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Select Pleas of the Crown


Although Maitland left out some cases when compiling "The Select Pleas of the Crown," the cases he included are a veritable gold-mine for administrative and social history. This particular selection of cases comes from the Eyre of Cornwall, and not only shows the inner workings of the Medieval Eyre, but also shows some of the dailiness of life that scholars like La Roy Ladurie have been focusing on.

Pleas Before the Justices in Eyre in the Reign of King John

Pleas at Launceston [Cornwall] in the Third Year of the Reign of King John (A.D.1201)

Hundred of Kerrier

1. Denise, who was wife fo Anthony, appeals Nicholas Kam of the death of Anthony, her husband, for that he wickedly slew her husband; and this she offers to prove against him under award of the court. And Nicholas defends all of it. It is considered that Denise's appeal is null, for in it she does not say that she saw the deed. The jurors being asked, say that they suspect him of it; the whole county likewise suspects him. Let him purge himself by water [ordeal] under the Assize. He has waged his law.

2. Jordan, the bishop of Exeter's reeve, was slain at St. Wenn, and on account of his death there fled Reginald Blewin, Edward, Philip, Roland, Odo, and many others, in fact, the whole township. Their chattels were worth fourteen shillings, for which William of Wrotham must answer. All are outlawed at the suit of Jordan's friends.

Hundred of Powdershire

3. William de Ros appeals Ailward Bere, Roger Bald, Robert Merchant, and Nicholas Parmenter, for that they came to his house and wickedly in the king's peace took away from him a certain villein of his whom he kept in chains because he wished to run away, and led him off, and in robbery carried away his wife's coffer with one mark of silver and other chattels; and this he offers to prove by his son, Robert de Ros, who saw it. And Ailward and the others have come and defended the felony, robbery, and breach of the king's peace, and say that (as the custom is in Cornwall) Roger of Prideaux, by the sheriff's orders, caused twelve men to come together and make oath about the said villein, whether he was the king's villein or William's and it was found that he was the king's villein, so the said Roger the serjeant demanded that [William] should surrender him, and he refused, so [Roger] sent to the sheriff, who then sent to deliver [the villein], who, however, had escaped and was not to be found, and William makes this appeal because he wishes to keep the chattels of Thomas [the villein], to wit, two oxen, one cow, one mare, two pigs, nine sheep, eleven goats. And that this is so the jurors testify. Judgment: William and Robert in mercy for the false claim. William's amercement, a half-mark. Robert's amercement, a half-mark. Pledge for the mark, Warin, Robert's son. Let the king have his chattels from William. Pledge for the chattels, Richard, Hervey's son.

4. Serlo of Ennis-Caven appeals Osbert of Dimiliock and Jordan, Walter's son, for that they in the king's peace wickedly assaulted, beat and seriously wounded him, so that by reason of the beating three bones were extracted from his head; and this he offers to prove against him under the court's award as a man maimed by that mayhem. And it is testified by the coroners that the wounds when fresh were shown in teh county [court], and that [the bones were broken] as aforesaid. And Osbert and Jordan come and defend word by word. It is considered that Osbert do purge himself by ordeal of iron on account of the appeal, for Serlo betook himself against Osbert in the first instance. And let Jordan be in custody until it be known how Osbert shall fare. And the other persons who are appealed as accessories are to be under pledge until [Osbert's fate] be known.

Hundred of Eastwivelshire

5. The jurors say that they suspect William Fisman of the death of Agnes of Chilleu, for the day before he had threatened her body and goods. And the four neighbouring townships being sworn, suspect him of it. It is considered that he purge himself by water under the Assize.

6. William Burnell and Luke of the Well are suspected of the burglary at the house of Richard Palmer by the jurors of the hundred, and by the four neighbouring townships, which are sworn. Let them purge themselves by water under the Assize.

7. Malot Crawe appeals Robert, Godfrey's son, of rape. He comes and defends. It is testified that he thus raped her and that she was seen bleeding. By leave of the justices they made concord on the terms of his espousing her.

Hundred of Pydershire

8. Walter Wifin was burgled, and of his chattels taken from his house in the burglary certain boots were found in the house of Lefchild of Ranam, and the said Walter pursues those boots as his. And Lefchild said that he bought them in Bodmin market for 2 1/2 pence, but he knows not from whom. And besides Walter says that eleven ells of linen cloth, part of the stolen goods, were sold in Lefchild's house, and all the other proceeds of the burglary, and that Lefchild was the receiver of the burglars, namely, Robert of Hideford and Alan the Foresters, whom he [Walter] had appealed of the crime. And Lefchild defends. The jurors on being asked, say that they suspect Lefchild of the said receipt. So let him purge himself by water under the Assize.

9. Eadmer of Penwithen appeals Martin, Robert and Thomas of Penwithen, for that Robert wounded him in the head so that twenty-eight pieces of bone were extracted, and meanwhile Martin and Thomas held him; and this he offers to deraign against the said Robert as a man thereby maimed, under the court's award.

And Robert comes and defends all of it word by word. It is considered that he purge himself by ordeal of iron. Let the others be in custody until it be known how Robert shall fare. Afterwards Eadmer came and withdrew himself, and submitted to an amercement of one mark. Pledges, Reinfrid, Gill's son, and Philip his brother. Let the other appellees go quit.

10. Reginald le Teinus accused of the receipt and fellowship of Robert the outlaw comes and defends. The jurors say that they suspect him, and the four neighbouring townships say that they suspect him of it. So let him purge himself by water under the Assize. And there must be inquiry as to Richard Revel, who was sheriff when the said Robert escaped from his custody.

11. Osbert of Reterth appeals Odo Hay, for that he assaulted him as he was returning from Bodmin market, and in the king's peace and wickedly struck him on the hand with a stick, and afterwards struck him on the arm with his sword so that he is maimed; and this he offers to prove as a maimed man. And Odo defends it all. And that [Osbert] is maimed is testified by knights sent to see him. Judgment: let [Odo] purge himself by ordeal of iron because of this appeal.

12. Wulward of Wadebridge was burgled. And Odo Hay, Lawrence Smith, Osbert Mediciner, and Benet his son, William Miller, Robert of Frokemere, and Maud his sister, are suspected of the burglary by the jurors of the hundred and by the four nearest townships, which are sworn. Let the males purge themselves by water under the Assize, and Maud by ordeal of iron. Roger Morand fled for that burglary, and he was living in Bodmin, [which town is] therefore in mercy.

Hundred of Lesnewth

13. Robert, Godfrey's son, appeals Philip, William's son, for that he came on the land of [Robert's] lord Richard Fortescue, and wickedly and in the king's peace and in robbery took eight oxen and a mantle, cape, and sword, and carried them off; and this he offers to prove against him by his body under award of the court. And Philip comes and defends all of it word by word. It is considered that the appeal is null, for the oxen were not Robert's, but Richard's. The jurors being asked, say that [Philip] did no robbery to [Richard]. So Richard Fortescue is in mercy for a false appeal, and let Philip be quit.

Hundred of Triggshire

14. Peter Burel appeals Anketil of Wingely, for that he wickedly in the king's peace assaulted him in the field where he was pasturing his oxen, and beat him, and gave him four wounds in the head, and in robbery took from him an axe and a sword; and this he offers to prove against him; but he shows no wound.

And Anketil defends. And the county records that [Peter] first appealed Roger of Tregadec of the same robbery and of the same wounds. Therefore it is considered that the appeal is null, and let Peter be in mercy for a false appeal. His amercement, a half-mark; pledge for it, Ralph Giffard.

15. The jurors are in mercy for a silly presentment, for tehy presented an appeal which was made in the hundred [court] and which was not presented in the county [court].

16. Lucy of Morwinstow appeals Robert de Scaccis and Roland of Kellio and Peter of Lancarf of robbing her of twenty shillings and eight pence, and of a cloak, price a half-mark. And it is testified by the jurors that they did not rob her, and that she is a hireling, and that a man lay with her in a garden, and the boys hooted her, so that she left her cloak, and the boys took it and pawned it for two gallons of wine. It is considered that Robert do give her three pence in respect of teh wine and do go quit. And Roland and Peter neither come nor essoin themselves. And their pledges were Nicholas brother of Alfred of Bodmin and Herbert Reeve of Bodmin, who are therefore in mercy.

17. Due from the county of Cornwall for amercement and for quittance from the carucage, 100 marks.

18. This roll is to be delivered to martin, clerk of Sir Simon of Pateshull, or, if he be not found, then to William, clerk of Sir Eustace of Falconberg, or, if neither be found, then to one of the clerks of the Justices of the Bench, who is to keep it safe and deliver it to the said Martin when he sees him, on behalf of Bartholomew, clerk of Richard Fleming.

19. Osbert Church accused of the death of Roland, son of Reginald of Kennel, on the appeal of the said Reginald, was detained in gaol and defends word by word. And Reginald offers proof by the body of a certain freeman, Arkald, who has his [Reginald's] daughter to wife, who is to prove in his stead, since he has passed the age of sixty. Osbert Church defends all of it. The knights of the hundred of Penwith say that they suspect him of the said death. The knights of kerrier [hundred] say the same. The knights of Penwith [hundred] say the same. The knights of Pyder [hundred] say the same. Judgment: let him purge himself by water, and Reginald is in mercy, for he does not allege sight and hearing, and because he has withdrawn himself, and put another in his place, who neither saw nor heard and yet offered to prove it, and so let both Reginald and Arkald be in mercy. Osbert is purged by the water. Osbert's pledges: Henry Little, Henry of Penant, Ossulf Black, Roger of Trevithow, John of Glin, Ralph of Trelew.

20 Roger of Wick [was] appealed of the death of Brictmer by the appeal of Hawise, Brictmer's wife, and was captured in flight, as say John of Winielton and Ralph of Mertherin, but the flight is not testified by the hundred. Kerier [hundred] says the same. Penwith [hundred] says the same. So is considered that he purge himself by water. He is prged. Roger's pledges: Ralph of Trelew, Ogier of Kurnick, Richard, Simon's son, Alfred Malvoisin, Everwin of Lande, John of Kewerion, Warin of Tiwardeni, Baldwin Tirel, Roger of Trevithow, John of Glin, William of Dunham, Thomas, Osbert's son.


This text was taken from:
Maitland, F. W., ed. Select Pleas of the Crown: Volume 1--A.D. 1200-1225. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1888.