Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Reputation of Royal Judges Under the Angevin Kings


In twelfth and thirteenth-century England complaints that justice was being sold were common, culminating with King John's tacit admission in Magna Carta. Coupled with these complaints were charges of corruption against royal judges, or against royal aulici, curiales, or familiares, since until the middle of Richard I's reign no professional judiciary existed. Even in King John's time, familiares regis still served as judges. Yet a core of royal servants specializing in justice, “professionals” in a certain sense, had been created. Historians since Maitland have generally held a high opinion of these judges. According to Maitland, under Henry II and Richard I, “English law was administered by the ablest, the best educated men in the realm.…” F.M. Powicke wrote that the judiciary of Henry III was “probably the most stable and helpful, as it was the most intelligent, element in the State at this time.” How are we to reconcile historians' high opinion of the royal justices with their contemporaries' low opinion? Were the chroniclers simply drawing stock figures in their depictions of corrupt judges, or was their picture drawn from life?

Royal officials, including judges, proved popular targets for the pens of twelfth century moralists and satirists, some of whom wrote out of personal bitterness, having failed in the contest for royal patronage and high office.2 Capable of condemning curiales in classical Latin style was John of Salisbury. He knew many of Henry II's courtiers, and he came to despise them, especially those in clerical orders.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Antonia Gransden , “Propaganda in English Medieval Historiography,” Journal of Medieval History, 1 (1975): 363–81.

Ralph V. Turner , “Simon of Pattishall, Pioneer Professional Judge,” Albion, 9 (1977): 126.

T.F.T. Plucknett , “The Relations between Roman Law and English Common Law down to the Sixteenth Century,” University of Toronto Law Journal, 3 (19391940):32.

Ralph V. Turner , “The Royal Courts Treat Disseizin by the King: John and Henry III, 1199-1240,” American Journal of Legal History, 12(1968): 118.

C.A.F. Meekings , “Robert of Nottingham, Justice of the Bench, 1244-6,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 41 (1968): 236

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0095-1390
  • EISSN: -
  • URL: /core/journals/albion
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 2 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 62 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd April 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.