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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.