Chapter 3

S. A. Reilly

The Times: 900-1066

There were many large landholders such as the King, earls [Danish word for Saxon word "eorldormen"], and bishops. Earls were noblemen by birth, and often relatives of the King. They were his army commanders and the highest civil officials, each responsible for a shire. A breach of the peace of an eorldorman would occasion a fine. Lower in social status were freemen, then sokemen, and then, in decreasing order, villani, bordarii, cottarii, and servi (slaves).

There was a great expansion of arable land. Some land was common land, held by communities. If a family came to pay the dues and fines on it, it became personal to that family and was known as heir land.

Kings typically granted land in exchange for services of military duties, repairing of fortresses, and work on bridges. Less common services required by landlords include equipping a guard ship and guarding the coast, guarding the lord, military watch, maintaining the deer fence at the King's residence, alms giving, and church dues. Since this land was granted in return for service, there were limitations on its heritability and often an heir had to pay a heriot to the landlord to obtain the land. A heriot was originally the armor of a man killed, which went to the King.

There were several thousand thegns, rich and poor, who held land directly of the King. Free farmers who had sought protection from thegns in time of war now took them as their lords. A free man could chose his lord, following him in war and working his land in peace. In return, the lord would protect him against encroaching neighbors, back him in the courts of law, and feed him in times of famine. Often knights stayed with their lords at their large houses, but later were given land with men on it. The lords were the ruling class and the greatest of them sat in the King's council along with bishops, abbots, and officers of the King's household. The lesser lords were local magnates, who officiated at the shire and hundred courts.

A free holder's house was wood, perhaps with a stone foundation, and roofed with thatch or tiles. There was a main room or hall, with bed chambers around it. Beyond was the kitchen, perhaps outside under a lean-to. These buildings were surrounded by a bank or stiff hedge.

Simple people lived in huts made from wood and mud, with one door and no windows. They slept around a fire in the middle of the earthen floor. They wore shapeless clothes of goat-hair and unprocessed wool. They ate rough brown bread, vegetable broth, small-ale from barley, bacon, beans, milk, cabbage, onion, and honey for sweetening or mead. In the summer, they ate boiled or raw veal and wild fowl and game snared in the forest. In the fall, they slaughtered and salted their cattle for food during the winter because there was no more pasture for them. However, some cows and breed animals were kept through the winter.

Folk land was that land that was left over after allotments had been made to the freemen and which was not common land. Book land was called such because this holding was written down in books. This land was usually land that had been given to the church or monasteries because the church had personnel who could write. So many thegns gave land to the church, usually a hide, that the church had 1/3 of the land.

An example of a grant of hides of land is: "[God has endowed King Edred with England], wherefore he enriches and honors men, both ecclesiastic and lay, who can justly deserve it. The truth of this can be acknowledged by the thegn AElfsige Hunlafing through his acquisition of the estate of 5 hides at Alwalton for himself and his heirs, free from every burden except the repair of fortifications, the building of bridges and military service; a prudent landowner church dues, burial fees and tithes. [This land] is to be held for all time and granted along with the things both great and small belonging to it."

A Bishop gave land to a faithful attendant for his life and two other lives as follows: "In 904 A.D., I, Bishop Werfrith, with the permission and leave of my honorable community in Worcester, grant to Wulfsige, my reeve, for his loyal efficiency and humble obedience, one hide of land at Aston as Herred held it, that is, surrounded by a dyke, for three lives and then after three lives the estate shall be given back without any controversy to Worcester."

The lands of the large landholding lords were administered by freemen. They had wheat, barley, oats, and rye fields, orchards, vineyards, and bee-keeping areas for honey. Hand mills and/or water mills were used for grinding grain. On this land lived not only farm laborers, cattle herders, shepherds, goatherds, and pigherds, but craftsmen such as goldsmiths, hawk-keepers, dog-keepers, horse- keepers, huntsmen, foresters, builders, weaponsmiths, embroiderers, bronze smiths, blacksmiths, water mill wrights, wheelwrights, waggon wrights, iron nail makers, potters, soap-makers, tailors, shoemakers, salters (made salt at the "wyches"), bakers, cooks, and gardeners. Most men did carpentry work. Master carpenters worked with ax, hammer, and saw to make houses, doors, bridges, milk- buckets, wash-tubs, and trunks. Blacksmiths made gates, huge door hinges, locks, latches, bolts, and horseshoes. The lord loaned these people land on which to live for their life, called a "life estate", in return for their services. The loan could continue to their children who took up the craft. Mills were usually powered by water.

The land of some lords included fishing villages along the coasts. Other lords had land with iron-mining industries.

Some smiths traveled for their work, for instance, stone-wrights building arches and windows in churches, and lead-workers putting lead roofs on churches.

Clothing for men and women was made from wool, silk, and linen and was usually brown in color. Men also wore leather clothing, such as neckpieces, breeches, ankle leathers, shoes, and boots; and metal belts under which they carried knives or axes. They could wear leather pouches for carrying items.

Water could be carried in leather bags. Leather working preservative techniques improved so that tanning prevented stretching or decaying.

For their meals, people had drinking cups and bottles made of leather, and bowls, pans, and pitchers made by the potter's wheel. Water could be boiled in pots made of iron, brass, lead, or clay.

Some lords had markets on their land, for which they charged a toll [like a sales tax] for participation. There were about fifty markets in the nation. Cattle and slaves were the usual medium of exchange. Shaking hands was symbolic of an agreement for a sale, which was carried out in front of witnesses at the market. People traveled to markets on roads and bridges kept in repair by certain men who did this work as their service to the King.

Salt was used throughout the nation to preserve meat over the winter. Inland saltworks had an elaborate and specialized organization. They formed little manufacturing enclaves in the midst of agricultural land, and they were considered to be neither manor nor appurtenant to manors. They belonged jointly to the King and the local earl, who shared, at a proportion of two to one, the proceeds of the tolls upon the sale of salt and methods of carriage on the ancient salt ways according to cartload, horse load, or man load. Horses now had horseshoes. The sales of salt were mostly retail, but some bought to resell. Peddlers carried salt to sell from village to village.

At seaports on the coast, goods were loaded onto vessels owned by English merchants to be transported to other English seaports. London was a market town on the north side of the Thames River and the primary port and trading center for foreign merchants. Wheat, meal, skins, hides, wool, beer, lead, cheese, salt, and honey were exported. Wine (mostly for the church), fish, timber, pitch, pepper, spices, copper, gems, gold, silk, dyes, oil, brass, sulphur, glass, and elephant and walrus ivory were imported. There was a royal levy on exports by foreigners merchants. The other side of the river was called Southwark. It contained sleazy docks, prisons, gaming houses, brothels, and inns.

Guilds in London were first associations of neighbors for the purposes of mutual assistance. They were fraternities of persons by voluntary compact to assist each other in poverty, including their widows or orphans and the portioning of poor maids, and to protect each other from injury. Their essential features are and continue to be in the future: 1) oath of initiation, 2) entrance fee in money or in kind and a common fund, 3) annual feast and mass, 4) meetings at least three times yearly for guild business, 5), obligation to attend all funerals of members, to bear the body if need be from a distance, and to provide masses for the dead, 6) the duty of friendly help in cases of sickness, imprisonment, house-burning, shipwreck, or robbery, 7) rules for decent behavior at meetings, and 8) provisions for settling disputes without recourse to the law. Both the masses and the feast were attended by the women. Frequently the guilds also had a religious ceremonial to affirm their bonds of fidelity. They readily became connected with the exercise of trades and with the training of apprentices. They promoted and took on public purposes such as the repairing of roads and bridges, the relief of pilgrims, the maintenance of schools and almshouses, and the periodic performance of pageants and miracle-plays.

Many of these London guilds were known by the name of their founding member. There were also Frith Guilds and a Knights' Guild. The Frith Guild's main object was to put down theft. Members contributed to a common fund, which paid a compensation for items stolen. Members with horses were to track the thief. Members without horses worked in the place of the absent horseowners until their return. The Knights' Guild was composed of thirteen military persons to whom King Edgar granted certain waste land in the east of London, toward Aldgate, for prescribed services performed. This concession was confirmed by Edward the Confessor in a charter at the suit of certain burgesses of London, the successors of these knights. But there was no trading privilege, and the Prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, became the sovereign of the Guild and the Aldermen ex officio of Portsoken Ward. He rendered an account to the Crown of the shares of tallage paid by the men of the Ward and presided over the wardmoots. Every week in London there was a folkmoot. Majority decision was a tradition. Every London merchant who had made three long voyages on his own behalf ranked as a thegn.

Later in the towns, there were merchant guilds, which were composed of prosperous traders, who later became landholders. Merchant guilds grew out of charity associations whose members were bound by oath to each other and got together for a guild-feast every month. Many market places were dominated by a merchant guild, which had a monopoly of the local trade. There were also some craft guilds composed of handicraftsmen or artisans. Escaped bonded agricultural workers, poor people, and traders without land migrated to towns to live, but were not citizens.

Towns were largely self-sufficient, but salt and iron came from a distance. It was the kings' policy to establish in every shire at least one town with a market place where purchases would be witnessed and a mint where reliable money was coined. Almost every village had a watermill.

Edward the Confessor, named such for his piety, was a King of 24 years who was widely respected for his intelligence, resourcefulness, good judgment, and wisdom. His educated Queen Edith, whom he relied on for advice and cheerful courage, was a stabilizing influence on him. They were served by a number of thegns, who had duties in the household, which was composed of the hall, the courtyard, and the bedchamber. They were important men, thegns by rank. They were landholders, often in several areas, and held leading positions in the shires, although they were not sheriffs. They were also priests and clerics, who maintained the religious services and performed tasks for which literacy was necessary.

The court was host to many of the greatest magnates and prelates of the land at the time of great ecclesiastical festivals, when the King held more solemn courts and feasted his vassals. These included all the great earls, the majority of bishops, some abbots, and a number of thegns and clerics. Edward had a witan of wise men to advise him, but sometimes the King would speak in the hall after dinner and listen to what comments were made from the mead-benches. As the court moved about the country, many men came to pay their respects and attend to local business.

The main governmental activities were: war, collection of revenue, religious education, and administration of justice. For war, the shires had to provide a certain number of men and the ports quotas of ships with crews. The King was the patron of the English church. He gave the church peace and protection. He presided over church councils and appointed bishops. As for the administration of justice, the public courts were almost all under members of Edward's court, bishops, earls, and reeves. Edward's mind was often troubled and disturbed by the threat that law and justice would be overthrown, by the pervasiveness of disputes and discord, by the raging of wicked presumption, by money interfering with right and justice, and by avarice kindling all of these. He saw it as his duty to courageously oppose the wicked by taking good men as models, by enriching the churches of God, by relieving those oppressed by wicked judges, and by judging equitably between the powerful and the humble.

A King's grant of land entailed two documents: a charter giving boundaries and conditions and a writ, usually addressed to the shire court, listing the judicial and financial privileges conveyed with the land. These were usually sac and soke [petty jurisdiction over inhabitants of the estate], toll and team [a share in the profits from trade conducted within the estate], and infangenetheof [the authority to hang and take the chattels of a thief caught on the property]. The writ was created by the Chancery, which had been established by the King to draft documents and keep records. The writ was a small piece of parchment addressed to a royal official or dependent commanding him to perform some task for the King. By the 1000s A.D., the writ contained a seal: a lump of wax with the impress of the Great Seal of England.

The town of Coventry consisted of a monastery manor and a private manor. The monastery was granted by Edward the Confessor full freedom and these jurisdictions: sac and soke, toll and team, hamsocne [the authority to fine a person for breaking into and making entry by force into the dwelling of another], forestall [the authority to fine a person for robbing others on the road], blodwite [the authority to impose a forfeiture for assault involving bloodshed], fihtwite [the authority to fine for fighting], weordwite [the authority to fine for manslaughter, but not for willful murder], and mundbryce [the authority to fine for any breach of the peace, such as trespass on lands].

Marriages were determined by men asking women to marry them. If a woman said yes, he paid a sum to her kin for her "mund" [jurisdiction or protection over her] and gave his oath to them to maintain and support the woman and any children born. As security for this oath, he gave a valuable object or "wed". The couple were then betrothed. Marriage ceremonies were performed by priests in churches. The marriage was written into church records. Friends witnessed the wedding and afterwards ate the great loaf, or first bread made by the bride. This was the forerunner of the wedding cake. They drank special ale, the "bride ale" (from hence the work "bridal"), to the health of the couple.

This marriage agreement with an Archbishop's sister provides her with land, money, and horsemen:

"Here in this document is stated the agreement which Wulfric and the archbishop made when he obtained the archbishop's sister as his wife, namely he promised her the estates at Orleton and Ribbesford for her lifetime, and promised her that he would obtain the estate at Knightwick for her for three lives from the community at Winchcombe, and gave her the estate at Alton to grant and bestow upon whomsoever she pleased during her lifetime or at her death, as she preferred, and promised her 50 mancuses of gold and 30 men and 30 horses.

The witnesses that this agreement was made as stated were Archbishop Wulfstan and Earl Leofwine and Bishop AEthelstan and Abbot AElfweard and the monk Brihtheah and many good men in addition to them, both ecclesiastics and laymen. There are two copies of this agreement, one in the possession of the archbishop at Worcester and the other in the possession of Bishop AEthelstan at Hereford."

This marriage agreement provided the wife with money, land, farm animals and farm laborers; it also names sureties, the survivor of whom would receive all this property:

"Here is declared in this document the agreement which Godwine made with Brihtric when he wooed his daughter. In the first place he gave her a pound's weight of gold, to induce her to accept his suit, and he granted her the estate at Street with all that belongs to it, and 150 acres at Burmarsh and in addition 30 oxen and 20 cows and 10 horses and 10 slaves.

This agreement was made at Kingston before King Cnut, with the cognizance of Archbishop Lyfing and the community at Christchurch, and Abbot AElfmaer and the community at St. Augustine's, and the sheriff AEthelwine and Sired the old and Godwine, Wulfheah's son, and AElfsige cild and Eadmaer of Burham and Godwine, Wulfstan's son, and Carl, the king's cniht. And when the maiden was brought from Brightling AElfgar, Sired's son, and Frerth, the priest of Forlstone, and the priests Leofwine and Wulfsige from Dover, and Edred, Eadhelm's son, and Leofwine, Waerhelm's son, and Cenwold rust and Leofwine, son of Godwine of Horton, and Leofwine the Red and Godwine, Eadgifu's son, and Leofsunu his brother acted as security for all this. And whichever of them lives the longer shall succeed to all the property both in land and everything else which I have given them. Every trustworthy man in Kent and Sussex, whether thegn or commoner, is cognizant of these terms.

There are three of these documents; one is at Christchurch, another at St. Augustine's, and Brihtric himself has the third."

Nuns and monks lived in nunneries and monasteries on church land and grew their own food. The local bishop usually was also an abbot of a monastery. The priests and nuns wore long robes with loose belts and did not carry weapons. Their life was ordered by the ringing of the bell to start certain activities, such as prayer; meals; meetings; work in the fields, gardens, or workshops; copying and illuminating books; taught justice, piety, chastity, peace, and charity; and cared for the sick. Caring for the sick entailed mostly praying to God as it was thought that only God could cure. The large monasteries had libraries, dormitories, guest-houses, kitchens, butteries to store wine, bakehouses, breweries, dairies, granaries, barns, fish-ponds, orchards, vineyards, gardens, workshops, laundries, lavatories with long stone or marble washing-troughs, and towels. Slavery was diminished by the church by excommunication for the sale of a child over seven. The clergy taught that manumission of slaves was good for the soul of the dead, so it became frequent in wills. The clergy were to be celibate and not marry, but in lax times this rule was not followed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury began anointing new Kings at the time of coronation to emphasize that the King was ruler by the grace of God.

Illness was thought to be caused by demons. People hung charms around their neck for cure and treatments of magic and herbs were given. For instance, the remedy for "mental vacancy and folly" was a drink of "fennel, agrimony, cockle, and marche". Leeches were used for healing wounds, such as those from snake bites.

The Law

Every free man who did not hold land had to find a lord to answer for him. The act of homage was symbolized by placing his hands within those of his lord. Every lord shall be personally responsible as surety for the men of his household.

Every free man who held land had to be in a local tithing, usually about ten men, in which they served as personal sureties for each other's peaceful behavior [frankpledge]. If one of them were accused of an offense, the others had to produce him in court or pay for the offense, unless they could prove that they had no complicity in it.

"And every man shall see that he has a surety, and this surety shall bring and keep him to [the performance of] every lawful duty.

1. And if anyone does wrong and escapes, his surety shall incur what the other should have incurred.

2. If the case be that of a thief and his surety can lay hold of him within 12 months, he shall deliver him up to justice, and what he has paid shall be returned to him."

Only a priest could declare a marriage. The groom had to bring friends to his wedding as sureties to guarantee his oath to maintain and support his wife and children. Those who swore to take care of the children were called their "godfathers".

"No woman or maiden shall be forced to marry a man she dislikes or given for money."

"Violence to a widow or maiden is punishable by payment of one's wergeld."

No man shall have more wives than one.

No man may marry among his own kin within six degrees of relationship or with the widow of a man as nearly related to him as that, or with a near relative of his first wife's, or his god-mother, or a divorced woman. Incest is punishable by payment of one's wergeld or a fine or forfeiture of all his possessions.

Grounds for divorce were mutual consent or adultery or desertion.

Adultery was prohibited for men as well as for women.

Prostitutes shall be driven out of the land or destroyed in the land, unless they cease from their wickedness and make amends to the utmost of their ability.

Neither husband nor wife could sell family property without the consent of the other.

If there was a marriage agreement, it determined the wife's "dower", which would be hers upon his death. Otherwise, if a man who held his land in socage [owned it freely and not subject to a larger landholder] died before his wife, she got half this property. If there were minor children, she got all this property.

Inheritance of land to adult children was by the custom of the land held. In some places, the custom was for the oldest son to take it and in other places, the custom was for the youngest son to take it. Usually, the sons each took an equal portion by partition, but the eldest son had the right to buy out the others as to the chief messuage [dwelling and supporting land and buildings] as long as he compensated them with property of equal value. If there were no legitimate sons, then each daughter took an equal share when she married.

In London, one-third of the personal property of a decedent went to his wife, one-third went to his children in equal shares, and one-third he could bequeath as he wished.

"If a man dies intestate [without a will], his lord shall have heriot [horses, weapons, shields, and helmets] of his property according to the deceased's rank and [the rest of] the property shall be divided among his wife, children, and near kinsmen."

A man could justifiably kill an adulterer in the act with the man's wife, daughter, sister, or mother. In Kent, a lord could fine any bondswoman of his who had become pregnant without his permission [childwyte].

A man could kill in defense of his own life, the life of his kinsmen, his lord, or a man whose lord he was. The offender was "caught red-handed" if the blood of his victim was still on him. He could also kill a thief in the act of carrying off his property, e.g. the thief hand-habbende [a thief found with the stolen goods in his hand] or the thief back-berend [a thief found carrying stolen goods on his back]. Self-help was available for hamsocne [breaking into a man's house to assault him].

Cattle theft could be dealt with only by speedy pursuit. The law required that a person who had involuntarily lost possession of cattle should at once raise the hue and cry. All his neighbors were then under a legal duty to follow the trail of the cow to its taker.

Murder is punished by death as follows: "If any man break the King's peace given by hand or seal, so that he slay the man to whom the peace was given, both his life and lands shall be in the King's power if he be taken, and if he cannot be taken he shall be held an outlaw by all, and if anyone shall be able to slay him he shall have his spoils by law."

"If anyone by force break or enter any man's court or house to slay or wound or assault a man, he shall pay 100 shillings to the King as fine."

"If anyone slay a man within his court or his house, himself and all his substance are at the King's will, save the dower of his wife if he have endowed her."

No clergy may gamble or participate in games of chance.

Measures and weights of goods for sale shall be correct.

Every man shall have a warrantor to his market transactions and no one shall buy and sell except in a market town; but he shall have the witness of the portreeve or of other men of credit, who can be trusted.

No marketing, business, or hunting may be done on Sundays.

No one may bind a free man, shave his head in derision, or shave off his beard. Shaving was a sign of enslavement, which could be incurred by not paying one's fines for offenses committed.

"And if anyone is so rich or belongs to so powerful a kindred, that he cannot be restrained from crime or from protecting and harboring criminals, he shall be led out of his native district with his wife and children, and all his goods, to any part of the kingdom which the King chooses, be he noble or commoner, whoever he may be - with the provision that he shall never return to his native district. And henceforth, let him never be encountered by anyone in that district; otherwise he shall be treated as a thief caught in the act."

The Laws for London were:

"1. The gates called Aldersgate and Cripplegate were in charge of guards.

2. If a small ship came to Billingsgate, one half-penny was paid as toll; if a larger ship with sails, one penny was paid.

  1) If a hulk or merchantman arrives and lies there, four pence
is paid as toll.

  2) From a ship with a cargo of planks, one plank is given as

  3) On three days of the week toll for cloth [is paid] on
Sunday and Tuesday and Thursday.

4) A merchant who came to the bridge with a boat containing fish paid one half- penny as toll, and for a larger ship one penny."

5 - 8) Foreigners with wine or blubber fish or other goods and their tolls.

Foreigners were allowed to buy wool, melted fat [tallow], and three live pigs for their ships.

"3. If the town-reeve or the village reeve or any other official accuses anyone of having withheld toll, and the man replies that he has kept back no toll which it was his legal duty to pay, he shall swear to this with six others and shall be quit of the charge.

1) If he declares that he has paid toll, he shall produce the man to whom he paid it, and shall be quit of the charge.

2) If, however, he cannot produce the man to whom he paid it, he shall pay the actual toll and as much again and five pounds to the King.

3) If he vouches the tax-gatherer to warranty [asserting] that he paid toll to him, and the latter denies it, he shall clear himself by the ordeal and by no other means of proof.

4. And we [the King and his counselors] have decreed that a man who, within the town, makes forcible entry into another man's house without permission and commits a breach of the peace of the worst kind … and he who assaults an innocent person on the King's highway, if he is slain, shall lie in an unhonored grave.

1) If, before demanding justice, he has recourse to violence, but does not lose his life thereby, he shall pay five pounds for breach of the King's peace.

2) If he values the good-will of the town itself, he shall pay us thirty shillings as compensation, if the King will grant us this concession."

5. No base coin or coin defective in quality or weight, foreign or English, may be used by a foreigner or an Englishman.

Swearing a false oath or perjury is punishable by loss of one's hand or half one's wergeld.

Judicial Procedure

There were courts for different geographical communities.

In London, the Hustings Court met weekly and the folkmoot of all citizens met three times a year. Each ward had a leet court [precursor to police court].

The vill [similar to village] was the smallest community for judicial purposes. There were several vills in a hundred.

A King's reeve presided over local criminal and peace and order issues [leet jurisdiction] at monthly meetings of the hundred court. However, summary procedure was followed when a criminal was caught in the act or seized after a hue and cry. Every free man over age 12 had to be in a hundred. The hundred was a division of the shire [county]. Usually, the shire reeve, or "sheriff", held each hundred court in turn. In the hundred court, representatives of the villages settled their disputes and answered for breaches of the peace.

A shire [county] was a larger area of land, headed by an earl. All persons residing in the shire met twice a year. They were summoned together by the sheriff, who was appointed by the earl and the King. The sheriff was responsible for the royal administration in the shire. He was responsible for the royal accounts and performed functions like tracking cattle thieves. The shire court was primarily concerned with issues of the larger landholders. Here the freemen interpreted the customary law of the locality. The earl usually took a third of the profits such as fines and forfeits, of the shire court.

A bishop sat on both the shire and the hundred court.

"No one shall make distraint of property until he has appealed for justice in the hundred court and shire court".

This lawsuit between a son and his mother over land was heard at a shire- meeting: "Here it is declared in this document that a shire-meeting sat at Aylton in King Cnut's time. There were present Bishop AEthelstan and Earl Ranig and Edwin, the Earl's son, and Leofwine, Wulfsige's son, and Thurkil the White; and Tofi the Proud came there on the King's business, and Bryning the sheriff was present, and AEthelweard of Frome and Leofwine of Frome and Godric of Stoke and all the thegns of Herefordshire. Then Edwin, Enneawnes son, came traveling to the meeting and sued his own mother for a certain piece of land, namely Wellington and Cradley. Then the bishop asked whose business it was to answer for his mother, and Thurkil the White replied that it was his business to do so, if he knew the claim. As he did not know the claim, three thegns were chosen from the meeting [to ride] to the place where she was, namely at Fawley, and these were Leofwine of Frome and AEthelsige the Red and Winsige the seaman, and when they came to her they asked her what claim she had to the lands for which her son was suing her. Then she said that she had no land that in any way belonged to him, and was strongly incensed against her son, and summoned to her kinswoman, Leofflaed, Thurkil's wife, and in front of them said to her as follows: 'Here sits Leofflaed, my kinswoman, to whom, after my death, I grant my land and my gold, my clothing and my raiment and all that I possess.' And then she said to the thegns: 'Act like thegns, and duly announce my message to the meeting before all the worthy men, and tell them to whom I have granted my land and all my property, and not a thing to my own son, and ask them to be witnesses of this.' And they did so; they rode to the meeting and informed all the worthy men of the charge that she had laid upon them. Then Thurkil the White stood up in the meeting and asked all the thegns to give his wife the lands unreservedly which her kinswoman had granted her, and they did so. Then Thurkil rode to St. AEthelbert's minister, with the consent and cognizance of the whole assembly, and had it recorded in a gospel book."

Courts controlled by lords had various kinds of jurisdiction recognized by the King. "Sac and soc" included the right to deal with land disputes. "Toll and team" included the right to levy tolls on cattle sales and to hold a hearing for men accused of stealing cattle. "Infangenetheof" gave power to do justice to a thief caught red-handed. Sometimes this jurisdiction overlapped that of the hundred court.

The King decided the complaints and issues of the nobility.

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