(Normans conquered England in 1066. William
Here is set down what William, king of the English,
established in consultation with his magnates after the conquest of England:
- First that above all things he wishes
one God to be revered throughout his whole realm, one faith
in Christ to be kept ever inviolate, and peace and
security to be preserved between English and Normans.
- We decree also that every freeman
shall affirm by oath and compact that he will be loyal to King
William both within and without England, that he will preserve
with him his lands and honor with all fidelity and defend him against
- I will, moreover, that all the men
I have brought with me, or who have come after me,
shall be protected by my peace and shall dwell in quiet. And
if any one of them shall be slain, let the lord of his murderer seize
him within five days, if he can; but if he cannot, let him pay me 46
marks of silver so long as his substance avails. And when his substance
is exhausted, let the whole hundred in which the murder took place pay
what remains in common.
- And let every Frenchman who,
in the time of King Edward, my kinsman, was a sharer in the customs
of the English, pay what they call "scot and lot", according to the
laws of the English. This decree was ordained in the city of Gloucester.
- We forbid also that any live cattle
shall be bought or sold for money except within cities, and
this shall be done before three faithful witnesses; nor even anything
old without surety and warrant. But if anyone shall do otherwise, let
him pay once, and afterwards a second time for a fine.
- It was decreed there that if a Frenchman
shall charge an Englishman with perjury or murder or theft
or homicide or "ran", as the English call open rapine which cannot be
denied, the Englishman may defend himself, as he shall
prefer, either by the ordeal of hot iron or by wager of battle. But
if the Englishman be infirm, let him find another who will take his
place. If one of them shall be vanquished, he shall pay a fine of 40
shillings to the king. If an Englishman shall charge a Frenchman and
be unwilling to prove his accusation either by ordeal or by wager of
battle, I will, nevertheless, that the Frenchman shall acquit himself
by a valid oath.
- This also I command and will, that
all shall have and hold the law of the King Edward in respect
of their lands and all their posessions, with the addition of those
decrees I have ordained for the welfare of the English people.
- Every man who wishes to be considered
a freeman shall be in pledge so that his surety shall hold
him and hand him over to justice if he shall offend in any way. And
if any such shall escape, let his sureties see to it that they pay forthwith
what is charge against him, and let them clear themselves of any complicity
in his escape. Let recourse be had to the hundred and shire courts as
our predecessors decreed. And those who ought of right to come and are
unwilling to appear, shall be summoned once; and if for the second time
they refuse to come, one ox shall be taken from them, and they shall
be summoned a third time. And if they do not come the third time, a
second ox shall be taken from them. But if they do not come the fourth
summons, the man who is unwilling to come shall forfeit from his goods
the amount of the charge against him -- "ceapgeld" as it is called --
and in addition to this a fine to the king.
- I prohibit the sale of any man
by another outside the country on pain of a fine to be paid in full
- I also forbid that anyone shall
be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let
him be castrated. And this command shall not be violated under pain
of a fine in full to me.
The Middle Ages
The Black Plague