The Anglo-Saxon Dooms 560 – 975
The Laws of Æthelberht, King of Kent, 560-616 A.D.
These are the dooms which King Æthelberht established in the days of Augustine.
- The property of God and of the church, twelvefold; a bishop’s property, elevenfold; a priest’s property, ninefold; a deacon’s property, sixfold; a clerk’s property, threefold; churchfrith, twofold;. . . .
- If the king calls his leod to him, and any one there do them evil, (let him compensate with) a twofold bot, and fifty shillings to the king.
- If the king drink at any one’s home, and any one there do any lyswe, let him make two-fold bot.
- If a freeman steal from the king, let him pay ninefold.
- If a man slay another in the king’s tun, let him make bot with fifty shillings.
- If any one slay a freeman, fifty shillings to the king, as drihtinbeah.
- If the king’s ambihtsmith, or laadrinc, slay a man, let him pay a half leodgeld.
- The king’s mundbyrd, fifty shillings.
- If a freeman steal from a freeman, let him make threefold bot; and let the king have the wite and all the chattels.
- If a man lie with the king’s maiden, let him pay a bot of fifty shillings.
- If she be a grinding slave, let him pay a bot of twenty-five shillings. The third (class) twelve shillings.
- Let the king’s fedesl be paid for with twenty shillings
- If a man slay another in an eorl’s tun, let him make bot with twelve shillings.
- If a man lie with an eorl’s birele, let him make bot with twelve shillings.
- A ceorl’s mundbyrd, seven shillings.
- If a man lie with a ceorl’s birele, let him make bot with six shillings; with a slave of the second (class), fifty scaetts; with one of the third, thirty scaetts.
- If any one be the first to make an inroad into a man’s tun, let him make bot with six shillings; let him who follows, with three shillings; after, each, a shilling.
- If a man furnish weapons to another where there is strife, though no evil be done, let him make bot with six shillings.
- If wegreaf be done, let him make bot with six shillings.
- If the man be slain, let him make bot with twenty shillings.
- If a man slay another, let him make bot with a half leodgeld of 100 shillings. . . .
- If a freeman lie with a freeman’s wife, let him pay for it with his wergeld, and provide another wife with his own money, and bring her to the other.
- If any one thrust through the riht hamscyld, let him adequately compensate.
- If there be a feahfang, let there be fifty sceatts for bot.
- If there be an exposure of the bone, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If there be an injury of the bone, let bot be made with four shillings.
- If the outer hion be broken, let bot be made with ten shillings.
- If it be both, let bot be made with twenty shillings.
- If a shoulder be lamed, let bot be made with thirty shillings.
- If an ear be struck off, let bot be made with twelve shillings.
- If the other ear hear not, let bot be made with twenty-five shillings.
- If an ear be pierced, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If an ear be mutilated, let bot be made with six shillings.
- If an eye be (struck) out, let bot be made with fifty shillings.
- If the mouth or an eye be injured, let bot be made with twelve shillings.
- If the nose be pierced, let bot be made with nine shillings.
- If it be one ala, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If both be pierced, let bot be made with six shillings.
- If the nose be otherwise mutilated, for each let bot be made with six shillings.
- If it be pierced, let bot be made with six shillings.
- Let him who breaks the chin-bone pay for it with twenty shillings.
- For each of the four front teeth, six shillings; for the tooth which stands next to them four shillings; for that which stands next to that, three shillings; and then afterwards, for each a shilling.
- If the speech be injured, twelve shillings. If the collar-bone be broken, let bot be made with six shillings.
- Let him who stabs (another) through an arm, make bot with six shillings.
- If a thumb be struck off, twenty shillings. If a thumb nail be off, let bot be made with three shillings. If the shooting [i. e. fore] finger be struck off, let bot be made with eight shillings. If the middle finger be struck off, let bot be made with four shillings. If the gold [i. e. ring] finger be struck off, let bot be made with six shillings. If the little finger be struck off, let bot be made with eleven shillings.
- For every nail, a shilling.
- For the smallest disfigurement of the face, three shillings: and for the greater, six shillings.
- If any one strike another with his fist on the nose, three shillings.
- If there be a bruise, a shilling; if he receive a right hand bruise, let him [the striker] pay a shilling.
- If the bruise be black in a part not covered by the clothes, let bot be made with thirty scaetts.
- If it be covered by the clothes, let bot for each be made with twenty scaetts.
- If the belly be wounded, let bot be made with twelve shillings; if it be pierced through, let bot be made with twenty shillings.
- If any one be gegemed, let bot be made with thirty shillings.
- If any one be cear-wund, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If any one destroy (another’s) organ of generation, let him pay with three leud-gelds; if he pierce it through, let him make bot with six shillings; if it be pierced within, let him make bot with six shillings.
- If a thigh be broken, let bot be made with twelve shillings; if the man become halt, then the friends must arbitrate.
- If a rib be broken, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If a thigh be pierced through, for each stab six shillings; if (the wound be) above an inch, a shilling; for two inches, two; above three, three shillings.
- If a sinew be wounded, let bot be made with three shillings.
- If a foot be cut off, let fifty shillings be paid.
- If a great toe be cut off, let ten shillings be paid.
- For each of the other toes, let one-half be paid, like as it is stated for the fingers.
- If the nail of a great toe be cut off, thirty scaetts for bot; for each of the others, make bot with ten scaetts. . . .
- If a man buy a maiden with cattle, let the bargain stand, if it be without guile; but if there be guile, let him bring her home again, and let his property be restored to him.
- If she bear a live child, let her have half the property; if the husband die first.
- If she wish to go away with her children, let her have half the property.
- If the husband wish to have them, (let her portion be) as one child.
- If she bear no child, let her paternal kindred have the fioh and the morgengyftt.
- If a man carry off a maiden by force, let him pay fifty shillings to the owner, and afterwards buy (the object of) his will of the owner.
- If she be betrothed to another in money, let him make bot with twenty shillings.
- If she become gaengang, thirty-five shillings; and fifteen shillings to the king.
- If a man lie with an esne’s wife, her husband still living, let him make two-fold bot.
The Laws of Kings Hlothhære and Eadric, 673-686 AD.
These are the dooms which Hlothhære and Eadric, Kings of the Kentishmen, Established 673-686.
Hlothhære and Eadric, kings of the Kentishmen, augmented the laws, which their elders had before made, by these dooms, which hereafter say:
- If any one’s esne slay a man of an Eorl’s degree, whoever it be, let the owner pay with three hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and add three manwyrths thereto.
- If the slayer escape, let him add a fourth manwyrth, and let him prove, with good aewdas, that he could not obtain the slayer.
- If any one’s esne slay a freeman, whoever it be, let the owner pay with a hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and a second manwyrth thereto.
- If the slayer escape, let the owner pay for him with two manwyrths; and let him prove, with good aewdas, that he could not obtain the slayer.
- If a freeman steal a man; if the man return, and denounce him before the stermelda; let him clear himself, if he be able, and let him have the number of free aewda-men, and one with (himself) in the oath, each at the tun to which he belongs; if he be unable, let him pay. . .
- If any Kentish-man buy a chattel in Lundenwic, let him then have two or three true men to witness, or the king’s wic-reeve. If it be afterwards claimed of the man in Kent, let him then vouch the man who sold it to him to warranty, in the wic at the king’s hall, if he know him, and can bring him to the warranty; if he can not do that, let him prove at the altar, with one of his witnesses or with the king’s wic-reeve, that he bought the chattel openly in the wic, with his own property, and then let him be paid its worth; but if he can not prove that by lawful averment, let him give it up, and let the owner take possession of in
- The Laws of King Wihtræd, 690-725 AD.
These are the Dooms of Wihtræd, King of the Kentish-Men.
In the reign of the most clement king of the Kentish-men, Wihtræd, in the fifth year of his reign, the ninth indiction, the sixth day of Rugern, in the place which is called Berghamstyde, where was assembled a deliberative convention of the great men, there was Birhtwald, archbishop of Britain, and the forenamed king; also the bishop of Rochester, the same was called Gybmund, was present; and every degree of the church of that province spoke in unison with the obedient people. There the great men decreed, with the suffrages of all, these dooms, and added them to the lawful customs of the Kentishmen, as it hereafter said and declared. . . .
- Let the word of a bishop and of the king be, without an oath, incontrovertible.
- Let the aldor of a minster clear himself with a priest’s canne.
- Let a priest clear himself by his own sooth, in his holy garment before the altar, thus saying: “Veritatem dico in Christo, non mentior.” In like manner, let a deacon clear himself.
- Let a clerk clear himself with four of his fellows, and he alone with his hand on the altar, let the others stand by, make the oath.
- Let a stranger (clear himself) with his own oath at the altar; in like manner, a king’s thane.
- Let a ceorlish man clear himself with four of his fellows at the altar; and let the oath of all these be incontrovertible; then is the church canne right.
The Laws of King Alfred, 871-901 A.D.
The Lord spoke these words to Moses, and thus said: “I am the Lord your God. I led you out of the land of the Egyptians, and of their bondage.
Of oaths and of weds.
- At the first we teach, that it is most needful that every man warily keep his oath and his wed. If any one be constrained to either of these wrongfully, either to treason against his lord, or to any unlawful aid; then it is juster to belie than to fulfil. But if he pledge himself to that which it is lawful to fulfil, and in that belie himself, let him submissively deliver up his weapon and his goods to the keeping of his friends, and be in prison forty days in a king=s tun; let him there suffer whatever the bishop may prescribe to him; and let his kinsmen feed him, if he himself have no food. If he have no kinsmen, or have no food, let the king’s reeve feed him. If he must be forced to this, and he otherwise will not, if they bind him, let him forfeit his weapons and his property. If he be slain, let him lie uncompensated. If he flee thereout before the time, and he be taken, let him be in prison forty days, as he should before have been. But if he escape, let him be held a fugitive, and be excommunicate of all Christ’s churches. If, however, there be another man’s borh, let him make bot for the borhbryce, as the law may direct him, and the wedbryce, as his confessor may prescribe to him.
- If any one, for whatever crime, seek any of the mynsterhams to which the king’s feorm is incident, or other freehired which is worthy of reverence, let him have a space of three days to protect himself, unless he be willing to come to terms. If during this space, any one harm him by blow, or by bond, or wound him, let him make bot for each of these according to regular usage, as well with wer as with wite: and to the brotherhood one hundred and twenty shillings, as bot for the churchfrith: and let him not have forlongen his own.
- If any one break the king’s borh, let him make bot for the plaint, as the law shall direct him; and for the borhbryce with five pounds of maerra pence. For an archbishop’s borhbryce, or his mundbyrd, let him make bot with three pounds: for any other bishop’s or an earldormans borhbryce, or mundbyrd, let him make bot with two pounds.
Of plotting against a lord.
- If any one plot against the king’s life, of himself, or by harbouring of exiles, or of his men; let him be liable with his life and in all that he has; or let him prove himself according to his lord’s wer.
- We also ordain to every church which has been hallowed by a bishop, this fryth: if a fahman flee to or reach one, that for seven days no one drag him out. But if anyone do so, let him be liable in the king’s mundbyrd and the churchfryth; more if he there commit more wrong, if, despite of hunger, he can live; unless he fight his way out. If the brethren have further need of their church, let them keep him in another house, and let not that have more doors than the church. Let the churchealdor take care that during this term no one give him food. If he himself be willing to deliver up his weapons to his foes, let them keep him thirty days, and then let them give notice of him to his kinsmen. It is also churchfryth: if any man seek a church for any of those offences, which had not been before revealed, and there confess himself ill God’s name, be it half forgiven. He who steals on Sunday, or at Yule, or at Easter, or on Holy Thursday, and on Rogation days; for each of these we will that the bot be twofold, as during Lent-fast.
Of stealing in a church.
- If any one thieve aught in a church, let him pay the angylde, and the wite, such as shall belong to the angylde; and let the hand be struck off with which he did it. If he will redeem the hand, and that be allowed him, let him pay as may belong to his wer.
In case a man fight in the king’s hall.
- If any one fight in the king’s hall, or draw his weapon, and he be taken; be it in the king’s doom, either death, or life, as he may be willing to grant him. If he escape, and be taken again, let him pay for himself according to his wergeld, and make bot for the offence, as well wer as wite, according as he may have wrought.
Of fornication with a nun.
- If any one carry off a nun from a minster, without the king’s or the bishop’s leave, let him pay a hundred and twenty shillings, half to the king, half to the bishop and to the church-hlaford who owns the nun. If she live longer than he who carried her off, let her not have aught of his property. If she bear a child, let not that have of the property more than the mother. If any one slay her child, let him pay to the king the maternal kindred’s share; to the paternal kindred let their share be given. . . .
Of those men who lend their weapons for man-slaying.
- If any one lend his weapon to another that he may kill some one therewith, they may join together if they will in the wer. If they will not join together, let him who lent the weapon pay of the wer a third part, and of the wite a third part. If he be willing to justify himself, that he knew of no ill-design in the loan; that he may do. If a sword-polisher receive another man’s weapon to furbish, or a smith a man’s material, let them both return it sound as either of them may have before received it: unless either of them had before agreed that he should not hold it angylde. . .
Of confession of debt.
- If any one at the folk-mote make declaration of a debt, and afterwards wish to withdraw it, let him charge it on a righter person, if he can; if he cannot, let him forfeit his angylde [and take possession of the wite.] . . .
Of kinless men.
- If a man, kinless of paternal relatives, fight, and slay a man, and then if he have maternal relatives, let them pay a third of the wer; his guild-brethren a third part; for a third let him flee. If he have no maternal relatives, let his guild-brethren pay half, for half let him flee.
Of slaying a man thus circumstanced.
- If a man kill a man thus circumstanced, if he have no relatives, let half be paid to the king; half to his guild-brethren.
Of hloth-slaying of a two-hynde man.
- If any one with a hloth slay an unoffending twy-hynde man, let him who acknowledges the death-blow pay wer and wite; and let every one who was of the party pay thirty shillings as hloth-bot.
Of a six-hynde man.
- If it be a six-hynde man, let every man pay sixty shillings as hloth-bot; and the slayer, wer and full wite.
Of a twelve-hynde man.
- If he be a twelve-hynde man, let each of them pay one hundred and twenty shillings; and the slayer, wer and wite. If a hloth do this, and afterwards will deny it on oath, let them all be accused, and let them then all pay the wer in common; and all, one wite, such as shall belong to the wer.
Of those who commit folk-leasing.
- If a man commit folk-leasing, and it be fixed upon him, with no lighter thing let him make bot than that his tongue be cut out; which must not be redeemed at any cheaper rate than it is estimated at according to his wer. . . .
Of a holdgetael.
- If a man from one holdgetael wish to seek a lord in another holdgetael, let him do it with the knowledge of the ealdorman whom he before followed in his shire. If he do it without his knowledge, let him who entertains him as his man pay 120 shillings as wite; let him, however, deal the half to the king in the shire where he before followed, half in that into which he comes. If he has done anything wrong where he before was, let him make bot for it who has their received him as his man; and to the king 120 shillings as wite.
In case a man fight before an ealdorman in the gemot.
- If a man fight before a king’s ealdorman in the gemot, let him make bot with wer and wite as it may be right; and before this 120 shillings to the ealdorman as wite. If he disturb the folkmote by drawing his weapon, one hundred and twenty shillings to the ealdorman as wite. If aught of this happen before a king’s ealdorman’s junior, or a king’s priest, thirty shillings as wite.
Of fighting in a ceorlish man’s flet.
- If any one fight in a ceorlish man’s flet, with six shillings let him make bot to the ceorl. If he draw his weapon and fight not, let it be half of that. If, however, either of these happen to a six-hynde man, let it increase threefoldly, according to the ceorlish bot to a twelve-hynde man, twofoldly, according to the six-hynde’s bot.
- The king’s burh-bryce shall be 120 shillings. An archbishop’s, ninety shillings. Any other bishop’s, and an ealdorman’s, sixty shillings. A twelve-hynde man’s, thirty shillings. A six-hynde man’s, fifteen shillings. A ceorl’s edorbryce, five shillings. If aught of this happen when the fyrd is out, or in Lent fast, let the bot be twofold. If any one in Lent put down holy law among the people without leave, let him make bot with 120 shillings.
- The man who has boc-land, and which his kindred left him, then ordain we that he must not give it from his maeg-burg, if tere be writing or witness that it was forbidden by those men who at first acquired it, and by those who gave it to him, that he should do so; and then let that be declared in the presence of the king and of the bishop, before his kinsmen.
- We also command: that the man who knows his foe be homesitting fight not before he demand justice of him. If he have such power that he can beset his foe, and besiege him within, let him keep him within for seven days, and attack him not, if he will remain within. And, then, after seven days, if he will surrender, and deliver up his weapons, let him be kept safe for thirty days, and let notice of him be given to his kinsmen and his friends. If, however, he flee to a church, then let it be according to the sanctity of the church; as we have before said above. But if he have not sufficient power to besiege him within, let him ride to the ealdorman, and beg aid of him. If he will not aid him, let him ride to the king before he fights. In like manner also, if a man come upon his foe, and he did not before know him to be homestaying; if he be willing to deliver up his weapons, let him be kept for thirty days, and let notice of him be given to his friends; if he will not deliver up his weapons, then he may attack him. If he be willing to surrender, and to deliver up his weapons, and any one after that attack him, let him pay as well wer as wound, as he may do, and wite, and let him have forfeited his maegship. We also declare, that with his lord a man may fight orwige, if any one attack the lord: thus may the lord fight for his man. After the same wise, a man may fight with his born kinsman, if a man attack him wrongfully, except against his lord; that we do not allow. And a man may fight orwige, if he find another with his lawful wife, within closed doors, or under one covering, or with his lawfully-born daughter, or with his lawfully-born sister, or with his mother, who was given to his father as his lawful wife.
Of the celebration of mass-days.
- To all freemen let these days be given, but not to theow-men and esne-workmen: twelve days at Yule, and the day on which Christ overcame the devil, and the commemoration day of St. Gregory, and seven days before Easter and seven days after, and one day at St. Peter’s tide and St. Paul’s, and in harvest the whole week before St. Mary-mass, and one day at the celebration of All-Hallows and the four Wednesdays in the four ember weeks. To all theow-men be given, to those whom it may be most desirable to give, whatever any man shall give them in God’s name, or they at any of their moments may deserve.
The Laws of King Edward the Elder, 901-924 A.D.
Of doom and suit.
King Edward commands all the reeves: that you judge such just dooms as you know to be most righteous, and as in the doom-book stands. Fear not on any account to pronounce folkright; and that every suit have a term when it shall be brought forward, that you then may pronounce.
- And I will that every man have his warrantor; and that no man buy out of port, but have the port-reeve’s witness, or that of other unlying men whom one may believe. And if any one buy out of port then let him incur the king’s oferhyrnes, and let the warranty nevertheless go forward, until it be known where it shall stop. Also we have ordained: that he who should vouch to warranty should have unlying witness to the effect that he rightfully vouched it; or should bring forward an oath which he might believe who made the claim. So we have ordained the same respecting ownership; that he should adduce unlying witness thereof, or bring forward the oath, if he could, of persons unchosen, by which the claimant should be bound. But if he could not, then should be named to him six men of the same neighbourhood wherein he was resident, and of the six let him get one for one ox, or for that cattle which may be the worth of this, and afterward let it increase, according to the value of the property, if there ought to be more. Also we have ordained: if there were any evil-minded man who would put another’s property in borh for wither-tihtle, that he should then declare on oath that he did not Afrom any knavery, but with full right, without fraud and guile,” and that he then should there do as he durst with whom it is attached: “like as he it owned, so be it vouched to warranty.”
Of him who denies justice to another.
- Also we have ordained of what he were worthy who denied justice to another, either in boc-land or in folc-land, and that he should give him a term respecting the folc-land when he should do him justice before the reeve. But if he had no right either to the boc-land or to the folc-land, that he who denied the right should be liable in thirty shillings to the king; and for the second offense, the like: for the third offense, the king’s oferhyrnes, that is, 120 shillings, unless he previously desist.
- Also we have ordained concerning those men who were perjurers; if that were made evident, or an oath failed to them, or were out-proved, that they afterwards should not be oath-worthy, but ordeal-worthy.
- King Edward exhorted his witan when they were at Exeter, that they should all search out how their frith might be better than it had previously been: for it seemed to him that it was more indifferently observed than it should be, what he had formerly commanded. He then asked them, who would apply to its amendment, and be in that fellowship that he was, and love that which he loved, and shun that which he shunned, both on sea and land? That is, then, that no man deny justice to another: if any one do so, let him make bot as it before is written; for the first offence, with thirty shillings; and for the second offense, the like; and for the third, with 120 shillings to the king.
Of the reeve who does not lawfully exact.
- And if the reeve do not lawfully exact it, with the witness of those men who are assigned him to bear witness, then let him make bot of my oferhyrnes, with 120 shillings.
Of those accused of theft.
- If any one be accused of theft, then let those take him in borh who before commended him to his lord, that he may justify himself thereof; or let other friends, if they have any, do the same. If he knows not who will take him in borh, then let those on whom it is incumbent take an in borh on his property. If he have neither property nor other borh, then let him be held to judgment.
Of those who will not seek their own.
- Also I will that every man have constantly those men ready on his land, who may lead those men who desire to seek their own, and for no meed-monies prevent them, nor anywhere protect or harbour a convicted offender, willfully nor violently.
Of those who protect a convicted offender.
- If any one disregard this, and break his oath and his wed, which all the nation has given, let him make bot as the doom-book may teach: but if he will not, let him forfeit the friendship of us all, and all that he has. If any one harbour him after that, let him make bot as the doom-book may say, and as he ought who harbours a fugutive, if it be here within. If it be within the east-country, let him make bot according as the frith-gewritu say.
Of him who forfeits his freedom.
- If any one, through a charge of theft, forfeit his freedom, and deliver himself up, and his kindred forsake him, and he know not who shall make bot for him; let him then be worthy of the theow-work which thereto belongs, and let the wer abate for the kindred.
Of him who receives another man’s man without leave.
- Let no man receive another man’s man without his leave whom he before followed, and until he be blameless towards every hand. If any one do so, let him make bot of my oferhyrnes.
- I will that each reeve have a gemot always once in fourweeks; and so do that every man be worthy of folk-right: and that every suit have an end and a term when it shall be brought forward. If that any one disregard, let him make bot as we before ordained.
The Laws of Alfred, Guthrum, and Edward the Elder
These are the dooms which King Alfred and King Guthrum chose. And this is the ordinance also which King Alfred and King Guthrum, and afterwards King Edward and King Guthrum, chose and ordained, when the English and Danes fully took to peace and to friendship; and the witan also, who were afterwards, oft and unseldom that same renewed and increased with good.
This is the first which they ordained: that they would love one God, and zealously renounce every kind of heathendom. And they established worldly rules also for these reasons, that they knew that else they might not many control, nor would many men else submit to divine bot as they should: and the worldly bot they established in common to Christ and the king, wheresoever a man would not lawfully submit to divine bot, by direction of the bishops.
- And this then is the first which they ordained: that church-grith within the walls, and the king’s hand-grith, stand equally inviolate.
- If any one violate Christianity, or reverence heathenism, by word or by work, let him pay as well wer, as wite or lah-slit, according as the deed may be.
- And if a man in orders steal, or fight, or forswear, or fornicate, let him make bot for it according as the deed may be, as well by wer, as by wite or by lah-slit; and, above all things, make bot before God as the canon teaches, and find borh thereof, or yield to prison. And if a mass-priest misdirect the people about a festival or about a fast, let him pay thirty shillings among the English, and among the Danes three half-marks. If a priest fetch not the chrism at the right term, or refuse baptism to him who has need thereof, let him pay wite among the English, and among the Danes lah-slit; that is, twelve ores.
Of incestuous persons.
- And concerning incestuous persons, the witan have ordained that the king shall have the upper, and the bishop the nether, unless bot be made before God and before the world, according as the deed may be; so as the bishop may teach. If two brothers or near kinsmen commit fornication with the same woman, let them make bot very strictly, in such wise as it may be allowed, as well by wer, as by wite or by lah-slit, according as the deed may be. If a man in orders fordo himself with capital crime, let him be seized and held to the bishop’s doom.
- If a man guilty of death desire confession, let it never be denied him. And all God’s dues let every one zealously further, by God’s mercy, and by the wites which the witan have annexed thereto.
- If any one withhold tithes, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one withhold Rom-feoh, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one discharge not light-scot, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one give not plough-alms, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. If any one deny any divine dues, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, wite among the English. As if he fight and wound any one, let him be liable in his wer. If he fell a man to death, let him then be an outlaw, and let every one of those seize him with hearm who desire right. And if he so do that any one kill him, for that he resisted God’s law or the kings, if that be proved true, let him lie uncompensated.
Of workings on a festival-day.
- If any one engage in Sunday marketing, let him forfeit the chattel, and twelve ores among the Danes, and thirty shillings among the English. If a freeman work on a festival-day, let him forfeit his freedom, or pay wite or lah-slit. Let a theow-man suffer in his hide or hide-gild. If a lord oblige his theow to work on a festival-day, let him pay lah-slit within the Danish law, and wite among the English.
- If a freeman break a lawful feast, let him pay wite or lahslit. If a theowman do so, let him suffer in his hide or hide-gild.
Of ordeals and oaths.
- Ordeal and oaths are forbidden on festival-days and lawful fast-days; and he who shall break that, let him pay lah-slit among the Danes, and wite among the English. If it can be so ordered, no one condemned should ever be executed on the Sunday festival, but be secured and held till the festival be gone by.
- If a limb-maimed man who has been condemned or forsaken, and he after that live three days then any one who is willing to take care of sore and soul may help him, with the bishop’s leave.
Of witches, diviners, perjurers, etc.
- If witches or diviners, perjurers or morth-workers, or foul, defiled, notorious adulteresses, be found anywhere within the land; let them be driven from the country, and the people cleansed, or let them totally perish within the country, unless they desist, and the more deeply make bot.
Of ecclesiastics and foreigners.
- If any one wrong an ecclesiastic or a foreigner, through any means, as to money or as to life, then shall the king or the eorl there in the land, and the bishop of the people, be unto him in the place of a kinsman and of a protector, unless he have another; and let bot be strictly made, according as the deed may be, to Christ and to the king, as it is fitting; or let him avenge the deeds very deeply who is king among the people.
How a twelve-hynde man shall be paid for.
- A twelve-hynde man’s wer is twelve hundred shillings. A two-hynde man’s wer is two hundred shillings. If any one be slain, let him be paid for according to his birth. And it is right that the slayer, after he has given wed for the wer, find, in addition, wer-borh according as shall thereto belong; that is, to a twelve-hynde’s wer-borh, eight of the paternal kins and four of the maternal kin. When that is done, then let the king’s mund be established, that is, that they all of either kindred, with their hands in common upon one weapon, engage to the mediator that the king’s mund shall stand. In twenty-one days from that day let 120 shillings be paid as heals-fang at a twelve-hynde’s wer. Heals-fang belongs to no kinsman, except to those who are within the degrees of blood. In twenty-one days from that day that the heals-fang is paid, let the manbot be paid; in twenty-one days from this, the fight-wite; in twenty-one days from this, the frum-gyld of the wer; and so forth, till it be fully paid, within the time that the witan have appointed. After this they must depart with love, if they desire to have full friendship. All men shall do with regard to the wer of a ceorl that which belongs to his condition, like as we have said about a twelve-hynde man.
Thus shall a man swear fealty oaths.
- By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, I will be to ____ faithful and true, and love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns, according to God’s law, and according to the world s principles, and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by work, do ought of what is loathful to him; on condition that he keep me as I am willing to deserve, and all that fulfil that our agreement was, when I to him submitted and chose his will.
Thus shall a man swear when he has discovered his property and brings it in process.
- By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, so I my suit prosecute with full folk-right, without fraud and without deceit, and without any guile, as was stolen from me the cattle ____ that I claim, and that I have attached with ____.
The other’s oath with whom a man discovers his cattle.
- By the Lord, I was not at rede nor at deed, neither counsellor nor doer, where were unlawfully led away _____’s cattle. But as I cattle have, so did I lawfully obtain it. And: as I vouch it to warranty, so did he sell it to me into whose hand I now set it. And: as I cattle have, so did it come to my own property and so it by folk-right my own possession is, and my rearing.
The oath of him who discovers his property that he does it not either for hatred or for envy.
- By the Lord, I accuse not ____ either for hatred or for envy, or for unlawful lust of gain; nor know I anything soother; but as my informant to me said, and I myself in sooth believe, that he was the thief of my property.
The other’s oath that he is guiltless.
- By the Lord, I am guiltless, both in deed and counsel, and of the charge of which ____ accuses me.
His companion’s oath who stands with him.
- By the Lord, the oath is clean and unperjured which ____ has sworn.
Oath if a man finds his property unsound after he has bought it.
- In the name of Almighty God, you did engage to me sound and clean that which you sold to me, and full security against afterclaim, on the witness of ____, who then was with us two.
How he shall swear who stands with another in witness.
- In the name of Almighty God, as I here for ____ in true witness stand, unbidden and unbought, so I with my eyes over-saw, and with my ears over-heard, that which I with him say.
Oath that he knew not of foulness or fraud.
- In the name of Almighty God, I knew not, in the things about which you sued, foulness or fraud, or infirmity or blemish, up to that day’s-tide that I sold it to you: but it was both sound and clean, without any kind of fraud.
- In the name of the living God, as I money demand, so have I lack of that which ____ promised me when I mine to him sold.
- In the name of the living God, I owe not to ____ sceatt or shilling, or penny or penny’s worth; but I have discharged to him all that I owe him, so far as our verbal contracts were at first.
Of the oath and degree-bot of men in orders.
- A mass-priest’s oath, and a secular thane’s, are in English law reckoned of equal value; and by reason of the seven church-degrees that the mass-priest, through the grace of God, has acquired, he is worthy of thane-right.
Of the Mercian oath.
- A twelve-hynde man’s oath stands for six ceorls oaths: because, if a man should avenge a twelve-hynde man, he will be fully avenged on six ceorls, and his wer-gild will be six ceorls’ wer-gilds. Bequeathed it and died, he who it owned, with full folk-right, so as it his elders, with money and with life, lawfully got, and let and left, in power of him, whom they well gifted. And so it have, as he it gave, who had it to give, without fraud and unforbidden; and I will possess it, as my own property, that that I have; and ne’er for thee design, nor plot nor ploughland, nor turf nor toft, nor furrow nor foot-mark, nor land nor leasowe, nor fresh nor marsh, nor rough nor plain, by wood nor field, by land nor by strand, by weald nor by water, but that will maintain, the while that I live; for there is no man alive, who ever heard that any one made plaint against, or summoned him at the hundred, or anywhere at gemot, in market-place, or among church-folk, the while that he lived. Sackless he was in life, be he in the grave, so as he may. Do as I teach: be you with yours, and leave me with mine: I covet not yours, nor laeth nor land, nor sac nor socn: nor need you mine; nor design I to you anything.
The North People’s Law.
- The North people’s king’s geld is thirty thousand thrymsas; fifteen thousand thrymsas are for the wergild, and fifteen thousand for the cynedom. The wer belongs to the kindred, and the cynebot to the people.
- An archbishop’s and an aetheling’s wer-gild is fifteen thousand thrymsas.
- A bishop’s and ealdorman’s, eight thousand thrymsas.
- A hold’s and a king’s high-reeves, four thousand thrymsas.
- A mass-thane’s and a secular thane’s, two thousand thrymsas.
- A ceorl’s wergeld is two hundred and sixty-six thrymsas, that is two hundred shillings by Mercian law.
- And if a Welsh-man thrive so that he have a hide of land, and can bring forth the king’s gafol, then in his wergeld 110 shillings. And if he thrive not except to half a hide, then let his wer be eighty shillings.
- If he have not any land, and yet be free, let him be paid for with seventy shillings.
- And if a ceorlish man thrive, so that he have five hides of land for the king’s ut-ware, and any one slay him, let him be paid for with two thousand thrymsas.
- And though he thrive, so that he have a helm and a coat of mail, and a sword ornamented with gold, if he have not that land, he is nevertheless a ceorl.
- And if his son and his son’s son so thrive, that they have so much land; afterwards the offspring shall be of gesithcund race, at two thousand thrymsas.
- And if they have not that, nor to that can thrive, let them be paid for as ceorlish.
- Let the king’s wergeld be with the English race, by folkright, thirty thousand thrymsas, and of these, let fifteen thousand be for the wer, and the other fifteen thousand for the cynedom. The wer belongs to the kindred of the royal family, and the cynebot to the people of the country.
- An archbishop’s and an eorl’s wergeld is fifteen thousand thrymsas. . . .
- A ceorl’s wergeld is 267 thrymsas by the Danish law.
- And a Welshman’s wergeld, if he be to that degree enriched that he have a hide of land and property, and pay gafol to the king, it is then 220 shillings. But if he be only risen to half a hide, then let his wer be eighty shillings.
- If he have no land, but is free, let him be paid for with seventy shillings.
- If a ceorl be enriched to that degree, that he have five hides of land, and anyone slay him, let him be paid for with two thousand thrymsas.
- And if he acquire so that he have a coat of mail and a helmet, and an over-gilded sword, if he have not that land, he is sithcund.
- And if his son and the son’s son that acquire, that they have so much land, let their successors be of the sithcund kin, and let them be paid for with two thousand thrymsas.
Of Mercian Law
A ceorl’s wergeld is by the Mercian law 200 shillings. A thane’s wergeld is six times as much, that is, twelve hundred shillings. Then is a king’s simple wergeld six thanes’ wer by Mercian law, that is, thirty thousand sceatts, and that is altogether 120 pounds. So much is the wergeld in the people’s folkright by Mercian law. And for the cynedom there is due another such sum as bot for cynegild. The wer belongs to kindred, and the cynebot to the people.
Of people’s ranks and law.
- It is whilom, in the laws of the English, that people and law went by ranks, and then were the counsellors of the nation of worship worthy, each according to his condition, eorl and ceorl, thegn and theoden.
- And if a ceorl thrived, so that he had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bell-house and burhgate-seat, and special duty in the king’s hall, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.
- And if a thane thrived, so that he served the king, and on his summons, rode among his household; if he then had a thane who him followed, who to the king’s utware, five hides had, and in the king’s hall served his lord, and thrice with his errand went to the king; he might thenceforth, with his fore-oath, his lord represent, at various needs, and his plaint lawfully conduct, wheresover he ought.
- And he who so prosperous a vice-gerent had not, swore to himself according to his right, or it forfeited.
- And if a thane thrived, so that he became an eorl, then was he thenceforth of eorl-right worthy.
- And if a merchant thrived, so that he fared thrice over the wide sea by his own means, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.
- And if there a scholar were, who through learning thrived, so that he had holy orders, and served Christ; then was he thenceforth of rank and power so much worthy, as then to those orders rightfully belonged, if he himself conducted as he should; unless he should misdo, so that he those orders’ ministry might not minister.
- And if it happened, that any one a man in orders, or a stranger, anywhere injured, by word or work; then pertained it to king and to the bishop, that they that should make good, as they soon might.
The Laws of King Athelstan 924-939 A.D.
I, Aethelstan king, with the counsel of Wulfhelm, archbishop, and of my other bishops, make known to the reeves at each burh, and beseech you, in God’s name, and by all his saints, and also by my friendship, that you first of my own goods render the tithes both of livestock and of the year’s earthly fruits, so that they may most rightly be either meted, or told, or weighed out; and let the bishops then do the like from their own goods, and my ealdormen and my reeves the same. And I will, that the bishop and the reeves command it to all those who ought to obey them, that it be done at the right term. Let us bear in mind how Jacob the patriarch spoke: “Decimas et hostias pacificas offeram tibi;” and how Moses spoke in God’s law: “Decimas et primitias non tardabis offerre Domino.” It is for us to think how awfully it is declared in the books: If we will not render the tithes to God, that he will take from us the nine parts when we least expect; and, moreover, we have the sin in addition thereto. And I will also that my reeves do, that there be given the churchscots and the soulscots at the places to which they rightly belong: and plow-alms yearly, on this condition; that they shall enjoy it at the holy places who are willing to serve their churches, and of God and of me are willing to deserve it: but let him who will not, forfeit the bounty, or again turn to right. Now you hear, says the king, what I give to God, and what you ought to fulfil by my oferhyrnes. And do you also so that you may give to me my own what you for me may acquire. I wil1 not that you unjustly anywhere acquire aught for me; but I will grant to you your own justly, on this condition, that you yield to me mine; and shield both yourselves, and those whom you ought to exhort, against God’s anger and against my oferhyrnes.
- First: that no thief be spared, who may be taken hand-haebbende, above twelve years, and above eight pence. And if any one so do, let him pay for the thief according to his wer, and let it not be the more settled for the thief, or that he clear himself thereby. But if he will defend himself, or flees away, then let him not be spared. If a thief be brought into prison: that he be forty days in prison, and let him be released thereout with 120 shillings, and let the kindred enter into borh for him that he evermore desist. And if after that he steal, let them pay for him according to his wer, or bring him again therein: and if any one stand up for him, let him pay for him according to his wer, as well to the king as to him to whom it lawfully belongs: and let every man of those there who stand by him pay to the king 120 shillings as wite.
Of lordless men.
- And we have ordained: respecting those lordless men of whom no law can be got, that the kindred be commanded that they domicile him to folkright, and find him a lord in the folkmote; and if they then will not or cannot produce him at the term, then be he thenceforth a flyma, and let him slay him for a thief who can come at him: and whoever after that shall harbour him, let him pay for him according to his wer, or by it clear himself.
Of denial of right.
- And the lord who denies justice, and upholds his evil-doing than, and the wing be applied to on that account; let him pay the ceapgeld, and give to the king 120 shillings: and he who applies to the king before he has prayed for justice, as oft it shall behove him; let him pay the like wite that the other should if he had denied him justice. And the lord who is privy to his theow’s theft, and it is made manifest against him, let him forfeit the theow, and be liable in his wer, for the first time. If he do so oftener, let him be liable in all that he has: and, also, such of the king s horderes, or of our reeves, as shall be privy to the thieves who have stolen, let him be subject to the like. . . .
- And we have ordained respecting witch-crafts, and lybacs, and morthdaeds: if any one should be thereby killed, and he could not deny it, that he be liable in his life. But if he will deny it, and at threefold ordeal shall be guilty; that he be 120 days in prison: and after that let kindred take him out, and give to the king 120 shillings, and pay the wer to his kindred, and enter into borh for him, that he evermore desist from the like.
- Let incendiaries, and those who avenge a thief, be worthy of the like law. And he who will avenge a thief, and wounds no man, let him give to the king 120 shillings, as wite for the assault.
Of the single ordeal.
- And we have ordained respecting the single ordeal, for those men who have been often accused, and have been found guilty, and they know not who shall take them in borh; let them be brought into prison: and let them be delivered out as here before is ordained.
Of landless men.
- And we have ordained: if any landless man should become a follower of another shire, and again seek his kinsfolk; that he may harbour him on this condition, that he present him to folkright if he there do any wrong, or make bot for him.
Of attaching cattle.
- He who attaches cattle, let five of his neighbours be named to him; and of the five let him get one who will swear with him that he takes it to himself by folkright: and he who will keep it to himself, to him let there be named ten men, and let him get two of them, and give the oath that it was born on his property, without the rimath; and let his cyreath stand for over twenty pence.
- And let no man exchange any property without the witness of the reeve, or of the mass-priest, or of the landlord, or of the hordere, or of other unlying man. If any one do so, let him give thirty shillings, and let the landlord take possession of the exchange.
Of wrongful witness.
- But if it be found that any of these have given wrongful witness, that his witness never stand again for aught, and that he also give thirty shillings as wite.
That a man buy not out of port.
- And we have ordained: that no man buy any property out of port over twenty pence; but let him buy there within, on the witness of the portreeve, or of another unlying man: or further, on the witness of the reeves at the folkmote.
Of reparing of burhs.
- And we ordain: that every burh be repaired fourteen days over Rogation Days. Secondly: that every marketing be within port.
- Thirdly: that there be one money over all the king’s dominion, and that no man mint except within port. And if the moneyer be guilty, let the hand be struck off that wrought the offense, and, be set up on the money-smithy but if it be an accusation, and he is willing to clear himself; then let him go to the hot-iron, and clear the hand therewith with which he is charged that fraud to have wrought. And if at the ordeal he should be guilty, let the like be done as here before ordained.
In Canterbury seven moneyers; four the king’s, and two the bishop’s, one the abbot’s.
At Rochester three; two the king’s, and one the bishop’s.
At London eight.
At Winchester six.
At Lewes two.
At Hastings one.
Another at Chichester.
At Hampton two.
At Wareham two.
At Exeter two.
At Shaftesbury two.
Else, at the other burhs one.
- Fourthly: that no shieldwright cover a shield with sheep’s skin; and if he so do, let him pay thirty shillings.
- Fifthly: that every man have to the plough two well-horsed men.
Of those who take meed-money of a thief.
- Sixthly: if any one take meed-money of a thief, and suppress another’s right, let him be liable in his wer.
- Seventhly: that no man part with a horse over sea, unless he wish to give it.
Of a theowman who is guilty at the ordeal.
- And we have ordained respecting a theowman: if he were guilty at the ordeal, that the ceapgeld should be paid; and that he be scourged thrice, or a second geld be given: and be the wite of half value for theows.
Of him who fails to attend the gemot.
- If any one, when summoned fail to attend the gemot thrice; let him pay the king’s oferhyrnes, and let it be announced seven days before the gemot is to be. But if he will not do right, nor pay the oferhyrnes; then let all the chief men belongirg to the burh ride to him, and take all that he has, and put him in bohr. But if any one will not ride with his fellows, let him pay the king’s oferhyrnes. And let it be announced at the gemot, that the frith be kept toward all that the king wills to be within the frith, and theft be foregone by his life and by all that he has. And he who for the wites not desist, then let all the chief men belonging to the burh ride to him, and take all that he has; and let the king take possession of half, of half the men who may be in the riding; and place him in borh. If he knows not who will be his borh, let them imprison him. If he will not suffer it, let him be killed, unless he escape. If any one will avenge him, or be at feud with any of them, then be he foe of the king, and to all his friends. If he escape, and any one harbour him, let him be liable to his wer; unless he shall dare to clear himself by the flyma’s-wer, that he knew he was a flyma.
Of him who compounds for an ordeal.
- If any one compound for an ordeal, let him compound for the ceapgeld, as he can, and not for the wite; unless he is willing to grant it to whom it may belong.
Of him who receives another man’s man.
- And let no man receive another man’s man, without his leave whom he before followed. If any one so do; let him give up the man, and make bot the king’s oferhyrnes. And let no one dismiss his accused man from him before he has done what is right.
Of him who gives wed for an ordeal.
- If any one gives wed for an ordeal, then let him come three days before to the mass-priest who is to hallow it; and let him feed himself with bread and with water, and salt, and herbs, before he shall go to it; and let him attend mass each of the three days, and make an oblation, and go to the house on the day that he shall go to the ordeal: and then swear the oath that he is, according to the folkright, guiltless of the charge, before he goes to the ordeal. And if it be water, that he dive an ell and a half by the rope; if it be iron ordeal, let it be three days before the hand be undone. And let every man begin his charge with a fore-oath, as we before ordained: and be each of those fasting on either hand, who may be there together, by God’s command and the archbishop’s: and let there be on either side not more than twelve. If the accused man be with a larger company than some twelve, then be the ordeal void, unless they will go from him.
Of him who buys property.
- And he who buys property with witnesses, and if after obliged to vouch it to warranty, then let him receive it from whom he before had bought it, whether he be free or bond, whichsoever he be. And let no marketing be on Sundays; but if any one do so, let him forfeit the goods, and pay thirty shillings as wite.
- And he who shall swear a false oath, and it be made clear against him; that he never after be oath-worthy, nor let him lie within a hallowed burial-place, though he die, unless he have the testimony of the bishop in whose shrift-shire he may be, that he has made such bot as his confessor prescribed to him. And let his confessor announce to the bishop, within thirty days, whether he would turn to the bot. If he do not so, let him make bot in such wise as the bishop shall prescribe to him.
- But if any one of my reeves will not do this, and care less about it than we have commanded; then let him pay my oferhyrnes, and I will find another who will. And let the bishop exact the oferhyrnes of the reeve for the first time five pounds; for the second time, his wer; for the third time, let him forfeit all that he has, and the friendship of us all. All this was established in the great synod at Greatanlea: in which was the archbishop Wulfhelm, with all the noblemen and witan whom King Aethelstan gather. . .
Doom concerning hot iron and water.
- And concerning the ordeal we enjoin by command of God, and of the archbishop, and of all the bishops: that no man come within the church after the fire is borne in with which the ordeal shall be heated, except the mass-priest, and him who shall go thereto: and let there be measured nine feet from the stake to the mark, by the man’s feet who goes thereto. But if it be water, let it be heated till it low to boiling. And be the kettle of iron or of brass, of lead or of clay. And if it be a single accusation, let the hand dive after the stone up to the wrist, and if it be threefold, up to the elbow. And when the ordeal is ready, then let two men go in of either side; and be they agreed that it is so hot as we before have said. And let go an equal number of men of either side, and stand on both sides of the ordeal, along the church; and let these all be fasting,and abstinent from their wives on that night; and let the mass-priest sprinkle holy water over them all, and let each of them taste of the holy water, and give them all the book and the image of Christ’s rood to kiss: and let no man mend the fire any longer when the hallowing is begun; but let the iron lie upon the hot embers till the last collect: after that let it be laid upon the stapela; and let there be no other speaking within, except that they earnestly pray to Almighty God that he make manifest what is truest. And let him go thereto; and let his hand be enveloped, and be it postponed till after the third day, whether it be foul or clean within the envelope. And he who shall break this law, be the ordeal with respect to him void, and let him pay to the king 120 shillings as wite. Walreaf is the nithing’s deed: if any one desire to deny it, let him do so with eight and forty full-born thanes.
The Laws of King Edmund I, 939-946 A.D.
King Edmund assembled a great synod at London, during the holy Easter tide, as well of ecclesiastical as of secular degree. There was Oda archbishop, and Wulfstan archbishop, and many other bishops, meditating concerning the condition of their souls, and of those who were subject to them.
Of the chastity of ecclesiastics.
- This is the first: that those holy orders who have to teach God’s people by their life’s example, hold their chastity according to their degree, whichsoever it may be. If they do not so, then are they worthy of that which in the canon is ordained; that is, that they forfeit their worldly possessions and a consecrated burial-place, unless they make bot.
Of tithes and churchscots.
- A tithe we enjoin to every Christian man by his Christendom and churchscot, and Rome-feoh, and plough-alms. And if any one will not do so, let him be excommunicated.
- If any one shed a Christian man’s blood, let him not come into the king’s presence, ere he go to penance, as the bishop may teach him, and his confessor direct him.
Of nun’s fornication and of adultery.
- He who commits fornication with a nun, let him not be worthy of a consecrated burial place (unless he make bot), any more than a manslayer. We have ordained the same respecting adultery.
Of the repairing of churches.
- We have also ordained: that every bishop repair the house of God in his own [district], and also remind the king that all God’s churches be well conditioned as is very needful for us.
Of perjurers and lyblacs.
- Those who swear falsely and work lyblac, let them be forever cast out of all commission with God, unless they turn to right repentence.
The Laws of King Edgar, 959-975 A.D.
This is the Ordinance how the Hundred shall be held.
- That they meet always within four weeks: and that every man do justice to another.
- That a thief shall be pursued………. If there be present need, let it be known to the hundred-man, and let him [make it known] to the tithing-men; and let all go forth to where God may direct them to go: let them do justice on the thief, as it was formerly the enactment of Edmund. And let the ceapgeld be paid to him who owns the cattle, and the rest be divided into two; half to the hundred, half to the lord, excepting men; and let the lord take possession of the men.
- And the man who neglects this, and denies the doom of the hundred, and the same be afterwards proved against him; let him pay to the hundred thirty pence, and for the second time sixty pence; half to the hundred, half to the lord. If he do so a third time, let him pay half a pound: for the fourth time, let him forfeit all that he owns, and be an outlaw, unless the king allow him to remain in the country.
- And we have ordained concerning unknown cattle; that no one should possess it without the testimonies of the men of the hundred, or of the tithing-man; and that he be a well trusty man: and, unless he have either of these, let no vouching to warranty be allowed him.
- We have also ordained: if the hundred pursue a track into another hundred, that notice be given to the hundred-man, and that he then go with them. If he neglect this, let him pay thirty shillings to the king.
- If any one flinch from justice and escape, let him who held him to answer for the offense pay the anylde. And if any one accuse him of having sent him away, let him clear himself, as it is established in the country.
- In the hundred, as in any other gemot, we ordain: that folkright be pronounced in every suit, and that a term be fixed when it shall be fulfilled. And he who shall break that term, unless it be by his lord’s decree, let him make bot with thirty shillings, and, on the day fixed, fulfil that which he ought to have done before.
- An ox’s bell, and a dog’s collar, and a blast-horn, either of these three shall be worth a shilling, and each is reckoned an informer.
- Let the iron that is for the threefold ordeal weigh three pounds; and for the single, one pound.
The texts above contain a large number of unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon legal terms. Greg Rose [email@example.com] provided further information on both the the manuscript history of the texts, and a glossary of the terms.
This glossary should be prefaced by noting that not all the definitions provided are uncontroversial, since a number of the issues underlying some of these terms are still very much a matter of scholarly debate (also, a number of the terms are combinations of modern English and Old English).
[Also see the more general list of Medieval Terms [At ORB] prepared by Prof. Arkenberg.]
|aetheling||a king-worthy man of the extended royal family|
|aewdas||witness, usually by compurgation|
|aldor||elder, senior, lord (often in the form ealdor)|
|ambihtsmith||court smith, court carpenter, court handyman|
|boc-lands||lands for which charters were held|
|borh||pledge, security, debt|
|borhbryce||breach of surety|
|bot||remedy, relief, compensation|
|burh-bryce||breach of a dwelling (i.e., “breaking and entering”)|
|burhgate-seat||town or fortification gate|
|ceapgeld||market price, purchase price|
|cear-wund||badly (perhaps “mortally”) wounded|
|ceorl||freeman (of the lowest class)|
|ceorlish||ceorl-like (note that “churlish” in modern English has a much more pejorative tone than ceorlisc)|
|church-frith||sanctuary, a special protection under ecclesiastical auspices|
|church-hlaford||lord of a church|
|churchscots||church tax or payment|
|churchsocns||ecclesiastical jurisdiction, sanctuary|
|cynedom||royal law, kingdom|
|cyreath||oath of compurgation undertaken by accused and compurgators|
|drihtinbeah||payment to a lord in compensation for killing his freeman|
|ealdorman||noble ruler of a county (and that sweeps under the rug one of the most bitterly contested questions in AS history — relative power of king and ealdorman.)|
|eorl||borrow-word from Old Norse jarl, often used in place of ealdorman in documents from Cnut’s reign forward.|
|eorl-right||earl’s right, right of an ealdorman|
|esne||slave, servant, retainer|
|esne-workmen||hirelings, mercenaries, day-laborers|
|fahman||foeman, usually the object of a blood-feud|
|feahfang||bribery (especially the act of taking a bribe)|
|fedesl||shouldn’t this be “fedels” = feed, upkeep, fatted food animals?|
|feorm||provisions, foodstuffs, a grant of land in exchange for partial usufruct|
|fioh||cattle, chattel, money, riches, fee|
|flyma||fugitive, outlaw, exile|
|flyma’s-wer||legal value (wergeld) of an outlaw|
|folc-land||Eric John’s work tries to clarify the meaning of this term, but I don’t think anyone really knows precisely what it means|
|folk-leasing||shouldn’t this be “folcleasung” = slander?|
|folkmote||folkmoot, meeting of a district (usually a hundred) for legal actions and to hear royal writs|
|folkright||common law, folk law|
|forlongen||ancient, long ago|
|frum-gyld||first installment of a payment|
|fryth||peace, restoration of rights, amnesty|
|fyrd||military expedition, royal levy (this is another complicated issue)|
|gafol||tribute, tax, debt|
|gemot-terms||shouldn’t this be “gemottermen” = term of the sitting of a district assembly or royal council meeting?|
|gesithcund||retainer-like, fit to be a thegn|
|hand-grith||security, surety given by the king’s hand|
|hand-haebbende||a thief caught in the act (e.g., “red-handed”).|
|heals-fang||a fine, a preferential share of a wergeld|
|hearm||damage, injury, tort|
|hloth||troop, band, gang (e.g., of thieves or robbers)|
|hloth-bot||penalty for being a member of a band or gang|
|hold||faithful, loyal; holder of an allod|
|hordere||treasurer, steward, hoarder|
|laadrinc||shouldn’t this be “ladrinc” = escort?|
|laeth||landed property, a subdivision of the county|
|lah-slit||fine for breach of the law (used in Danelaw)|
|leod||man, people; wergeld for manslaughter|
|leodgeld||wergeld for manslaughter|
|leud-gelds||variant of leodgeld|
|light-scot||light tax (usually in support of lighting for a church or monastery)|
|lybacs||shouldn’t this be “lyblac” = witchcraft, magic, sorcery or “lyblaeca” = sorcerer?|
|maeg-burg||family, kinship group|
|maerra||is this “maerac” = boundary-oak, or “maere” = pure, sterling, well-known?|
|manwyrth||value or price of a man|
|morthdaed||murder, mortal sin|
|morth-worker||shouldn’t this be “morthweorc” = an act which causes death?|
|nithing||coward, outlaw (severe term of opprobrium, often with overtones of sexual deviance)|
|oferhyrnes||disobedience (particularly disobedience of royal laws)|
|orwige||corwardly, unwarlike, free of liability for homicide|
|portreeve||shouldn’t this be “portgerefa” = port-reeve, mayor?|
|riht hamscyld||legal means of protecting one’s home|
|rimath||oath of compurgation|
|sac||dispute, jurisdiction, right to empanel a court|
|scaetts||shouldn’t this be “sceatt” = coin, money, twentieth part of a shilling|
|sithcund||fit to be a thegn|
|six-hynde||pertaining to the class the wergeld of which was 600 shillings|
|socn||inquiry, right to collect fines|
|soulscots||shouldn’t this be “sawolscot” = soulscot, payment to the church for burial|
|theoden||chief, king, God|
|thrymsas||tremise (equal to three denarii)|
|tun||farm, manor, dwelling, village|
|twy-hynde||having a wergeld of 200 shillings|
|ut-ware||foreign defense, defense against outsiders|
|walreaf||the taking of spoils from the slain|
|wed||pledge, security, dowry|
|wer||man, money value of a man’s life|
|wer-borh||pledge for the payment of wergeld|
|wergeld||money value of a man’s life|
|wic-reeve||reeve of a wic (village, town), bailiff, tax-collector|
|wite||punishment, penalty, contribution to the king|
Manuscript History of the Texts
[The following note is by Greg Rose. It begins by address the relationship of the “North People’s Law”, the “Mercian Law”, and the “Laws of Alfred, Guthrum and Edward the Elder”, a relationship not entirely clear in the printed edition used for this etext.]
The manuscript history of these legal texts about which is complicated, and I am not entirely certain whether you mean the Northhymbra preosta lagu or the Northleoda laga.
The Laws of Alfred and Ine (ff. 9-32), the Mirca laga (ff. 38v-39v), and the Northleoda laga (ff. 93v-94) are found in the Textus Roffensis (s.xii1). Alfred-Ine is also found in Cambridge, CCC 173, ff. 33-52v (the Parker Chronicle, s.x – s.xi), Cambridge, CCC 383, pp. 13-42 (s. xi/xii — which also contains Alfred & Guthrum, Edward and Guthrum, and many other legal texts), and BL, Cotton Nero A.i, ff. 45-48 and 51-57v (s. xi med. — contains many other legal texts as well), BL, Add. 43703, ff. 236v-255 (copied by Nowell — original ms. BL, Cotton Otho B.xi was severely damaged in the 1731 fire).
The Mirca laga is extant in Cambridge, CCC 190, pp. 418-420 (s. xi1) and Cambridge, CCCC 201, pp. 102-103 (s. xi med.), and the Textus Roffensis. The Northhymbra preosta lagu is found in Cambridge, CCC 201, pp. 43-46 and Brussels, Bibliotheque Royale 8558-63 (2498), f. 140r (s. xii in.) The Northleoda laga is extant in Cambridge, CCC 201, p. 102.
The collection of the Laws of Alfred and Ine (which is itself a composite text), the Mirca laga, and the Northleoda laga in the Textus Roffensis is an editorial decision by a twelfth-century compiler. There are good reasons for believing that these law codes were originally separate texts (as was the Northhymbra preosta laga).
Glossary II : Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs: Vocabulary
From Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. IV: The Early Medieval World, pp. 209-211)
|Ambiht-smith||smith or carpenter.|
|Angylde||price fixed by law.|
|Rim-ath||oath by accused and compurgators together.|
|Blot||sacrifice or offering to idols.|
|Boc-land||land held by charter.|
|Bold-gaetal||lord’s estate ( ?).|
|Borhbryce||breach of surety.|
|Brygc, bryc, bric||bridge.|
|Burh||castle or dwelling.|
|Bythfytling||fillings of the butts (meaning uncertain).|
|Can, canne||clearance, averment.|
|Ceorl||churl, simple freeman.|
|Cynebot, cynegeld||part of the fine for killing the king which went to the folk as compensation.|
|Drihtinbeah||lord-ring, lord’s compensation.|
|Drinclean||payment due from tenant to lord for ale.|
|Ealdor, ealdorman||chief, governor of a province.|
|Esne||serf. cf. theow.|
|Feaxfang||seizing by the hair.|
|Feoh, fioh||money, payment.|
|Feorm, firma, farm||rent in kind paid by tenants.|
|Flymanfyrmth||harboring a fugitive.|
|Folcland||common land, held by the folk or nation.|
|Fosterlean||remuneration for rearing a child.|
|Frumgeld||first payment of wer.|
|Fyrd||army, general levy.|
|Geneat||a servile tenant.|
|Hadbot||compensation for injury, to a person in holy orders.|
|Hearm||hue and cry|
|Heorthfaest||having a fixed dwelling.|
|Hlafordesgifu||gift to lord, a form of rent.|
|Hloth||a following, any number of men from eight to thirty-five.|
|Homola||one whose head has been shaved (?)|
|Hynden||an association of ten men (?).|
|Inland||demesne land, lord’s land.|
|Lad||purgation, exculpation; also, a form of service consisting in supplying the lord with beasts of burden.|
|Laet||half-free, a class between slaves and freemen.|
|Lahslit||fine for offences committed by Danes, corresponding to Anglo-Saxon wite.|
|Landrica, Landhlaford||lord of the soil, landlord.|
|Landceap, landcop||purchase of land.|
|Leodgeld, leudgeld, wergeld||fine paid for killing a man.|
|Lyswe, leaswe||injury of some kin (uncertain).|
|Maegbot||compensation paid to family.|
|Maerra, maere peningas||(money of some kind).|
|Manung||district over which reeve has jurisdiction.|
|Manwyrth, wergeld||cf. Leodgeld.|
|Morgengifu||morning-gift, gift from husband to wife on the morning after marriage.|
|Mund, mundbyrd||protection, guardianship.|
|Mynsterham||dwelling house of monastery (?).|
|Oferhyrnes||contempt; disobedience; also, penalty attached thereto.|
|Reeve, gerefa||official, especially sheriff.|
|Sac||right of a lord to private jurisdiction.|
|Sceat, scaet||four sceats equal one penny|
|Sithcund, gesithcund||belonging to king’s followers.|
|Socn||sanctuary, right of protection.|
|Stermelda||court officer (uncertain).|
|Syxhyndeman||one whose wergeld is 600 shillings.|
|Thrymsas||three pennies of Mercian money.|
|Tihtbysig||of bad repute.|
|Tun||villa, dwelling, town.|
|Twelfhyndeman||one whose wergeld is 1200 shillings.|
|Twyhyndeman||one whose wergeld is 200 shillings (lowest class of freeman).|
|Utware||(uncertain, perhaps a form of tenure)|
|Walreaf||despoiling the dead.|
|Wealh, wylisc||British, Welsh.|
|Wer, wergild||cf. leodgeld.|
|Wita||member of supreme council.|
From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1901), Vol. IV: The Early Medieval World, pp. 211-239.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.