This page will list and define any archaic English Legal History words used in my blog posts. For further information on any of these terms, please use the details on the Contact page to get in touch.
Articled Clerkship – An Articled Clerk was a worker bound by contract to a master who was a solicitor. The Clerk would work under his master for a term of years and then enter the profession in his own right.
Attorneys – A professional who appeared on behalf of a pleader and spoke for him.
Ceorl – A type of personal status in early English society. A Ceorl was a freeman of an ordinary sort.
Court of Common Pleas – A court which dealt with legal actions between subject and subject.
Dooms – A decision or judgment that carried a penalty. A set of Dooms were written by the early ‘English’ kings.
Dooms-Men – Powerful men in early English society who were responsible for applying the Dooms to factual situations and having the penalties enforced.
Eorl – A type of personal status in early English society. An Eorl was a freeman by virtue of noble birth.
Frankpledge – Once a man reached the age of 12, he entered into Frankpledge where he became the kin of ten households (that made up a Hundred). The chief man in these households was responsible for producing any of his kin suspected of crimes.
Gesid – A type of personal status in early English society. A Gesid was a man of good birth who was in the service of the King in some capacity.
Grand Jury – A more general type of jury where 12 noble men were asked to account for crimes known to them in a certain area.
High Treason – An act of betrayal against your King.
Husbryce – An ancient form of the modern crime of Burglary, literally translated to House-Breach.
Oath-Helpers – When a man made an Oath as to his innocence of a crime. A certain number of people (it varied based on the crime) were needed to support his Oath.
Ordeal – An ancient tradition of proving guilt or innocence where a man would be submitted to the judgment of God, either through the medium of Fire or Water.
Petty Jury – This was different to a Grand Jury in that it was a jury of men within a specific trial, as opposed to the Grand Jury’s more general nature.
Petty Treason – An act of betrayal of your immediate Lord.
Sanctuary – A criminal could claim Sanctuary within holy grounds and it meant the authorities could not touch him.
Scandalum Magnatum – A 1378 Statute that allowed important judges or Church officials to bring a defamation action if they had been insulted.
Serjeants at Law – A professional who presented the pleader’s case and responded to any argument that arose out of it.
Six-Hynd Man – A type of personal status that meant your Wergild was set at a price of 600 shillings.
Thegn – This was an important or revered officer within the Household of an important man.
Trial by Battle – A type of legal ordeal used more commonly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 where a fight would be used to determine a man’s guilt or innocence (it did not regularly end in death for the loser, as is often assumed).
Twelf-Hynd Man – A type of personal status that meant your Wergild was set at a price of 1200 shillings.
Twy-Hynd Man – A type of personal status that meant your Wergild was set at a price of 200 shillings.
Wergild – The price set on every person’s life. It was the fine you would have to pay to the deceased’s next of kin if you unlawfully killed a person.