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The lands of which Henry II was in name the ruler stretched from the Tweed to the Pyrenees. England was but one member of a dominion that cannot be called an empire, for it was only held together by the common allegiance that individual magnates owed to Henry. As with the king, so with his barons: Robert, Earl of Leicester, was lord of Breteuil; his elder brother was Count of Meulan. The great men of Henry’s day held land on both sides of the Channel and frequently passed from their English to their continental possessions. Henry's own time was fairly equally divided, though France claimed more of it than England1. The defence of his continental boundary was a perpetual problem, and prosecution of his frontier claims a constant occupation; the lawyer in Henry made him unwilling to abandon any, one of them. England needed government and not defence; it gave Henry the greatest of his many titles, but in no sense was it the centre of his dominions. From either point of view, the “Angevin Empire” is a modern conception.

Already Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou, Henry became king without opposition on Stephen’s death on 25 October 1154. Stephen had recognized him as his heir and justiciar of the kingdom by the treaty of Wallingford of the previous year. What was meant by this title is uncertain, but Roger of Howden, writing at the end of the century, says that thereafter all the business of the kingdom was done through him. In any case, the work of demolishing the unlicensed castles of the anarchy was begun before Stephen’s death, although the slowness with which the work was accomplished almost caused a rupture between Henry and Stephen. As king, Henry carried on the work, and used in the administration men who had served Stephen before him. Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, Robert, Earl of Leicester, Richard de Luci, had all played their parts in Stephen’s reign. They now became Henry’s chief advisers, together with Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, his uncle, and Thomas Becket, one of Theobald’s clerks, whom Henry made Chancellor on the archbishop’s advice. Nigel, Bishop of Ely, Henry I’s treasurer, was called in to reorganize the Exchequer.

The assertion of royal authority was made without difficulty. Ranulf, Earl of Chester, who had nearly created for himself an independent principality in central England, died in December 1153, leaving a child as his heir. No one seems to have considered the possibility of making Stephen’s surviving son, William, king. The Church was on Henry’s side, and the baronage, tired of a weak king, accepted the situation. After keeping his Christmas court at Bermondsey, Henry visited the northern and eastern parts of his kingdom. On 23 January he was at Lincoln with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Master of the Templars in England. In February he was at York, and William of Aumale, Earl of Yorkshire, surrendered the castle of Scarborough. Thence Henry went to Nottingham, and William Peverel of Nottingham, the greatest baron of Nottingham and Derby, suspected of poisoning the Earl of Chester, took shelter under the cowl. The only serious opposition to the surrender of castles was in the west. Roger, Earl of Hereford, fortified Hereford and Gloucester; Hugh Mortimer fortified Wigmore, Cleobury Mortimer, and Bridgnorth. The Earl submitted on the persuasion of the Bishop of Hereford, Gilbert Foliot, but the subjugation of Hugh Mortimer’s castles occupied most of the summer of 1155.

At a great council held at Wallingford in April Henry tried to secure the succession to the throne. He caused all the magnates to swear fealty to himself and his heirs, William, who was not yet two, and, failing William, Henry, born in the preceding February. At the Winchester council in September he put forward his plan of conquering Ireland, to make a principality for his younger brother William. It seems to be this proposal, together with the Toulouse war of 1159, that has made historians talk of Henry as of one who set order in his kingdom that he might engage in wars of conquest. It is the prerogative of youth to dream, but history suggests that Henry’s dreams were short. There was sound political reason for the Irish proposal of 1155: William's support was necessary, for Henry's second brother, Geoffrey, was making trouble by insisting on his claims to Anjou and Touraine. To suppress him and to assure himself of the loyalty of Aquitaine and Normandy, Henry left England in January 1156. The capture of Geoffrey’s castles of Mirabeau and Chinon ended his revolt. He was satisfied with compensation in money and permission to accept the invitation of the men of the eastern part of Brittany and make himself Count of Nantes. In his attitude towards Brittany, both now and later in his reign, Henry was but maintaining the policy of his ancestors who claimed overlordship of that province. In his relations with continental powers the same feeling can be traced, a desire to lose nothing that had come to him by inherit­ance or marriage; no right must be given up, no claim allowed to lapse. But Henry was only an aggressor in so far as he forced others to recognize claims which they would rather see forgotten. The war of Toulouse which occupied the July, August, and September of 1159 was undertaken to recover Toulouse, to which Henry inherited a title through his wife. When the King of France interfered, Henry gave up the war; to continue it against his overlord would have been going beyond his right.

The question of Henry’s relations with Wales and Scotland had to be faced early in the reign. Both countries had gained by the anarchy in England. David of Scotland had been succeeded in 1153 by his grand­son Malcolm IV, who visited Henry in England, and agreed to surrender Northumberland and Cumberland, with the castles of Bamburgh, Newcastle, and Carlisle. Either at Peak Castle or at Chester he did homage to Henry for his English lands, the honor of Huntingdon. A Welsh expedition was not only essential from the standpoint of general policy; it was a means of securing the gratitude of marcher lords who had lost land in the time of Stephen. The object of Henry’s attack was the northern kingdom of Gwynedd, where Owen Gwynedd had built up a principality which Ranulf, Earl of Chester, himself had feared. The succession of a child of six to the earldom exposed it to Owen’s attacks. Henry’s Welsh expedition of 1158, though not a brilliant military success, achieved for the moment its end; Owen was forced to give hostages, and his activities were checked for a time. Rhys ap Gruftydd, the ruler of Deheubarth, the southern kingdom, after some hesitation, acknowledged the overlordship of Henry. The Clares and Cliffords were restored to the lands that Rhys had conquered in the previous reign. Neither Rhys, however, nor Owen was prepared to acquiesce in any reduction of power, and in 1162 Rhys took Llandovery Castle from Walter Clifford. In the next year Henry led an expedition into Wales, passing through Carmarthen and taking Rhys prisoner at Pencader. Rhys was allowed to do homage and return to his principality, but he immediately re-opened war, ravaging Cardigan until little more than the castle and the town remained to the Normans. Henry’s absorption in the Becket quarrel after 1163 encouraged Rhys and Owen to make a combined attack on the marcher barons. The lesser princes of Wales were attracted into the alliance by the prestige of the two leaders. The failure of Henry’s great expedition of 1165 to suppress the coalition secured for the Welsh another hundred years of freedom. Henry made no other great effort, and from that time his attention was confined to strengthening the border castles. His concern was not to restrain the Welsh princes or keep their lands for the marcher lords, but merely to retain the overlordship of the two kingdoms of Deheubarth and Gwynedd. In the troubles of the rebellion of 1173-4 the Welsh princes were faithful to Henry.

The minister to whom Henry from the first gave his fullest confidence was Thomas Becket, his Chancellor. The office of chancellor involved the custody of the king’s seal and constant attendance on his person: Becket is almost always a witness, often the sole witness, to the charters and writs of the early years of the reign. His power, however, depended not on his office, but on his intimacy with the king. It was at Henry's gift that he received the custody of vacant benefices, not by virtue of his office as chancellor. Becket acquired wealth and became a leader of fashion. Too busy to return to his archidiaconal duties, he earned but mild reproaches from his archbishop and requests that he would forward certain business with the king. Through him the king might be approached not only by schemers like Arnulf, Bishop of Lisieux, but by such men as John of Salisbury. The circumstances of Becket’s death have secured the preservation of masses of material, not only relating to his life as archbishop, but also to his time as chancellor. His work can also be traced in the official language of the Pipe Roll clerks. He was concerned in the restoration of order, in the administration of justice, in diplomatic business at the French court. His writ could authorize the payment of money out of the treasury, a right that later in the reign belonged only to the Justiciar. It was with reason, though in flattery, that Peter, Abbot of La Celle at Troves, wrote: “Who does not know you to be second to the king in four kingdoms?”

Archbishop Theobald died in April 1161, and a year passed before Henry decided that Becket should succeed him. The stories of Henry’s announcement of his decision to Thomas and Thomas’ unwillingness to become primate were probably invented to fit the history of the struggle. The nolo episcopari of Thomas was probably no less common form than that of most contemporary bishops; there is nothing in his career to suggest an unwillingness to accept great office. He was a man of high ambitions. Of undoubted ability, he was, however, not fitted to be Lanfranc to Henry’s William. He had neither the training nor the sanity of that great archbishop and administrator, nor among the churchmen of Henry’s day would it have been easy to find a second Lanfranc. Henry’s hesitation may mean that he was not sure of Becket. There is no evidence that he was obnoxious to the ecclesiastical party as a whole; Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of Hereford and afterwards of London, was never his friend, but Theobald seems to have desired him for a successor. Once Becket was consecrated, he tried to be the perfect archbishop. He resigned the chancellorship, though he did not give up the archdeaconry of Canterbury until the king forced him to do so. He played the ascetic as perfectly as he had played the courtier. There was no insincerity in this changed way of life.

He showed from the first a determination to let go no right which the Church could claim. His attitude was natural, for it must have seemed a noble thing to be head of the Church in England. He set about winning back for his own Church of Canterbury the lands and rights which it had lost. No claim was too shadowy for him. He demanded from the king the custody of the castles of Rochester, Saltwood, and Hythe, from the Earl of Hertford, Roger de Clare, his homage for Tonbridge Castle. Forgetting his own past, he deprived clerks in the king’s service of the benefices in the see of Canterbury that they held as their reward. As archbishop he claimed rights of patronage over all benefices on land held by tenants of the see; he excommunicated William of Eynsford, a tenant-in-chief for other lands, for resisting the application of this claim. He came into conflict with the king over a matter of general administration. In July 1163 at the council of Woodstock, Henry proposed that the sheriff’s aid should be paid into the royal treasury. Becket’s opposition was so vigorous that Henry dropped the plan. Flagrant cases of the inadequacy of ecclesiastical punishment for crime, and of abuse in ecclesiastical courts, came to complete the estrangement. On 1 October 1163 at the council at Westminster the question of criminous clerks was discussed at length. The king and his advisers demanded that accused clerks should answer the accusation in the lay court, that they should be handed over to the ecclesiastical court for trial and judgment, and that if the accused were found guilty he should be degraded and given up to the secular power for punishment. Warrant for this procedure could be found in Canon Law. Becket, with the support of the bishops, answered, not that Henry’s interpretation of Canon Law was unjustifiable, but that “God will not judge a man twice for the same offence”. Realizing that Becket would continue to evade the question of law, Henry fell back on custom, and asked whether the bishops were prepared to observe the ancient customs of the kingdom. After discussing the matter among themselves, they said that they were prepared to observe them, “saving their order”. Hilary, Bishop of Chichester, alone promised to observe them without this reservation. Henry broke up the council in exasperated fury.

The king used every means in his power to overcome the clerical opposition. He removed his heir from Becket’s charge, and he took from Becket the custody of the castles and honors of Eye and Berkhampstead. He did his utmost to make a party against Becket among the bishops, and the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London promised to observe the customs. In the last three months of 1163, Arnulf, Bishop of Lisieux, and Richard of Ilchester, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, are said to have crossed the sea six times to gain the Pope’s assent to the customs. The Pope himself, exiled from Rome and travelling in northern France, was unwilling to offend Henry. He obviously wished Becket to moderate his opposition, although he did not immediately accede to Henry’s requests that Roger, Archbishop of York, should be appointed legate in succession to Theobald, and that the bishops should be ordered to obey the customs. Before the end of the year Becket gave way to the expostulations of the bishops and the fears of the Pope and cardinals; he promised his consent to the customs.


The Constitutions of Clarendon 


A council was therefore summoned to meet at Clarendon in January 1164 at which Becket might give his formal assent. He is said to have come repenting his promise and prepared to withdraw it. The king in the meantime must have caused the customs to be carefully drawn up and engrossed. The writing of the Constitutions cannot have been left, as some authorities would have us believe, until the council was in actual progress; they were produced on the first day of the council. Becket was only induced to agree to them by the persuasions of bishops, two knights of the Temple, and the two senior earls, Cornwall and Leicester. After giving his unqualified assent to the Constitutions and allowing the bishops to do the same, Becket refused to take the irrevocable step of sealing the document. The Constitutions had been engrossed modo cirografi, that is, they had been written out three times on one piece of parchment. Before the parchment was severed into three, the two archbishops and the king should each have affixed his seal to each copy of the Constitutions. Since Becket refused his seal, the document apparently unsealed, was cut into three parts. One part was given to the Archbishop of York, one was thrust into Becket’s hand, and the third was laid up in the royal treasury.

There is no evidence that the general body of English clergy felt that the Constitutions of Clarendon were any other than Henry claimed, that is, an accurate representation of the customs of his grandfather’s time. The relations between Church and State had never exactly been defined before. Such hesitation as the bishops may have felt in agreeing to the Constitutions was probably due to a natural dislike of definition and fear of precedent. The Church won little by Becket’s death because it wished to win little. It was not an aggressive body, and many of the judges in its courts had been trained, some were still actually engaged, in the king’s service. To say that the king’s policy at this time meant an inevitable quarrel between Church and State is to go beyond the evidence. What might have been expected was an assertion of the right of the king’s court to define the limits of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and, thereafter, competition between the Church courts and the lay courts for jurisdiction over individual cases. Henry did not begin the quarrel by attempting a general revision of ecclesiastical justice. His ultimatum, in the Constitutions, was as much directed against and caused by Becket’s general attitude of arrogant and aggressive rectitude as by the abuses of ecclesiastical courts. A few years later, at the time of the Inquest of Sheriffs, the barons submitted to a far more drastic supervision of feudal justice than Henry ever proposed in the case of the courts of the Church. Thomas was an exception among the churchmen of his day. He would have found a congenial atmosphere in the Curia of Boniface VIII.

The fate of the Constitutions indicates the attitude of the English Church to Henry’s claims. Only in regard to criminous clerks and appeals to the Pope was Henry forced to give way. Both sides laid particular emphasis on the clause dealing with criminous clerks. Opinion among canonists as to the validity of Henry's claims was divided. Passages in Canon Law could be interpreted to mean that clerks found guilty and degraded in the ecclesiastical court should be handed over to the lay court for punishment. It does not seem to have been the opinion of canonists that this procedure was contrary to the dictum so constantly on Becket’s lips. The archbishop was no canonist, and there were those who said that he was not even scholar enough to make a speech in Latin. He concentrated on the question of punishment. His murder secured for clerks immunity from lay punishment for their first crime. But it should be remembered that, when Henry submitted on this point, and indeed throughout the next century, the word clerk had not the wide interpretation that it received in later times. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a clerk had to prove his ordination, at least to the sub-diaconate, before he was handed over to the official of the Church to be tried in Court Christian. Moreover Henry succeeded in forcing accused clerks to appear in the lay court to prove their clergy, although Canon Law gives no justification for the practice. So much he gained. His unfortunate surrender of the right to punish the guilty clerk left an opening for private revenge. In 1202, in a trial for murder at Lincoln, it was stated that the murdered man had been degraded from the diaconate for killing a relative of the defendant.

The king retained without serious question much of what the Constitutions gave him. Advowsons remained lay property; the king kept control over the churches of his fee; elections to bishoprics were conducted as before in the king’s chapel. For the rest, the relations between Church and State were left to be worked out in the practice of the courts. By the Constitutions the king had agreed that jurisdiction over land held in free alms belonged to the Church courts; but he had secured to his own court the right of adjudging, in accordance with the verdict of a jury, whether the land at issue were lay fee or free alms. Had the Church courts been able to keep all the jurisdiction this clause would have given them, much business would have been lost to the king’s court; for during the last half of the twelfth and throughout the thirteenth century innumerable grants of lands were being made to religious houses in free alms. By John’s day it was highly exceptional for this procedure by the assize utrum, as it was called from the words of the writ which began it, to be a prelude to a suit in the ecclesiastical court. The assize rolls show the religious houses using the layman’s forms of action in the lay courts. The assize utrum was already almost entirely confined to rectors of parish churches, who without it would have found difficulty in proving their right to the lands of their church appropriated by laymen. If the jury’s verdict in such a suit declared the land to be free alms the parson recovered his land without further process of law. In this respect at least the king had won far more than the customs of Henry I would have given him. But the king’s courts found it difficult to maintain what Henry had asserted at Clarendon, jurisdiction over debts where the bargain had included the formal pledging of faith. No one doubted that it belonged to the Church courts to deal with questions of broken faith. Henry declared in effect that the affidatio, or pledging of faith, was not essential to the legal validity of a bargain, and that suits touching the bargain must be heard in his court. The lay court won in the end, but it had to contend not only with ecclesiastical courts more eager for jurisdiction than those of the twelfth century, but also against the religious feeling of the English people

Becket never intended to observe the Constitutions. He abstained from the service of the altar as a penance for his weakness in ever promising to observe them; and he even made an ineffectual attempt to leave the country. The Pope took neither side, not daring to offend Henry nor wishing to desert Becket. The next move came from the king. An officer of the court, John the Marshal, father of the famous William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, complained to the king that the archbishop’s court had failed in justice in a plea which he had brought for the recovery of land held of the see of Canterbury, and Becket was summoned to answer for the failure of his court. Instead of sending an essoin, a formal excuse for non-attendance, he sent four knights with letters from himself and the sheriff of Kent to answer on his behalf. The case was adjourned, and Becket was summoned to appear at a great council at Northampton in October, to answer both for his previous contempt of the king’s court and for the failure of his own court to do right to John the Marshal. Becket came to Northampton. He sought the king on 7 October, and his case was heard the next day. On the original question, the case of John the Marshal, the archbishop was successful, but the barons, both lay and ecclesiastical, adjudged him guilty of contempt of the king’s court, and he therefore fell into the king’s mercy. Although protesting that no court had the right to try him, Becket was persuaded to offer to make fine with the king for his amercement. The king, on the other hand, seems to have come to Northampton with the intention of forcing Becket’s hand by attacking him in every possible way. He demanded an account of the sums which Becket had received as custos of the honors of Eye and Berkhampstead, of five hundred marks which he had received from the king for the Toulouse campaign, of another five hundred marks for which the king had been his pledge to a certain Jew, and finally of the issues of the vacant sees which had passed through Becket’s hands while he was chancellor. Becket was forbidden to leave Northampton until he had given the king security for the whole amount. The third day of the council, Saturday 10 October, was passed by Becket in discussing with the bishops and abbots the course that he should take. However ungracious the king’s demands, they did not alienate either the bishops or the laity; some bishops even urged Becket to resign the archbishopric and put himself in the king’s mercy. On the following Tuesday, Becket made up his mind to defiance. He forbade the bishops to associate themselves in any judgment on him with regard to his conduct as chancellor, he appealed to the Pope, and he ordered the bishops to excommunicate all who dared to give effect to the judgment of any lay court upon him, thus directly contravening the Constitutions of Clarendon. His action placed the bishops in a difficult position. They must either endure the king’s anger for breaking the eleventh clause of the Constitutions of Clarendon or the censures of the Church for disobedience to their archbishop. They evaded the dilemma by abstaining from judgment upon the archbishop, but appealing to the Pope for his deposition on the ground of his perjury in withdrawing the assent which he had originally given to the Constitutions. The king’s court never delivered its judgment upon Becket. The barons, headed by Robert, Earl of Leicester, qui dux erat verbi, went to pronounce it, but Becket did not stay to hear it. He left the castle; next day he left Northampton; by 2 November he had crossed the Channel as a fugitive.


The murder of Becket


The quarrel begun unnecessarily by Becket was pursued unmercifully by the king. He exiled all the archbishop’s kinsfolk, of whom there seem to have been many. They had become rich with drippings from Becket’s abundance, and their departure impressed contemporaries so much that private documents may occasionally be found dated “in the year in which the king caused the kinsfolk of the archbishop to cross over”. Becket’s exile lasted for six years. To a man of his temper it must have been hard to bear, and its influence upon his character was lamentable—he became fanatic. The Pope was still unwilling to commit himself. Henry tried to intimidate him by negotiations with the Emperor, but it was obvious that opinion in England, although almost wholly on Henry’s side in his struggle with the archbishop, was not favorable to dealings with the anti-Pope. Alexander forbade Becket to take any irrevocable step until Easter 1166. By the time the truce expired, the Pope was back at Rome, and ready to support the archbishop. Becket was authorized to excommunicate all who had occupied the lands of Canterbury since his flight, and was given a legatine commission over all England except the see of York. At Vézelay on Whitsunday Becket excommunicated John of Oxford, afterwards Bishop of Norwich, and Richard of Ilchester, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, for communicating with the supporters of the anti-Pope. They had been Henry’s ambassadors to the Emperor in 1165. Richard de Luci, the Justiciar, and Joscelin de Balliol were excommunicated as the authors and fabricators of the Constitutions, and Ranulf de Broc, Hugh de St Clare, and Thomas fitz Bernard for having occupied Canterbury lands.

The sentences brought Becket little good. The armies of Frederick Barbarossa were coming south, and the Pope himself dared not attack Henry openly. He received Henry’s embassy sent to prosecute a renewed appeal on behalf of the English bishops against Becket. One of the ambassadors was John of Oxford, whom the Pope allowed to clear himself by oath of the imputations which had been the ground of his excommunication. Legates were appointed to bring about peace, but both antagonists had gone beyond reason. At Clairvaux in April 1169 Becket excommunicated Bishops Gilbert Foliot of London and Joscelin of Salisbury. Foliot had opposed Becket from the first, and had brought to his opposition a bitter wit and a gift of sarcasm which Becket could not match.

As time went on, new matters of dispute made hopeless the original quarrel over the Constitutions of Clarendon. Becket demanded all the revenues of the see of Canterbury which had accrued during his exile. In the meantime, the king had been providing for the apportionment of his possessions among his sons, and wished his heir, his eldest surviving son, Henry, to be crowned King of England. In Becket’s absence, the ceremony was performed on 14 June 1170 by Roger, Archbishop of York. It is easy to understand Becket’s anger at this infringement of an undoubted prerogative of his see. The bitterness had never gone out of the struggle for primacy between successive Archbishops of York and Canterbury, and Roger had never made a profession of canonical obedience to Thomas. Becket had a further, though unacknowledged, reason for resentment. Roger de Pont l’Eveque had been a senior clerk in Archbishop Theobald’s household when Thomas of London had entered it from a merchant’s office. It is hard to understand Becket’s willingness to agree to a reconciliation with Henry at Fréteval on 22 July 1170 which left every matter at issue unsettled.

The king’s attitude was plain. The Pope had commissioned the Archbishop of Rouen and the Bishop of Nevers to make peace. Becket was not to insist on the arrears of the revenues of his see, and the question of the Constitutions was not to be raised until peace had been secured; in that event, the king was to be persuaded to moderate them. If Henry refused to be reconciled to the archbishop within forty days of the receipt of the Pope’s letters, his continental lands were to be laid under an interdict.

The reconciliation of Fréteval was a mere form. Nothing was said of the Constitutions, for Henry meant to maintain them, and Becket knew it. The question of the arrears was not raised, for Becket meant to have them, and Henry knew it. The king promised amends for the injury done to the archbishop by the coronation, but refused to give him the kiss of peace. Becket demanded it, though he meant war. At Becket’s request, the Pope had given him letters suspending the prelates who had taken part in the coronation. These letters he sent to England before he himself landed on 1 December. On Christmas Day in Canterbury cathedral, he violently denounced his enemies, especially those who had entered upon the possessions of his see. The end of his story, which came four days later, is well-known, but Becket's secret thoughts and hopes, which undoubtedly precipitated the tragedy of 29 December, remain mysterious. There is much in his conduct at the end to suggest that he desired the martyr’s crown. In Becket’s heart there had always burned a fierce desire to excel. He had enjoyed the highest secular power he could hope to win; the highest ecclesiastical position in England had been his. Neither Church nor State had suffered from his exile, and even the Pope had not unreservedly supported him. He hoped to be a second and a greater Alphege; by his death he won what to him was sweeter than life.

The news of the murder reached Henry at Argentan on 1 January 1171. He is said to have spent three days in solitude. The Pope had previously instructed the Archbishops of Sens and Rouen to lay an interdict on Henry’s continental lands if the archbishop were arrested. On 25 January the Archbishop of Sens published the interdict, but the Archbishop of Rouen and the Norman clergy refused to recognize the sentence. They appealed against it, and the archbishop with three bishops and three clerks set out to prosecute the appeal at the papal court.

In considerable anxiety as to Alexander’s attitude, Henry sent an embassy, and the excommunicated bishops sent messengers. Alexander waited until April; then he confirmed the interdict and the excommunication of the bishops. Against the king personally he took no other action than to forbid him to enter a church; legates were to be sent later to announce the terms on which absolution would be granted. After a few days the Pope was persuaded to send permission for a conditional absolution on behalf of the Bishops of London and Salisbury because of their age and infirmity. In the meantime Henry had spent the months of March and April in Brittany. England must have been simmering with excitement, for the miracles of Thomas began almost as soon as he was dead. The first miracle occurred in Sussex on the third day after the martyrdom, and the second miracle at Gloucester two days later. By Easter time “miracles came in crowds”. But at first it was the humble who believed. Brother Elias of Reading dared not tell his abbot of his visit to the shrine of Thomas to win a cure for his leprosy; he had asked leave to visit the health-resort at Bath. Though the better-informed may have been skeptical of the miracles, the unforgiven king must have been glad to leave England for Ireland, to pass the time there until the legates should come to absolve him.




Recent events in Ireland combined with the murder to suggest that the invasion proposed in 1155 should at last be carried out. Ireland in the twelfth century resembled Britain in the days of Gildas. The position of high-king was a dignity to be fought for continually, but it gave to the winner only a nominal supremacy, a cattle tribute, and jurisdictional rights so vague as to be indefinable. In theory, each of the five divisions of Ireland—Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Connaught, and Meath—had its king. In fact, the boundaries of the provinces shifted with the varying power of the kings, whose very existence depended on success in war and the reputation which it brought. The chief preoccupation of each king was to keep his family in power against other families, and himself as against other members of his own family; no thought of establishing order in their kingdoms troubled them. Indeed, if it had, their period of power would have been short. The Scandinavian settlements along the coast, Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, were centers where the Irish tribesmen disposed of their furs and hides, and obtained the produce of civilization. A poor country, ridden by war, Ireland was never previously conquered because it was not worth conquest.

The immediate occasion of Norman intervention in Ireland was an appeal for help from the exiled King of Leinster, Dermot Mac Murrough. Henry gave him presents, received his homage, and issued letters patent allowing any of his subjects to assist Dermot to recover his kingdom. Dermot found help among the Norman colonists in Wales. Richard Fitz Gilbert, whose father had been created Earl of Pembroke by Stephen, was anxious to win a position in another land. The marcher lords of South Wales were steadily losing ground before the encroachments of Rhys ap Gruffydd. Richard, generally known by his father’s nickname of Strongbow, bargained for Dermot’s daughter in marriage, with the reversion of Leinster, and made his expedition conditional upon Henry’s consent. By the end of 1169, Dermot had recovered Leinster with the help of small bands of Norman adventurers from Wales. In spite of Henry’s withdrawal of his permission for the expedition, Strongbow himself landed in Ireland in August 1170, married Eva, Dermot’s daughter, and succeeded him, not without opposition, on his death in May 1171. Henry, unwilling that a subject should make a kingdom in Ireland, prevented reinforcements from reaching Strongbow, and recalled him. On the news of Henry’s intended expedition to Ireland, Strongbow crossed to Wales, and met the king on his way to Milford Haven. Henry allowed him to do homage for Leinster on condition that he surrendered the seaports. The king stayed in Ireland for six months, from October 1171 to April 1172, in which he took homage from many Irish chiefs, summoned a council of the Irish Church at Cashel, and authorized a programme of ecclesiastical reform. The chief seaports were garrisoned. Hugh de Lacy, in command at Dublin, was appointed Justiciar of Ireland, and was allowed to create for himself a feudal principality in Meath. The lordship of Ireland had been easily won. The Irish had no castles, their armies were only undisciplined rabbles, and the Church was on the side of the invaders. But Henry left Ireland to be subdued by the adventurers. Not trusting them, he tried to balance the native chiefs against them, and the country was therefore never conquered. When, in 1185, a great expedition was entrusted to John, Henry’s youngest son, it proved an utter failure.

Henry left Ireland in April 1172 to meet the legates and hear the Pope’s judgment. At Avranches on 21 May he received absolution. The terms of reconciliation were light. The king submitted to a public penance. He swore that he did not command nor wish the archbishop’s death, that when he heard of it he grieved exceedingly, that he would give satisfaction because he could not produce the murderers, and because he feared that words of his had given occasion for the crime. He also swore that he would not withdraw from Pope Alexander and his successors, and that he would allow appeals in ecclesiastical causes, provided that, where there was any suspicion of disloyalty, security should be given that the appeal was not to the hurt of the king or kingdom. He vowed to undertake a crusade, and to give to the Templars as much money as was in their judgment necessary to maintain two hundred knights in the defence of the Cross for one year. He pardoned all those who had been exiled for St Thomas’ sake, and swore that the possessions of the Church of Canterbury should be as they were one year before the murder. He swore also to destroy all the customs adverse to the Church introduced in his time, a vague promise which king and Pope could each interpret as he chose. The king, most unhappily, gave way in the matter of the criminous clerks. In regard to the other principles laid down in the Constitutions of Clarendon, there was to be a trial of strength between the king and the Pope, or rather between the king’s justices and ministers and the ecclesiastical courts, a struggle none the less real because it was conducted without advertisement. Something has already been said of the struggle and its issue.

The oath to go on crusade was lightly taken. Henry evaded the obligation by promising to build three monasteries, a promise which he fulfilled at the least possible expense. Before the final ratification in September of the agreement at Avranches, Henry had known that trouble was brewing in England. His sons, encouraged by their mother, were meditating rebellion. The young king bore the style King of the English, Duke of the Normans, and Count of the men of Anjou. He had done homage to the French king for Anjou and Brittany. Geoffrey, the second son, had done homage to his brother for Brittany, and had himself received the homage of the men of the province. For Aquitaine, which lay outside the young king’s titles, Richard had done homage to the King of France. No independent power had been given to any of the king’s sons. The young king’s wife had not been crowned with her husband, a grievance to Louis VII, and after the agreement at Avranches the young king was crowned again, and his wife with him. He had his own seal and his own court, but ministers of his father composed his court and doubtless directed him in the use of his seal. That Henry should commit the rule of any part of his dominions to the reckless youth of his sons was inconceivable.

The occasion of their rebellion was Henry’s attempt to provide for his youngest son John, born in 1166 or 1167. Early in 1173, a marriage was arranged between John and Alais, heiress of Humbert III, Count of Maurienne. In return for the provision that the greater part of Humbert’s possessions should descend to John and his wife. Henry proposed to settle on them the three castles of Chinon, Loudun, and Mirabeau, formerly granted as an appanage to his second son Geoffrey. The young king refused his consent, and fled to the French court in March 1173. His brothers Richard and Geoffrey followed him, and Eleanor, their mother, set off to raise Poitou for Richard. She was taken and kept in confinement. Richard Barre, to whom Henry had entrusted the young king’s seal, brought it back to the king, and the other ministers whom Henry had placed with his son returned to Henry, bringing with them the young king's baggage. Henry, always generous to his sons, sent back the ministers with rich gifts, but the young king dismissed those of them who would not swear fealty to him against his father. Walter the chaplain, Ailward the chamberlain, and William Blund the usher, returned to the old king; of the labors of the two last in the king’s service the Pipe Rolls give ample evidence.

Barons of every province of the continental Angevin dominions joined the rebellion. The Counts of Flanders and Boulogne and William, King of Scots, gave their support. To secure it, the young lavish grants. His charters were sealed with a new seal which the King of France had had made for him. All Kent, with the castles of Rochester and Dover, was to go to the Count of Flanders; Carlisle and Westmorland were promised to the King of Scots; the earldom of Huntingdon and the county of Cambridge, to which the King of Scots had inherited a claim, were promised to his brother David. In England, the rebels were joined by Hugh, Earl of Chester, Robert “Blanchesmaines”, Earl of Leicester (son of Henry’s justiciar), William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and Roger de Mowbray, a great baron in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire. They brought to the cause of the young king a great stretch of England and many castles. Leicester was a centre for the rebels, with Leicester Castle supported by Groby Castle five miles to the north-west and Mountsorrel seven miles to the north. The Ferrers castles of Duffield in Derbyshire and Tutbury in Staffordshire, the Bigod castles of Bungay and Framlingham in Suffolk, and the Mowbray castles of Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard in Yorkshire, were all held for the young king.

On Henry’s side were the mass of the clergy. The legates sent to give Henry absolution remained to attempt a reconciliation between him and his sons. At their suggestion, Henry proceeded to fill all vacant bishoprics and abbeys. It was not Henry’s fault that the see of Canterbury had not been filled before, for the perennial quarrel between the prior and monks of Canterbury and the provincial bishops delayed every election. The six bishops now appointed were all chosen for their politics rather than for their religious zeal. Richard of Ilchester, elected Bishop of Winchester, was a skilled financier. Geoffrey Ridel, elected Bishop of Ely, had succeeded Becket as Archdeacon of Canterbury and had borne the king’s seal. Both of them were bitter opponents of Becket, and had been excommunicated in the course of the struggle. The king’s illegitimate son, Geoffrey, was elected Bishop of Lincoln. In June, the monks of Canterbury were conciliated by the election of Richard, prior of St Martin’s at Dover, to the archbishopric. The young king’s attempt to prevent the consecration of the prelates probably did much to confirm the ecclesiastical order in its support of his father; the only English bishop who finally joined the rebels was Hugh Puiset of Durham.

Among the barons, there were on the king’s side his uncle Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, his half-brother Hamelin, Earl Warenne, his cousin William, Earl of Gloucester, William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, Simon de Sentliz, Earl of Northampton, and William de Albini, Earl of Arundel. Although the most powerful of the earls were in revolt, the baronage as a whole was on the king’s side. The rebel castles were more than balanced by the royal castles and those of loyal barons. The fee of the Earl of Derby was roughly balanced by the honor of Peverel, then in the king’s hand, with its castles of Nottingham, Bolsover, and the Peak. John de Lacy, constable of Chester, was on the king’s side, and his loyalty made Roger de Mowbray’s defection of less moment. In East Anglia, the Warennes balanced the Bigods, and in the west, the loyal marchers and the king’s Welsh auxiliaries balanced the Earl of Chester. In the north, the Umfravilles, Vauxes, Vescis, Bruces, Balliols, and Stutevilles, balanced the King of Scots. The mass of men, the lesser baronage, the sheriffs, and above all the new ministerial class, were solidly on Henry’s side. Richard de Luci the justiciar, himself an Essex baron holding the castle and honor of Ongar, raised forces and garrisoned castles. The Kymes of Lincolnshire, richer than most baronial families, were active in the king’s support. If Henry’s sons expected a glad response in England to the call of anarchy, they were disillusioned.

The rebellion began with an attack upon Henry’s position in northern France. The Earl of Chester, hereditary Viscount of Avranches and Bayeux, ravaged Brittany, in association with Breton nobles. The young king, with the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne, advanced from the east, while the King of France laid siege to Verneuil. Louis VII, though he could intrigue, could not carry through a war. He and his allies had no concerted plan; the brains were all on Henry’s side. His castles were ready to stand siege, and he himself with a competent force could go where he was needed. Brittany was cleared of rebels by the end of July 1173, and the Earl of Chester was taken prisoner with many other nobles. The King of France did no more than sack Verneuil and then retreat before Henry. The rebel forces operating in the east took Aumale, but after Matthew, Count of Boulogne, had been mortally wounded did no more. At a meeting between Trie and Gisors in September, Henry made generous offers to his sons, though denying them independent rule; his terms were refused, and after the meeting the rebels and their allies seem to have concluded that an attack on England must be made.

In England, the centres of war were the midlands, the north, and the east. There also no definite plan can be traced. No other warfare was possible at this period than a series of sieges and counter-sieges, raids and counter-raids, for neither side could call itself victorious while the other side still held unreduced castles. The justiciar took the offensive by laying siege to Leicester, and if he could have taken it, the fall of Groby and Mountsorrel would soon have followed. The town of Leicester was almost entirely destroyed by an accidental fire. The townsfolk came to terms, but the castle still held out. The justiciar arranged a truce that he might be free to meet a Scotch inroad, and together with Humphrey de Bohun, the king's constable, he chased the Scots into Scotland: but he was then obliged to make a truce with them until 13 January 1174, in order to turn south to meet an invasion by the Earl of Leicester with a body of mercenaries. The earl was one of Henry's bitterest opponents at this time. He may possibly have felt slighted because he had not succeeded his father as justiciar, though his conduct during the rebellion gives no indication that he had any of the ability necessary for such an office. He landed at Walton near Felixstowe about 18 October 1173. Walton was a royal castle, and the earl failed to take it. He joined the Earl of Norfolk at Framlingham, and together they attacked and took the great castle of Haughley, held for the king by Ranulf de Broc. At Bury St Edmunds, on his way to Leicester, the earl heard of the approach of the royal army under the constable, supported by the Earls of Cornwall, Gloucester, and Arundel. He retreated before they came up, and tried to escape to Leicester by passing to the north. They met him at Fornham St Genevieve three miles north-west of Bury. “In the twinkling of an eye” the battle was over, and the earl and his wife were prisoners. Winter was now coming on, and a truce was made with the Earl of Norfolk, to last until 19 May 1174, on condition that his Flemish mercenaries were sent back over sea. The Bishop of Durham arranged for a prolongation of the truce with the Scots until the end of March, and the Northumbrian barons paid the King of Scots two hundred pounds for the respite.

The winter was passed in preparation for the final struggle. The Bishop of Durham, abandoning his pretence of loyalty, fortified his episcopal castle of Northallerton, while Roger de Mowbray strengthened his castles of Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard, and put into a defensible state a derelict castle at Kinnard Ferry in the Isle of Axholme, of which he was lord. The site of the castle can still be seen at Owston Ferry by the lower Trent. A typical Norman motte and bailey, it had probably been an adulterine castle of Stephen’s time, from which the broad and fertile flats of Axholme could be protected. The castles of Bamburgh, Wark, and Carlisle, the border fortresses of Liddel and Harbottle, Prudhoe Castle on the Tyne, Appleby and Brough-under-Stainmoor, were all held for the king. The rebel plan for 1174, as for the previous year, seems to have involved a threefold attack on Henry’s supporters. The King of France intended that the young king and the Count of Flanders should land in East Anglia to join the Earl of Norfolk. In the midlands, the Earl of Derby, David, the Scottish Earl of Huntingdon, and Anketill Mallory, the constable of Leicester, tried to reduce the neighboring towns. In the north, the King of Scots attacked the northern castles. He was supported by the Bishop of Durham, who was arranging for his nephew Hugh de Fuiset, Count of Bar, to bring troops to northern England. The King of Scots began operations in April, but failed to take Bamburgh and fell back on Berwick. In May he advanced again, failed to take Wark, and passed on to lay siege to Carlisle. While maintaining a close siege, the king himself led out detachments against other castles. One such raid secured Liddel and Harbottle, another Appleby and Brough-under-Stainmoor. Meanwhile, in East Anglia, a body of Flemings sent in advance by the Count of Flanders joined the Earl of Norfolk; with their help he took Norwich in June. In the midlands, Nottingham was sacked by a raiding party from Leicester under David, Earl of Huntingdon, and Anketill Mallory raided north Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, defeating the townsmen of Northampton who came out to attack him.

On 5 May Geoffrey, the Bishop-elect of Lincoln, took the castle of Kinnard Ferry. Roger de Mowbray, on his way to seek help at Leicester, was taken prisoner by “the rustics of the Clay”, the thickly-populated district west of Trent which now forms the North and South Clay divisions of Bassetlaw wapentake. Much of this district was ancient demesne of the Crown, and the king’s humble tenants had nothing to gain from baronial anarchy. With the support of the Archbishop of York, Geoffrey took the castle of Kirkby Malzeard, and fortified Topcliffe, which he gave in charge to William de Stuteville to control Rogers remaining castle of Thirsk. Contemporaneously with these events the Justiciar laid siege to Huntingdon. Failing to take the castle, he built a counter­work against it, and placed Earl Simon of Northampton, who claimed the earldom of Huntingdon, in charge of operations. Messages were sent to the king to ask him to cross over. While Henry was landing at Southampton on 8 July, the King of Scots, having brought William de Vaux to promise to surrender Carlisle if it were not relieved by Michaelmas, was planning an attack on Prudhoe. Henry’s first care after landing was to perform an elaborate penance at Becket’s tomb. In the meantime, the loyal barons of the north, under the sheriffs of York and Lancaster, were quelling the rebellion. The King of Scots began the siege of Prudhoe on Tuesday, 9 July, but on Thursday he abandoned it, hearing that the northern barons were gathering at Newcastle. The invading army ravaged far and wide, while the King of Scots rode towards Alnwick. A mist lay over the valley of the Alne. The English forces approached Alnwick as the mist lifted, and found the King of Scots with a few followers. The king charged, but capture was inevitable; Ranulf de Glanville took custody of him, and sent a messenger to Henry, who heard the news on 17 July. On 21 July Henry in person received the surrender of Huntingdon. From Huntingdon he went to Sileham, a village midway between the two Bigod castles of Framlingham and Bungay. The Earl of Norfolk surrendered; and Henry then turned westwards to Northampton, where the King of Scots was brought to him, and the rebels made their submission. It only remained for Henry to return to Normandy and show himself ready to take the offensive, and the King of France abandoned the siege of Rouen, which he had begun after Henry’s departure. The threatened invasion of England never took place.

The rebellion was suppressed, but not without two summers of warfare which must have reminded old men of the days of Stephen. After the first few months there can have been little doubt which side would win. The king’s sons relied on their powerful allies and assumed a feudal hatred of order which might exist in France but was not felt in England. They forgot that alliance with the King of Scots would secure the support of the northern barons to their father, and that though some barons might resent order the masses of men loved it. Henry’s position in England was never threatened again. The King of Scots was not only compelled to do homage for his kingdom as English barons did homage for their baronies; he was forced to allow Henry to garrison the castles of Berwick, Jedburgh, Roxburgh, Stirling, and Edinburgh. Peace was made with France, and lasted until Louis' death, when it was Henry’s support which secured Philip Augustus in his position. To the young king, Henry gave a competent revenue, but no share in the government of his dominions.

The subsequent rebellions by which Henry was troubled were no more than attempts on the part of his sons to anticipate his death; they belong rather to French than to English history. In securing Philip Augustus on the French throne, Henry had done the one thing that ensured the ultimate disintegration of his own dominions, for Philip lost no opportunity of encouraging Henry’s sons in their rebellious attitude. In 1175 Henry entrusted the government of Aquitaine to Richard. The rebellion of 1181 began as a quarrel between Richard and the young king. In that year, Henry issued the Assize of Arms in England, which provided for the arming of men according to their degree, and forbade the export of arms. There was no fear of rebellion in England; Henry could rely on the respect which men felt for his government, and arm them to defend it against invasion. The war in France dragged on until the young king’s death in 1183. In the next year, it was renewed by Richard, unwilling to surrender Aquitaine to John. Henry gave way, and the Irish expedition was fitted out for John in 1185. Its failure was the less serious in that Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, died in 1186, leaving Henry with two sons only for whom to make provision. The long-expected fall of Jerusalem in the next year postponed the imminent war between Henry and Philip. Public opinion demanded a crusade, and the Kings of France and England could do no other than follow it; Henry, Richard, and Philip took the cross. Henry, who had evaded a crusade for so many years, cannot have meant to undertake one when old age was creeping upon him; in fact, both kings were willing to assist the cause with money, but neither wished to leave his kingdom. Of pretexts for war between Philip and Henry there were many; Philip claimed the wardship of Geoffrey’s heir, and demanded the marriage of Richard and his sister Alais, so long promised. The war began in the south-west, with aggressions by Richard on Toulouse and counter-attacks by Philip, but it soon changed its character. When Henry crossed to Normandy in 1188, Richard and Philip became allies fighting for the recognition of Richard’s right to succeed his father in all his dominions. Ill and prematurely aged, Henry was no match for the military skill of Richard and Philip. He was forced to surrender, and having agreed to Philip’s terms, overcome with his illness and shame for his failure, he succumbed to the shock of learning that John, too, had deserted him.




The essential feature of English history in the twelfth century is the development of a reasoned system of law for the whole land. The change from the archaic law of the conquered English, modified by new Norman elements, to the law described in the treatise known by Ranulf de Glanville’s name, was the work of Henry II and his ministers. Henry’s reign witnessed a change that was almost a revolution. His early years carry on the tradition of the previous reigns. He was then a very young man, and the first necessity was to secure England and to consolidate his continental dominions; the interest of that time lies in political events. The Becket quarrel came to hinder, though for a time only, what must have been an extensive programme of reform. The charters and writs of these earlier years are very similar in form and wording to those of the reign of Henry I; they suggest the influence of the individual circumstance. Those of the latter part of the reign suggest the routine of a government bureau. In the latter years there were few political events in England to be recorded; the interest of that time lies in the detail of administration. No precise date can be taken as marking the change between the earlier and later parts of Henry’s reign, but it seems to fall between the deaths of Henry’s first two justiciars, Robert “Bossu,” Earl of Leicester, and Richard de Luci, that is, between 1168 and 1179. Between these years fall Becket’s murder and the rebellion of 1174, each of which helps to mark the close of an epoch.

Little can be learned about the personnel of the administration from the chronicle accounts of Henry’s earliest years. The re-organisation of the Exchequer is unnoticed. From the second year of the reign, the Pipe Roll of each year, or, as it was more properly called, the Great Roll of the Exchequer, records the financial administration of the year. The early rolls are small. They shew that the king and his ministers had to contend with the financial difficulties presented by land wasted in the anarchy, or granted away to buy support for the king. Nigel, Bishop of Ely, nephew of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, remained treasurer until he bought the office for his son Richard, who was to become the author of the treatise known as the Dialogue de Scaccario1, and who continued as treasurer into the reign of Richard I. To these men is due the honour of elaborating the system of the Exchequer. Richard is not known to have taken an active part in any other administrative work; unlike most Exchequer officials, he did not act regularly as a judge. He writes of the Exchequer as a man writes whose life-work lies in the subject of which he treats. When he wrote the Dialogue the business of the Exchequer was transacted at two great annual sessions at Easter and Michaelmas, over which the Justiciar presided. Already in Henry’s fifth year, John, the king’s Marshal, when granting land, states that his charter was sealed at the Exchequer in the Easter term and before Robert, Earl of Leicester, and Richard de Luci.

This great department of State was inherited from Henry I and Roger, Bishop of Salisbury. Each officer of high rank had his definite seat there. The Justiciar sat at the head of the exchequer board, a rectangular table, five feet by ten, covered with a chequered cloth; on his left sat the Chancellor, and on his right, when Richard wrote, the Bishop of Win­chester, Richard of Ilchester, sat by the king’s command. These three filled the head of the table. On the Chancellor’s left, though not at the table, sat the Constable, the Chamberlains, and the Marshal. Along the side of the table to the right of the Bishop of Winchester sat the Treasurer and the clerks. At the foot of the table, opposite the Bishop of Winchester, sat another skilled financier, master Thomas Brown, and next to him, opposite the Justiciar, sat the sheriff or other person who was rendering account. Along the remaining side sat the tally-cutter, the calculator, and the clerk who was at the head of the writing office. At the same side of the table sat other “discreet men sent by the king,” a phrase which must have had a wide application. Most men who were employed on the king’s business did at times sit at the Exchequer. It was far more than a financial office; it was the heart of the government. Becket’s biographer, William Fitz Stephen, says of the Exchequer that there the pleas of the king were wont to be heard; and the surviving final concords of Henry’s reign illustrate the judicial business that was done there. Many if not most of the judges employed by Henry in his latter years were Exchequer officials, “barons of the Exchequer,” men who normally sat there; such persons must be understood by the phrase “dis­creet men sent by the king.” They were barons of the Exchequer, although they did not hold any definite office there or have any definite seat. The duties of such men were doubtless undefined; they took their share in whatever work there was to do, judicial, financial, or administrative. Exemption from fiscal burdens per libertatem sedendi ad scaccarium was enjoyed by men who are not known to have held any of the definite offices of state.

The Justiciar presided over the Exchequer, because by origin it was a session of the king’s court and the Justiciar was the man who represented the king in his absence. By the end of Henry’s reign, the dignity and work of the office of Justiciar were well defined. He was second to the king in the kingdom, and governed the country when the king was abroad in accordance with the directions sent him by the king. At such times he disposed of every sort of business that arose, whether it concerned the Church, the State, or the king’s private affairs. He presided at the election of bishops; he saw to the fortification of castles; he sat as a judge; he provided for the sending of necessaries to the king for his hunting, or for other purposes. His duties were less onerous when the king was in England, but even then there was much routine work to be done. The Pipe Rolls shew that throughout the late twelfth century the Justiciar actually sat at the Exchequer for the ordinary business of the session. By the middle of Henry’s reign it was established that he alone among officials could issue writs in his own name to authorise the payment of the king’s moneys out of the king’s treasury. To the end of John’s reign, the Justiciar normally presided over the king’s court of justice at Westminster. From the sixth year of Richard I, the Feet of Fines, which begin at that date, shew the Justiciar sitting there, day after day, the chief among the judges. Difficult cases were referred to him by the justices itinerant in the shires. The evidence which has survived from the reign of Henry II suggests that the same practice was already usual in Henry’s later years. From time to time, the Justiciar himself led parties of justices itinerant. His title, Capitalis Iusticiarius Regis, expresses the truth; he was the chief justice in actual fact. But he was also at the same time a politician, a soldier, and a financier. The king’s service in the twelfth century did not admit of specialisation.

It is in the conception of the position and duties of the Justiciar that the difference between the earlier and later parts of Henry’s reign is most clearly shewn. It is doubtful if the idea of a permanent head of the administration was fully developed in 1154. Under Henry I, Bishop Roger of Salisbury had held a position comparable to that of the later Justiciar. But in that reign, although Roger used the definite title Procurator, applied by some chroniclers to the Justiciars of Henry II, it was possible for Henry I’s queen to do work which later in the century would have fallen to the Justiciar. Moreover, although Roger presided at the Exchequer, Ralf and Richard Basset, father and son, seem to have acted in turn as the head of the judicial body. There is no record of the appointment by Henry II of his first two Justiciars, Robert, Earl of Leicester, and Richard de Luci, nor is it easy to find evidence of their labours in the early years of the reign. The fact that they were presiding together over the Easter Exchequer of Henry’s fifth year shews that the control of finance was already an essential part of their duties. Both of them had. served Stephen, and Richard had served him consistently to the end; both were past their youth in 1154. It was natural that Henry should have been unwilling to allow them in the early years of the reign the wide powers which belonged to the later Justiciars. They were mainly occupied with routine work; the king’s confidence was given to Thomas of London, his Chancellor.

Viceregal power did not automatically belong to the Justiciar. That Queen Eleanor should act in Henry’s place in Aquitaine was natural, for the land was her inheritance, but, like the queens of William I and Henry I before her, she seems to have acted in a similar capacity in England. The Pipe Rolls of Henry’s earliest years contain numerous entries of money paid out or pardoned on her writ. In one instance, the writ of “the queen and the Justiciar” is said to be the authority. A writ of the king from over-sea was her authority for issuing a writ at Oxford forbidding that the abbey of St Benet of Holme should be impleaded in the king’s absence [1] . The queen’s writ was attested by Richard de Luci. Later in the reign, the young king had his brief period of delegated power. Although its limitations caused him to rebel, he certainly exercised some of the powers of a Justiciar. The king wrote to him to announce the end of the Becket quarrel, and to command him to cause the archbishop to be put into possession of his lands. In writs of which copies have survived, the young king commands Peter of Studley to observe the agreement which he has made with God wine of Warwick, and commands Roger Foliot to warrant to the monks of Biddlesden the land which he has given them. When a collection of the young king’s writs has been made, it will certainly shew him to have been entrusted with considerable administrative responsibility in England in the time immediately preceding his rebellion.

In the early years of the reign, the Justiciar was not, as at a later time, the only officer whose writ could authorise the payment of money from the Treasury. The establishment of this Exchequer rule seems to coincide with Becket’s resignation of secular power. Becket himself took an important part in the business of financial administration. The Pipe Roll of 1162, the last year of his chancellorship, records no less than nine writs by which Becket either authorises the payment of money from the Treasury or pardons debts. The Earl of Leicester issued only one such writ in this year, while Richard de Luci issued none, though three sepa­rate payments are said to have been made “through” him—per Ricardum de Luci. Although in each year previous to 1162 payments were made either “through” Richard de Luci or by his command—precepto Ricardi de Luci—it is not until 1163 that the Roll records a financial writ issued in the joint names of the two justiciars. In the years before 1162 it was not Richard de Luci but the queen or the Earl of Leicester who issued the recorded writs on which the Treasury officials took action. The rolls of those years record many payments made “through” or “by command of” other persons—the Chancellor, or, on rare occasions, Nigel, Bishop of Ely. Payments on the Earl of Leicester’s writ are recorded on each successive roll from 1159 to 1163. The king’s presence in England between January 1163 and March 1166 meant that the Pipe Rolls offer little evidence of the financial authority of his justiciars, but the roll for 1167 shews the earl and Richard in full control of the administration; it records fourteen writs issued by Richard and twenty-one issued by the earl. The king was sending his writs to them, and they were acting on the commands contained therein. The impression created by the Pipe Rolls is that in the early years of the reign the control of finance was not yet concentrated in the hands of the justiciars.

With few exceptions, the chroniclers say little of the Justiciar’s work in the early years of the reign. Gervase of Canterbury speaks of the Earls of Leicester and Cornwall as wise, famous, and most powerful in the kingdom, but he nowhere gives to the Earl of Leicester the title of justiciar. Of Richard de Luci, Gervase states, under the year 1166, that he had the rule in England—-prefecturam agebat in Anglia. Roger of Howden records an assertion by Becket that the barons of the Exchequer and Richard de Luci, “Justiciar of England,” had given him quittance of his accounts before he was elected archbishop. Ralph de Diceto applies the phrase justiciarius regis to both the Earl of Leicester and Richard de Luci. The judicial work of the justiciars had little interest for the ordinary chronicler, unless his own house was concerned in a plea. The most familiar illustrations of their activity come from the History of Abingdon and the Chronicle of Battle. Between 1160 and 1164, the Earl of Leicester presided over a plea in the shire-court of Berkshire touching the right of the Abbot of Abingdon to hold a market there. The earl first heard the plea by virtue of the king’s writ from over-sea. When Henry returned in January 1163, the case came up again before his justices at Oxford. Opinions varied, and the earl, who was present as justiciarius et judex, did not presume to give judgment, but went to con­sult the king. Between 1139 and 1171, Richard de Luci’s brother Walter was Abbot of Battle. The Chronicle of that house describes at length an important plea which he prosecuted against the Bishop of Chichester in 1157. The Earl of Leicester was present among the barons, but his office is not mentioned, nor does he appear to have taken a prominent part in the discussion; Richard de Luci acted on his brother’s behalf. The Chancellor seems to have led the debate, and the suit ended in a compromise to the abbot’s advantage, arranged by the king. In a suit against Gilbert de Balliol, the abbot, though his brother was Justiciar, had some trouble in obtaining a hearing in the king’s court. At last it was heard at Clarendon before the king. Richard de Luci, vir magnificus et prudens, “at that time chief justice of the king,” was present, but only appears in the account of the plea as the advocate of his brother’s cause. When the king sat in person, the Justiciar was present in court as a baron, not as a judge. Isolated administrative documents which illustrate the Justiciar’s activity suggest that his position was more important than would be gathered from the accounts of famous pleas before the king. Between 1156 and 1165, the Earl of Leicester presided over the knights of Nottinghamshire when they defined the boundary between the land of the Archbishop of York and the king’s forest of Sherwood1. By virtue of the king’s writ from over-sea, he commanded “the king’s barons of Hastings to allow the Abbot of St Benet of Holme peaceable possession of his lands in Yarmouth.” The king laid on him the duty of constraining the Earl of Norfolk to do the castle-guard at Norwich which he held of St Edmund.

Until within a year of his death in 1179, Richard de Luci continued to perform the duties of Justiciar. No discreditable tales are told of him. The worst that can be said is that he supported his brother, the Abbot of Battle, in his efforts to give effect to the claims of his house, and it is very doubtful if he went beyond the law in his support. He was honest enough to oppose the king when Henry began to prosecute men for forest offences which he had himself allowed at the time of the rebellion of 1174. Richard must have been an able administrator and a skilled judge; many of the reforms of Henry’s reign in legal and administrative matters were initiated while he was Justiciar. His successor was a man no less able but more unscrupulous, Ranulf de Glanville, who was appointed Justiciar in 1180. Of an East Anglian family of no special importance, Ranulf early entered the king’s service, and already in 1164 was sheriff of Yorkshire. His conduct as sheriff cannot have been beyond reproach, for he was deprived of his office between 1170 and 1175, doubtless as a result of the Inquest of Sheriffs in 1170, but he was reinstated after the rebellion of 1174. The part which he took in the capture of the King of Scots may well have been the cause of his reinstatement. The Pipe Roll of 1177 contains a curious entry that Ranulf has accounted for more than fifteen hundred pounds derived partly from the county and partly from the lands of Everard de Ros which he had held in custody. The king pardoned the whole amount, but the entry suggests that there may have been good reason for Ranulf’s removal from his sheriffdom. Further light is cast on the Justiciar’s character by a story told by the chronicler known as Benedict of Peterborough and corroborated by entries on the Pipe Roll of 1184. There seems little doubt that Ranulf strained the law in the hope of securing the execution of Gilbert de Plumpton, in order that his widow, an heiress, might become the wife of Reiner of Waxham, Ranulf’s steward. Whatever his faults,Ranulf suited Henry, whose service demanded ability and fidelity rather than too strict an honour, and during the last ten years of Henry’s reign Ranulf was the dominating figure in English administra­tion. That he wrote the legal treatise which bears his name is most probable; it must have been written while he was Justiciar. It has been suggested that it was written by his nephew Hubert Walter, himself afterwards Justiciar and Archbishop of Canterbury. Hubert had been brought up by Ranulf de Glanville and his wife, and that he should write an account of the practice of the king’s court at his patron’s request is not in itself unlikely. Yet even if the words in which Roger of Howden, the chronicler and judge, introduces the earliest text of the treatise do not prove that Glanville himself wrote it, they certainly imply that it was written at his inspiration and, in all probability, under his guidance.

Between the earlier and later parts of Henry’s reign there occurred a remarkable change in the personnel of the administration. Richard de Luci was one of the last men in constant touch with the king who had shared in the early labours of re-organisation. There was, in particular, a definite break in the development of the office of Chancellor. Throughout the twelfth century, the importance of any individual curialis depended rather upon his relations with the king than upon the office which he held. The peculiar importance of the chancellorship in the early years of the reign was due to Becket’s intimacy with Henry. Between the time of Becket’s resignation and the spring of 1173, the king’s seal was apparently kept by Geoffrey Ridel, Becket’s successor as Archdeacon of Canterbury. Although Geoffrey seems to have done the Chancellor’s work, it is not certain that he was ever appointed to the office. In 1173, Henry appointed Ralf de Warneville Chancellor. This appointment coincides nearly, though not precisely, with a remarkable change in the royal style. Until at least May 1172, charters composed in the royal chancery uniformly style the king Rex Anglorum et dux Normannorum et Aquitannorum et comes Andegavorum. In charters known to issue from the chancery after May 1173 these titles are preceded by the formula dei gratia. It is difficult to find evidence of Ralf’s presence in England, where he seems normally to have been represented by Walter of Coutances, then Archdeacon of Oxford, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of Rouen, and for a short time Justiciar of England. The last Chancellor of the reign was Geoffrey, the king’s illegitimate son, who in 1181 resigned the see of Lincoln before consecration in order to take the office.

The office of Treasurer remained with the kin of Roger of Salisbury not only throughout Henry’s reign but into the reign of Henry III. The Treasurer’s work was more specialised than that of any other official, and he was essentially a financial officer. Until the appointment of Eustace de Fauconberg early in the reign of Henry III, the treasurers were not much concerned with general administration; Richard Fitz Nigel rarely appears among the persons who attest the writs and charters of Henry II. The names which are most prominent in the attestation clauses of Henry’s charters belong to a small number of men who, in the strict sense of the word, may be styled curiales. Few of them held high baronial rank, and most of them possessed definite office in the king’s household. In the first years of the reign, Thomas Becket, the Chancellor, was generally with the king. Manasser Biset the steward, Warin Fitz Gerald the chamberlain, Richard de Huinez the constable, were his constant companions. Until his disgrace, Henry of Essex, as constable, was constantly attendant on the king. Unlike his fellows of the household, he was of baronial rank. His forfeited honour was given by the king to Henry Fitz Gerald, brother of Warin, and like him a chamberlain. In the later years of the reign, the personnel of the court was more varied; judges, and other men who served the king without definite office, appear beside the regular household officials. Much research remains to be done upon the curiales of Henry II. That he reposed great confidence in them is certain. He rewarded them with land, but not lavishly, though some of them have left their names to English villages: Manasser Biset is immortalised in the name of Preston Bisset in Buckinghamshire. Before the end of the reign there are definite traces of the organisation which was to develop into the wardrobe of the thirteenth century. The names of many chamber-clerks appear on twelfth­century Pipe Rolls. They were already employed in administrative work as well as in purely household functions. It is only from the examination of unprinted documents that more can be learned of their origin and status.

If the men in the king’s immediate service are as a body obscure, his sheriffs are all known by name, and their territorial position can often be ascertained precisely. The office still gives a field for research, but it is certain that during the reigns of Henry II and his sons the sheriff took the first and all-important steps towards his present position of forgotten dignity. The Norman kings had suffered from the over-mighty sheriff, and had tried to check his power. Henry I had often put his own curiales into sheriffdoms and united several counties in the hands of one or two trusted ministers. But the lists of sheriffs in Henry IPs early years still shew baronial names. In Devonshire, the earl was sheriff until 1157. Northumberland was held by William de Vesci from 1157 to 1170, and by Roger de Stuteville from 1170 to 1185. William de Beauchamp was sheriff of Worcestershire from 1155 to 1169, of Glou­cestershire from 1157 to 1163, and of Herefordshire from 1160 to 1169. Wiltshire was held by Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, from 1155 to 1160. Throughout the reign, Shropshire was held by local magnates. A baron was not inevitably the king’s opponent, and a baronial sheriff may have been as good an officer as any curialis. Moreover, many sheriffs of baronial rank held their offices because they had become curiales, and were competing for the prizes which the king’s service offered. Ranulf de Glanville was the chief among many such men. Many of Henry’s sheriffs were undistinguished knights in the counties they held. Adam de Catmere, sheriff of Berkshire from 1160 to 1170, and of Oxfordshire from 1164 to 1170, held half a knight’s fee at Catmore in Berkshire of William, Earl of Derby. The south Lincolnshire knight, Alfred of Pointon, sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1166 and 1167, and again from 1170 to 1174, held three knight’s fees of Maurice de Craon, and was his steward. Even at the beginning of the reign, some shires were held by curiales. The important county of Hampshire was held by a succession of them. Turstin, sheriff until 1160, had been the clerk of a chamberlain in the reign of Henry I. His son succeeded him, and was followed from 1170 to 1179 by Hugh de Gundeville. From 1174 to 1177 Hugh was also sheriff of Northamptonshire, from 1177 to 1179 he was sheriff of Devon, and his name frequently occurs in lists of Henry’s judges. From 1155 to 1160 Northamptonshire was held by another minister who often served as judge, Simon son of Peter of Brixworth in that county. By the end of the reign it was the rule rather than the exception that the sheriffs should be ministeriales. The change was probably the result of Henry’s policy rather than the policy itself. Henry was controlling the excesses of sheriffs, and at the same time increasing their work, so that barons may have become less anxious to hold the office. The large sums offered, though not always paid, for shrievalties at the beginning of Richard’s reign may suggest that the buyers hoped for laxer administrative control under a new king—a hope that was not realised.

The judicial reforms introduced by Henry II materially increased the labours of the sheriff. In addition to the financial and military responsi­bilities which had lain upon him in the Norman time, he was now required to give effect to an elaborate system of centralised justice. The earliest rolls of the itinerant justices reveal the unceasing labours of the sheriff in the time of Henry’s sons. He was responsible for the most minute details of judicial administration; he must receive and produce the writs which began the innumerable pleas resulting from Henry’s legal re­forms; he was responsible for summoning every person necessary for the conduct of a plea; he had to give effect to the justices’ decisions, and keep a record of his action; he must answer for the most meagre chattels of criminals that had fallen in to the king. Any failure in the perform­ance of these duties meant that he would be called to account before the justices. It is not remarkable that curiales appear in increasing numbers among the sheriffs of Henry’s later years. Unless the sheriffs were brought into close relations with the king, his plan of a judicial organisation extending over the whole land and centring upon his court was bound to be fruitless.

In 1170 Henry sent bodies of commissioners or justices round the country to inquire touching the behaviour of the sheriffs, their bailiffs, and all who were doing the king’s business in the shires. Generally known as the “Inquest of Sheriffs,” the inquiry had a much wider scope. It entered into the financial relationship between lords and their men, with which the king had normally no concern. It covered only the four years of Henry’s recent absence abroad. Two fragments of the original returns have survived, relating respectively to East Anglia and the borough of Worcester. The East Anglian fragment relates almost exclusively to the payments made to the Earl of Arundel and other barons by the men on their own land and on land held in custody. Payments were made to the earl to help him in his work on the Marches of Wales, in his expedition to France, in his difficulties with the Jews, in his con­tribution to the aid for marrying the king’s daughter, and in his journey to Saxony with her. The Worcester fragment, on the other hand, deals almost entirely with payments to the sheriff. It shews that the sheriff, William de Beauchamp, took from the borough forty-two pounds in the first two years in question, and fifty pounds in the last two years. The farm of the borough was fixed at twenty-four pounds when, at a later time, the burgesses were allowed to pay it direct into the Exchequer. The burgesses also made payments to him for the conveyance of treasure and prisoners, and on the occasion of his daughter’s marriage. William de Beauchamp was one of the sheriffs removed before the inquiry was made, and many others were removed afterwards. Only in Cumberland, Devon, Kent, Rutland, Staffordshire, Surrey, and Wiltshire, was the custody of the shire in the same hand for any appreciable period before and after 1170. Of these counties, Rutland was held by the king’s constable, Richard de Humez, and Surrey and Kent were in the custody of Gervase of Cornhill, a member of a family which owed its wealth to London trade and had entered the king’s service. It is evident from the fact of the enquiry that the king did not intend the government of the shires through sheriffs and other officers to rest on exploitation. No other enquiry was made in this reign with the principal object of dis­covering the abuses in local government, but, when the king’s justices went round the country, people had the opportunity, if they dared to use it, of expressing their grievances. On the Lincoln Assize Roll of 1202 occurs an entry to the effect that certain sums of money have been taken from merchants to the use of the sheriff, his bailiff, and his bailiff’s clerk, for the right of leading corn from county to county through England.

It must have been possible for the sheriff to make considerable profits in a legitimate way. The amounts of his profits from the local courts of justice must have depended on the justice he gave, and a period of peace and careful management meant that the value of the royal land farmed by the sheriff increased considerably. That Henry II had no intention of allowing the sheriff to obtain the whole of this increment is shewn by the fact that he had to account for variable amounts, known later as incremental apart from and in addition to his farm. Even so, the sheriff must have made money on his farm. The incrementa were unpopular alike with the sheriffs and the people, and the first issue of Magna Carta declared that counties should be at their old farms, without any incre­ment, a clause that, for obvious financial reasons, it was impossible to retain. When lands escheated to the king, they were generally farmed by the sheriff or by some magnate or curialis who was recompensed for his trouble by the amount he raised beyond the sum for which he farmed the escheat. But sometimes escheated lands were held in custodia, that is, the holder strictly accounted for them to the king. Like that of his father, the reign of Richard I was a time of administrative reform. The large amount of land that came in to the king in 1194, mainly as a result of his brother’s rebellion, necessitated fresh arrangements. Two escheators were appointed, William de Sanctae Mariae Ecclesia, and Hugh Bardolf, who held the escheats in custody, and rendered detailed accounts for them. William held the escheated lands in the southern and Hugh in the northern part of England. It was doubtless experi­ments like this, compelled by the pressure of increasing business, which suggested the practice, developed in the next century, of sometimes letting shires themselves to their sheriffs in custodia instead of ad firmam.

In addition to profits of uncertain amount and diverse origin, the sheriff was entitled to a customary payment from the men of the shire, known as the sheriff’s aid. This payment enters into general history as one of the causes of dispute between Henry II and Becket in 1163. The king is said to have wished to annex the money given to the sheriffs to his own revenues. It is probable that he intended the sheriffs to account at the Exchequer for the sheriff’s aid as for the money which they col­lected on the king’s behalf. The significance of his proposals can only be conjectured, for they were abandoned in face of the archbishop’s protest. That Henry wished to take possession of the sheriff’s aid with­out compensation to the sheriffs for its loss is highly improbable; he depended too much on his sheriffs to alienate them by an arbitrary measure of confiscation. He may well have been feeling his way towards an increased centralisation of local government, and wished, as a step towards this end, to appropriate the ancient sheriff’s aid and compensate the sheriffs by a payment direct from the treasury. It is also probable that his proposals were suggested by the close resemblance between the sheriff’s aid and the Danegeld. The sheriff’s aid was a geld, a tax laid upon land according to the assessment which determined the incidence of the Danegeld; it descended from the fiscal system of King Edward’s day. Various passages in private charters shew that it was paid four times a year. A Lincolnshire charter of the reign of Henry II refers to it as the “four aids of the sheriff,” a Leicestershire charter as the “four gelds of the shire.” It was natural that Henry should wish the sheriff’s aid to follow the other ancient gelds into his treasury. Had it done so, its amount and incidence would be less obscure at the present day. In the reign of Edward I, the sheriff’s aid in the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon seems to have brought in approximately thirty pounds a year. It was not an adequate recompense for the sheriff’s manifold labours, but the income which it brought him was not negligible.

Even under the Norman kings, the sheriffs had not been the sole dispensers of royal justice in the shires. Apart from the sporadic ap­pearance of royal officials sent round the country to do justice, there is evidence that already in the reign of William II local officers known as justiciars were in existence. The local justiciarship can be traced through the reigns of Henry I and Stephen, but it is not generally realised that the office still existed in the reign of Henry II. In writs of Henry II, few of which have yet been printed, there are definite references to the justiciars of Lincoln, Norfolk, Warwick, Sussex, York, and Notting­ham. It is probably to these officers that William of Newburgh refers when he states, under the year 1154, that Henry “appointed in all the districts of his kingdom ministers of right and law, to coerce the bold­ness of the wicked, and do justice to those seeking it, according to the merits of the cases.” The relation of the local justiciar to the sheriff and the shire-court is uncertain, but it is certain that he took precedence of the sheriff’ in the shire.

The little that is known of these local justiciars suggests that Henry did not long continue the practice of appointing them. In matters of justice, he seems in his earliest years to have adopted his grandfather’s expedients, both employing local justices and sending out officers of his court to do justice over a great stretch of the country. The year 1166 may be regarded as a turning-point. The Assize of Clarendon, issued in that year, opens a new phase in the history of criminal jurisdiction in England. The king then commanded that twelve lawful men of every hundred and four lawful men of every village should declare on oath if any in their hundred or village had been accused or suspected of being a robber, murderer, or brigand, or a harbourer of such, since Henry became king. The presentments of these jurors were to be taken before the sheriffs and again before the justices. Those who were apprehended by reason of such presentment were to have judgment before the king’s justices only, they were to go to the ordeal by water, and the chattels of the guilty were to go to the king. Men of ill repute proved innocent by the water were nevertheless to abjure the realm. Gaols were to be built in counties where there were none, for the custody of prisoners awaiting the coming of the justices. In the case of those apprehended in any other way than through presentment, the procedure was to remain “as it was and ought to be,” a provision which allowed the sheriff’ to deal with crimes other than those specified, and with many minor offences, such as petty assaults. This measure was a long stride towards centralisa­tion. Ten years later, the Assize of Northampton, reinforcing that of Clarendon, gave to the justices cognisance of other grave crimes which had lain outside the scope of the earlier assize. For the first time in English history, criminal justice was to be administered all over the land in accordance with the same rules.

The years between 1166 and 1180 were years of experiment in the centralisation of justice. The Assize of Clarendon was enforced by Earl Geoffrey de Mandeville and Richard de Luci. The justiciarii or barones errantes who conducted the Inquest of Sheriffs were large companies of barons and clergy. But the judges who from 1168 onwards were doing justice and assessing tallages in the shires were household and Exchequer officials of the king. The Assize of Northampton of 1176 was put into operation by six groups of three justices, whose work was made heavy by the disturbance of the rebellion. When the king returned from Normandy in 1178, he recalled the eighteen judges, and appointed five, who were not to depart from his court but were to remain there to hear complaints, so that if any matters needed special consideration they could be determined by the king with the advice of his counsellors. This provision originated no new court; it was an arrangement by which the king, exercising his ancient prerogative of justice, might inspect the work of his judges. He spent his time in England going from place to place, and the five judges doubtless travelled with him. Richard de Luci retired from the justiciarship in the next year, and Henry did not immediately appoint a new Chief Justiciar. He divided the country into four districts for the purpose of judicial administration. Ranulf de Glanville and five other judges were placed in charge of the north; the three southern districts were each put in charge of a bishop, who was also a curtails. In 1180 Glanville became Chief Justiciar. From that time, justices visited the shires in almost every year. They inspected the local administration, inquired into the king’s rights, and assessed taxes; justice was only a part of their work. These justices were intimately connected with the Exchequer. It was. thence they set out, and they returned there to hand in their rolls; so the fact that the Exchequer was at Westminster meant that Westminster became the centre of the judicial system. There, judges sat almost continuously, for the Exchequer officials were the judges. The justices de banco are the justices of the bench at West­minster. They did not form a different court from that of the justices on eyre; there was but one court, and that the king’s. The distinction between the judges who sat at Westminster and those who went round the country was narrow’. The justices on eyre were governed by the terms of a commission; those who sat at Westminster sat there pri­marily to deal with pleas brought up by people who wished for the best available opinion on their suits, and with pleas transferred from the justices itinerant in the country.

The procedure described in Glanville’s treatise is that of the end of Henry’s reign, when the king’s judges appeared constantly in the shires, and when his court was within the reach of every free man deprived unjustly of his land. Of the means by which Henry brought about this result all too little is known. The king could not force men to seek his court for civil litigation; he could only attract them to it by giving better justice than the courts of honours and manors, shires and hundreds. No one doubted that it belonged to the king, if he chose, to see that justice was done to those who sought it; appeal to the king was always possible. The work of Henry II in centralising justice in the king’s court must not be overrated. The writs of Henry I suggest that the rule of law, familiar to readers of Glanville, that no one need answer for his free tenement in his lord’s court without the king’s writ or that of his justiciar, may have been already established before 1135. Glanville speaks of it as according to the customs of the kingdom, not as though it were a recent enactment. The writ of right may well have been known by that name before Henry became king; Conan, Earl of Richmond, refers to it by name in a charter which must be earlier than 1158. The procedure by which a plea was removed from the feudal court to the shire-court on the plaintiff proving in his lord’s court before the sheriff that his lord had failed to do justice was probably the same as that described by Glanville, even in the first half of the century. The king could always send his justices into the shire-courts to hear the suits in process there. But the first condition to be fulfilled before the king could take justice into his hand was the frequent appearance of royal justices in the shires; only then would it be worth men’s while to appeal to the king.

With the advice of his barons, the king could always make general statements of law. He could also send men round the country to inquire into his rights by means of the sworn inquest. It is probable that Henry’s first step towards the centralisation of justice was to combine these pre­rogatives. At or about the time of the Assize of Clarendon, he must have declared that no man might be disseised unjustly and without judgment of his free tenement, and commanded his justices to inquire touching such disseisins within the period covered by the Assize. Ten years later, in the Assize of Northampton, he made a general statement that a man’s heir should have such seisin as his ancestor had on the day when he was alive and dead, and he commanded that, where the lord of the fee had prevented this, the justices should inquire touching the dead man’s seisin and restore it to his heir. The justices were again commanded to inquire into disseisins committed within the limit of time covered by the Assize. These two enactments lie behind the procedure begun by the writs of Novel Disseisin and Mort d’Ancestor, but they did not immediately create those writs and that procedure. It appears as though Henry at first made his benefits for a time compulsory that he might make people realise their advantages before he put up definite writs and a definite procedure for sale. That the result of these enact­ments was the taking of possession under the royal protection is true, but it is certain that Henry and his justices did not set out deliberately to protect possession. Their aim was to quell the disorder of self-help, and to provide a speedy remedy for the man unjustly dispossessed of his tenement or prevented from entering into his inheritance. Writs of pre­vious kings shew that here, too, he was working on foundations already laid1. Henry IPs genius lay in subtly devising a single means to fit the many slightly varying circumstances.

It was not the partiality of feudal lords but the inadequacy of feudal procedure that ultimately brought all free men into the king’s court. Feudal justice was slow. It was felt that a man must be present in person to conduct his suit. Hence, there was developed a complicated law of essoins, of excuses for non-attendance; an unwilling suitor could prolong his plea almost indefinitely by making full use of his essoins. When the justices of John’s reign investigated complaints that a feudal court had failed to do justice, the evidence often shewed, not that injustice had been done, but that the plaintiff had brought his troubles on himself by refusing to answer in his lord’s court or by expecting his essoins to avail him too long. Moreover, the ownership of land was decided in the feudal courts by the issue of the duel between two cham­pions who were supposed to be ready to fight because they were witnesses of the truth. It was difficult for the king to interfere in such pleas, where the lord of the court was giving the best justice that feudal law permitted. Hence it was that he allowed to the defendants in such suits the regale beneficium of the Grand Assize. Dr Round has shown that the Grand Assize, the Assize of Windsor as it is sometimes called, was probably issued in 1179. The tenant alone could avail himself of this royal benefit. If he put himself on the Grand Assize, the case was removed from the feudal court into the king’s court, and judgment was given in accordance with the verdict of twelve knights of the shire chosen by four knights summoned by the sheriff for the purpose. The question of the truth of the case, whether this man or that has the greater right, was put to the jury. That the king’s barons were conscious of the shortcomings of feudal procedure is evident from the fact that the Grand Assize was issued by the king with the advice of his barons, consilio procerum.

Although the king was always regarded as the fountain of justice, his duty was rather to see that justice was done than to do it himself. It isevident from Glanville’s words that some suits were felt to be rightly brought in the first instance into the royal court, and that the king could if he wished order that others should come to it too. The dis­putes of tenants-in-chief for land held in chief of the king came naturally into the king’s court. The writ that brought suits directly to the royal court was the writ Precipe, so called from its first word. It was addressed to the sheriff, and told him to command the defendant to restore to the plaintiff the land or other property of which he had deforced him or to be before the king or his justices on such a day. Although Glanville says that the king may if he wishes issue this writ, it is clear that he felt that suits touching the ownership of land held by sub-tenants ought not to be begun in the king’s court where the lord’s court was ready to do justice to the plaintiff. The aim of king and barons alike in the legal reforms of the reign was to secure quicker justice and thus maintain better order in the land. It was not the mere bringing of suits to the king’s court that secured speedy justice, it was the employment of further expedients to secure quicker action, expedients which the king alone could sell. The plea which settled a man’s right to the owner­ship of land was of necessity long in whatever court it was heard.

As in the feudal courts, so in the king’s court, cases concerning the ownership of land were decided in accordance with the issue of the duel, unless the defendant put himself on the Grand Assize. The law of essoins ruled in every court alike. Although Glanville says in praise of the Grand Assize that it did not admit of so many essoins, and therefore allowed an earlier decision, it was sufficiently tedious in fact; to carry through a suit for the ownership of land might take many years. The case of Richard of Anesty is always quoted to prove the delay in law-suits in the Angevin period. But Richard’s sorrows, though great, have been given undue pro­minence. His case fell early in Henry’s reign; he began it before the Toulouse expedition, and it involved the papal as well as the royal court. In every way it was exceptional. The time taken by the ordinary suit in the king’s court at the end of Henry’s reign can best be judged by the records of proceedings in the reigns of his sons. But the gaps in the series of extant rolls make difficult the tracing of suits. There are few parallels to the statement in a roll of 1194 that Simon Grim has fol­lowed the same suit “for seven years in divers courts.”

In addition to the fact that many years might elapse before the question of the ownership of land was settled by the judgment of a court, the plaintiff in a plea of right was in an unfavourable position. The defendant had the choice of procedure, the duel or the Grand Assize. The defendant also had the land. Men, sure of the fact that they had been unjustly evicted from their land, or prevented from entering into their inheritance, could afford to forgo the security which a judgment in their favour in a writ of right would give. They could well be content with a speedy judgment by which they could be put in immediate pos­session, in seisin, of their land. Hence it was that, when Henry passed from making compulsory inquiries into unjust and extra-judicial disseisins to allowing the purchase of writs which ordered the summons of a jury to answer definite questions with regard to the seisin of land, he found people ready to take advantage of his devices. The jury sum­moned by the writ of Novel Disseisin answered the definite question: Has the plaintiff been disseised unjustly and without judgment within the period covered by the assize? The writ of Mort d’Ancestor ordered the summons of a jury to answer the questions: Was the ancestor of the plaintiff seised of the land at issue on the day he died? Did he die within the period covered by the assize? Is the plaintiff his next heir? A third recognition, known as Darrein Presentment, was devised probably about the year 1179. Advowsons were a fertile source of litigation, and a new parson could not be appointed to a church the advowson of which was in dispute. The Lateran Council of 1179 required the diocesan bishop to fill the vacancy if the patron delayed too long in making his presentation. The writ of Darrein Presentment ordered the summons of a jury to inquire who presented the last parson to a vacant church in time of peace, and it was adjudged that he or his heir should present again. The three recognitions begun by these writs became in a few years extremely popular. They were speedy, for few essoins were allowed. Few indeed were necessary, for a favourable judgment under one of these assizes gave the winner no right of ownership in the disputed land or advowson; the loser could still bring the writ of right in his lord’s court. Barons used the new procedure, which was meant as much for them as for the humble freeman. It is customary to speak of these devices as though they were directly aimed against the barons and their courts. But to say that Henry deliberately set out to protect possession or seisin in order to deprive the baronial courts of their jurisdiction is completely to misunderstand the conditions of the time. The curtailment of suits was as much to the advantage of barons as to that of other men. It was also to the general good that men should not be tempted to self-help by the law’s delays. Moreover, such was the love of litigation at this time that it is doubtful if the new recognitions made very much difference to the volume of business in the feudal courts.

The Leges Henrici Primi show that in the reign of Henry I a court of justice was regarded as a place where men might either be brought together in love or separated in judgment. It was as much the duty of the judge to end litigation by arranging an agreement as by delivering a judgment. The famous pleas of the early years of Henry II w-ere often ended by a compromise. In the course of the reign, the idea of embody­ing the agreement so arranged in the form of a chirograph, an indenture, was elaborated by the development of a definite formula for the record of the convention. Written twice, head to head, on one piece of parch­ment, the text recorded the place and date of the agreement and the judges before whom it was made. It then proceeded to recite the terms of the agreement. The authenticity of the text was guaranteed by the device of severing the parchment through the word CyrograPhum written between the two copies. Originally devised with the object of curtailing and preventing litigation, the final concord came to be regarded as the ideal way of making an agreement touching ownership; for the king’s court would enforce its observance. It soon became worth men’s while to bring a fictitious action as the formal preliminary to a pre­arranged agreement, in order to enjoy the security given by a final concord made before the king’s justices. The final concord had before it a longer history than either Henry or Glanville can have foreseen.

The year 1166, in addition to being a turning-point in legal history, has been claimed as marking a revolution in financial organisation. In that year the policy which ultimately assimilated towns to the royal demesne, and made them with it subject to aids or tallages assessed by royal justices, was definitely entered upon. Also in that year Henry required his tenants-in-chief to send him a sealed return, informing him how they had arranged the details of their knight-service. He did not ask the amount of the knight-service that they owed, the servicium debitum. He asked how many knights had been enfeoffed before the death of Henry I, and how many since, and how many, if any, remained to be provided for by the tenant-in-chief himself. He asked, in fact, how many knights were of the old enfeoffment, how many of the new, and how many “in demesne”; the names of the knights enfeoffed had also to be returned. The object of this enquiry has generally been regarded as financial. Dr Round has pointed out that after 1166 tenants-in-chief paid on their servicium debitum only in those cases where they had enfeoffed fewer knights than the amount of the knight-service that they owed the king. Where for any reason the tenant-in-chief had enfeoffed more knights than his actual service required, he paid after 1166 on the number of knights that he had actually enfeoffed and not on his servicium debitum. Dr Round has therefore argued that the object of the returns was to secure “a new feudal assessment.” That Henry did in fact compel some of his tenants-in-chief to pay on more knights than their old servicium debitum is certain, but there remained many cases in which no difference in the assessment or in the amount paid was made1. It is also highly probable that Henry’s object in making the enquiry was in part at least political, and that the Archbishop of York is accurate in his statement that the king has asked the questions because he wishes to know the names of the knights, in order that those who have not done allegiance, and whose names are not written on the king’s roll, may do allegiance before a certain date.

It is on his achievement in setting English lawyers upon the paths that they have trodden for seven hundred years, and are indeed treading yet, that the fame of Henry II rests. He was the greatest and the richest king in western Europe. One of his daughters married the King of Sicily, another the Duke of Saxony, Henry the Lion. The latter marriage made much history. But the triumph of his reign lay, not in his riches or alliances, but in the fact that his contemporaries recognised in him the greatest lawyer of his day. Kings came to him for judgment. If in his enforcement of the forest laws Henry shewed himself not only ungenerous but unjust, it was a matter of gratulation and wonder that the poor could come to his court and win justice against the rich. The men about his court were not mere judges and administrators, they included men of letters. Henry was fortunate in his servants, but the court of those days was what the king made it. Henry’s greatness has always been recognised, and much that was done by previous kings has been in the past assigned to him. Of late years, justice has been done to the work of his predecessors. It has been realised that Henry worked on foundations already laid. But the foundations were slight—a few formulas, the beginnings of an idea