Page images

it was framed in the year 1256 as stated by the Annalist. But it certainly is not the earliest form of the Assisa Panis. Long before the year 1256, we find upon the Plea Rolls cases which relate to the assize of bread; and they shew not only that it was observed throughout the Kingdom, but that a right of enforcing its provisions was a franchise frequently vested in lords of manors and hundreds, and one the possession of which was much coveted.

It seems from a codex at the British Museum that the price of corn was regulated by an ordinance, in which, however, no precise date occurs, made in the reign of Henry II. This ordinance contains a fully worked out scale made by the King's Bakers. It has been printed by Dr. Cunningham in an Appendix to the first volume of his Growth of English Industry and Commerce. Dr. Cunningham shews that its termis differ considerably from the Assisa Panis, of the Statutes of the Realm. The scale runs in the codex from a high price and a small weight to a low price and a large weight; while in the Statutes it runs in a contrary sense. This is merely a difference in form; there are also differences in substance. The range of prices extends in the codex from eighteenpence to six shillings a quarter; but in the Statutes it extends from two shillings to twenty shillings a quarter. The gradation of the scale is also different in the two instruments, and there is a larger allowance given to the baker's servants in the assize of the year 1256 than in that of Henry II.

In the following reign another assize of bread was framed. It is written in the Red Book of the Exchequer* and begins :

Haec est assisa facta coram Huberto Walteri Cantuarensi Archiepiscopo et coram Episcopis et omnibus Anglis apud Cantuariam per Regem Ricardum.

* Red Book of the Exchequer (Chron. and Mem.), ii., 750.

There is also a codex* in the British Museum, from which we learn that the price of corn was regulated once again in the reign of John. But in this case its introductory words leave us in no doubt as to its date. They are as follows :

Anno graciae MCCIJ Rex Iohannes fecit generaliter acclamari per totum regnum Angliae vt assisa panis inuiolabiter sub pena collistrigialit obseruaretur ; quae probata fuit per pistorem G. filii Petri Iusticiarii

Angliae et pistorem R. de Tonay ita quod. Roger de Toenay was evidently one of King John's counsellors, as his name is frequently found among those of witnesses to royal charters about this time; but it is uncertain what office, if any, he held in the administration. Its actual terms are much the same as those of the earlier ordinances, but they are rather more detailed.

The same codex contains a chronicle of the kings of England ending at the forty-second year of Henry III.; and it would seem from this that the ordinance of John remained in force till the time of the substitution of the new scale of prices given in the Annals of Burton.

Fleta and Britton, both of which were written in the reign of Edward I., contain versions of the Assisa Panis, similar to that in the Statutes of the Realm.

It may be objected that an investigation into matters such as the Assize of Bread belongs rather to economics than legal history. But any information as to the nature and objects of early legislation materially concerns the latter subject; while the form and style of every early ordinance deserve careful attention. But beyond this any fact which may assist in determining the date of a manuscript comprising statutes and legal treatises is of importance. If we can be sure of the date of an article in one part of a

[blocks in formation]

codex, we may possibly draw some inference as to the date of an article in another part. For instance, the codex in which the Assisa Panis of John occurs, also contains a transcript of the Provisions of Merton. The fact that this ordinance was replaced in the year 1256, or thereabouts, by another, and the fact that the chronicle which precedes it stops at about the same year are evidence of the time when the codex itself was written. It may indeed reasonably be inferred, that we have here a copy of the Provisions of Merton in the form, in which they were known to lawyers some five and twenty years after they were enacted.

Inasmuch as this transcript of the Provisions comprises the six clauses only, which were contained in the writs sent to the sheriffs, ordering them to proclaim the new laws, we have further evidence that these laws comprised no other clauses.

Let us now consider the clauses included in the Provisions of the Statutes of the Realm, but not included in the writs sent to the sheriffs. Of all of them the one which refers to the unlawful marriage of heirs under fourteen is the most embarrassing. There are no references to it on any of the Chancery rolls for the year in which the Provisions were made nor on those of the next preceding or succeeding years. On the other hand, forty years later it was officially considered to be an integral part of them ; for we read in the Statutes of Westminster the First,

Des heyrs mariez dedenz age saunz le gre de lur gardeins auant le age de quatorze aunz seit fet solum ceo quil est contenu en la Proveaunce de

Merton. Any satisfactory explanation of the absence of this Provision from the writs to the sheriffs, and from the early transcripts, ought to explain how it subsequently became inserted in the later transcripts, and became officially

recognised by the Statutes of Westminster the first to be a part of the Merton legislation.

It appears from the Annals of Tewkesbury that on the death of Gilbert Earl of Clare in 1230, the king entrusted Richard de Clare his son and heir to the guardianship of the illustrious Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, and that the boy remained in his custody until October, 1232, when the King deprived De Burgh of all his offices and granted this wardship to his favourite Peter des Roches. While Richard was in his custody, De Burgh seems to have arranged for the boy's marriage with his daughter Margaret ; and a marriage was afterwards solemnized between them. The Annals of Tewkesbury* tell us that the young Earl was born in August, 1222; and the Annals of Worcestert give the date of the marriage as 1236. There is some little doubt as to this last date; but in any case the boy was married before he had completed his fourteenth year. When the King pardoned De Burgh, at Gloucester, in 1234, he made him swear that he would never speak of Richard de Clare again.

$ On the morrow of Michaelmas, in the twenty-first year of his reign, Henry summoned De Burgh to answer for his conduct in allowing his daughter Margaret to marry the Earl of Clare. De Burgh asked for further time, so that he might have advice as to his defence. The King gave him another day at Kennington, and on the appointed day the accused appeared, and said that he had not meddled with the marriage since peace was made between the King and himself at Gloucester. His story was that his wife, the Countess of Kent, had declared in his absence that matters had gone so far with her daughter, that there

* Ann. Mon., i., 66.

faun. Mon., i., 102. I The story is told on the Close Roll for 21 Hen. III., but the whole has been re-printed, not without errors of transcription, in Shirley's Royal Letters (Chron. and Mem.), ii., 375.

must be a marriage, and accordingly a marriage there was at St. Edmonds, while he himself was being besieged by the King at Merton and knew nothing of Richard de Clare. If this story be true, the marriage must have been solemnized as early as 1233.

It is clear that the marriage question was being agitated before the date of the Provisions, probably while Richard de Clare was in the custody of De Burgh. There is also evidence that the King only heard of the marriage afterwards. He certainly felt very strongly on the subject. It may well be that he proposed at the Parliament at Merton a new law concerning wards; that his proposals were not approved at the time, but that he afterwards succeeded in getting the assent of his council to the clause, which is now considered to form part of the Provisions.

It will be remembered that the clause, which deals with the time of limitation in writs of right and certain other writs, does not occur in the writ sent to the sheriffs ordering the new laws to be proclaimed: but that an order was given in the following year that it should be observed in Ireland as in England. The Statutes of the Realm contain a copy of this order, but they do not notice the fact that the whole clause is written on the Close Roll* of 21 Henry III. as a new piece of legislation. Now it is very significant that in the margin opposite to the enrolment the word approbatur is written. The Provisions as they are printed contain two clauses which relate to matters said to have been discussed at the Parliament, but not the subject of legislationspecial bastardy and trespasses in parks. No great effort is required for a belief that the clause which deals with the limitations in writs was also discussed at the Merton parliament; and that the discussion resulted in the ordinance on the subject in the following year. Perhaps the same

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »