How did the liability of bailiffs to account for their office ‘get’ from Robert of Chilton to John de Valle? An answer is given here as a case study in the institutionalizing of a practice as a legal norm. The answer is split into three: developments up until the early thirteenth century; developments 1225—58; and the great period of legislation 1259—85 which would produce what Edward I referred to in John de Valle’s case as the rule ‘according to the form of the statute provided by the common counsel of our realm’, i.e. Statute of Westminster II (1285) cap. 11.[1]

The Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Centuries

Both the Chilton and the de Valle cases are predicated on the existence of some sort of enforceable custom or law that a bailiff was obliged to account for his bailiffship to the person from whom he held it. The Wye case mentions a writ summons of Robert of Chilton to Battle ex regis nomine.[2] The de Valle case talks about the ‘statute provided for by the common counsel of our kingdom’. [3] The 1291 ex parte writ of Edward I was a response to what had become a sequence of legislative interventions. What was the quality of these norms and how did they develop?

A handful of twelfth-century cases points towards the existence of some legal means of obliging an accounting between a bailiff and his lord-principal, which have been classed as ‘actions of account’.[4]

One should be disqualified. Raoul van Caenegem argued that an 1163 x 1172/3 writ from the King and witnessed by Richard of Ilchester, doyen of Exchequer auditing, was an action of account.[5] It orders Emelina de Ros to ‘respond reasonably’ (juste respondeas) to the Abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury for ‘works and expenses from your part of land at Plumstead, as you and your ancestors were accustomed to do at the time of King Henry my grandfather. And unless you do so, the sheriff of Kent will make it so, such that on this I will hear no further complaint for want of right.’[6]

At Domesday Plumstead was held by the Abbot from Odo of Bayeux, and a Ros family is visible in Kent during this period.[7] No bailiff or manorial official is mentioned in this writ though, nor is an accounting clearly specified. Rather a custom is at issue. It seems more reasonable to see this writ not as a proto-action of account, but simply as an issue of the upkeep of defence works on the Thames at Plumstead.[8] It seems a weak case for the institutionalized accountability of twelfth-century bailiffs.

The Chilton case itself comes second given the Battle Chronicle’s terminus of c.1184.[9] A royal writ figured (the summons ex regis nomine), but its contents are unclear. Eleanor Searle suggested that Geoffrey of St Calais’ writ could have simply recapitulated the terms of an 1101 grant whereby Abbot Henry was empowered to hear any tenants’ cases in his court or to transfer it to the King’s court if he wished.[10] She plausibly suggests this general writ might be the source of the ‘terror’ that resulted in Robert of Chilton attending the Battle court. Thus the case presupposes no specific rule about bailiffs’ accountability. The way Luke 16 is cited implies, however, that it was a unexceptional norm (see later in this section). The discrepancy may be explained by suggesting that the norm became established after the date of the incident (c. 1102) and during the chronicle’s composition (1125 x 1138—c.1184).

Two further cases indeed date from 1185 and come from the pipe rolls. For Essex and Hertfordshire’s 1185 ‘new pleas and agreements from Roger fitz Renfrid and William de Ver and William Ruffus and his companions’, it was noted that:

Michael clerk of Hadfield renders account for 20m. for having a legal account against Richard of Brunesho for the pledge of Michael fitzGodfrey. In the treasury 10m. And he owes 10m.

Thomas of La Mailanda renders account for 3 marks for having a legal account against Brien de Purley. In the treasury, 6s. And he owes 34s.[11]

Further payments were made: Michael was quit in 1187, Thomas of his final seven shillings only in 1192.85 Both cases indicate payments for royal writs. In neither is the relationship between suer and sued clear. The shorthand phrase pro habendo legali compoto does point towards some established legal practice of requiring an accounting by this time though.

A last brief twelfth-century case comes from the curia regis roll for 1198. Under pleas for York, ‘A day is given to Richard Malebiss86 and Andrew of ?Magnebus for a plea of account to be rendered when the justices come [i.e. in eyre], by the parties’ prayer [prece partium!%1 Here the parties (one of whom presumably owes an account to the other) appear to have agreed on the county justices in eyre as their way out of disagreement. The justices held this eyre in York during January and February 1199, but the pipe rolls and final concords give no further information on this plea of account.88

These few cases imply that a semi-regular mechanism for obliging one private individual to account for the discharge of some duty of care to a further private individual had been established by the end of the twelfth century. By 1198 it was coherent enough to be described as a plea. It is not clear that this mechanism presumed a defendant must be responsible for a fixed function (e.g. a bailliffship) in relation to the purchaser of the writ. That though is possible in just some slightly later cases. The first clear reference to a bailiff’s having to account is only two year’s after the Malebiss entry (see p. 43). It is not clear there was a fixed price for obtaining the writ for such a ‘legal account’ (the variance in the 1185 prices perhaps implies not). It is not precisely clear how far the writ was de cursu or de gracia—i.e. how standardized it was.89 However, the legal principle does seem long established that a person with some duty of care owed towards another could be obliged to give an account of it.

A potential problem with this narrative is that no writ of account is mentioned in Glanvill—the important treatise on procedure and writs in royal courts compiled for Henry II in the 1180s. But since Glanvill was ‘concerned primarily with civil litigation by writ before the king’s justices’, and county and seigneurial courts are excluded from its consideration, this may not be problematic.90 An ‘early’

  • 85 PR 1185—1186, 14—15 for ‘pleas of Roger fitzRenfrid and his companions’, PR 1186—1187, 124, for Michael’s quittance, PR 1191—1192, 169, for Thomas’s.
  • 86 The culpable ringleader responsible for the murder of the few Jews of York left in 1190 after the majority had committed suicide for fear of being murdered: The Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, ed. Harry Rothwell, CS 3rd ser. 89 (1957), 95; Cartularium prioratus de Gyseburne, Ebor. dioceseos, ordinis Sancti Augustini, fundati A.D. MCXIX, ed. William Brown, 2 vols., Surtees Society, 86, 89 (1889-94), ii. 60 n. 3.
  • 87 Memoranda Roll 1207—1208, 105.
  • 88 PR 1200, 111-17. For the eyre and its records: David Crook, Records of the General Eyre, Public Record Office Handbooks 20 (London, 1982), 59. Malebiss appears variously in the rolls, but I have not found further signs of this plea.
  • 89 On writs de cursu and de gracia, see Brevia Placitata, ed. G. J. Turner and T. F. T. Plucknett, SS 66 (1951), xlviii-lix. It would be a much longer legal and historical question why this vehicle contributed so little to the history of trusts in English law.
  • The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Realm of England Commonly Called Glanvill, ed. G. D. G. Hall, NMT (London, 1965), xi; Michael Clanchy on Glanvill’s modesty in his ‘Guide to Further Reading’ in the 1993 OMT reissue, lxxiii, lxxviii-lxxix.

action of account may not have interested Glanvill. Furthermore, the elements this action addressed are discussed in the early twelfth-century Leges Henrici Primi (rootless manorial officials, audits and accounts, jurisdictional problems, unaccountable reeves). It has also been suggested that much-maligned Leges may have been written by a hundred court bailiff especially concerned with hundredal courts.[12] If so he would have been operating at just the relevant level to express an interest in these issues, which Glanvill was not (see further pp. 61—2, 70 on the Leges).

Like the later, formal, action of account (and like Leges Henrici Primi), the Wye case expresses a similar concern for the state of lands at farm, the accountability of a lease-farmer who was a prepositus, and the problem (for Battle) of pinning him in one of a number of potential courts. (And discussed further on pp. 47—52, 60—82.) In articulating a rule that a manorial official-cum-farmer is liable to account for his management, the Battle case gives expression to an idea with legal power. But rather than appealing to a legal rule, Geoffrey of St Calais licenses his actions through a scriptural precept that obligates his villicus to be accountable to him: ‘he demanded an account of his stewardship’. The norm was structural, not decorative (at least in the Battle Chronicle). One hypothesis would be that Scripture provided a way of naturalizing the institutionalization of the norm as a legal rule, a justification that obviously became legally superfluous once the rule was established.[13]

The etymological origins and scriptural usage of villicus are needed to make sense of this. Luke 16: 1—14 comprises the disturbing parable of the unjust villicus who has been embezzling his lord’s goods. He is discovered and summoned to give an account of his stewardship. Faced with the prospect of penury and expulsion from office, the villicus seeks to ingratiate himself with his lord’s debtors by forging receipts and accounts. His lord, on discovering this, disconcertingly endorses the manager’s misconduct by extrapolating from his conduct that, in its light, he will be so much the keener for eternal life. (This text will furnish Pope Innocent III with one proof for his decretal establishing inquisitions as a method of investigating negligent prelates; see pp. 159—62.) Other bailiff-like terms emphasize accountability in the Bible. Prepositus, which can mean simply ‘one set above’, or, in an English manorial context, ‘reeve’, is used in the same way biblically.[14] The connection between being a prepositus

or villicus and some sort of accountability was consequently a common one, from the high to the later Middle Ages.94

The other relevant element regarding manorial officials is that classically villicus meant ‘rural administrator’. Isidore of Seville defines it: ‘A villicus is properly the manager of a “country estate” (villa), whence the villicus takes his name from villa. Yet sometimes villicus does not signify the management of a country estate, but, according to Cicero, the oversight of all the household business, that is, he is overseer of all the property and estates.’95

Scripture and etymology can be seen in two earlier, different contexts. The first relates to two letters of Charles the Bald to Pope Hadrian II in which Charles complained about the Pope’s interference in the suppression of his son Carlomans 870 revolt and appointments to the Bishop of Laon’s lay estates.96 The letters asserted that although bishops lived under their own laws this in no way implied that Frankish kings were ‘bishops’ bailiffs’ (episcoporum villici). Augustine says, recounts Charles, that ‘Property is possessed by the laws of kings, but not by episcopal fiat [per epis- copale imperium] do kings become estate-managers [villarum actores].’97 A second letter some six months letter again rejected the idea that Frankish kings were bishops’ bailiffs.98 Charles’s objection can be expressed as a pragmatic rejection of the idea that he needed to account to anyone else when disposing of ecclesiastical lands whose bishop was deposed (here Hincmar of Laon).99 A dismissable villicus was the opposite of how powerful men regarded themselves.100 A second illustration makes the same point. This time, in 1075, an ecclesiastical potens attacks the idea that he and his fellow bishops are the pope’s mere villici: so Bishop Liemar of Bremen, when

Pope Gelasius I’s ideas of papal accountability and authority in 494 see Janet L. Nelson, ‘Gelasius I’s Doctrine of Responsibility, a Note’, in Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1967), 154—62 at 156—8.

  • 94 e.g. for the earlier period in The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. Marjorie Chibnall, OMT, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1969—80), iii. 14 (V.3, Bishop Hugh of Lisieux’s deathbed confession); iv. 42 (VII.8, William’s arrest of Odo of Bayeux), and for the later period, Thomas Wimbledon’s 1386/8 St Paul’s Cross sermon, ed. Ione Kemp Knight, as Wimbledon's Sermon: redde racionem villicationis tue, a Middle English Sermon of the Fourteenth Century (Pittsburgh, 1967). For useful references in this later period, Christopher Fletcher, ‘Morality and Office in Late Medieval England and France’, in Fourteenth Century England 5 (2008), 178—90. It should be said conversely that scriptural passages that are not literally about bailiffs can be used by preachers to illustrate stories about bailiffs, e.g. D. L. d’Avray, The Preaching of the Friars (Oxford, 1985), 218—19, citing Matthew 6: 33 (‘Seek first the kingdom of God ) and 1 Samuel 7: 3 (‘Prepare your heart for the lord ). Baillivus is again used broadly.
  • 95 The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, trans. Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach, and Oliver Berghof (Cambridge, 2006), 205 (IX. iv. 33).
  • 96 Following Janet L. Nelson, ‘ “Not Bishops’ Bailiffs but Lords of the Earth”: Charles the Bald and the Problem of Sovereignty’, in Diana Wood (ed.), The Church and Sovereignty, c.590—1918, SCH Subsidia 9 (Oxford, 1991), 23—34.
  • 97 PL 124, Ep. 7, col. 878, letter of c.6 September 871. Comment in Nelson, ‘Not Bishops’ Bailiffs’, 28. Nelson argues that the authorial voice here is genuinely Charles’s (33).
  • 98 PL 124, Ep. 8, cols. 886—7, February/March 871; Nelson, ‘Not Bishops’ Bailiffs’, 30—1.
  • 99 In August 871 at Douzy in Lotharingia: Janet L. Nelson Charles the Bald (London, 1992), 229.
  • 100 On the status of villici see the discussion in Heinrich Fichtenau, Living in the Tenth Century: Mentalities and Social Orders, trans. P. J. Geary (Chicago, 1991), ch. 16, esp. 360—7. For the different ministeriales see Gerd Althoff, Family, Friends and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe, trans. C. Carroll (Cambridge, 2004), 133—5. On villicatio/villicus see J. R. Niermeyer and C. van de Kieft, rev. J. W J. Burgers, Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus, 2 vols. (Leiden,
  • 2002), ii. 1439—41.

Pope Gregory VII’s cardinal legates suspend him following his opposition to the Pope’s reforms.[15]

These cases show first, unsurprisingly, how the scriptural precept to ‘give an account of your stewardardship’ was transposed across many sorts of officer. Secondly they highlight how central the liability to justify one’s actions was to the idea of being a manager of any sort and to an association of accountability with servility, or at least subordination. To these men being a villicus implied very clear answers to ‘Who, whom?’. It was the political subordination consequent on accepting such accountability that both Charles the Bald, Liemar of Bremen—and Robert of Chilton— resisted. Status mattered when determining which way the current of accountability flowed. On this line of thinking, men of status are not accountable to those beneath them.

Further terse actions of account can be seen in the early thirteenth century, and it is then that the first extant reference to a bailiff per se having to account occurs in 1200, very soon after the Malebiss case. The plea is for Norfolk, mid-June 1200.

Ranulph clerk of the Archbishop of Canterbury, offers himself on the fourth day against Ralph son of Anketill for a plea of chattels which he had in custody while he was his bailiff and for which he has not rendered an account as he claims. And he himself did not come or excuse himself, and he was pledged, namely by Richard Sorrell and Ranulph Fabrum.[16]

In July,

a day was given from the quindene of St Michael’s [i.e. 13—19 October] to Ranulph clerk and Ralph son of Anketill for a plea of chattels and account at the parties’ agreement; and they have leave to come to an agreement.[17]

Here, the court appears as much as a means of arbitration and dispute resolution as of more formally legal proceedings. A 1206 plea shows the same arbitration going on between Samson of Pomeroy and William of Upton for a Buckinghamshire plea. Samson seeks an account from William (William is not specified as a bailiff).[18] That Easter

William put himself upon Richer of Belle Field and Bartholemew, dean of Duniton, or upon two others, if he is unable to have them; and Samson put himself upon Peter of

104 CRR, 1205-1206, 64 (Hilary 1206).

Wod [. . .] and Ralph of Wakering, or upon two others, if they cannot be present. And each of them commits himself to the decision of the said four and William of Neketon, and with the truth heard from each party, they shall abide by their decision.105

Here the court acts as a forum for agreeing acceptable arbitrators for the accounting, much as parties in a papal judge-delegate case would.106 This is striking, a notable difference from later post-1260 developments where the choice of auditors became a major site of disagreement (as with John de Valle). The tone, such as can be deduced from such stark material, appears more consensual—or at least more flexible than in later cases.

Some accepted, customary basis for forcing people to account for goods or duties they held in care seems apparent then from the late twelfth century. The legal cases, such as they are, do not always make clear that those liable to account are bailiffs, but some do. Some—scant—material implies, that the rule, at least as a norm, was being applied to the actual liability of manorial agents or lease-holders c. 1184, possibly earlier in the century. The core of what was later formalized as the action of account was evolving in the second half of the twelfth century.


These slim pickings though do not imply that the need for a legal power forcing manorial officers to account was clear, great, or frequent by the early thirteenth century. From the early thirteenth century the quantity and quality of such actions appears to change. There are problems in normalizing the earlier material with this later material given the latter’s increasing volume and fullness. From 1200 to 1230 there are some eight recognizable cases and another eight from 1230 up to 1260, contrasting with the five c. 1100—1200. From 1260 the number seems to increase. From 1260 until 1270 I note seven; twenty during the 1270s; fifteen until the end of the century; and another fifteen during the rest of Edward I’s reign—a total of seventy-eight.107 These totals are only indicative and impressionistic.108 Nevertheless, the increase is there, and would presumably be greater on analysis of unedited material in the National Archives. The increase from the 1260s seems unlikely to be pure coincidence since, as we will see, in 1259/60 a variant form was [19]

introduced, the monstravit de compoto, and the action of account was fitted with a new set of teeth.

Qualitatively, the texture of the legal material also seems more defined even by the 1220s, in (e.g.) a Norfolk case from Trinity Term 1225:

John of Stowe seeks against Hubert, fitzWilliam, son of Gery that he gives to him his reasonable account of the time when he was his bailiff in Helmstead. Whence the same John says that [Hubert] was his bailiff for four years and in no year did [Hubert] account to [John] except for 4 marks, so [Hubert] is in arrears to him by a year for 13 marks; and [John] seeks that [Hubert] renders to him his arrears etc. And Hubert comes and acknowledges that he was his bailiff; and freely he will reply to him as his lord [respondebit ut domino suo]. And so he is handed over to the same John as his servant [ut serviens suus].[20] And John gives to him respite up to the 8th day after Michaelmas, that meanwhile he satisfies the same John.[21]

A lord has an official that he deems has discharged his duty inadequately. He obtains a writ to secure this bailiff’s adequate accounting. The bailiff is charged, concedes, replies. A concept too has been given—newly?—legalized form here: ‘a reasonable account of his time as a bailiff7. The formulation may have passed from shrieval accounting, and imply the need for written proofs.[22] It implies that kings, barons, and justices had digested and responded to a perceived need for a clearer but elastic legal criterion to determine what an accountant was liable for. Before this point actions of account apparently conflated two things: (1) getting someone to account for a duty of care, where there was a dispute about their carefulness; and (2) getting someone to account when there was a dispute about whether he had accounted or not.

Another striking case is that of 6 October 1234, a plea by certain Florentine merchants in London. The merchants used the legal rule against their own procurator, Bonacursus, for debts owed to them.[23] Significantly, at this early point the action is used not only for those with estate management responsibilities but also those involved in entirely non-agricultural commercial activity. The boundaries between rules, practices, and applications could be fluid, as Andrew Horn’s wide-ranging Magnum librum collations implied. From the 1230s the expectation to account for your time as a bailiff could apparently apply to men who were not bailiffs functionally but were considered bailiffs legally.[24] In this case accountability existed semi-independently of any particular office or role—the only relevant role here being the liability to account.

Another notable case comes from Shropshire in mid-1254. It concerned Thomas Corbet, sheriff of Shropshire. He had arrested and imprisoned from 11 June to 19 August 1254 William Cadigan, a bailiff of the King (ballivus domini regis). William Cadigan complains at the eyre, but the case is rejected on a technicality. Thomas Corbet then clarifies what happened. Corbet says:

William was a bailiff of the lord king when he himself was sheriff, and that he [William] ought to have answered to him for his bailiwick, so that the same William should have rendered his account for the said bailiwick before R[obert] of Grendon then sheriff and the other faithful men there present, when he [William] was 40 shillings or more in arrears with his account. So Robert said to him [Thomas] that he should deal with him according to the law of England [legemAnglie], and for that reason he [Thomas] arrested him [William] as one convicted of [a deficient] account. Afterwards it was testified that the said William Cadigan is a pauper and has nothing, so he is quit.114

The case is interesting for the following reasons. First, a bailiff’s liability to account to his superior is taken as a rule. Plucknett thought cases at this date must be extra-judicial.115 Harding’s judgement seems right though: ‘the confidence and success of Corbet’s defence suggests that the imprisonment of defaulting bailiffs was generally condoned’ at this date.116 That this was a recognized legal recourse seems warranted by Robert of Grendon’s encouragement to Thomas Corbet to deal with Cadigan ‘according to the law of England’. Secondly, the case involves not a seigneurial bailiff, but one of the king’s. Given earlier and later seigneurial examples of ‘actions of account’, this implies that what was fit for a lord was fit for a king. Liabilities to account were shared—and perhaps developed—between private and regnal ‘bailiffs’, whatever the ‘publicness’ of their duties. Thirdly, a routine accounting for a bailiwick is expected at the start of the superior’s term of office, and this duty seems owed both to a bailiff’s immediate superior (Grendon) and—perhaps because there was a problem—to Grendon’s predecessor, Corbet. There is nothing especially sophisticated in this, but there is a parallel with apodestas liability to account at the end of his term of office. This accounting is to the communal franchise though, rather than the podesta’s incoming replacement. Grendon’s reference to legem Anglie implies that there was some explicit recognized rule for a bailiff’s accountability by 1254. Since he and Grendon had poor reputations their action may have been narrowly legal rather than fair though. Still, the 1225 Norfolk case’s tag ‘a reasonable account of his time as a bailiff’ implies that there may have been some established common law by then. Given on the one hand the modest but clear number of cases (eds.), Early Registers of Writs, SS 87 (London, 1970), 376; Hubert Hall (ed.), Select Cases concerning the Law Merchant, 1239—1633, ii. Central Courts, SS 46 (London, 1930), s.v. ‘accounts’, ‘writs of account’. See also Plucknett, Mediaeval Bailiff, 14—24, 26—7; Brand, ‘Stewards, Bailiffs and the Emerging Legal Profession’, 146, 150.

  • 114 Alan Harding (ed.), The Roll of the Shropshire Eyre of1256, SS 96 (1981), #738 at 257—8, his trans., modified.
  • 115 Plucknett, Legislation of Edward I, 152. n6 Roll of the Shropshire Eyre of1256, xxii.

before both 1225 and 1254, and on the other the absence of any early extant formal justification for this action before these dates, we can suggest the actual development of this legal accountability was dependent on a legal warrant that came out of emerging ‘vernacular’ procedures.[25]

The edges of these thirteenth-century cases feel sharper than before. The law seems to be milling its grist more easily. Turning to formal warrant and registers of writs we can find some correlation. The earliest extant writ forms given in a register for an action of account is for the justicies form of the Norfolk 1225 case. It was a viscontiel justicies writ (i.e. addressed to a sheriff or other locally responsible officer) and would have enabled him to take action at the county courts if the writ itself proved ineffective.[26] An action of account does not figure in an early register (christened ‘CA’ by Maitland), datable to the 1220s.[27] But an unedited Cambridge register CUL MS Kk.v.33 (‘CB’) does include the action at no. 83: ‘You [the local official] are to oblige so-and-so [i.e. the accused bailiff] to render to such-and-such [i.e. the lord-plaintiff] his reasonable account of the time when he was his bailiff.’[28] This sequence of writs is pre-1236 in form and the MS itself was dated by Maitland to 1236—59.[29] Inclusion implies that the action was de cursu: that is, a generally accessible action available centrally to plaintiffs as a pro forma for a set fee.[30] This and other variants of the action appear in registers thereafter. The evidence of the registers therefore tallies with that of the case records themselves. From the second quarter of the thirteenth century the action of account appears increasingly stable and increasingly recognized as a standard legal action in these fora.

  • [1] SR, i. 80—1. 2 Chronicle of Battle, 110. 3 TNA E 13/17 m. 6.
  • [2] 77 A first gathering was Royal Writs in England from the Conquest to Glanvill, ed. R. C. vanCaenegem, SS 77 (London, 1959), 188, 345—6. Searle makes the connection between the Wye caseand the action in Chronicle of Battle, 108 n. 2. Paul Brand noticed an 1198 case, Kings, Barons andJustices: The Making and Enforcement of Legislation in Thirteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2003),65 n. 96. Brand’s work here and elsewhere on TNA records massively advances the thirteenth-centuryhistory of this action. Other important authors for the action of account are: T. F. T. Plucknett, esp.Mediaeval Bailiff (London, 1954), and Legislation of Edward I (Oxford, 1949), and Denholm-YoungsSeignorial Administration. Maitland was fairly dismissive of the action: Frederick Pollock and FredericWilliam Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, reissued edn. by S. F. C.Milsom, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1968), ii. 221—2, 347. Maitland gave the 1232 case as the first instanceof an action of account. See also his posthumous The Forms of Action at Common Law (Cambridge,
  • [3] 1954), 48. For the period from c. 1300 see S. J. Stoljar, ‘The Transformations of Account’, Law
  • [4] Quarterly Review 80 (1964), 203—24. More generally on the action: J. H. Baker, An Introduction toEnglish Legal History, 3rd edn. (London, 1990), 410—13; S. F. C. Milsom, Historical Foundations of theCommon Law, 2nd edn. (London, 1981), 275—82; T. F. T. Plucknett, A Concise History of the CommonLaw, 5th edn. (London, 1956), 28, 30—1, 365, 448—9; Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England,1225—1360 (Oxford, 2005), 431—2; Frederique Lachaud, LEthique du pouvoir au Moyen Age: LOfficedans la culture politique (Angleterre, vers 1150—vers 1330), Bibliotheque d’histoire medievale 3 (Paris,2010), 551-3.
  • [5] 78 On Richard of Ilchester see pp. 92 n. 61, 251.
  • [6] Royal Writs in England, #125, at 345 n. 8; Thomas of Elmham, Historia monasterii S. AugustiniCantuariensis, ed. Charles Hardwick, RS (London, 1858), #38 at 409.
  • [7] Domesday Book, trans. Ann Williams and G. H. Martin, repr. (London, 2002), 15, 29.
  • [8] I am grateful for discussion to Paul Brand, to whom I owe the explanation of Plumstead’s significance here. I do not find a reference to an Emelina de Ros of Plumstead appearing in the pipe rolls1163—73. Barons of Ros are identifiable in Kent for this period, but I cannot connect Emelina. See K.S. B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents1066-1166, ii. Pipe Rolls to Cartae Baronum (Woodbridge, 2002), 671—2. Van Caenegem (Royal Writsin England, 346) argues that the case was ‘an executive measure, outside the courts and to the benefitof individuals, [it] is at the origin of what was later to become a distinct plea in the royal courts’.
  • [9] Chronicle of Battle, 9.
  • [10] Chronicle of Battle, 111 n. 5. The 1101 notification is summarized in Regesta RegumAnglo-Normannorum 1066—1154, ed. C. Johnson, H. A. Cronne, and H. W C. Davis, 4 vols.(Oxford, 1913-69), ii. #529.
  • [11] 84 PR 1184—1185, 17. Caenegem (Royal Writs in England, 345 n. 7) cites PR 1185—1186, 14,where the debt is this 10 marks.
  • [12] Nicholas Karn, ‘Rethinking the Leges Henrici Primi, in Stefan Jurasinski, Andrew Rabin, andLisi Oliver (eds.), English Law before Magna Carta: Felix Liebermann and Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen(Leiden, 2010), 199—220 at 214—18. He is producing a new edition of the Leges Henrici Primi for theEarly English Laws project (, accessed January 2014).
  • [13] 92 Cf. Mary Douglas’s idea that social rules are founded on analogies that reflect ‘natural’ or cosmic norms, in Natural Symbols: Expbrations in Cosmology, 2nd edn. (London, 2003 edn.) and HowInstitutions Think (Syracuse, 1986). See the ‘how to’ manorial treatises edited in The Court Baron,ed. Frederic William Maitland and William Paley Baildon, SS 4 (London, 1891), citing biblical precepts: the Lord’s allusion to the parable of the wicked servants regarding a serial non-attender ofcourt (50, La Court de baron, #27); the duty of manorial officers holding court to do so honourablygiven the need to render what is God’s to God and what is Caesar’s to Caesar (70, De placitis et curiistenendis); a reference to the Judgement Day, invoked at the re-swearing of frankpledges (93, Modustenendi curias).
  • [14] e.g. Hebrews 13: 17. ‘Oboedite praepositis vestris et subiacete eis ipsi enim pervigilant quasirationem pro animabus vestris reddituri’. On the importance of this citation in the development of
  • [15] Liemar of of Bremen to Hezilo of Hildesheim, January 1075: ‘Periculosus homo vult iubere,que vult, episcopis ut villicis suis’, in Briefsammlungen der Zeit Heinrichs IV., ed. Carl Erdmann andNorbert Fickermann, MGH, BdK (Weimar, 1950), v. Hildesheimer Briefe #15 at 34. See also Wenrichof Trier, Epistola in MGH, LdL, 3 vols. (Hannover, 1891—7), i. 289, ll. 32—6. Commentary in I.S. Robinson, ‘Periculosus homo: Pope Gregory VII and Episcopal Authority’, Viator 9 (1978), 103—31; id., Authority and Resistance in the Investiture Contest (Manchester, 1978), 124—7, 169—70, andImperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century, ed. and trans. T. E. Mommsen and K. F Morrison,rev. edn. (New York, 2000), 29.
  • [16] CRR, 1196—1201, 191; Royal Writs in England, 345 n. 4; C. T. Flower, Introduction to the Curia
  • [17] Regis Rolls, 1199—1230, SS 62 (London, 1944), 292, and, on local officers, 419—33; Brand, Kings,Barons and Justices, 65 n. 97.
  • [18] юз CRR, 1196-1201, 249.
  • [19] 5 CM, 1205-1206, 145 (Easter 1206). 106 c? Jane E. Sayers, Papal Judges Delegate in the Province of Canterbury 1198-1254 (Oxford,1971), 104-7, 109-14. 107 There are also (at least) fourteenth- and fifteenth-century borough custumal rules regarding theaction of account, but they are not factored in here. See Mary Bateson, ed., Borough Customs, 2 vols.,SS 18, 21 (1904-6), i. 219-21, for Kilkenny, Lydd, and Lincoln. 108 They could not be exhaustive without much further work on unedited rolls. Still, they aredrawn from 1173-1307 printed PR, CPR, Year Books, CRR, Memoranda Rolls, Flower’s Introductionto the Curia Regis Rolls, Stentons Pleas before the King or His Justices and Rolls of the Justices in Eyre,Harding’s Roll of the Shropshire Eyre of 1256, Leadam and Baldwin’s Select Cases before the King’sCouncil, Hall’s Select Cases concerning the Law Merchant, 1239-1633, and, especially for the 1270s,Brand, Kings, Barons and Justices (esp. 314 nn. 58-73). My total’s reliance on printed material meanspre-1250 material is not fully reflected and only very broad inferences are worth drawing. Brand (65)notes that writs ordering accountings at county courts may have been more frequent than recordsallow us to see in this period.
  • [20] Remembering that serviens can connote a bailiff or reeve in a manorial context.
  • [21] CRR 1225-1226, 120-1 #605. For the start of the case, 82 #428.
  • [22] in John required the indebted Robert of Vieuxpont, sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire,to give a ‘racionabilem conpotum’ for the counties as part of the deal cut to handle his debts inDecember 1208 (Rotuli chartarum in Turri londinensi asservati, ed. T. D. Hardy (London, 1837),i.1. 184a). The phrase does not seem recurrent in John’s charters, though one finds royal bailiffs areto pay their debts to the crown as racionabiliter as possible (60a) and common references to ‘reasonable’ donations, charters, concessions (e.g. 6b, 116b). On Vieuxpont in 1208 see PR 1208, 45, andHolt, Northerners, 226-7. ‘Reasonable expenses’ (conuenables despens) occurs in an accounting contextin the 1258 ‘ordinance of sheriffs’ (DBM #8 at 122). For racionabilis, implying written, see RobertC. Palmer, The County Courts of Medieval England 1150—1350 (Princeton, NJ, 1982), 198-215.
  • [23] CRR 1233-1237, #1181 at 291.
  • [24] Five mercantile cases of the later sort are in Cam, Eyre of London 1321, i. cv-cvi. A separateline against ‘receivers/agents’ developed later. For these writ forms see Elsa de Haas and G. D. G. Hall
  • [25] Cf. Searles comments to this effect on the legal developments that the Battle chronicler charts,Chronicle of Battle, 10.
  • [26] On the classification of writs see Palmer, County Courts, ch. 7, esp. 212—15; Milsom, HistoricalFoundations, 243—6; Brevia Placitata, xliii—lix; Baker, Introduction to English Legal History, 83. For theaction in Brevia Placitata, cxxxviii—cxxxix, 23^, 68—9, 176—7. The core of this treatise is probably1260 (xviii—xix). Hall thought that is was not impossible that a praecipe form of this action existed bythe 1180s (i.e. one returnable to a royal court). See Glanvill, 189.
  • [27] 119 CUL MS Ii. vi. 13. See Early Registers ofWrits, xl, xl—xliv. The Irish register known as ‘Hib.’ (BLCotton MS Julius D. II) I do not discuss, because although it is arguably c. 1227, its complexity makesit too slippery a guide. Discussion: Early Registers ofWrits, xxxiii—xl.
  • [28] ‘The History of the Register of Original Writs’, in The Collected Papers of Frederic WilliamMaitland, ed. H. A. L. Fisher, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1911), ii. 110—73 at 146, #83; Brand, Kings, Baronsand Justices, 65 n. 98.
  • [29] Their precise wording cannot therefore be taken as a reliable reflection for the earlier date: EarlyRegisters of Writs, xxxiv n. 4. Hall notes that the MS was copied after 1259, but that the early actionsmay follow the form of the 1250s. Also Maitland, ‘History of the Register of Original Writs’, 141—2.
  • [30] Early Registers of Writs, xviii—xxi. Actions of account are explicitly included as de cursu in theInner Temple Library Edwardian MS 511.9. The listing is printed in Early Registers of Writs as App.B (xxvii—xxviii) where writs of ‘racionabili compoto’ are listed amongst those available ‘pro precio adbancum concedenda’. The later harsher monstravit (see next section) is listed under ‘breuia que dicun-tur esse de precepto et gratia’ (xxviii).
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