and surety of this realm of England, to the singular comfort of all the king’s subjects of the same and in avoiding of all ambiguities and questions: be it ordained, established and enacted by authority of this present parliament that the inheritances of the crowns of the realms of England and of France, with all the pre-eminence and dignity royal to the same pertaining, and all other seignories to the king belonging beyond the sea, with the appurtenances thereto in any wise due or pertaining, be, rest, remain, and abide in the most royal person of our now sovereign lord, King Henry VII, and in the heirs of his body lawfully coming, perpetually with the grace of God so to endure, and in none other.”

8.What are the elements?

a.For getting rid of a monarch, EII, RII, EV

i.abdication (that won’t work for EV, hence bastardization)

ii.judgment of deposition

by whom? -- 3 estates, Parliament (impeachment)

on what grounds? rex inutilis, villany (heresy, blasphemy, perjury and sacrilege), inheritance

b.For putting in a new one, all five cases

i.God, victory, coronation


iii.acclamation by the people

iv.judgment by the 3 estates, Parliament

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