The King and His Courts: The Role of John and Henry III in the Administration of Justice, 1199-1240

The King and His Courts: The Role of John and Henry III in the Administration of Justice, 1199-1240

The King and His Courts: The Role of John and Henry III in the Administration of Justice, 1199-1240

The King and His Courts: The Role of John and Henry III in the Administration of Justice, 1199-1240

Excerpt

For this, then, the king is made and elected, that he might do justice to everyone, that the Lord might be in him, that he might make judgments of his own will, that he might sustain and defend what he has justly judged, because if it is not he who does justice, peace can easily be brought to an end and it is useless to make laws and do justice unless it be that there is someone to keep the laws.

Medieval English political thinkers from John of Salisbury to Henry de Bracton recognized that the king was the fountain of justice; they considered the giving of justice one of his most important duties. All students of English legal and constitutional history are aware of the attention that Henry II devoted to this obligation. Henry so greatly expanded the scope of royal justice by his assizes that the curia regis became not simply a court for disputes between his great tenants-in-chief, but a court of ordinary resort for pleas of the crown, proprietary actions, and possessory assizes open to all his free subjects. The old county and hundred courts and courts of private jurisdiction were bypassed in many instances; and the beginnings of a common law in England can already be discerned. This expansion of activity by the curia regis necessitated the establishment of specialized branches to speed the administration of justice. In the course of the twelfth century, as the task of governing England grew more complex, some of the offices of the curia regis tended to "go out of court"; that is, they were removed from the king's personal supervision. The exchequer early splintered off from the unspecialized curia regis to develop into an autonomous financial office . . .

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