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