The Anglo-Saxon Dooms, 560-975
The Laws of Æthelberht, King of
Kent, 560-616 A.D.
These are the dooms which King Æthelberht established in the days of Augustine.
1. The property of God and of the church, twelvefold; a bishop's property,
elevenfold; a priest's property, ninefold; a deacon's property, sixfold; a clerk's
property, threefold; churchfrith, twofold;. . . .
2. If the king calls his leod to him, and any one there do them evil,
(let him compensate with) a twofold bot, and fifty shillings to the king.
3. If the king drink at any one's home, and any one there do any lyswe,
let him make two-fold bot.
4. If a freeman steal from the king, let him pay ninefold.
5. If a man slay another in the king's tun, let him make bot with
6. If any one slay a freeman, fifty shillings to the king, as drihtinbeah.
7. If the king's ambihtsmith, or laadrinc, slay a man, let him pay
a half leodgeld.
8. The king's mundbyrd, fifty shillings.
9. If a freeman steal from a freeman, let him make threefold bot; and let
the king have the wite and all the chattels.
10. If a man lie with the king's maiden, let him pay a bot of fifty
11. If she be a grinding slave, let him pay a bot of
twenty-five shillings. The third (class) twelve shillings.
12. Let the king's fedesl be paid for with twenty shillings
13. If a man slay another in an eorl's tun, let him make bot with twelve shillings.
14. If a man lie with an eorl's birele, let him make bot with twelve shillings.
15. A ceorl's mundbyrd, seven shillings.
16. If a man lie with a ceorl's birele, let him make bot with six shillings; with a slave of the second (class), fifty scaetts; with one of
the third, thirty scaetts.
17. If any one be the first to make an inroad into a man's tun,
let him make bot with six shillings; let him who follows, with three shillings;
after, each, a shilling.
18. If a man furnish weapons to another where there is strife, though
no evil be done, let him make bot with six shillings.
19. If wegreaf be done, let him make bot with six
20. If the man be slain, let him make bot with twenty
21. If a man slay another, let him make bot with a half leodgeld of 100 shillings. . . .
31. If a freeman lie with a freeman's wife, let him pay for it with
his wergeld, and provide another wife with his own money, and bring her to the
32. If any one thrust through the riht hamscyld, let him
33. If there be a feahfang, let there be fifty sceatts for bot.
34. If there be an exposure of the bone, let bot be made with
35. If there be an injury of the bone, let bot be made with
36. If the outer hion be broken, let bot be made with
37. If it be both, let bot be made with twenty shillings.
38. If a shoulder be lamed, let bot be made with thirty
39. If an ear be struck off, let bot be made with twelve
40. If the other ear hear not, let bot be made with twenty-five
41. If an ear be pierced, let bot be made with three shillings.
42. If an ear be mutilated, let bot be made with six shillings.
43. If an eye be (struck) out, let bot be made with fifty
44. If the mouth or an eye be injured, let bot be made with
45. If the nose be pierced, let bot be made with nine
46. If it be one ala, let bot be made with three
47. If both be pierced, let bot be made with six shillings.
48. If the nose be otherwise mutilated, for each let bot be
made with six shillings.
49. If it be pierced, let bot be made with six shillings.
50. Let him who breaks the chin-bone pay for it with twenty shillings.
51. For each of the four front teeth, six shillings; for the tooth
which stands next to them four shillings; for that which stands next to that, three
shillings; and then afterwards, for each a shilling.
52. If the speech be injured, twelve shillings. If the collar-bone be
broken, let bot be made with six shillings.
53. Let him who stabs (another) through an arm, make bot with
54. If a thumb be struck off, twenty shillings. If a thumb nail be
off, let bot be made with three shillings. If the shooting [i. e. fore] finger be
struck off, let bot be made with eight shillings. If the middle finger be struck
off, let bot be made with four shillings. If the gold [i. e. ring] finger be struck
off, let bot be made with six shillings. If the little finger be struck off, let bot be made with eleven shillings.
55. For every nail, a shilling.
56. For the smallest disfigurement of the face, three shillings: and
for the greater, six shillings.
57. If any one strike another with his fist on the nose, three
58. If there be a bruise, a shilling; if he receive a right hand
bruise, let him [the striker] pay a shilling.
59. If the bruise be black in a part not covered by the clothes, let bot be made with thirty scaetts.
60. If it be covered by the clothes, let bot for each be made
with twenty scaetts.
61. If the belly be wounded, let bot be made with twelve
shillings; if it be pierced through, let bot be made with twenty shillings.
62. If any one be gegemed, let bot be made with thirty
63. If any one be cear-wund, let bot be made with three
64. If any one destroy (another's) organ of generation, let him pay
with three leud-gelds; if he pierce it through, let him make bot with six
shillings; if it be pierced within, let him make bot with six shillings.
65. If a thigh be broken, let bot be made with twelve
shillings; if the man become halt, then the friends must arbitrate.
66. If a rib be broken, let bot be made with three shillings.
67. If a thigh be pierced through, for each stab six shillings; if
(the wound be) above an inch, a shilling; for two inches, two; above three, three
68. If a sinew be wounded, let bot be made with three
69. If a foot be cut off, let fifty shillings be paid.
70. If a great toe be cut off, let ten shillings be paid.
71. For each of the other toes, let one-half be paid, like as it is
stated for the fingers.
72. If the nail of a great toe be cut off, thirty scaetts for bot;
for each of the others, make bot with ten scaetts. . . .
77. If a man buy a maiden with cattle, let the bargain stand, if it be
without guile; but if there be guile, let him bring her home again, and let his property
be restored to him.
78. If she bear a live child, let her have half the property; if the
husband die first.
79. If she wish to go away with her children, let her have half the
80. If the husband wish to have them, (let her portion be) as one
81. If she bear no child, let her paternal kindred have the fioh and the morgengyftt.
82. If a man carry off a maiden by force, let him pay fifty shillings
to the owner, and afterwards buy (the object of) his will of the owner.
83. If she be betrothed to another in money, let him make bot with twenty shillings.
84. If she become gaengang, thirty-five shillings; and fifteen
shillings to the king.
85. If a man lie with an esne's wife, her husband still living,
let him make two-fold bot.
The Laws of Kings Hlothhære
and Eadric, 673-686.
These are the dooms which Hlothhære and Eadric, Kings of the Kentishmen,
Hlothhære and Eadric, kings of the Kentishmen, augmented the laws, which their elders
had before made, by these dooms, which hereafter say:
1. If any one's esne slay a man of an Eorl's degree, whoever it
be, let the owner pay with three hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and add three manwyrths thereto.
2. If the slayer escape, let him add a fourth manwyrth, and let
him prove, with good aewdas, that he could not obtain the slayer.
3. If any one's esne slay a freeman, whoever it be, let the
owner pay with a hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and a second manwyrth thereto.
4. If the slayer escape, let the owner pay for him with two manwyrths;
and let him prove, with good aewdas, that he could not obtain the slayer.
5. If a freeman steal a man; if the man return, and denounce him
before the stermelda; let him clear himself, if he be able, and let him have the
number of free aewda-men, and one with (himself) in the oath, each at the tun to which he belongs; if he be unable, let him pay. . .
16. If any Kentish-man buy a chattel in Lundenwic, let him then have
two or three true men to witness, or the king's wic-reeve. If it be afterwards
claimed of the man in Kent, let him then vouch the man who sold it to him to warranty, in
the wic at the king's hall, if he know him, and can bring him to the warranty; if
he can not do that, let him prove at the altar, with one of his witnesses or with the
king's wic-reeve, that he bought the chattel openly in the wic, with his own
property, and then let him be paid its worth; but if he can not prove that by lawful
averment, let him give it up, and let the owner take possession of it.
The Laws of King Wihtræd,
These are the Dooms of Wihtræd, King of the Kentish-Men.
In the reign of the most clement king of the Kentish-men, Wihtræd, in the fifth year
of his reign, the ninth indiction, the sixth day of Rugern, in the place which is called
Berghamstyde, where was assembled a deliberative convention of the great men, there was
Birhtwald, archbishop of Britain, and the forenamed king; also the bishop of Rochester,
the same was called Gybmund, was present; and every degree of the church of that province
spoke in unison with the obedient people. There the great men decreed, with the suffrages
of all, these dooms, and added them to the lawful customs of the Kentishmen, as it
hereafter said and declared. . . .
16. Let the word of a bishop and of the king be, without an oath,
17. Let the aldor of a minster clear himself with a priest's canne.
18. Let a priest clear himself by his own sooth, in his holy garment
before the altar, thus saying: "Veritatem dico in Christo, non mentior." In like
manner, let a deacon clear himself.
19. Let a clerk clear himself with four of his fellows, and he alone
with his hand on the altar, let the others stand by, make the oath.
20. Let a stranger (clear himself) with his own oath at the altar; in
like manner, a king's thane.
21. Let a ceorlish man clear himself with four of his fellows
at the altar; and let the oath of all these be incontrovertible; then is the church canne right.
The Laws of King Alfred, 871-901
The Lord spoke these words to Moses, and thus said: "I am the Lord your God. I led
you out of the land of the Egyptians, and of their bondage.@
Of oaths and of weds.
1. At the first we teach, that it is most needful that every man
warily keep his oath and his wed. If any one be constrained to either of these
wrongfully, either to treason against his lord, or to any unlawful aid; then it is juster
to belie than to fulfil. But if he pledge himself to that which it is lawful to fulfil,
and in that belie himself, let him submissively deliver up his weapon and his goods to the
keeping of his friends, and be in prison forty days in a king=s tun; let him there suffer whatever the
bishop may prescribe to him; and let his kinsmen feed him, if he himself have no food. If
he have no kinsmen, or have no food, let the king's reeve feed him. If he must be forced
to this, and he otherwise will not, if they bind him, let him forfeit his weapons and his
property. If he be slain, let him lie uncompensated. If he flee thereout before the time,
and he be taken, let him be in prison forty days, as he should before have been. But if he
escape, let him be held a fugitive, and be excommunicate of all Christ's churches. If,
however, there be another man's borh, let him make bot for the borhbryce,
as the law may direct him, and the wedbryce, as his confessor may prescribe to him.
2. If any one, for whatever crime, seek any of the mynsterhams to which the
king's feorm is incident, or other freehired which is worthy of reverence, let him
have a space of three days to protect himself, unless he be willing to come to terms. If
during this space, any one harm him by blow, or by bond, or wound him, let him make bot for each of these according to regular usage, as well with wer as with wite:
and to the brotherhood one hundred and twenty shillings, as bot for the
churchfrith: and let him not have forlongen his own.
3. If any one break the king's borh, let him make bot for the
plaint, as the law shall direct him; and for the borhbryce with five pounds of maerra pence. For an archbishop's borhbryce, or his mundbyrd, let him make bot with three pounds: for any other bishop's or an earldormans borhbryce, or mundbyrd,
let him make bot with two pounds.
Of plotting against a lord.
4. If any one plot against the king's life, of himself, or by harbouring of exiles,
or of his men; let him be liable with his life and in all that he has; or let him prove
himself according to his lord's wer.
5. We also ordain to every church which has been hallowed by a bishop, this fryth:
if a fahman flee to or reach one, that for seven days no one drag him out. But if
anyone do so, let him be liable in the king's mundbyrd and the churchfryth;
more if he there commit more wrong, if, despite of hunger, he can live; unless he fight
his way out. If the brethren have further need of their church, let them keep him in
another house, and let not that have more doors than the church. Let the churchealdor take care that during this term no one give him food. If he himself be willing to deliver
up his weapons to his foes, let them keep him thirty days, and then let them give notice
of him to his kinsmen. It is also churchfryth: if any man seek a church for any of
those offences, which had not been before revealed, and there confess himself ill God's
name, be it half forgiven. He who steals on Sunday, or at Yule, or at Easter, or on Holy
Thursday, and on Rogation days; for each of these we will that the bot be twofold,
as during Lent-fast.
Of stealing in a church.
6. If any one thieve aught in a church, let him pay the angylde, and the wite,
such as shall belong to the angylde; and let the hand be struck off with which he
did it. If he will redeem the hand, and that be allowed him, let him pay as may belong to
In case a man fight in the king's hall.
7. If any one fight in the king's hall, or draw his weapon, and he be taken; be it
in the king's doom, either death, or life, as he may be willing to grant him. If he
escape, and be taken again, let him pay for himself according to his wergeld, and
make bot for the offence, as well wer as wite, according as he may
Of fornication with a nun.
8. If any one carry off a nun from a minster, without the king's or the bishop's
leave, let him pay a hundred and twenty shillings, half to the king, half to the bishop
and to the church-hlaford who owns the nun. If she live longer than he who carried
her off, let her not have aught of his property. If she bear a child, let not that have of
the property more than the mother. If any one slay her child, let him pay to the king the
maternal kindred's share; to the paternal kindred let their share be given. . . .
Of those men who lend their weapons for man-slaying.
19. If any one lend his weapon to another that he may kill some one therewith, they may
join together if they will in the wer. If they will not join together, let him who
lent the weapon pay of the wer a third part, and of the wite a third part.
If he be willing to justify himself, that he knew of no ill-design in the loan; that he
may do. If a sword-polisher receive another man's weapon to furbish, or a smith a man's
material, let them both return it sound as either of them may have before received it:
unless either of them had before agreed that he should not hold it angylde. . . .
Of confession of debt.
22. If any one at the folk-mote make declaration of a debt, and afterwards wish to
withdraw it, let him charge it on a righter person, if he can; if he cannot, let him
forfeit his angylde [and take possession of the wite.] . . .
Of kinless men.
27. If a man, kinless of paternal relatives, fight, and slay a man, and then if he have
maternal relatives, let them pay a third of the wer; his guild-brethren a third
part; for a third let him flee. If he have no maternal relatives, let his guild-brethren
pay half, for half let him flee.
Of slaying a man thus circumstanced.
28. If a man kill a man thus circumstanced, if he have no relatives, let half be
paid to the king; half to his guild-brethren.
Of hloth-slaying of a two-hynde man.
29. If any one with a hloth slay an unoffending twy-hynde man, let
him who acknowledges the death-blow pay wer and wite; and let every one who
was of the party pay thirty shillings as hloth-bot.
Of a six-hynde man.
30. If it be a six-hynde man, let every man pay sixty shillings as hloth-bot;
and the slayer, wer and full wite.
Of a twelve-hynde man.
31. If he be a twelve-hynde man, let each of them pay one hundred and twenty
shillings; and the slayer, wer and wite. If a hloth do this, and
afterwards will deny it on oath, let them all be accused, and let them then all pay the wer in common; and all, one wite, such as shall belong to the wer.
Of those who commit folk-leasing.
32. If a man commit folk-leasing, and it be fixed upon him, with no lighter
thing let him make bot than that his tongue be cut out; which must not be redeemed
at any cheaper rate than it is estimated at according to his wer. . . .
Of a holdgetael.
37. If a man from one holdgetael wish to seek a lord in another holdgetael,
let him do it with the knowledge of the ealdorman whom he before followed in his shire. If
he do it without his knowledge, let him who entertains him as his man pay 120 shillings as wite; let him, however, deal the half to the king in the shire where he before
followed, half in that into which he comes. If he has done anything wrong where he before
was, let him make bot for it who has their received him as his man; and to the king
120 shillings as wite.
In case a man fight before an ealdorman in the gemot.
38. If a man fight before a king's ealdorman in the gemot, let
him make bot with wer and wite as it may be right; and before this
120 shillings to the ealdorman as wite. If he disturb the folkmote by
drawing his weapon, one hundred and twenty shillings to the ealdorman as wite. If
aught of this happen before a king's ealdorman's junior, or a king's priest, thirty
shillings as wite.
Of fighting in a ceorlish man's flet.
39. If any one fight in a ceorlish man's flet, with six shillings let him
make bot to the ceorl. If he draw his weapon and fight not, let it be half of that.
If, however, either of these happen to a six-hynde man, let it increase
threefoldly, according to the ceorlish bot to a twelve-hynde man, twofoldly, according to
the six-hynde's bot.
40. The king's burh-bryce shall be 120 shillings. An archbishop's, ninety
shillings. Any other bishop's, and an ealdorman's, sixty shillings. A twelve-hynde man's,
thirty shillings. A six-hynde man's, fifteen shillings. A ceorl's edorbryce, five
shillings. If aught of this happen when the fyrd is out, or in Lent fast, let the
bot be twofold. If any one in Lent put down holy law among the people without leave, let
him make bot with 120 shillings.
41. The man who has boc-land, and which his kindred left him, then ordain we
that he must not give it from his maeg-burg, if tere be writing or witness that it
was forbidden by those men who at first acquired it, and by those who gave it to him, that
he should do so; and then let that be declared in the presence of the king and of the
bishop, before his kinsmen.
42. We also command: that the man who knows his foe be homesitting fight not before
he demand justice of him. If he have such power that he can beset his foe, and besiege him
within, let him keep him within for seven days, and attack him not, if he will remain
within. And, then, after seven days, if he will surrender, and deliver up his weapons, let
him be kept safe for thirty days, and let notice of him be given to his kinsmen and his
friends. If, however, he flee to a church, then let it be according to the sanctity of the
church; as we have before said above. But if he have not sufficient power to besiege him
within, let him ride to the ealdorman, and beg aid of him. If he will not aid him, let him
ride to the king before he fights. In like manner also, if a man come upon his foe, and he
did not before know him to be homestaying; if he be willing to deliver up his weapons, let
him be kept for thirty days, and let notice of him be given to his friends; if he will not
deliver up his weapons, then he may attack him. If he be willing to surrender, and to
deliver up his weapons, and any one after that attack him, let him pay as well wer as
wound, as he may do, and wite, and let him have forfeited his maegship. We also
declare, that with his lord a man may fight orwige, if any one attack the lord:
thus may the lord fight for his man. After the same wise, a man may fight with his born
kinsman, if a man attack him wrongfully, except against his lord; that we do not allow.
And a man may fight orwige, if he find another with his lawful wife, within closed doors,
or under one covering, or with his lawfully-born daughter, or with his lawfully-born
sister, or with his mother, who was given to his father as his lawful wife.
Of the celebration of mass-days.
43. To all freemen let these days be given, but not to theow-men and esne-workmen:
twelve days at Yule, and the day on which Christ overcame the devil, and the commemoration
day of St. Gregory, and seven days before Easter and seven days after, and one day at St.
Peter's tide and St. Paul's, and in harvest the whole week before St. Mary-mass, and one
day at the celebration of All-Hallows and the four Wednesdays in the four ember weeks. To
all theow-men be given, to those whom it may be most desirable to give, whatever
any man shall give them in God's name, or they at any of their moments may deserve.
The Laws of King Edward the Elder,901-924
Of doom and suit.
King Edward commands all the reeves: that you judge such just dooms as you know to be
most righteous, and as in the doom-book stands. Fear not on any account to pronounce folkright;
and that every suit have a term when it shall be brought forward, that you then may
1. And I will that every man have his warrantor; and that no man buy
out of port, but have the port-reeve's witness, or that of other unlying men whom one may
believe. And if any one buy out of port then let him incur the king's oferhyrnes,
and let the warranty nevertheless go forward, until it be known where it shall stop. Also
we have ordained: that he who should vouch to warranty should have unlying witness to the
effect that he rightfully vouched it; or should bring forward an oath which he might
believe who made the claim. So we have ordained the same respecting ownership; that he
should adduce unlying witness thereof, or bring forward the oath, if he could, of persons
unchosen, by which the claimant should be bound. But if he could not, then should be named
to him six men of the same neighbourhood wherein he was resident, and of the six let him
get one for one ox, or for that cattle which may be the worth of this, and afterward let
it increase, according to the value of the property, if there ought to be more. Also we
have ordained: if there were any evil-minded man who would put another's property in borh for wither-tihtle, that he should then declare on oath that he did not Afrom any knavery, but with full right, without fraud
and guile," and that he then should there do as he durst with whom it is attached:
"like as he it owned, so be it vouched to warranty."
Of him who denies justice to another.
2. Also we have ordained of what he were worthy who denied justice to another,
either in boc-land or in folc-land, and that he should give him a term respecting the
folc-land when he should do him justice before the reeve. But if he had no right either to
the boc-land or to the folc-land, that he who denied the right should be liable in thirty
shillings to the king; and for the second offense, the like: for the third offense, the
king's oferhyrnes, that is, 120 shillings, unless he previously desist.
3. Also we have ordained concerning those men who were perjurers; if that were made
evident, or an oath failed to them, or were out-proved, that they afterwards should not be
oath-worthy, but ordeal-worthy.
4. King Edward exhorted his witan when they were at Exeter,
that they should all search out how their frith might be better than it had previously
been: for it seemed to him that it was more indifferently observed than it should be, what
he had formerly commanded. He then asked them, who would apply to its amendment, and be in
that fellowship that he was, and love that which he loved, and shun that which he shunned,
both on sea and land? That is, then, that no man deny justice to another: if any one do
so, let him make bot as it before is written; for the first offence, with thirty
shillings; and for the second offense, the like; and for the third, with 120 shillings to
Of the reeve who does not lawfully exact.
5. And if the reeve do not lawfully exact it, with the witness of those men who are
assigned him to bear witness, then let him make bot of my oferhyrnes, with 120
Of those accused of theft.
6. If any one be accused of theft, then let those take him in borh who before
commended him to his lord, that he may justify himself thereof; or let other friends, if
they have any, do the same. If he knows not who will take him in borh, then let those on
whom it is incumbent take an in borh on his property. If he have neither property nor
other borh, then let him be held to judgment.
Of those who will not seek their own.
7. Also I will that every man have constantly those men ready on his land, who may
lead those men who desire to seek their own, and for no meed-monies prevent them, nor
anywhere protect or harbour a convicted offender, willfully nor violently.
Of those who protect a convicted offender.
8. If any one disregard this, and break his oath and his wed, which all the
nation has given, let him make bot as the doom-book may teach: but if he will not, let him
forfeit the friendship of us all, and all that he has. If any one harbour him after that,
let him make bot as the doom-book may say, and as he ought who harbours a fugutive, if it
be here within. If it be within the east-country, let him make bot according as the frith-gewritu say.
Of him who forfeits his freedom.
9. If any one, through a charge of theft, forfeit his freedom, and deliver himself
up, and his kindred forsake him, and he know not who shall make bot for him; let him then
be worthy of the theow-work which thereto belongs, and let the wer abate for the
Of him who receives another man's man without leave.
10. Let no man receive another man's man without his leave whom he before followed,
and until he be blameless towards every hand. If any one do so, let him make bot of my oferhyrnes.
11. I will that each reeve have a gemot always once in fourweeks; and so do that
every man be worthy of folk-right: and that every suit have an end and a term when it
shall be brought forward. If that any one disregard, let him make bot as we before
The Laws of
Alfred, Guthrum, and Edward the Elder
These are the dooms which King Alfred and King Guthrum chose. And this is the
ordinance also which King Alfred and King Guthrum, and afterwards King Edward and King
Guthrum, chose and ordained, when the English and Danes fully took to peace and to
friendship; and the witan also, who were afterwards, oft and unseldom that same renewed
and increased with good.
This is the first which they ordained: that they would love one God, and zealously
renounce every kind of heathendom. And they established worldly rules also for these
reasons, that they knew that else they might not many control, nor would many men else
submit to divine bot as they should: and the worldly bot they established in common to
Christ and the king, wheresoever a man would not lawfully submit to divine bot, by
direction of the bishops.
1. And this then is the first which they ordained: that church-grith within the walls, and the king's hand-grith, stand equally inviolate.
2. If any one violate Christianity, or reverence heathenism, by word
or by work, let him pay as well wer, as wite or lah-slit, according as the deed may
3. And if a man in orders steal, or fight, or forswear, or fornicate,
let him make bot for it according as the deed may be, as well by wer, as by wite or by
lah-slit; and, above all things, make bot before God as the canon teaches, and find borh
thereof, or yield to prison. And if a mass-priest misdirect the people about a festival or
about a fast, let him pay thirty shillings among the English, and among the Danes three
half-marks. If a priest fetch not the chrism at the right term, or refuse baptism to him
who has need thereof, let him pay wite among the English, and among the Danes lah-slit;
that is, twelve ores.
Of incestuous persons.
4. And concerning incestuous persons, the witan have ordained that the king shall
have the upper, and the bishop the nether, unless bot be made before God and before the
world, according as the deed may be; so as the bishop may teach. If two brothers or near
kinsmen commit fornication with the same woman, let them make bot very strictly, in such
wise as it may be allowed, as well by wer, as by wite or by lah-slit, according as the
deed may be. If a man in orders fordo himself with capital crime, let him be seized and
held to the bishop's doom.
5. If a man guilty of death desire confession, let it never be denied
him. And all God's dues let every one zealously further, by God's mercy, and by the wites
which the witan have annexed thereto.
6. If any one withhold tithes, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes,
wite among the English. If any one withhold Rom-feoh, let him pay lah-slit among
the Danes, wite among the English. If any one discharge not light-scot, let him pay
lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one give not plough-alms, let him
pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one deny any divine dues, let
him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. As if he fight and wound any
one, let him be liable in his wer. If he fell a man to death, let him then be an outlaw,
and let every one of those seize him with hearm who desire right. And if he so do
that any one kill him, for that he resisted God's law or the kings, if that be proved
true, let him lie uncompensated.
Of workings on a festival-day.
7. If any one engage in Sunday marketing, let him forfeit the chattel, and twelve
ores among the Danes, and thirty shillings among the English. If a freeman work on a
festival-day, let him forfeit his freedom, or pay wite or lah-slit. Let a theow-man suffer
in his hide or hide-gild. If a lord oblige his theow to work on a festival-day, let him
pay lah-slit within the Danish law, and wite among the English.
8. If a freeman break a lawful feast, let him pay wite or lahslit. If a theowman do
so, let him suffer in his hide or hide-gild.
Of ordeals and oaths.
9. Ordeal and oaths are forbidden on festival-days and lawful fast-days; and he who
shall break that, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, and wite among the English. If it
can be so ordered, no one condemned should ever be executed on the Sunday festival, but be
secured and held till the festival be gone by.
10. If a limb-maimed man who has been condemned or forsaken, and he
after that live three days then any one who is willing to take care of sore and soul may
help him, with the bishop's leave.
Of witches, diviners, perjurers, etc.
11. If witches or diviners, perjurers or morth-workers, or foul, defiled, notorious
adulteresses, be found anywhere within the land; let them be driven from the country, and
the people cleansed, or let them totally perish within the country, unless they desist,
and the more deeply make bot.
Of ecclesiastics and foreigners.
12. If any one wrong an ecclesiastic or a foreigner, through any means, as to money
or as to life, then shall the king or the eorl there in the land, and the bishop of the
people, be unto him in the place of a kinsman and of a protector, unless he have another;
and let bot be strictly made, according as the deed may be, to Christ and to the king, as
it is fitting; or let him avenge the deeds very deeply who is king among the people.
How a twelve-hynde man shall be paid for.
13. A twelve-hynde man's wer is twelve hundred shillings. A two-hynde man's wer is
two hundred shillings. If any one be slain, let him be paid for according to his birth.
And it is right that the slayer, after he has given wed for the wer, find, in addition, wer-borh according as shall thereto belong; that is, to a twelve-hynde's wer-borh, eight of the
paternal kins and four of the maternal kin. When that is done, then let the king's mund be established, that is, that they all of either kindred, with their hands in common upon
one weapon, engage to the mediator that the king's mund shall stand. In twenty-one days
from that day let 120 shillings be paid as heals-fang at a twelve-hynde's wer.
Heals-fang belongs to no kinsman, except to those who are within the degrees of blood. In
twenty-one days from that day that the heals-fang is paid, let the manbot be paid; in
twenty-one days from this, the fight-wite; in twenty-one days from this, the frum-gyld of the wer; and so forth, till it be fully paid, within the time that the witan have
appointed. After this they must depart with love, if they desire to have full friendship.
All men shall do with regard to the wer of a ceorl that which belongs to his condition,
like as we have said about a twelve-hynde man.
Thus shall a man swear fealty oaths.
1. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, I will be to ____ faithful
and true, and love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns, according to God's law,
and according to the world s principles, and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by
work, do ought of what is loathful to him; on condition that he keep me as I am willing to
deserve, and all that fulfil that our agreement was, when I to him submitted and chose his
Thus shall a man swear when he has discovered his property and brings it in
2. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, so I my suit prosecute with full
folk-right, without fraud and without deceit, and without any guile, as was stolen from me
the cattle ____ that I claim, and that I have attached with ____.
The other's oath with whom a man discovers his cattle.
3. By the Lord, I was not at rede nor at deed, neither counsellor nor doer,
where were unlawfully led away _____'s cattle. But as I cattle have, so did I lawfully
obtain it. And: as I vouch it to warranty, so did he sell it to me into whose hand I now
set it. And: as I cattle have, so did it come to my own property and so it by folk-right
my own possession is, and my rearing.
The oath of him who discovers his property that he does it not either for
hatred or for envy.
4. By the Lord, I accuse not ____ either for hatred or for envy, or for unlawful
lust of gain; nor know I anything soother; but as my informant to me said, and I myself in
sooth believe, that he was the thief of my property.
The other's oath that he is guiltless.
5. By the Lord, I am guiltless, both in deed and counsel, and of the charge of
which ____ accuses me.
His companion's oath who stands with him.
6. By the Lord, the oath is clean and unperjured which ____ has sworn.
Oath if a man finds his property unsound after he has bought it.
7. In the name of Almighty God, you did engage to me sound and clean that which
you sold to me, and full security against afterclaim, on the witness of ____, who then was
with us two.
How he shall swear who stands with another in witness.
8. In the name of Almighty God, as I here for ____ in true witness stand, unbidden and
unbought, so I with my eyes over-saw, and with my ears over-heard, that which I with him
Oath that he knew not of foulness or fraud.
9. In the name of Almighty God, I knew not, in the things about which you sued,
foulness or fraud, or infirmity or blemish, up to that day's-tide that I sold it to you:
but it was both sound and clean, without any kind of fraud.
10. In the name of the living God, as I money demand, so have I lack of that which ____
promised me when I mine to him sold.
11. In the name of the living God, I owe not to ____ sceatt or shilling, or
penny or penny's worth; but I have discharged to him all that I owe him, so far as our
verbal contracts were at first.
Of the oath and degree-bot of men in orders.
12. A mass-priest's oath, and a secular thane's, are in English law reckoned of
equal value; and by reason of the seven church-degrees that the mass-priest, through the
grace of God, has acquired, he is worthy of thane-right.
Of the Mercian oath.
13. A twelve-hynde man's oath stands for six ceorls oaths: because, if a man should
avenge a twelve-hynde man, he will be fully avenged on six ceorls, and his wer-gild will
be six ceorls' wer-gilds. Bequeathed it and died, he who it owned, with full folk-right,
so as it his elders, with money and with life, lawfully got, and let and left, in power of
him, whom they well gifted. And so it have, as he it gave, who had it to give, without
fraud and unforbidden; and I will possess it, as my own property, that that I have; and
ne'er for thee design, nor plot nor ploughland, nor turf nor toft, nor furrow nor
foot-mark, nor land nor leasowe, nor fresh nor marsh, nor rough nor plain, by wood nor
field, by land nor by strand, by weald nor by water, but that will maintain, the while
that I live; for there is no man alive, who ever heard that any one made plaint against,
or summoned him at the hundred, or anywhere at gemot, in market-place, or among
church-folk, the while that he lived. Sackless he was in life, be he in the grave, so as
he may. Do as I teach: be you with yours, and leave me with mine: I covet not yours, nor laeth nor land, nor sac nor socn: nor need you mine; nor design I to you anything.
The North People's Law.
1. The North people's king's geld is thirty thousand thrymsas;
fifteen thousand thrymsas are for the wergild, and fifteen thousand for the cynedom.
The wer belongs to the kindred, and the cynebot to the people.
2. An archbishop's and an aetheling's wer-gild is fifteen thousand
3. A bishop's and ealdorman's, eight thousand thrymsas.
4. A hold's and a king's high-reeves, four thousand thrymsas.
5. A mass-thane's and a secular thane's, two thousand thrymsas.
6. A ceorl's wergeld is two hundred and sixty-six thrymsas, that is
two hundred shillings by Mercian law.
7. And if a Welsh-man thrive so that he have a hide of land, and can
bring forth the king's gafol, then in his wergeld 110 shillings. And if he thrive
not except to half a hide, then let his wer be eighty shillings.
8. If he have not any land, and yet be free, let him be paid for with
9. And if a ceorlish man thrive, so that he have five hides of land
for the king's ut-ware, and any one slay him, let him be paid for with two thousand
10. And though he thrive, so that he have a helm and a coat of mail,
and a sword ornamented with gold, if he have not that land, he is nevertheless a ceorl.
11. And if his son and his son's son so thrive, that they have so much
land; afterwards the offspring shall be of gesithcund race, at two thousand
12. And if they have not that, nor to that can thrive, let them be
paid for as ceorlish.
13. Let the king's wergeld be with the English race, by folkright,
thirty thousand thrymsas, and of these, let fifteen thousand be for the wer, and the other
fifteen thousand for the cynedom. The wer belongs to the kindred of the royal family, and
the cynebot to the people of the country.
14. An archbishop's and an eorl's wergeld is fifteen thousand
thrymsas. . . .
18. A ceorl's wergeld is 267 thrymsas by the Danish law.
19. And a Welshman's wergeld, if he be to that degree enriched that he
have a hide of land and property, and pay gafol to the king, it is then 220 shillings. But
if he be only risen to half a hide, then let his wer be eighty shillings.
20. If he have no land, but is free, let him be paid for with seventy
21. If a ceorl be enriched to that degree, that he have five hides of
land, and anyone slay him, let him be paid for with two thousand thrymsas.
22. And if he acquire so that he have a coat of mail and a helmet, and
an over-gilded sword, if he have not that land, he is sithcund.
23. And if his son and the son's son that acquire, that they have so
much land, let their successors be of the sithcund kin, and let them be paid for with two
Of Mercian Law
A ceorl's wergeld is by the Mercian law 200 shillings. A thane's wergeld is six times
as much, that is, twelve hundred shillings. Then is a king's simple wergeld six thanes'
wer by Mercian law, that is, thirty thousand sceatts, and that is altogether 120 pounds.
So much is the wergeld in the people's folkright by Mercian law. And for the cynedom there
is due another such sum as bot for cynegild. The wer belongs to kindred, and the cynebot
to the people.
Of people's ranks and law.
1. It is whilom, in the laws of the English, that people and law went by ranks, and
then were the counsellors of the nation of worship worthy, each according to his
condition, eorl and ceorl, thegn and theoden.
2. And if a ceorl thrived, so that he had fully five hides of his own
land, church and kitchen, bell-house and burhgate-seat, and special duty in the king's
hall, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.
3. And if a thane thrived, so that he served the king, and on his
summons, rode among his household; if he then had a thane who him followed, who to the
king's utware, five hides had, and in the king's hall served his lord, and thrice with his
errand went to the king; he might thenceforth, with his fore-oath, his lord represent, at
various needs, and his plaint lawfully conduct, wheresover he ought.
4. And he who so prosperous a vice-gerent had not, swore to himself
according to his right, or it forfeited.
5. And if a thane thrived, so that he became an eorl, then was he
thenceforth of eorl-right worthy.
6. And if a merchant thrived, so that he fared thrice over the wide
sea by his own means, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.
7. And if there a scholar were, who through learning thrived, so that
he had holy orders, and served Christ; then was he thenceforth of rank and power so much
worthy, as then to those orders rightfully belonged, if he himself conducted as he should;
unless he should misdo, so that he those orders' ministry might not minister.
8. And if it happened, that any one a man in orders, or a stranger,
anywhere injured, by word or work; then pertained it to king and to the bishop, that they
that should make good, as they soon might.
The Laws of King Athelstan 924-939 A.D.
I, Aethelstan king, with the counsel of Wulfhelm, archbishop, and of my other bishops,
make known to the reeves at each burh, and beseech you, in God's name, and by all his
saints, and also by my friendship, that you first of my own goods render the tithes both
of livestock and of the year's earthly fruits, so that they may most rightly be either
meted, or told, or weighed out; and let the bishops then do the like from their own goods,
and my ealdormen and my reeves the same. And I will, that the bishop and the reeves
command it to all those who ought to obey them, that it be done at the right term. Let us
bear in mind how Jacob the patriarch spoke: "Decimas et hostias pacificas offeram
tibi;" and how Moses spoke in God's law: "Decimas et primitias non
tardabis offerre Domino." It is for us to think how awfully it is declared in the
books: If we will not render the tithes to God, that he will take from us the nine parts
when we least expect; and, moreover, we have the sin in addition thereto. And I will also
that my reeves do, that there be given the churchscots and the soulscots at the places to
which they rightly belong: and plow-alms yearly, on this condition; that they shall enjoy
it at the holy places who are willing to serve their churches, and of God and of me are
willing to deserve it: but let him who will not, forfeit the bounty, or again turn to
right. Now you hear, says the king, what I give to God, and what you ought to fulfil by my
oferhyrnes. And do you also so that you may give to me my own what you for me may acquire.
I wil1 not that you unjustly anywhere acquire aught for me; but I will grant to you your
own justly, on this condition, that you yield to me mine; and shield both yourselves, and
those whom you ought to exhort, against God's anger and against my oferhyrnes.
1. First: that no thief be spared, who may be taken hand-haebbende, above
twelve years, and above eight pence. And if any one so do, let him pay for the thief
according to his wer, and let it not be the more settled for the thief, or that he clear
himself thereby. But if he will defend himself, or flees away, then let him not be spared.
If a thief be brought into prison: that he be forty days in prison, and let him be
released thereout with 120 shillings, and let the kindred enter into borh for him that he
evermore desist. And if after that he steal, let them pay for him according to his wer, or
bring him again therein: and if any one stand up for him, let him pay for him according to
his wer, as well to the king as to him to whom it lawfully belongs: and let every man of
those there who stand by him pay to the king 120 shillings as wite.
Of lordless men.
2. And we have ordained: respecting those lordless men of whom no law can be got,
that the kindred be commanded that they domicile him to folkright, and find him a lord in
the folkmote; and if they then will not or cannot produce him at the term, then be he
thenceforth a flyma, and let him slay him for a thief who can come at him: and
whoever after that shall harbour him, let him pay for him according to his wer, or by it
Of denial of right.
3. And the lord who denies justice, and upholds his evil-doing than, and the wing
be applied to on that account; let him pay the ceapgeld, and give to the king 120
shillings: and he who applies to the king before he has prayed for justice, as oft it
shall behove him; let him pay the like wite that the other should if he had denied him
justice. And the lord who is privy to his theow's theft, and it is made manifest against
him, let him forfeit the theow, and be liable in his wer, for the first time. If he do so
oftener, let him be liable in all that he has: and, also, such of the king s horderes,
or of our reeves, as shall be privy to the thieves who have stolen, let him be subject to
the like. . . .
6. And we have ordained respecting witch-crafts, and lybacs, and morthdaeds:
if any one should be thereby killed, and he could not deny it, that he be liable in his
life. But if he will deny it, and at threefold ordeal shall be guilty; that he be 120 days
in prison: and after that let kindred take him out, and give to the king 120 shillings,
and pay the wer to his kindred, and enter into borh for him, that he evermore desist from
7. Let incendiaries, and those who avenge a thief, be worthy of the like law. And he
who will avenge a thief, and wounds no man, let him give to the king 120 shillings, as
wite for the assault.
Of the single ordeal.
8. And we have ordained respecting the single ordeal, for those men who have been often
accused, and have been found guilty, and they know not who shall take them in borh; let
them be brought into prison: and let them be delivered out as here before is ordained.
Of landless men.
9. And we have ordained: if any landless man should become a follower of another
shire, and again seek his kinsfolk; that he may harbour him on this condition, that he
present him to folkright if he there do any wrong, or make bot for him.
Of attaching cattle.
10. He who attaches cattle, let five of his neighbours be named to him; and of the five
let him get one who will swear with him that he takes it to himself by folkright: and he
who will keep it to himself, to him let there be named ten men, and let him get two of
them, and give the oath that it was born on his property, without the rimath; and
let his cyreath stand for over twenty pence.
11. And let no man exchange any property without the witness of the reeve, or of the
mass-priest, or of the landlord, or of the hordere, or of other unlying man. If any one do
so, let him give thirty shillings, and let the landlord take possession of the exchange.
Of wrongful witness.
12. But if it be found that any of these have given wrongful witness, that his witness
never stand again for aught, and that he also give thirty shillings as wite.
That a man buy not out of port.
13. And we have ordained: that no man buy any property out of port over twenty pence;
but let him buy there within, on the witness of the portreeve, or of another unlying man:
or further, on the witness of the reeves at the folkmote.
Of reparing of burhs.
14. And we ordain: that every burh be repaired fourteen days over Rogation Days.
Secondly: that every marketing be within port.
15. Thirdly: that there be one money over all the king's dominion, and that no man mint
except within port. And if the moneyer be guilty, let the hand be struck off that wrought
the offense, and, be set up on the money-smithy but if it be an accusation, and he is
willing to clear himself; then let him go to the hot-iron, and clear the hand therewith
with which he is charged that fraud to have wrought. And if at the ordeal he should be
guilty, let the like be done as here before ordained.
In Canterbury seven moneyers; four the king's, and two the bishop's, one the abbot's.
At Rochester three; two the king's, and one the bishop's.
At London eight.
At Winchester six.
At Lewes two.
At Hastings one.
Another at Chichester.
At Hampton two.
At Wareham two.
At Exeter two.
At Shaftesbury two.
Else, at the other burhs one.
16. Fourthly: that no shieldwright cover a shield with sheep's skin; and if he so
do, let him pay thirty shillings.
17. Fifthly: that every man have to the plough two well-horsed men.
Of those who take meed-money of a thief.
18. Sixthly: if any one take meed-money of a thief, and suppress another's right,
let him be liable in his wer.
19. Seventhly: that no man part with a horse over sea, unless he wish to give it.
Of a theowman who is guilty at the ordeal.
20. And we have ordained respecting a theowman: if he were guilty at the ordeal,
that the ceapgeld should be paid; and that he be scourged thrice, or a second geld be
given: and be the wite of half value for theows.
Of him who fails to attend the gemot.
21. If any one, when summoned fail to attend the gemot thrice; let him pay the king's
oferhyrnes, and let it be announced seven days before the gemot is to be. But if he will
not do right, nor pay the oferhyrnes; then let all the chief men belongirg to the burh
ride to him, and take all that he has, and put him in bohr. But if any one will not ride
with his fellows, let him pay the king's oferhyrnes. And let it be announced at the gemot,
that the frith be kept toward all that the king wills to be within the frith, and theft be
foregone by his life and by all that he has. And he who for the wites not desist, then let
all the chief men belonging to the burh ride to him, and take all that he has; and let the
king take possession of half, of half the men who may be in the riding; and place him in
borh. If he knows not who will be his borh, let them imprison him. If he will not suffer
it, let him be killed, unless he escape. If any one will avenge him, or be at feud with
any of them, then be he foe of the king, and to all his friends. If he escape, and any one
harbour him, let him be liable to his wer; unless he shall dare to clear himself by the flyma's-wer,
that he knew he was a flyma.
Of him who compounds for an ordeal.
22. If any one compound for an ordeal, let him compound for the ceapgeld, as he can,
and not for the wite; unless he is willing to grant it to whom it may belong.
Of him who receives another man's man.
23. And let no man receive another man's man, without his leave whom he before
followed. If any one so do; let him give up the man, and make bot the king's oferhyrnes.
And let no one dismiss his accused man from him before he has done what is right.
Of him who gives wed for an ordeal.
24. If any one gives wed for an ordeal, then let him come three days before to the
mass-priest who is to hallow it; and let him feed himself with bread and with water, and
salt, and herbs, before he shall go to it; and let him attend mass each of the three days,
and make an oblation, and go to the house on the day that he shall go to the ordeal: and
then swear the oath that he is, according to the folkright, guiltless of the charge,
before he goes to the ordeal. And if it be water, that he dive an ell and a half by the
rope; if it be iron ordeal, let it be three days before the hand be undone. And let every
man begin his charge with a fore-oath, as we before ordained: and be each of those fasting
on either hand, who may be there together, by God's command and the archbishop's: and let
there be on either side not more than twelve. If the accused man be with a larger company
than some twelve, then be the ordeal void, unless they will go from him.
Of him who buys property.
25. And he who buys property with witnesses, and if after obliged to vouch it to
warranty, then let him receive it from whom he before had bought it, whether he be free or
bond, whichsoever he be. And let no marketing be on Sundays; but if any one do so, let him
forfeit the goods, and pay thirty shillings as wite.
26. And he who shall swear a false oath, and it be made clear against him; that he
never after be oath-worthy, nor let him lie within a hallowed burial-place, though he die,
unless he have the testimony of the bishop in whose shrift-shire he may be, that he has
made such bot as his confessor prescribed to him. And let his confessor announce to the
bishop, within thirty days, whether he would turn to the bot. If he do not so, let him
make bot in such wise as the bishop shall prescribe to him.
27. But if any one of my reeves will not do this, and care less about
it than we have commanded; then let him pay my oferhyrnes, and I will find another who
will. And let the bishop exact the oferhyrnes of the reeve for the first time five pounds;
for the second time, his wer; for the third time, let him forfeit all that he has, and the
friendship of us all. All this was established in the great synod at Greatanlea: in which
was the archbishop Wulfhelm, with all the noblemen and witan whom King Aethelstan gather.
Doom concerning hot iron and water.
28. And concerning the ordeal we enjoin by command of God, and of the archbishop,
and of all the bishops: that no man come within the church after the fire is borne in with
which the ordeal shall be heated, except the mass-priest, and him who shall go thereto:
and let there be measured nine feet from the stake to the mark, by the man's feet who goes
thereto. But if it be water, let it be heated till it low to boiling. And be the kettle of
iron or of brass, of lead or of clay. And if it be a single accusation, let the hand dive
after the stone up to the wrist, and if it be threefold, up to the elbow. And when the
ordeal is ready, then let two men go in of either side; and be they agreed that it is so
hot as we before have said. And let go an equal number of men of either side, and stand on
both sides of the ordeal, along the church; and let these all be fasting,and abstinent
from their wives on that night; and let the mass-priest sprinkle holy water over them all,
and let each of them taste of the holy water, and give them all the book and the image of
Christ's rood to kiss: and let no man mend the fire any longer when the hallowing is
begun; but let the iron lie upon the hot embers till the last collect: after that let it
be laid upon the stapela; and let there be no other speaking within, except that
they earnestly pray to Almighty God that he make manifest what is truest. And let him go
thereto; and let his hand be enveloped, and be it postponed till after the third day,
whether it be foul or clean within the envelope. And he who shall break this law, be the
ordeal with respect to him void, and let him pay to the king 120 shillings as wite. Walreaf is the nithing's deed: if any one desire to deny it, let him do so with eight and
forty full-born thanes.
The Laws of King Edmund I, 939-946
King Edmund assembled a great synod at London, during the holy Easter tide, as well of
ecclesiastical as of secular degree. There was Oda archbishop, and Wulfstan archbishop,
and many other bishops, meditating concerning the condition of their souls, and of those
who were subject to them.
Of the chastity of ecclesiastics.
1. This is the first: that those holy orders who have to teach God's people by
their life's example, hold their chastity according to their degree, whichsoever it may
be. If they do not so, then are they worthy of that which in the canon is ordained; that
is, that they forfeit their worldly possessions and a consecrated burial-place, unless
they make bot.
Of tithes and churchscots.
2. A tithe we enjoin to every Christian man by his Christendom and churchscot, and Rome-feoh,
and plough-alms. And if any one will not do so, let him be excommunicated.
3. If any one shed a Christian man's blood, let him not come into the king's presence,
ere he go to penance, as the bishop may teach him, and his confessor direct him.
Of nun's fornication and of adultery.
4. He who commits fornication with a nun, let him not be worthy of a consecrated
burial place (unless he make bot), any more than a manslayer. We have ordained the same
Of the repairing of churches.
5. We have also ordained: that every bishop repair the house of God in his own
[district], and also remind the king that all God's churches be well conditioned as is
very needful for us.
Of perjurers and lyblacs.
6. Those who swear falsely and work lyblac, let them be forever cast
out of all commission with God, unless they turn to right repentence.
The Laws of King Edgar, 959-975 A.D.
This is the Ordinance how the Hundred shall be held.
1. That they meet always within four weeks: and that every man do
justice to another.
2. That a thief shall be pursued.......... If there be present need,
let it be known to the hundred-man, and let him [make it known] to the tithing-men; and
let all go forth to where God may direct them to go: let them do justice on the thief, as
it was formerly the enactment of Edmund. And let the ceapgeld be paid to him who owns the
cattle, and the rest be divided into two; half to the hundred, half to the lord, excepting
men; and let the lord take possession of the men.
3. And the man who neglects this, and denies the doom of the hundred,
and the same be afterwards proved against him; let him pay to the hundred thirty pence,
and for the second time sixty pence; half to the hundred, half to the lord. If he do so a
third time, let him pay half a pound: for the fourth time, let him forfeit all that he
owns, and be an outlaw, unless the king allow him to remain in the country.
4. And we have ordained concerning unknown cattle; that no one should
possess it without the testimonies of the men of the hundred, or of the tithing-man; and
that he be a well trusty man: and, unless he have either of these, let no vouching to
warranty be allowed him.
5. We have also ordained: if the hundred pursue a track into another
hundred, that notice be given to the hundred-man, and that he then go with them. If he
neglect this, let him pay thirty shillings to the king.
6. If any one flinch from justice and escape, let him who held him to
answer for the offense pay the anylde. And if any one accuse him of having sent him
away, let him clear himself, as it is established in the country.
7. In the hundred, as in any other gemot, we ordain: that folkright be
pronounced in every suit, and that a term be fixed when it shall be fulfilled. And he who
shall break that term, unless it be by his lord's decree, let him make bot with thirty
shillings, and, on the day fixed, fulfil that which he ought to have done before.
8. An ox's bell, and a dog's collar, and a blast-horn, either of these
three shall be worth a shilling, and each is reckoned an informer.
9. Let the iron that is for the threefold ordeal weigh three pounds; and for the
single, one pound.
The texts above contain a large number of unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon legal terms. Greg Rose [email@example.com] provided further
information on both the the manuscript history of the texts, and a glossary of the terms.
This glossary should be prefaced by noting that not all the definitions provided are
uncontroversial, since a number of the issues underlying some of these terms are still
very much a matter of scholarly debate (also, a number of the terms are combinations of
modern English and Old English).
[Also see the more general list of Medieval Terms [At ORB]
prepared by Prof. Arkenberg.]
||a king-worthy man of the extended royal family
||witness, usually by compurgation
||elder, senior, lord (often in the form ealdor)
||court smith, court carpenter, court handyman
||lands for which charters were held
||pledge, security, debt
||breach of surety
||remedy, relief, compensation
||breach of a dwelling (i.e., "breaking and
||town or fortification gate
||market price, purchase price
||badly (perhaps "mortally") wounded
||freeman (of the lowest class)
||ceorl-like (note that "churlish" in
modern English has a much more pejorative tone than ceorlisc)
||sanctuary, a special protection under
||lord of a church
||church tax or payment
||ecclesiastical jurisdiction, sanctuary
||royal law, kingdom
||oath of compurgation undertaken by accused and
||payment to a lord in compensation for killing his
||noble ruler of a county (and that sweeps under
the rug one of
the most bitterly contested questions in AS history -- relative power of king and
||borrow-word from Old Norse jarl, often used in
place of ealdorman in documents from Cnut's reign forward.
||earl's right, right of an ealdorman
||slave, servant, retainer
||hirelings, mercenaries, day-laborers
||foeman, usually the object of a blood-feud
||bribery (especially the act of taking a bribe)
||shouldn't this be "fedels" = feed,
upkeep, fatted food animals?
||provisions, foodstuffs, a grant of land in
exchange for partial usufruct
||cattle, chattel, money, riches, fee
||fugitive, outlaw, exile
||legal value (wergeld) of an outlaw
||Eric John's work tries to clarify the meaning of
this term, but I don't think anyone really knows precisely what it means
||shouldn't this be "folcleasung" =
||folkmoot, meeting of a district (usually a
hundred) for legal actions and to hear royal writs
||common law, folk law
||ancient, long ago
||first installment of a payment
||peace, restoration of rights, amnesty
||military expedition, royal levy (this is another
||tribute, tax, debt
||shouldn't this be "gemottermen" = term
of the sitting of a district assembly or royal council meeting?
||retainer-like, fit to be a thegn
||security, surety given by the king's hand
||a thief caught in the act (e.g.,
||a fine, a preferential share of a wergeld
||damage, injury, tort
||troop, band, gang (e.g., of thieves or robbers)
||penalty for being a member of a band or gang
||faithful, loyal; holder of an allod
||treasurer, steward, hoarder
||shouldn't this be "ladrinc" = escort?
||landed property, a subdivision of the county
||fine for breach of the law (used in Danelaw)
||man, people; wergeld for manslaughter
||wergeld for manslaughter
||variant of leodgeld
||light tax (usually in support of lighting for a
church or monastery)
||shouldn't this be "lyblac" =
witchcraft, magic, sorcery or "lyblaeca" = sorcerer?
||family, kinship group
||is this "maerac" = boundary-oak, or
"maere" = pure, sterling, well-known?
||value or price of a man
||murder, mortal sin
||shouldn't this be "morthweorc" = an act
which causes death?
||coward, outlaw (severe term of opprobrium, often
with overtones of sexual deviance)
||disobedience (particularly disobedience of royal
||corwardly, unwarlike, free of liability for
||shouldn't this be "portgerefa" =
||legal means of protecting one's home
||oath of compurgation
||dispute, jurisdiction, right to empanel a court
||shouldn't this be "sceatt" = coin,
money, twentieth part of a shilling
||fit to be a thegn
||pertaining to the class the wergeld of which was
||inquiry, right to collect fines
||shouldn't this be "sawolscot" =
soulscot, payment to the church for burial
||chief, king, God
||tremise (equal to three denarii)
||farm, manor, dwelling, village
||having a wergeld of 200 shillings
||foreign defense, defense against outsiders
||the taking of spoils from the slain
||pledge, security, dowry
||man, money value of a man's life
||pledge for the payment of wergeld
||money value of a man's life
||reeve of a wic (village, town), bailiff,
||punishment, penalty, contribution to the king
Manuscript History of the Texts
[The following note is by Greg Rose. It begins by address the relationship of the
"North People's Law", the "Mercian Law", and the "Laws of Alfred,
Guthrum and Edward the Elder", a relationship not entirely clear in the printed
edition used for this etext.]
The manuscript history of these legal texts about which is complicated, and I am
not entirely certain whether you mean the Northhymbra preosta lagu or the Northleoda
The Laws of Alfred and Ine (ff. 9-32), the Mirca laga (ff. 38v-39v), and
the Northleoda laga (ff. 93v-94) are found in the Textus Roffensis (s.xii1).
Alfred-Ine is also found in Cambridge, CCC 173, ff. 33-52v (the Parker Chronicle, s.x -
s.xi), Cambridge, CCC 383, pp. 13-42 (s. xi/xii -- which also contains Alfred &
Guthrum, Edward and Guthrum, and many other legal texts), and BL, Cotton Nero A.i, ff.
45-48 and 51-57v (s. xi med. -- contains many other legal texts as well), BL, Add. 43703,
ff. 236v-255 (copied by Nowell -- original ms. BL, Cotton Otho B.xi was severely damaged
in the 1731 fire).
The Mirca laga is extant in Cambridge, CCC 190, pp. 418-420 (s. xi1) and
Cambridge, CCCC 201, pp. 102-103 (s. xi med.), and the Textus Roffensis. The Northhymbra
preosta lagu is found in Cambridge, CCC 201, pp. 43-46 and Brussels, Bibliotheque
Royale 8558-63 (2498), f. 140r (s. xii in.) The Northleoda laga is extant in
Cambridge, CCC 201, p. 102.
The collection of the Laws of Alfred and Ine (which is itself a composite text),
the Mirca laga, and the Northleoda laga in the Textus Roffensis is an
editorial decision by a twelfth-century compiler. There are good reasons for
believing that these law codes were originally separate texts (as was the Northhymbra
Glossary II: Anglo-Saxon
Laws and Customs: Vocabulary
From Thatcher edition
(Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University
Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. IV: The Early Medieval World, pp. 209-211)
Aewda: oath-giver, compurgator.
Aldor: cf. ealdor.
Ambiht-smith: smith or carpenter.
Angylde: price fixed by law.
Fore-ath:, preliminary oath;
Rim-ath: oath by accused and compurgators together.
Blot: sacrifice or offering to idols.
Boc-land: land held by charter.
Bold-gaetal: lord's estate ( ?).
Borhbryce: breach of surety.
Bryce: breach, violation.
Brygc, bryc, bric: bridge.
Burh: castle or dwelling.
Bythfytling: fillings of the butts (meaning uncertain).
Can, canne: clearance, averment.
Ceapgeld: sale's price.
Ceorl: churl, simple freeman.
Cynebot, cynegeld: part of the fine for killing the king which went to the folk as
Drihtinbeah: lord-ring, lord's compensation.
Drinclean: payment due from tenant to lord for ale.
Ealdor, ealdorman: chief, governor of a province.
Edor: homestead, farmhouse.
Eorl: noble, nobleman.
Esne: serf. cf. theow.
Feaxfang: seizing by the hair.
Feoh, fioh: money, payment.
Feorm, firma, farm: rent in kind paid by tenants.
Flet: house, home.
Flyma: runaway, fugitive.
Flymanfyrmth: harboring a fugitive.
Folcland: common land, held by the folk or nation.
Foresteal: an assault.
Forespeca, forspreca: advocate.
Fosterlean: remuneration for rearing a child.
Frumgeld: first payment of wer.
Frumtyhtle: first accusation.
Ful: unconsecrated ground.
Fyrd: army, general levy.
Gaenggang: pregnant (?)
Gemot: meeting, court.
Geneat: a servile tenant.
Gild, guild: club.
Grith: peace, protection.
Hadbot: compensation for injury, to a person in holy orders.
Hamscyld: shoulder-blade (?).
Hearm: hue and cry
Heorthfaest: having a fixed dwelling.
Hion: membrane, covering.
Hlafaeta: loaf-eater, servant.
Hlaford: loaf-giver, lord.
Hlafordesgifu: gift to lord, a form of rent.
Hloth: a following, any number of men from eight to thirty-five.
Hold: lord, noble.
Homola: one whose head has been shaved (?) Hordere: treasurer.
Hynden: an association of ten men (?).
Inborh: security, pledge.
Inland: demesne land, lord's land.
Laadring: guide, avant-courier.
Lad: purgation, exculpation; also, a form of service consisting in supplying the
lord with beasts of burden.
Laet: half-free, a class between slaves and freemen.
Lahslit: fine for offences committed by Danes, corresponding to Anglo-Saxon wite.
Landrica, Landhlaford: lord of the soil, landlord.
Landceap, landcop: purchase of land.
Leod: man, people.
Leodgeld, leudgeld, wergeld: fine paid for killing a man.
Liblac, lyblac: witchcraft.
Lyswe, leaswe: injury of some kin (uncertain).
Maegburh: kindred, kin.
Maegbot: compensation paid to family.
Maerra, maere peningas: (money of some kind).
Mancus: thirty pennies.
Manung: district over which reeve has jurisdiction.
Manwyrth, wergeld: cf. Leodgeld.
Methel: council, meeting.
Morgengifu: morning-gift, gift from husband to wife on the morning after marriage.
Mund, mundbyrd: protection, guardianship. Mynster, minster: monastery.
Mynsterham: dwelling house of monastery (?).
Oferhyrnes: contempt; disobedience; also, penalty attached thereto.
Ora: sixteen pennies.
Reeve, gerefa: official, especially sheriff.
Romfeoh: Peter's Pence.
Sac: right of a lord to private jurisdiction.
Sceat, scaet: four sceats equal one penny
Sithcund, gesithcund: belonging to king's followers.
Socn: sanctuary, right of protection.
Stauela: settle, bench.
Stermelda: court officer (uncertain).
Syxhyndeman: one whose wergeld is 600 shillings.
Thegn: knight, nobleman.
Thrymsas: three pennies of Mercian money.
Tihtbysig: of bad repute.
Furmtihtle: first accusation.
Tun: villa, dwelling, town.
Twelfhyndeman: one whose wergeld is 1200 shillings.
Twyhyndeman: one whose wergeld is 200 shillings (lowest class of freeman).
Utware: (uncertain, perhaps a form of tenure)
Walreaf: despoiling the dead.
Wealh, wylisc: British, Welsh.
Wed: pledge, security.
Wer, wergild: cf. leodgeld.
Wita: member of supreme council.
From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee:
University Research Extension Co., 1901), Vol. IV: The Early Medieval World, pp.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
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© Paul Halsall June 1998