Medieval Sourcebook: Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164
The Constitutions of Clarendon, as White and Notestein have said, are so well-known to need much of an introduction. Representative of the initial stages of the epic battle between Henry II and archbishop Thomas a Becket, the Constitutions were an attempt by Henry II to define the royal prerogatives as they existed before the anarchy of Stephen's reign.
From the year of our Lord's incarnation 1164, the fourth year of the papacy ofAlexander, the tenth of the most illustrious Henry, king of the English, in thepresence of the same king, was made this remembrance or recognition of acertain part of the customs, liberties, and dignities of his predecessors, thatis to say of King Henry his grandfather and others, which ought to be observedand held in the kingdom. And because of discesnsions and discords which hadarisen between the clergy and the lord king's justices and the barons of thekingdom concerning the customs and dignities, this recognition has been madebefore the archbishops and bishops and clergy, and the earls and barons andgreat men of the kingdom. And these same customs declared by the archbishops,bishops, earls, and barons, and by the nobler and older men of the kingdom,Thomas archbishop of Canterbury and Roger archbishop of York and Gilbert bishopof London and Henry bishop of Winchester and Nigel bishop of Ely and Williambishop of Norwich and Robert bishop of Lincoln and Hilary bishop of Chichesterand Jocelin bishop of Salisbury and Richard bishop of Chester and Bartholomewbishop of Exeter and Robert bishop of Hereford and David bishop of St. David'sand Roger elect of Worcester conceded and on the word of truth firmly promisedby word of mouth should be held and observed for the lord king and his heirs ingood faith and without subtlety, these being present: Robert earl ofLeicester, Reginald earl of Cornwall, Conan earl of Brittany, John earl of Eu,Roger earl of Clare, earl Geoffrey de Mandeville, Hugh earl of Chester, Williamearl of Arundel, earl Patrick, William earl of Ferrers, Richard de Luci,Reginald de Mowbray, Simon de Beauchamp, Humphrey de Bohun, Matthew deHereford, Walter de Mayenne, Manser Biset the steard, William Malet, William deCourcy, Robert de Dunstaville, Jocelin de Baillol, William de Lanvallei,William de Caisnet, Geoffrey de Vere, William de Hastings, Hugh de Moreville,Alan de Neville, Simon Fitz Peter, William Maudit the chamberlain, John Maudit,John Marshall, Peter de Mara, and many other great men and nobles of thekingdom both clergy and laymen.
A certain part of the customs and dignities which were recognized is containedin the present writing. Of which part these are the articles:
1. If a controversy arise between laymen, or between laymen and clerks, orbetween clerks concerning patronage and presentation of churches, it shall betreated or concluded in the court of the lord king.
2. Churches of the lord king's fee cannot be permanently bestowed without hisconsent and grant.
3. Clerks charged and accused of any matter, summoned by the king's justice,shall come into his court to answer there to whatever it shall seem to theking's court should be answered there; and in the church court to what it seemsshould be answered there; however the king's justice shall send into the courtof holy Church for the purpose of seeing how the matter shall be treated there. And if the clerk be convicted or confess, the church ought not to protect himfurther.
4. It is not permitted the archbishops, bishops, and priests of the kingdom toleave the kingdom without the lord king's permission. And if they do leavethey are to give security, if the lord king please, that they will seek no evilor damage to king or kingdom in going, in making their stay, or inreturning.
5. Excommunicate persons ought not to give security for an indefinite time, orgive an oath, but only security and pledge for submitting to teh judgment ofthe church in order that they may be absolved.
6. Laymen ought not to be accused save by dependable and lawful accusers andwitnesses in the presence of the bishop, yet so that the archdeacon lose nothis right or anything wich he ought to have thence. And if there should bethose who are deemed culpable, but whom no one wishes or dares to accuse, thesheriff, upon the bishop's request, shall cause twelve lawful men of theneighborhood or the vill to take oath before the bishop that they will show thetruth of the matter according to their conscience.
7. No one who holds of the king in chief or any of the officials of hisdemesne is to be excommunicated or his lands placed under interdict unless thelord king, if he be in the land, or his justiciar, if he be outside thekingdom, first gives his consent, that he may do for him what is right: yet sothat what pertains to the royal court be concluded there, and what looks to thechurch court be sent thither to be concluded there.
8. As to appeals which may arise, they should pass from the archdeacon to thebishop, and from the bishop to the archbishop. And if the archbishop fail infurnishing justice, the amtter should come to the lord king at the last, thatat his command the litigation be concluded in the archbishop's court; and sobecause it should not pass further without the lord king's consent.
9. If litigation arise between a clerk concerning any holding which the clerkwould bring to charitable tenure but the layman to lay fee, it shall bedetermined on the decision of the king's chief justice by the recognition oftwelve lawful men in the presence of the king's justice himself whether theholding pertain to charitable tenure or to lay fee. And if the recognitiondeclare it to be charitable tenure, it shall be litigated in the church court,but if lay fee, unless both plead under the same bishop or baron, thelitigation shall be in the royal court. But if both plead concerning that fiefunder the same bishop or baron, it shall be litigated in his court; yet so thathe who was first seised lose not his seisin on account of the recognition thatwas made, until the matter be determined by the plea.
10. If any one who is of a city, castle, borough, or demesne manor of the kingshall be cited by archdeacon or bishop for any offense for which he ought to beheld answerable to them and despite their summonses he refuse to do what isright, it is fully permissible to place him under interdict, but he ought notto be excommunicated before the king's chief official of that vill shall agree,in order that he may authoritatively constrain him to come to his trial. Butif the king's official fail in this, he himself shall be in the lord king'smercy; and then the bishop shall be able to coerce the accused man byecclesiastical authority.
11. Archbishops, bishops, and all ecclesiastics of the kingdom who hold of theking in chief have their possessions of the lord king as barony and answer forthem to the king's justices and ministers and follow and do all royal rightsand customs; and they ought, just like other barons, to be present at thejudgments of the lord king's court along with the barons, until it come injudgment to loss of limbs or death.
12. When an archbishopric or bishopric, or an abbey or priory of the king'sdemesne shall be vacant, it ought to be in his hands, and he shall assume itsrevenues and expenses as pertaining to his demesne. And when the time comes toprovide fro the church, the lord king should notify the more important clergyof the church, and the election should be held in the lord king's own chapelwith the assent of the lord king and on the advice of the clergy of the realmwhom he has summoned for the purpose. And there, before he be consecrated, letthe elect perform homage and fealty to the lord king as his liege lord forlife, limbs, and earthly honor, saving his order.
13. If any of the great men of the kingdom should forcibly prevent archbishop,bishop, or archdeacon from administering justice in which he or his men wereconcerned, then the lord king ought to bring such an one to justice. And if itshould happen that any one deforce the lord king of his right, archbishops,bishops, and archdeacons ought to constrain him to make satisfaction to thelord king.
14. Chattels which have been forfeited to the king are not to be held inchurches or cemetaries against the king's justice, because they belong to theking whether they be found inside churches or outside.
15. Pleas concerning debts, which are owed on the basis of an oath or inconnection with which no oath has been taken, are in the king's justice.
16. Sons of villeins should not be ordained without the consent of the lord onwhose land it is ascertained they were born.
The declaration of the above-mentioned royal customs and dignities has beenmade by the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, and the nobler and older menof the kingdom, at Clarendon on the fourth day before the Purification of theBlessed Virgin Mary, lord Henry being present there with the lord king hisfather. There are, indeed, many other great customs and dignities of holymother church and of the lord king and barons of the kingdom, which are notincluded in this writing, but which are to be preserved to holy church and tothe lord king and his heirs and the barons of the kingdom, and are to be keptinviolate for ever.
translated in Albert Beebe White and Wallce Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1915).
Other works referred to in preparartion:
Elton, Geoffrey, The English (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992).
Maitland, F. W., The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).
Smith, Lacey Baldwin and Jean Reeder Smith, eds., The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in English History, vol. 1 (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1993).
Text prepared by Seth Seyfried of the University of Utah.
This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
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(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996