By Ann Lyon
This publication offers an obtainable one-volume creation to the improvement of the British structure from its earliest beginnings within the 7th century to the current day. It specializes in the political occasions, and social, non secular and philosophical rules that have formed the constitutions improvement.
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3 The law The means by which law was enforced in this period are not clear, no reliable records having survived. However, it would seem that both the royal law codes and the unwritten body of customary law were applied by a number of overlapping bodies. Parties to disputes were able to seek justice from the king; grants of land by the king were frequently accompanied by the privileges of infangenetheof and utfangenetheof— jurisdiction over persons on that land. Such powers of seignorial justice were to be a 34 35 36 PH Sawyer, From Romen Britain to Early England, 1st edn, 1978, Routledge, pp 227–28.
However, under weak kings, power shifted to the greatest among their subjects, and it was for their stronger successors to restore the power of the monarch. The over-mighty subject closely connected by blood or marriage to the ruler is a feature of the 11th and 14th centuries as well as the 15th. Godwine, Earl of Wessex, occupied much the same position under Edward the Confessor as Warwick the Kingmaker did in the first years of Edward IV’s reign. Each attempted to make the reigning king his puppet, though Godwine never went to the extreme pursued by Warwick, who tried to replace a king who refused to accept his tutelage with another more pliable candidate, and temporarily succeeded.
39 Each of the parties in both criminal and other matters swore by holy oath as to the truth of his case, and might bring ‘oath-helpers’ or ‘compurgators’ to support him by similar oath. If these oaths were considered insufficient, either because the case was a serious one or the word of one or other of the parties was not accepted, then appeal was made to God for judgment by means of a physical ‘ordeal’. Several forms of ordeal were recognised by the church, but those most commonly used in England were the ordeals of fire and water.