The prime purpose of this "Appendix of Case Narratives" in my book-in-progress, Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England, is to keep the main text clear of digressions and long footnotes that would further disturb the flow of argument. But the narratives below also represent some central premises and contentions of the book. These hold that what usually matters most about lawsuits and other disputes for the historian is their dynamics and that the best, maybe the only way to seize these is to deploy all available sources of information about the parties and their continuing social relations, including especially as much extra-curial information as possible. The narratives that follow are my best shot at making historical sense of scattered, imperfect and sometimes very technical source material. They are often speculative, because I pose questions the texts were not composed to answer and were indeed sometimes designed to conceal. Each is open to alternative readings, which is why I give full references. But the contingencies of interpretation exposed here exist equally in the conventional footnotes of other studies. These inadequate narratives are the best basis we have for the generalizations that rest upon them. Quite frequently the case stories that emerge, reveal patterns that might remain unsuspected without this detailed treatment.  Some of them indisputably deserve translation from the cautious, abbreviated scholarly style I have to use here into language more suited to the drama of the underlying stories. All raise issues that currently resonate in radical legal scholarship, of telling it as it was, and of the loaded way in which the story-telling affects decisions,.

[At this stage, everything is presented as is and E & O E as always.]


Blake 1962, ii. 11, pp. 84-6 = Libellus Aethelwoldi, c. 11.

       Bishop Aethelwold set out to acquire the highly desirable estate of Downham, Cambs. from Leofsige for Ely in a complex multi-faceted deal (conventio) involving an exchange of another property of his and other estates, Oundle and Kettering in Northants. destined for Peterborough abbey too. After Edgar’s death, as so often, Leofsige (on whom see Blake 1962, xii-xiii, xv) and his wife broke the pact and sought to recover their land through an offer of part only of the purchase price. Ely had enough witnesses to defeat their attempt. But around the same time, Leofsige “abstulit cum rapina” Oundle and Kettering, so that their fields lay untilled for two years. This surely represents the reaflac (land-theft) of the laws. Fortunately the lord God saw how great injuriae and tribulations afflicted his servants of Peterborough amd took pity. At a generale placitum in London, Aethelwold “in ius protraxit” Leofsige and recounted all “suam causam et injiuriam et rapinam”, to regain “per iudicium” the lands for Peterborough on terms that oredered the thief “ut … episcopo totum dampnum suppleret et mundam suam redderet, de rapina vero regi, forisfacturam emenderet, dato pretio genealogie sue”. The restitution of the two years lost revenues to the bishop is best regarded as damages. In addition, the thief had to pay his mund and/or wer to the king, just as required by II Cn., 63 of those who committed reaflac. The cautious bishop renewed the plea to attain a further sworn judgement at Northampton from the whole folk returning the two estates to Peterborough.

     Leofsige’s death around this time, “ultione divina fervente”, still did not stay the bishop’s drive for redress, or revenge. Along with ealdorman Aethelwine of East Anglia (for  whom Blake 1962, 79, n. 7) held a placitum at Wansford, Northants for men of the shire and of East Anglia. This adjudged that Leofsige’s widow and sons must still pay for the rapina exactly as if the perpetrator were still alive. It assessed the bishop’s damages (“summa dampni”) at over L. 100. The widow, a good woman unlike her dead husband (“Dei inimicus deceptorque hominum”) implored the bishop “humiliter” and with support from powerful friends to commute her share of the forisfactura to 100 /- for the 2 hides at Downham. He accepted this with great mercy and agreed to remit the whole rapina in her favor providing she paid the money over within eight days at Ely, which she apparently succeeded in doing.

     This whole proceeding looks as much like proto-trespass as an appeal.


W. 54 = S. 883, from CMA i. 394-5 (992/5); trans. EHD I, no. 117.
Comment: Stenton 1955, 76-8.

     A diploma of Ethelred’s granting to his miles Aethelwig (? Reeve of Buckingham, sheriff? Of Bucks.) an estate at Ardley, Oxon. explains with particular clarity the process by which the land came into the king’s hands. The three men named above were brothers, living together on the land as co-lords. One of their men, Leofric, stole a bridle and was caught in possession. The brothers rallied to his defense by bellum, thus making their man’s cause their own. Tow of them died in the fight, and the third, Athelwin only just managed to escape to sanctuary along with the thief in St. Helen’s Church, Abingdon.

     The royal reeves of Buckingham (Aethelwig) and Oxford surrounded the church with many others. They also had the two dead brothers buried in a cemetery in the normal way. When ealdorman Leofsige (? Of East Anglia) heard of this, he hurried to the king’s presence to protest and accuse the reeves of acting “non recte”. His point seems to have been that the brothers were in breach of their peace oaths and therefore excluded from christian burial by the laws as perjurors. But the king sympathised with Aethelwig (and conceivably with the dead men too), so he permitted the bodies to remain where they were, and passed the estate onto Aethelwig (the reeve?) in perpetual inheritance.


Stenton 1937, 370; cf. ibid., 902.
Comment: Lady Stenton, ibid., xlvi.

     Late in December, 1208, so it was later said, Gilbert of Hook suffered a night assault on his house and was manhandled in such a way that he died . At the time his nephew, Robert de Balliol, was a mere youngster who, though present in the house, fled from fear and did not dare or know how to raise the hue. In fact he did not even stay in the area but traveled to foreign lands like Ireland and Poitou until the civil war broke out when he returned to England. At the very first shire court session after peace was declared (1217), he began the appeal for his uncle's death.

     His opponent, William of Crigglestone, denied the whole story now ten years after the event. The truth, he claimed, was very different. Elenard, a family servant had killed William's father and William had brought a homicide appeal against him for the deed. Elenard was thus an enemy of William's kindred. But Robert had at one time been with him and now, said, William, brought the present appeal for love of Elenard. And William offered half a mark for to inquire De Odio et Athia. He also pointed out that the deed was supposed to have been done ten years ago and yet Robert had not appealed within the year normally allowed..

     The court chose to interrogate the presentment jury that was already on hand.  Its members denied that Gilbert had been wounded at all or his house broken into. They further reported that Gilbert had been seen riding to the shire court after the supposed date of his death, and had never himself brought any appeal concerning the alleged assault. Robert too had been around in time of peace when he might have brought his appeal had he so wished. Naturally, the appeal failed and Robert was amerced.


T. Arnold 1882-5, i. 114-9 (“Historia Dunelmensis ecclesie”, caps. xxiii-xxiv); ii. 208-11 (“Historia Regum”). Thorpe 1849, ii. 13-16.
Comment: Offler 1968, 2, 45-7; Gransden 1974, 115-6, 143-50; Kapelle 1979, 137-41, 270, n. 73.

     The Norman Conquest provoked migrations of people into, out of and within England for at least a generation after 1066. The Lotharingian Walcher was one among many foreign beneficiaries from the change of régime. At the same that the king had him consecrated bishop of Durham in 1071, he also entrusted him with the earldom of Northumbria taken from the rebellious Waltheof. The new bishop-earl brought with him or attracted later a whole group of  other foreigners eager to share in the spoils of conquest. The Durham monks nevertheless remembered him on the whole fondly, especially on account of his deep attachment to St. Cuthbert and care for the saint’s property. But they deplored his inability or unwillingness to restrain his followers from excesses, which included not merely property invasion but also the killings of prominent local nobles. This was, they thought, the root of the tragedy. The chroniclers’ talk of hatred of foreigners seems to have real substance. A prominent figure in the local party (if there was one) must himself have  seemed very foreign for all his English blood. Ligulf’s  noble descent had brought him lands all over the country. (cf. Ellis, A General Introduction to Domesday Book, ii. 181 for possible references; but there are several different TRE Ligulfs.) He read the signs that Norman adventurers threatened landowners in the south and so moved his whole household, possessions, family, followers and all, to live on some Northumbrian estates, largely, so the monks wished to believe, on account of his deep devotion to St. Cuthbert. The decision must have looked a good one for a time. He moved easily between his rural estates and his town house in Durham itself. He was also open to approaches from his fellow Cuthbert enthusiast, bishop Walcher, whose main counsellor he became in some sense, most likely as an adviser in lawsuits. Some resented the bishop’s undue favour to an outsider.

    Ligulf fell foul of Leobwin, from his name another Englishman, who had risen from  Walcher’s chamber to the point where, so we are told, the bishop rarely moved in either episcopal affairs or those of the earldom without seeking his opinion.  Leobwin’s pride was so piqued by his rival’s success that he set out to block all Ligulf’s moves. This invidia reached the stage of public threats and shaming words in the bishop’s presence. One day, after a harsher and more effective put-down than usual from Ligulf, Leobwin could no longer restrain himself. He approached the bishop’s close kinsman, Gilbert, who ran his secular earldom. He had been wronged, publicly shamed. He implored Gilbert to avenge him by killing Ligulf as soon as possible. Gilbert agreed to do so, and assembled a group of episcopal knights to do the job.  The band travelled by  night to catch Ligulf and his entourage unawares on one of his manors, broke in and killed almost everybody. This is the classic feud attack, by night into the opponent’s private space, but on this occasion without formal advance warning.

     When the news reached the bishop, he threw onto the ground his cap and cowl in despair, telling Leobwin that his deceit and lack of judgement had ruined them; “you have killed me and you and the whole of my familia with the sword of your tongue”.  That he apparently knew at once who was behind the killing is itself instructive. Hurrying to his castle, he sought to minimize the damage.  Messengers were dispatched round Northumbria to proclaim that Walcher was not in on the killing and had indeed outlawed the killer and his associates. Concurrently, other representatives made swift contact with the dead man’s kin, agreed a mutual truce and fixed a day to meet, by an un-named rural church, to negotiate a full peace settlement with the restoration of amicitia.  The foreign-born bishop experienced no difficulty in discovering the proper procedure, much along the lines of II Edmund.

     The bishop went to the meeting in person, a mistake that cost him his life. Unwilling to negotiate out in the open, he took his small band of followers and advisers into the church. Negotiators shuttled out to the other side and back again without the peace that Walcher sought. Ligulf’s party were sure that the bishop had ordered the deed. They knew that Leobwin had received Gilbert and his men after the killings “familiariter et amicabiliter”. This Leobwin was no doubt obligated to do. But the bishop too had received him [G.?] back into his favor and household. Walcher still struggled to save himself. He sent Gilbert out to the waiting mob “to satuisfy the enemies’ fury”. The Norman knights made their confession andfollowed in the vain hope that they might fight their way out. The sole survivors were two English thegns (ministri) spared for their blood kinship, like other followers on an even more famous occasion long before.  The cathedral dean, Leofwine, had to die too, so the narrator says, because of the occasions when he had given Walcher bad advice against them.  Now it was the turn of Leobwin, “caput et auctor totius illius calamitatis”. He, however, would not go softly into that dark night. The villain turned out to be a coward, without the courage to die a good death. He absolutely refused the bishop’s order to exit the church and take his fate like a man. Bishop Walcher went to the church door and pleaded for own his life to no avail. Now he knew that he at least had no options left. He pulled his cloak over his  head to blindfold himself, darted through the door and met the swords of his enemies. Only Leobwin remained inside the church, refusing all calls to come out.  The coward refused even to die a good death. The besiegers fired the church to smoke him out, but Leobwin for a time preferred fire to swords and stayed put. When he could stand the heat no longer, he too finally emerged, half burnt already to reap the reward of his wickedness. It took several days for normality to return to the area. The killers pursued any of the dead bishop’s men dared to show themselves outside Durham castle while the monks sailed downriver to recover their spiritual father’s corpse without, significantly, any talk of martyrdom or sanctity .

     Such was the saga told in Worcester and Durham.  It stops short at this point, with the abrupt observation that king William wasted Northumbria the next campaign season in revenge for these detestable deaths. The “Historia Dunelmensis Ecclesiae” tells us that it was in fact Odo of Bayeux, not William, who did the harrying and adds some further details.  Though Kappelle rightly seeks an appropriate political context for the events, our informants tell their tale in terms of individual and group vengeance. They do not like what they see. HDE laments the inhumanity and bestial cruelty of the killings.

CAUDEL, In re WILLIAM (1248-9).

Meekings 1961, no. 40 and p. 260.

     Startley hundred (Wilts.) presented 5 men of having given William Caudel his mortal wound in 1248 at the 1249 eyre. Two of these had already fled by the time royal justices arrived in the shire; the jurors asserting their guilt, they were outlawed. The other three accused were Simon atte Berne and his two sons John the hayward and Henry. They had perhaps been jailed for the deed but had the previous August procured a royal writ for an inquest de odio et atya. According to the inquest, William Caudel had died because of a quite separate dispute involving only one of the two fugitives. The jurors confirmed the innocence of Simon and his sons. Their indictment was the result of a dispute concerning a dog. This creature had been taken from a mill belonging to one of the Atte berne family friends to reappear in the house of the dead man's uncle Philip. Out of this relatively trivial incident came a series of clashes between the two parties at aledrinkings ("cervisias") and elsewhere. When Philip's men had wounded Henry atte Berne in a tavern, John had brought an appeal against them, and this too served to increase rancor between the parties. Henry survived this incident but not the next one; he was certainly dead by the time of the eyre when another man was accused and cleared of his death. This string of violent clashes, while not obviously a feud in any formal sense, seems to stem from a village enmity of feud-like character.


CRR v. 182, 244-5 (Norfolk)

     In the Fall of 1207, Herbert of Patsley struck Drew Chamberlain a heavy blow over the head with his bow in Rainham, Norfolk, so that Drew's brains poured out. Then, "not content" with this, he proceeded to stab him in the heart with a knife "so that he died". Through the restrained Latin of the plea roll looms an act of some vernacular passion. Drew's brother John appealed Herbert of the homicide next year and the parties were preparing for a duel by the time proceedings came before royal justices.

    Thomas of Ingoldisthorp, a local notable who served on several grand juries alongside a Patsley kinsman, was one of two men to accept responsibility for Herbert's pending the duel and his appearance on the day. It is a reasonable guess that he used the delay to mediate a settlement between the parties; he certainly took responsibility for the heavy fine (40 m.) for the royal licence. The terms were as follows:-  Herbert was to go to Jerusalem within 40 days, to serve God in the Holy Land for 7 years to the benefit of the deceased man's soul. Should he return within that term, he was liable to execution as a convicted homicide, a strong inducement to keep to the agreement. In addition, Thomas would pay for one of the dead man's kinsmen to become a monk or canon at one of a number of named local houses by Michaelmas next. He was also to pay the Chamberlain family 40 m. by installments before the succeeding August. Sunday July 27 (a week or so after Herbert's final departure) was fixed for both the first payment and the presentation of the Chamberlain candidate for the religious life. That must have been quite an occasion if all went as planned. 8 local knights stood surety for Thomas' proffer to the king, also perhaps for the settlement itself.

COTENTIN v. CORNWALL (temp. Stephen)

Orderic, vi. 514.

    Hostilities between Normandy and Anjou were natural opportunities for the settling of scores. This incident occurred in one of the many breaches of a two-year truce agreed between Stephen and Geoffrey of Anjou. Reginald, natural son of Henry I and later earl of Cornwall, fought on the Angevin side. He had caught and killed in an ambush Roger, vicomte of Cotentin, one of Stephen’s partisans. Some of Roger’s “kinsmen and friends” found their “place and time for vengeance” in a renewal


RCR ii. 245; CRR i. 194, 395; PR 3 John, 31-2; Rot. de Ob., 126-7

     One fine afternoon in the latter part of Richard I's reign (c. 1196), John Cusin was in the middle of dining as usual in the security (as he thought) of his own home at Babington (Somerset), when 7 men led by Thomas, on of William f. John, a man known and feared locally, burst into the room. They had bribed or talked their way through the gates ("per seductionem") in an obviously planned raid. They seized John by his feet, dragged him into a bedroom, dumped him on a bed, and brought in firebrands with which they burned him about the mouth and set his beard alight. They then pulled his tongue out under his chin, "linguam ei extraxerunt sub mento", which I fear, is most likely to mean that they cut it off and placed it on his chest. They went on to search the house, breaking open the various chests in which valuables were kept and seizing charters from the present king and his father among others. One of king Richard''s charters and another from an unidentified archbishop they held up before him and burnt in the poor man's face. (This act was later singled out as having been ad huntagium regis thus justifying royal interest in the case) Only after all that did they take him outside and cut his head off with William Basher's head. (I did not make this name up, though one entry does spell it "Boscher"!)

     There is every sign here that the assailants knew why they had come and what they were about. You have to wonder what horrible things John had said to make them want to cut out his tongue and how these related to the charters they then burned in his face. These were patently not ordinary robbers but men out to make a point, not merely to the dying man, but for themselves and to all around who saw what they did or heard the tale afterwards. The story recounted above comes from one of those eye-witnesses. Simon Cusin, John's son and a clerk, had been serving his lord and father at table. When the attackers had broken in, he fled for fear of his own life and hid in one of the window recesses, from where he was able to see all. If he can expect no applause for his courage, one should remember that he was expected as a cleric to shed no blood.

    It was Simon who eventually brought the decisive appeal in the Easter term of 1200 against Thomas and his 6 associates (Mr. Basher among them) and also against Thomas' father William f. John who had, he said, sent them to do the job. . (There had apparently been an earlier flawed attempt from which Thomas claimed to have gone quit.) But Simon had done nothing for three years after the event, not even when the eyre justices were in the area and Thomas around and available to be sued,(When this was is a bit of a problem; cf. Crook 1982, 58-9.)  as the latter pointedly reminded him in court. Simon explained that he did not himself dare to stay in the area and certainly dare not sue him "from fear of the power of Thomas who was almost lord of the whole area. (The clerk recorded each as using the word "patria", the term which refers to the area represented by a "jury of the country".) The absence of any reference to an indictment for John's death adds a certain weight to Simon's version of the story. Confident of his reputation among potential jurors, perhaps, Thomas willingly sought trial by a jury of that same "patria" (Simon as a clerk could not of course offer battle anyway) and was remanded in his own father's custody.
In the event the case never reached trial. Successive adjournments (not all recorded on extant rolls) deferred the parties day in court into the Hilary term of 1201 by which time Thomas had proffered to the king £100 for license to concord on behalf of all 8 men appealed by Simon Cusin.  Thomas was to give Simon 10 m., half of it paid on the spot (this must have been arranged by the parties in advance) with the rest payable a few weeks later at Easter by the hand of Hugh de Neville, a great man indeed, Chief Forester and royal intimate. He was also to make 1 monk for the soul of Simon's father. In return, Simon was to quit-claim Thomas and all his men from further responsibility for the killing.

     William f. John and his son must have been figures of power and influence in the south-west. William of Harptree (7 m. north of Wells, Somerset) was a younger son of a former Seneschal of Normandy (ob. 1198) who had been a considerable figure under Henry II.  His English lands had included at least 12 fees held of the honor of Bath and another 7 from the Montacute honor in held ultimately of the county of Mortain, Red Book of the Exchequer (R.S.), i. 219. The better part of the inheritance went to the oldest brother, Henry de Tilly, with whom William had to make terms around this time c.  1200, Rotuli Normannie..., ed. T.D.Hardy (Rec. Comm. 1835) 7-9; Rot. Chart., 75b, but who then abandoned England after 1204. Our William's estate was thus perhaps somewhat lower than his early aspirations. His lands were nevertheless substantial with holdings in Bucks. and Northants. as well as Somerset, where they included a tenement in Babington, Rot. lit. claus., i. 58. He was, like his father, a substantial tenant of Count John's Mortain honor (CRR xi. 1516 refers to a fine made in Ct. John's court about Harptree and other lands during Richard;'s reign)  and doubtless an early supporter. In 1194 after John's revolt, he had to pay Richard I 100 m. to regain the king's peace and his own lands, PR 6 Richard I, 193. After John's accession, the king was twice at Harptree, Rot. Chart., 157b, 169b (6/9/1205, 16/9/1207) and in 1207 helped William raise his ransom after being captured on royal service 1207 (Fees., 373). Thomas, William's eldest son, probably predeceased him and was dead by 1214, CRR vii. 237.  William was accused of master-minding very much the same kind of assault again in 1220, GURNAY v. FITZJOHN below.

DURHAM SANCTUARY BREACH (early twelfth century)

Reginald of Durham, Libellus de Admirandis Beati Cuthberti Virtutibus, ed.James Rayne (Surtees Soc., vol I: London, 1836), cc. 60-61, pp. 119-21.

    After the killing of a young episcopal servant at Durham, the perpetrator fled to sanctuary with St. Cuthbert in the cathedral “where he could have had the remedy of peace”. The dead youth’s loving friends at once began to work out how to avenge the wrong with another death but were temporarily impeded by the church whose peace they dare not break. They set a strict armed guard around all exits, refusing to let food in (which the monks supplied anyway) or him out even to relieve himself, and so harassing him that he retreated to the saint’s tomb. The besiegers were confident that, having the bishop on their side, they could get their revenge despite the sanctuary and reconnoitered with swords hidden under their cloaks while the monks were eating their evening meal. Six of them actually attacked him while he was at prayer before the altar of the Holy Cross and wounded him severely in the head and throat. Some of the monks threw the attackers out in the nick of time and saved his life. The news provoked a loud clamor vulgi of St. Cuthbert’s admirers who tried to humiliate the saint (extinguish a candle before the altar, trample on the altar cloth) into striking at his enemies and (unsuccessfully) to remove the fugitive to safety. When the bishop was told of the affair, he absolved the wounded fugitive and formally remitted his own anger (as the dead man’s lord) after having first reconciled him with the church, presumably by the assignment of penance. Against all expectations the man recovered quickly by the saint’s aid.  Reginald reads this as an indication that all was for the best, with the saint turning evi into good; the would-be avengers had helped their enemy by presenting him with the penitential suffering which released him from the consequences of his own misdeed.

    But the sacrilege could not go unpunished. The attacker laughed off his actions and set off on the Saturday evening to ride out of town and escape retribution. But St. Cuthbert then, with everyone watching, blinded him so that he could not find the exit His friends urged him to flee and save his life, but the horse would only carry him to a nearby village where he was the next morning (Sunday) arrested and flung into a dungeon in irons so heavy that he soon died. The saint had avenged his own furious anger.

EARL UHTRED'S FEUD (11th century)

"De obsessione Dunelmi" (Arnold 1882-5, i. 215-20); "De Northymbrorum Comitibus" (ibid., ii 382-4); Symeon of Durham, "Historia Regum" (ibid. ii. **-***)
Comment: Hart 1975, 143-50; Kapelle 1979, 14-49, 127, 134-7, Fleming 1991, 47-9.

     Ethelred II recognized Uhtred as earl in his father, Waltheof I's lifetime, and added York to his father's earldom of Northumbria. The context makes clear the king's need for an young and effective warrior in the north, an area where he could never be quite sure of the loyalty of York Danes. Uhtred won a significant victory over the Scots (?1006) and celebrated it by displaying the heads of many of the defeated on the walls of York. was probably already exercising power before his formal investment. He had married Egfrida, the daughter of bishop Ealdhun of Durham, and received with her a dower of half a dozen Durham estates. Now he repudiated Egfrida, duly returned her dowry, and married Sige, the daughter of a rich York citizen, Styr f. Ulf, pretty obviously, as Kapelle points out, as part of an attempt to strengthen the royal party in the north. The marriage alliance is said to have been made "ut Turbrandum sibi inimicissimum interficeret", that is Uhtred was to kill his father-in-law's enemy, thus joining and extending an enmity already in being. This Thurbrand is labeled "Hold", and may have been the equivalent of a Danish king's reeve and thus the leader of York Danes. Whether Uhtred tried to kill him we are not told; likely so.

     The marriage with Sige seems to have been childless; perhaps she died. Ethelred then gave in marriage to Uhtred his own daughter Aelfgifu, further to solidify his party loyalties. When Cnut invaded, he sought Uhtred's military asistance with promises of the confirmation of his earldom properly augmented. Uhtred refused with a ringing declaration of loyalty to his lord, (new) father-in-law, and benefactor with the significant modifier, "quamdiu vixerit". Ethelred did die. Uhtred then (1016) traveled south to come to terms with Cnut ("de pace locuturus"). En route, Thurbrand Hold caught him in an ambush and killed him with his whole Northumbrian entourage said to number forty. Our principal account believes that Cnut authorized this act and even provided his own warriors for the job. Cnut then replaced him with a Norwegian earl of York, but allowed his brother, Eadulf Dudel, to succeed to the Northunbrian earldom 1016/?1019.

     Ealdred, Uhtred's son by his first wife Egfrida, soon succeeded both to the Northumbrian earldom (c. 1019-38) and to the feud. He successfully killed Thurbrand "patrisque sui interfectorem" and entered into a period of open hostilities with Thurbrand's son, Carl. Eventually, mutual amici mediated first a settlement ("concordia") followed by terms for the restitution of mutual amor, terms that apparently included some kind of brotherhood ritual and a joint penitential pilgrimage to Rome. Peace must have seemed close and possible. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented the start of the Rome trip and the moment passed. Having held convivia in Ealdred's honor at his hall, Carl then had his guest killed in a nearby wood, where a stone cross still marked the spot half a century later. He subscribed to some of Cnut's charters and probably relied on royal protection.
 The earldom moved out of the direct Bambergh line. First Eadulf, a son of Egfrida's second marriage (1038-41), then the Danish Siward (1041-55) became earls of Northumbria. Siward, who had Eadulf killed, then married Ealdred's daughter, Aelfflaed, doubtless partly as Kapelle suggests, "to appease local feelings" but also to strengthen his claims to lands and legitimacy. There may also have been other gestures towards the Uhtred's family, Kapelle, 29, 43-4. "Justice waited until the 1070s", when Waltheof II (earl 1072-5), great-grandson to Uhtred through Ealdred's daughter, avenged Ealdred's death in appropriate fashion. He caught Carl's sons feasting in the house of the eldest brother near York and killed all the brothers save one, spared as a good man, and one other who was fortunately absent, and the grandsons too. This chilling act ("gravissime clade") was the last recorded in our principal source. Whether it was the end of the feud or Uhtred's line came to regret Waltheof's mercy is unknown.

     Durham had not, however, recovered the lost dowry lands. Earl Siward had successfully claimed these by the hereditary right of his wife, and had then used them to endow her from the lands and perhaps the feud obligation had then passed to their son Waltheof. The lands lost much of their value in the course of further violence ("werra surgente") between Uhtred's descendants and those of Egfrida's second marriage to a certain Yorkshire thegn, Kilvert f. Ligulf. When our account was written, some remained with the Northunbrian earls, some with Kilvert's progeny and some few had even been regained by St. Cuthbert and the monks of Durham.

     These facts explain the composition of the misnamed "De obsessione Dunelmi", our principal account for the story. Some Durham monk wrote this almost certainly after the death of Earl Waltheof II in 1075. The author seems to have been familar with sagas and feud lore. But being a monk he may have disapproved of vengeance (he comments of earl Uhtred's gloating display of defeated Scots' heads c. 1106: "sicut tunc temporis mos erat") and his overt purpose was to regain if possible his house's estates that had passed to Uhtred as the dowry to his first marriage and never been returned to the house. He wrote trace their devolution; the feud was secondary and present only as essential background.

     Pace Kapelle ("There was no northern blood feud", p. 24; but he calls it a "blood feud" himself, p. 31, n. 9), This is as clear a blood feud as one could hope for. The main text's outside interests probably exclude other relevant events and may end before the story did. It even includes another connected feud-like episode, in the way earl Eadwulf returned (part of) Lothian to the Scots ("ob satisfactionem et firmam concordiam") from fear that they would take vengeance for the deaths and shame involved in Uhtred's victory of 1006. (See Kapelle, 21 sq. on this.) The admixture of private enmities with local and even national politics (though Kapelle pushes the evidence further than most scholars would) is exemplary, and certainly no reason to deny feud status. The various accounts (including "De Northymbrorum Comitibus") may all go back to an earlier lost text on the earls.


LRS xxii. 773-5 (Lincoln eyre).
Comment: Lady Stenton, ibid., p. lix.

     Alan Hayward intercepted Thomas f. Lefwin on the high road and carried him off to his house. In addition to robbing and breaking a small bone in his arm, Alan's wife Emma allegedly cut off one of his testicles, one Ralf Pilate the other. The unfortunate man was then dumped unceremoniously back onto the road where he had been found. The ritual nature of the wounding and the perpetrators' patent lack of interest in covering their tracks are notable.

      Thomas followed the proper procedures (hue, view of wounds etc.) leading to an appeal against Alan for broken bones which must have failed.  Because of this, when his fresh appeal for breach of the peace against Alan (but none of the others) came before the justices at the Lincoln eyre, Alan offered them 2 m. for judgement. The justices questioned the hundred sergeant who confirmed the essential details of the story; he had viewed the wounds and had then visited Alan's house and found there the knife and a testicle bowl. The justices then quashed Thomas' appeal, amerced him and formally declared Alan quit of any offense.

     It seems clear as the editor surmised that Thomas had been sexually involved with some woman in Alan's household -- maybe a daughter -- and that Alan and his family had set out to teach him a lesson and warn him off. The neighbors must have sympathized with this taking of vengeance, as perhaps also did the justices.


Padel 1984, App. “A Cornish Atrocity of the Twelfth Century”, 20-27.

    This tit-for-tat killing has all the looks of a cause célèbre in its day; not just Cornwall but all England should be weeping, it was later said. Yet Padel had to reconstruct the outlines from a few scraps, a laconic aside in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Prophecies of Merlin” itself requiring contemporary elucidation (including the remark just cited), Pipe Roll 31 Henry I, 159-60 and Book of Fees, i. 441  (Gloucs. Account for 1235 Aid!).

    Osulf, who had held 9 manors TRE but lost them all by 1086, was killed by the 6 sons of Toki c. 1100 and well before 1130. The sheriff, Frawin, led a group of avengers 6 of whom who were still paying a set of royal fines in 1130. Since Frawin still owed over fifty pounds then plus 300 m. to get his land back, Henry I seems to have treated the incident severely. Frawin and his supporters all seem to be Cornish or English and yet have done well out of the Norman Conquest. Geoffrey calls Toki’s sons “frankigene”, French-born & talks as if he was concealing his sympathy for the way they made the Normans pay for the original death. Padel suggests a context within some anti-Norman revolt, which would certainly explain why the king treated it so seriously.

GIROIE v. MONTGOMERY (c. 1030 – c. 1093)

Orderic, ii. 24; iii. 134-6, 160; iv. 294.
Comment: Chibnall in Orderic, ii. 24-5, n. 3.

    Giroie had been an early benefactor of St. Evroul but was dead by around 1030. Count Gilbert of Brionne saw an opportunity to expamnd his lands at the family’s expense and moved in on the sons not yet of age and thus least able to defend themselves. They, however, mustered an effective support group able not merely to resist but to pursue the count back to his own territory and take Le Sap from him. The duke intervened to persuade Count Gilbert to let them keep the town “for a firmer peace”. This held for a few years only, until the count tried again and was murdered for his pains. Many of the disputed lands later came into the hands of Roger de Montgomery who held them for a quarter century, during which the Giroies always hated Roger’s cruel wife, Mabel. [Why? Any link to Brionne? How did the Montgomerys get the land?] (Orderic says that she was instrumental in depriving them of their paternal inheritance.) One night in 1077, Hugh and three of his brothers caught her relaxing in a bath inside one of her castles and beheaded her “pro compensatione patrimonii”. The brothers escaped apparently amid local sympathy; many, indeed, applauded the “caedes feralis”. The Montgomery clan did not give up thoughts of vengeance. They suspected William Pantulf of complicity because of his long malivolentia against Mabel for depriving him of a castle and his long and close friendship with High Giroie. This may explain William’s withdrawal to Apulia, a plausible retreat for a man fearing that he was in line for further vengeance. On his return Earl Roger and his sons invaded his lands and sought to kill him. William fled to sanctuary at St. Evroul, fiercely protesting his innocence and offering proper legal purgation. This his enemies refused to accept, even though they could produce no convincing evidence of guilt. The matter was resolved only by William’s submission to an ordeal by the hot iron before a royal court at Rouen. His enemies attended fully armed and ready to execute the judgement personally by the sword. But God cleared him to hymns of praise all including Orderic and his fellow monks. Robert Giroie was still allegedly meditating vengeance against his enemies 1092-3.


EYC, ii. 1130; cf. ibid., 1129 (1180/1200).

     The double marriage agreement made by William f. Peter of Goodmanham and Thomas (II) Hay of Aughton, Yorks. in the last years of the twelfth century was intended to bring to a mutually satisfactory conclusion a series of financial dealings between their two families that went back well into the previous reign. Both families were substantial landholders. Roger f. Alfred (see below) had held 2 of the Fossard fees among other parcels in Henry II's reign ( among other parcels in Henry II's reign (EYC, ii, p. 423), and William f. Peter was still able to found a Gilbertine priory at Ellerton after it was all over (Clay 1973, 40-1). But William's grandfather, William f. Anketin, had amassed debts to the king and certain regales amounting to 60 m. or more. In order to persuade Thomas' grandfather, Roger f. Alfred, to pay these off for him, he was forced to gage some of his lands into the possession of the Hays. The lands were not adjudged to have paid off the debt until our William's day. He made a conventio with Emma Hay, Roger's daughter, which carried a cost. William confirmed to Emma right in the gaged lands for her life unmolested and "in bono pacis". In return for this life tenancy, she gave him back a mill at Goodmanham, plus 6 bovates of land there and elsewhere, together with an acknowledgement that the debt was thereby fully discharged.  The pair swore and gave faith to each other that they would observe their agreement in full. But Emma's son, Thomas, was neither a party nor among the witnesses to this agreement, and may have had other ideas about the lands. In the meantime, there was a change in the lordship of which both families held after the death of William (II) Fossard. Richard I's familiar, Robert of Thornham, obtained from his king the Fossard heiress and her considerable lands, then himself married her in 1197 (EYC, ii, pp. 328-9).
 It was probably soon after this that William made a further concord with Thomas. Our copy represents Thomas' quit-claim reciting under his seal the discharge of the debt and gage in his mother's time.  (There was probably a parallel document made and sealed by William on his side of the bargain.) In return, so Thomas said, William gave to his own nephew, William of Burland, 6 bovates of land in Goodmanham with Thomas' daughter, Emma (II). He also gave 5 bovates which had been the head messuage (residence) of Emma (I) when she was in possession, to Thomas' eldest son, Roger, with William of Burland's sister, Christina. Though both of these endowments are described as being in free marriage, with the implication (in later law at least) that they carried at this stage no homage or tenure in fee, the first was subject to its due share of forinsec service (to the king) and the second was said to be held in fee again for forinsec service. Heading the long list of witnesses was Alan of Wilton, steward to Robert of Turnham, which suggests that the agreement was made and possibly brokered in the lord's court, where, for example, Thomas was being sued a little later and thought to have an advantage(Rot. de ob., 105).


PRO, CP 25 (1)/212/6/39 (Fine from Suffolk eyre, Bury, June 19 1219)

 The fine tells us only about the settlement, nothing of the previous enmities and events that made it necessary. Robert de Hyl's appeal against Eustace's sons, Walter and William, had reached the point when Robert and Walter were armed and ready for their duel before the parties reached agreement. Walter did Robert homage, six-handed, .apparently on the spot. This unusual wording (which is more common in definitions of oaths) probably implies that the brothers had brought with them supporters primarily perhaps to cheer them on in the duel but ready also to support their oaths or (as actually happened)  to contribute public submissions on their behalf. The six men then swore along with their children ("cum progenie sua") to "carry peace" ever thereafter to Robert and his progeny and that they would never bring any appeal or plaint (querimoniam) against them "pro aliquo rancore vel verbo vel facto" previously existing between them.  In response Robert and his children too swore in the same terms to the Fitzeustaces.  Though no money changed hands at the time, the settlement imposed (excluding all right to appeal or maneuver further) a 40 m. penalty on anyone from either side who broke its terms.

LAUNCELLS v. FITZWILLIAM (mainly 1199-1201)

RCR i. 373; PKJ  i. 3074, 3263, 3291; RCR ii. 244; CRR i. 238, 255-6, 267, 278-9; Rot. de Ob., 78, 103, 106-7; PKJ i. 3372; CRR i. 384, 386, 397, 437-8, 440; PKJ ii. 124 (Devon/Cornwall 1199-1201). Also PR 1200, 223-4; 1201, 190, 192, 222; 1202, 170, 251; 1203, 75, 78; CRR ii. 313; Rot. de Ob., 235, 259-60 (1204-5).
Comment: Flower 1941, 314-6.

     Richard of Launcells' house in northern Cornwall suffered a violent assault in the spring of 1199 (?). A whole group of gentry from a wide area of the south-western counties broke in and violently took various items of value, going so far as to pull rings off their owners' fingers. Robbery was not their main purpose. Once they were in control of the scene, they compelled Richard to make them a solemn promise that he would surrender to their lord, one Henry f. William, at his house on a given day. He was also to travel there on a nag (runcinus) selected Richard later alleged specifically to dishonor him.

    By the Easter term of that year, Richard had a whole series of appeals under way in the royal courts and had already obtained the outlawry of a number of his enemies. (These outlawries suggest that some of the appellees assessed their chance of going to the gallows to be high enough that they feared to appear to answer the charges.)  The appeal pleadings make it abundantly clear that behind the incident lay an old enmity involving a substantial portion of the community of the rich and influential in the area across several county lines.

     The origins of this vetus odium are never directly stated on the rolls. There are nevertheless a number of evident political overtones to the story. That the incident took place during the interregnum after Richard I's death (April 6) but before John's coronation (May 27) is almost certainly significant.  One case entry described it as occurring "straight after king Richard's death" (PR 1203, 78; CRR ii. 313), as if that was what had prompted action. The first appeals plead breaches not of the king's peace but of the Duke of Normandy, which was where the Lord John still was at the time. Several of the appellees failed to appear at the first recorded hearings, which is normal enough. But several had already been outlawed and their land taken into the king's hand by the Easter term (Easter Sunday being April 18), patently the result of some unusually swift action. Concerns were voiced at later stages of the case that it should be determined by normal procedures, "according to the law and custom of the king's court" (Rot. de ob. et fin., 103; Pipe Roll 1201, 222). This may suggest that the Fitzwilliam party were afraid that they might fall foul of royal anger leading to some extraordinary royal order and indeed the king patently took a personal interest in the dispute, as will emerge. One issue seems to have been control of the royal castle at Launceston (15 or so miles S of Launcells), which Henry f. William was later said to have wished to take over "to the lord king's shame (huntagium)". One of the appealed men, Thomas of Dunham, pleaded as his alibi that he had gone to Launceston on that day to swear his fidelity (fealty)  to the new king.

     It seems possible that the overall context was the effect of the change of kings on the local political situation in north Cornwall and the western portion of Devon. Most of  the main protagonists can be shown to have been deep into local politics and administration, the kind of people who inevitably knew each other well from meetings of the shire court and eyre.  Their loyalties to their betters, the king and other national players, and their local attachments each fed into the other.  Here as elsewhere, local enmities could determine alignments in national events and vice versa.

    Henry f. William had close links to John before his accession, from holding some lands as tenant of Count John's  honor of Mortain (Fees, i. 394, 436). At the 1201 Launceston eyre he was able to plead the king's service to excuse himself from 4 apparently separate assizes of novel disseizin [PKJ ii. 146; cf. ibid., ii. 443, 464 (= 505), 477, 521]. One of these plaintiffs, Robert de Heriz, offered 80 m. for seizin of land allegedly taken "by reason of the king's service" apparently also in 1199.  Henry countered with an offer of £100 to have the king's grace in order to defend that appeal  against him if anyone wished to plead to it and also to recover the obviously substantial lands of which he had been disseized "by reason of that appeal" apart from those given to Robert de Heriz [Pipe Roll 1199, 182, 186; 1200, 220-1; and cf. *** for Henry's further effort at the lands after Robert's death].

    Richard of Launcells too was certainly a man of some importance, thought to be capable of frustrating hostile lawsuits. In 1201 a hundred jury was amerced for making "a stupid presentment", suggestively of a homicide that had already been before the justices three times on the widow's appeal. (PKJ ii. 370). Dr. Henry Summerson  has suggested to me that he may also have been a Ricardian loyalist sheriff after the fall of John in 1194. If true, that points to a possible explanation: that Richard's death and John's accession appeared to Henry and his followers to open the way for a settling of old political scores that had had previously to be repressed.  We should try to imagine the atmosphere at Launceston castle on that day when Thomas of Dunham and many others went to swear their fealties to the new king, with rumors about John's accession and the fate of Arthur of Brittany swirling around them. The kind of grievances they were recounting to each other can be illustrated by the plea of one appellee, Hugh de Morton de odio et athia, outlined below. Henry's party may, however, have overestimated its clout with the new regime, or been brought up short by the shire's willingness to follow rules which put their men's life and limb at risk by outlawry. They would then place their hopes on the king to make them an acceptable settlement in something of the way that he eventually did.

    Without some such hypothesis, it is hard indeed to trace the complex course of the half dozen associated appeals brought by Richard and his friends, despite (sometime because of) the more than thirty entries on the printed rolls relating to the dispute. Clearly there is much even about the litigation which we cannot know. In the Michaelmas Term of 1200, two of the appeals (neither of them involving Richard in person) reached the point (wager) where the parties had committed themselves to duel. The justices held three of the others null, so that the appellees went free and Richard was in mercy. Despite this, Richard and some of his adversaries were given a day to hear judgement coram rege a few weeks later. The king then ordered the justices to send the two live cases coram rege "because he wishes to see them" (RCR ii. 244; CRR i. 238, 267). Some historians have seized upon this transfer as a telling indication of John's prurient interest in duels (Turner 1968, 95-6 gives some references) and a black mark against his character. Subsequent proceedings entirely refute such a reading of the case.

    Hugh de Morton was one of the appellees who was first acquitted and then summoned to hear his judgement from the king. His defense, more fully reported than the others, goes some way towards setting a context for the whole affair. He went beyond a general denial of all Richard's charges to himself allege that the appeal against him was brought "per attiam et per vetus odium" on three separate grounds.  Hugh had been with the hundred sergeant on the occasion when he arrested Richard's brother, "such a man that neither could nor should (be permitted to) dwell in the area", and was responsible for sending him to the gallows. On another occasion Hugh had informed the royal justices of a plea of the crown previously concealed by Richard and the justices had subsequently amerced Richard. And Richard had once tried to revoke his grant of a church in his gift to Hugh's nephew who had then had to obtain papal letters against him.

    This is the stuff of factional hostility, exactly the kind of conflict which a new king needed to resolve either by a political decision favoring the loyalist party over their enemies or by brokering a peace settlement. What actually ensued was a complex and expensive settlement that must have been negotiated with the king's knowledge and whose promotion was surely the reason why he "wished to see" the cases before him. Again we have to presume that much happened behind the scenes or at least beyond the kn of the plea roll clerks. They record (CRR i. 386 an entry from a damaged and incomplete roll) that at the hearing coram rege in the Hilary Term of 1201, Richard came into court and withdrew from his suit against Henry f. William, quitclaiming his adversaries of it for ever on behalf of himself and his heirs. Henry was to pay to him the 20 m. which the king had expected as an amercement. This was done "coram rege and by the consent of the Lord King". Hearings nevertheless continue into Easter Term, probably in part to clear up the details of the whole dispute including the subsidiary appeals.
Most of the appellees paid handsomely for their settlement. (Remember that they would have been liable to death or mutilation in the event of a successful appeal.) Henry f. William had himself to proffer £100 for the concord and to regain the king's grace and love on condition that he stood to right against (ie satisfied the claims of) anyone who appeared against him on the matter.  Richard of Launcells was to receive 100 m. from Hugh of Staddon and Richard of Dunham plus 40 m. (damages?) for his chattels. Three county locals (one of them sheriff at about this time) guaranteed with the pair that "no evil will happen through them or by their counsel or will to the said Richard de Lancell' or his men who had gaged that duel on his behalf".  Overall the king received at least 145 m. (nearly £100) in amercements. Richard too was supposed to receive substantial sums within the year, but predictably had trouble in collecting his money. That may have suited the king, since it both sustained the stand-off between the two and parties and brought Richard back to him offering money for collection assistance.

    Much of this account must remain very speculative. That said, there can be little doubt that we are glimpsing through a glass darkly exactly the kind of dispute which an entertainment writer might have chosen to describe in feud terms. Read in conjunction with the other contemporary cases, the tale is quite revealing of the interplay between personal rancor and politics at both the local and national levels.

LE BRUN v. LONDON (1200).

RCR ii. 172-3 = PKJ i. 3169; Rot. de Ob., 66 (Dublin 1200).
Comment: Lady Stenton, PKJ i, 78-9. Much information courtesy of Paul Brand.

     This was a "contencio et malivolentia" between two Dublin merchants, William Brun and Warin of London, who must have known each other very well. They were both by the 1190s middle-aged men with adult children who demonstrably belonged to the same local community and can be shown with some probability to have had continuing social relations.  Their business must have brought them frequently into contact and, doubtless, competition. Their enmity appears to have been quite long-seated. Some time in the early 1190s (c. 1192/4 while William Pipard was justiciar) William went to the Dublin county court, exceptionally here in Ireland the main royal court for the English settlement, and obtained ( as was later said) a promise of the king's peace from Warin and 4 other named associates.  What made him take this step is unknown.

     Some time later William was summoned to Dublin castle by the royal Justiciar. He was on his way home with 4 close kinsmen, his business done, when they found waiting for them on the bridge out of the castle 4 men later named in the appeal, together with a 5th man whom they never saw before or since. This one was carrying an axe; he barred their way and struck William a blow that knocked him into the moat. Two of William's companions descended to help their lord; the other 2 raised the hue and chased after the malefactors. But Warin was there to receive the assailants, and he let the killer out through a locked gate under his guard of which he (alone) held the key, re-locked it and would not let the pursuers follow. The noise of the hue reached the Justiciar and Ralf Morin, so that they and many others saw what happened including the "hatchet" man still carrying his axe. William died three days later.

    Such is the story the 4 kinsmen told in the spring of 1200 when they brought an appeal coram rege  for William's death. They named the men who had gaged peace to William on the previous occasion (though one was now dead) including Warin, whom they accused of having ordered he deed and then harbored the killer afterward wickedly (nequiter )etc. and against the peace which all had gaged. William's son Owen , was in a position to bring the case to the king's notice.  may have been the one to bring the case before the king.   Each appellor offered proof by battle against one of the opponent.

    Warin denied the story word for word in the required manner and sidestepped any risk of battle by pleading that was a maimed man with a broken leg. His colleagues likewise put in their denials and then offered 60 m. for an inquiry whether they had ever gaged the peace in the way the appellors claimed. The breach of a special peace, if confirmed, aggravated their offense and risked angering the king. The court held that all but Warin were to defend themselves by battle while Warin must undergo the ordeal of the hot iron.  The parties were given a day several weeks off on May 8 before the king wherever he was. The threat of these unpleasant proofs encouraged the appellees to come to terms and sure enough Warin and two of his colleagues made substantial proffers (20 oz. of gold are mentioned) for license to concord Owen's appeal (mentioned only here) for his father's death. We can assume that the terms of this settlement involved the payment of comparable sums though no details have survived.


Stenton 1926, nos. 612, 1031 (Lincoln eyre)
Comment: Lady Stenton, ibid., l-li.

     Osbert de Lindsey had built a house on his free holding in Stickney. Alan of Stickney came there with a retinue ("cum vi sua") one day and demanded lodging. Perhaps Osbert was slow to welcome him. The consequences were violent. Alan cut through the middle of the posts holding the house up so that it was leveled. Osbert suffered wounds and was robbed of some money. He brought a plaint at the shire court, whereupon Alan gaged (vadiavit) him the king's peace. Later, when Osbert's mother died, Alan went there and found Osbert inside with his niece who had just inherited the old lady's land. He broke into the house and threw them and their people out, wounding Osbert on the arm in the process. This is the story as Osbert told it in his appeal before the itinerant justices. Before they could come to any conclusions, however, the parties came together and placed themselves on the king's mercy "for license to concord", a slightly unusual move. Alan's amercement was assessed at 6 m., and Osbert's at 20/- (= 1½ m.). The same three local men acted as sureties for the payments of both parties.

     Alan of Stickney attested a grant of Earl Ranulph of Chester concerning East Kirkby, a village close to Stickney ( The Registrum Antiquissimum of...Lincoln, vol. 6, ed. Kathleen Major, Lincoln Record Society, vol. 41, 1950, no. 1863) and was suing mort dancestors in 1208-9 (PKJ, iv. 3581, 3589).  Of the sureties, Gilbert of Benniworth was a very substantial landowner (Fees, i. 155, 158, 161, 168, 170; Farrer, Honors & Knights Fees (1923-5), ii. 135, 179-80), whose main holdings were from the earl of Chester (G. Barraclough (ed.), The Charters of the Anglo-Normaan Earls of Chester, c. 1071-1237 (Record Society of Lancs. and Cheshire, vol. 126, 1988), no. 298) and appears elsewhere on the roll as a tithingman, a litigant for substantial property and as surety. John f. Ralph may be identified with a man who served on a grand assize, and was rather fruitlessly seeking elements of his inheritance by mort dancestor. Henry of Billinghay also served on a grand assize.


CRR i. 219, 271, 273, 332, 356, 380-1, 393, 441; ii. 37 (Dorset, mostly coram rege).

     The summer of 1199 undoubtedly marked a turning point in the life of John Maltravers, a younger son of the father whose name he shared. John senior lay sick at his house in Woolcombe, (nr. Melbury Bubb, Dorset, close to the Somerset border and Yeovil ) on what would prove to be his deathbed. When John junior came to see the old man with a couple of followers on the octave of St. John the Baptist (June 30), one Walter de Turbervill first barred his way and then with 5 other men chased down him and his friends. Though John managed to escape, his two companions were chased into the cowshed, where one of them, Simon Blund was "killed and hanged" (sic!).  The elder John died soon after. But a charter was nevertheless made in his name granting the house and the 3 (or 4) carucates of land surrounding it, constituting in all a respectable half knight's fee, to his wife, Alice. Medieval deathbeds were often quite protracted, and deathbed grants were always suspect for the obvious reason that they were likely to be the product of undue influence on a weakened mind. Although the dying man's eldest son and heir, Walter, made his own charter confirming the grant, he may not have been able to arrange the public livery of seizin which the law required in such cases.

    John junior perhaps understood the reasons for the attack. His filial visit may even have been an unsuccessful effort to forestall the dissipation of his inheritance hopes. He may have been the youngest of the old man's sons. Or there may be other reasons why they but not he had received portions while the old man was still vigorous. Any residual uncertainty about his situation disappeared when Walter de Turbervill swiftly married the widow Alice! On Saturday August 7 John was back at the Woolcombe house, ostensibly perhaps to claim as his expected inheritance the house and its half fee of land. (The youngest son (hearth-child) sometimes received his father's home as a customary portion.)  He found Walter in possession and at home. Whether he knew already that he was not to have "his" property or learned this only on arrival, we do not know. But the house was fired and many of its contents lost. The way Walter told the tale in court later, he escaped from the burning house found John outside and understood who was doing the job with his force ('cum vi sua"). Walter claimed that six of his men were killed that day. Some of John's companions at the house-burning had already been outlawed in the shire court at the suit of Robert de Lit, an associate of Walter's, concerning a suit for £5-0-11 d. Walter's own appeal specified that he had lost in the fire charters to the value of £100, adding that, on top of all this, John and his companions had taken such other chattels as they wished
In due course, John junior initiated a number of his own lawsuits relating to these events. He brought an assize of mort dancestor (A) against Walter and Alice for his father's half fee at Woolcombe. It was to meet this that the couple produced the deathbed charter and its confirmation. John's case seems to have been the obvious one, that Alice had had her grant drafted as pleased her but had entered the land while it was in her custody anyway, ie without proper livery of seizin before John senior's death. He would not answer as to the charters until he had obtained his seizin, since they related to the right and so ought not to stand in the way of an assize that sought only his father's seizin.  Successive adjournments deferred judgement until a day shared by the appeals (C). He also sued the couple, apparently at the same time, in detinue (B)  for two royal charters which ought to have been in Alice's custody, and 5 hauberks apparently needed for the discharge of royal service obligations. These were the esential symbols of his birthright. Walter and Alice defended each charge. Alice had indeed had the charters, but they were lost when the house was burnt down. As for the hauberks, there had only been the one which the old man had given to another of his sons along with £10 worth of land 7 years before he died. To this John responded that Walter should accept responsibility for the charters since he admitted they were lost while in his possession, and that his father had had fulfilled his tenurial obligation to have all 5 hauberks on a previous Welsh expedition, as a witness would attest. At a later hearing, Walter first tried to gain further delay, then left without the court's permission and consequently lost the case by default. John's appeal against Walter (which reads like a trespass plaint in its circumstantial detail) was accompanied by two others brought by associates against two of Walter's henchmen who shared responsibility for the maleficium, one of them that Robert de Lit mentioned above (C).  All three rather unusually obtained a hearing coram rege. Walter, having made the usual general denial of all charges, went on to deny proper summons (he was not given a day to answer, apparently a plea for time to prepare his defense) and offered 40/- for a jury of the countryside. The justices adjourned proceedings until mid-Lent for judgement requesting to know from the Chief Justiciar, Geooffrey f. Peter, how the case came before them. Successive adjournments then took it into the Michaelmas term of 1201 when the parties requested and were granted a further adjournment into Hilary 1202 and a license to concord. And that is the last we hear of the matter.

MARTELL v. PARIS (1200-2).

PKJ i. 3250; CRR i. 292-3, 382; PKJ i. 3352, 3419; CRR i. 425; PR 1201, 18. Cf. LRS xxii. 249, 1056 (p. 182), PR 1203, 99. (Lincs., Coram Rege and eyre)

     Martin Martell and Peter f. John of Paris were prominent Lincoln citizens. Martin accused Peter of breaking and entering his house at Canwick just a mile south of the city. Peter and those with him had assaulted him, robbed him of a sum of money (either 47 m. or 67 m.) and the title deeds of his lands. This was one incident in a continuing dispute. Peter's defense recalled that a previous appeal on the same facts had been settled by royal license on terms by which each of the appellees had to wage his law 36-handed but when they arrived in this large company, ready and prepared to swear their oaths Martin quit-claimed them and went on to take their homages, exchange with each the kiss of peace and pardon them "all his ill will that he had held toward them". Martin admitted that this had happened. But, he went on, he is appealing now precisely because Peter's side did not keep their side of the bargain. That admission killed Martin's case; the court held his appeal null and amerced him. This was probably not the end of a matter whose stakes seemed so high to parties who inevitably came  into regular contact with each other in the public life of the city. The citizens of Lincoln as a body are recorded on the 1201 pipe roll as having offered 700 m. and 7 palfreys for the confirmation of their liberties granted by the king "in order that they should be quit of Martin Martell's appeal for breach of the peace". And Martin's offer at the eyre "to have his charters heard" was probably also related to the same affair.


Orderic, v. 282.

    Orderic leaves anonymous the “certain knight” whose shaft accidentally killed Richard the Bastard while hunting in the New Forest. He at once fled in great distress to Lewes Priory and escaped the expected “geminam ultionem” of the royal youth’s kinsmen and friends by becoming a monk there and expiating his guilt (“reatum homicidii”) by monastic penance. He certainly seems to have expected violent retribution from their “rancor” which the claim of accident (“casu”) might not suffice to prevent.

ROSS v. TIDD (1194-9)

PRS xiv. 35; RCR i. 29, 57-8 (Lincs.). Cf. PR 1201, 13

     These two substantial Lincolnshire families had been at loggerheads for some years before the lawsuit emerged. An earlier symptom or cause of the enmity was an earlier lawsuit, probably concerning land. In the course of this dispute there had been angry words. Adam of Tidd (Tydd St. Mary) had twice, according to William de Ross, threatened him that he would not long enjoy his father's fine arms and buildings.  William was worried enough by this that he had persuaded royal justices at the trial to formally proclaim the king's peace between the parties.  Despite this, there followed an armed assault in which houses of the father (Richard) were burned down, his reeve and a couple of others from the house killed and the family arms carried off. William brought against Adam, 3 of his brothers and his step-father, Hamo Dot, an appeal which eventually reached the royal justices at Westminster. (It was already in progress in 1194, when Adam found an impressive group of 18 manucaptors from the top levels of county society to guarantee his appearance in court.) The assault party had, he claimed, come from and returned to Adam's house. Adam had planned the deed along with Hamo and others even if he did not personally participate. Adam denied all, adding that he had in any event given peace only to William and not to the others involved. He also offered the king 10 m. for a jury of two shires on the issue of whether the appeal was brought out of hatred (De Odio et Athia). Since no verdict is known, the parties may possibly have come to an agreement, of which there are conceivable traces on the pipe rolls (eg Pipe Roll 1201, 13).

RUMBAUD v. PRIEST (1198-1202)

NRS v. 64, 66 (Northampton eyre 1202).

Comment: D.M. Stenton, ibid., p. xxv, but not in her 19** discussion of justiciars' writs, PKJ; not apparently noticed by Hurnard 1969 or Hall 1970, lxvi-lxx etc.

    Hugh, son of Walter the priest of Grafton Regis, in Cleyley Hundred, Northants., was responsible for the death of Roger Rumbaud at some undetermined date late in Richard I's reign. This seems undisputed. Whether the circumstances added up to intentional and culpable homicide or not is less clear. Roger's sister, Lucy, and/or his brother (?) Robert duly appealed Hugh of the deed at successive county courts until he was outlawed. Hugh never appeared to defend himself. Instead he took steps to obtain a pardon from the king, probably Richard I, whom he had probably had to pursued abroad for the purpose. (Or perhaps he was already serving in the army.) Only then dare he return home to brandish his pardon and a writ from the Justiciar ordering the sheriff to readmit him to the (king's) peace.

    We are now in 1198 or later, since the Justiciar was Geoffrey f. Peter. The wording of his missive is very revealing. He had, he says, received a written order from the king to "in auxilium ad pacem reformandum inter ipsum (H.) et parentes interfecti". So, he says, he now orders the sheriff first to implement that help to Hugh, then to let him know by letter what he has done, "quoniam tenemur illud domino Regi significare." There could be no clearer indication of the way king and justiciar saw themselves as under a duty to promote peacemaking in the kingdom even at the village level. Nor were those involved important people or obviously exceptional in other ways.

     Hugh's two documents were read aloud at a full meeting of the shire, which then directed him to find sureties to guarantee that he would in future remain within the king's peace. He went off promising to do this but never returned to court to communicate their names as he should have done. One may guess that he was unable to find anyone prepared to stand surety for him, an indication that local sentiment was against him, that he was felt to be guilty of culpable homicide as ordinary people understood the matter. Or it may have been from fear or sympathy for the Rumbauds. Certainly, the dead man's kin appears to have been caught napping, absent from court on this occasion. When they realised that Hugh, their enemy, had returned to the area, Robert Rumbaud came to the very next court with one Geoffrey f. Turstan , who declared that he would appeal Hugh of the death should he ever see him. Geoffrey's interest is easily explained. He had himself fled after Roger's death, for which flight (and possible criminal involvement) the same jurors presented him to the eyre! Not surprisingly, Hugh did not turn up at that court.

    The circumstances of Hugh's readmission to the peace were explained to the angry Rumbaud family. The shire then decided to commission a hundred sergeant to find Hugh and produce him at a later court. Hugh was pretty obviously at risk again, quite possibly as much from Rumbaud vengeance as any royal action (so Stenton, ibid., p. xxv). He made himself scarce so that the sergeant had to report he could not find him. Geoffrey ceremoniously produced himself all prepared to begin his appeal. The shire gave Hugh a further chance at the following court, with the same negative result. When this procedure had been done one more time, the third court, the shire pronounced that, since Hugh was unwilling to appear to the king's peace, he should once again bear the wolf's head, be deemed an outlaw.

     At the next eyre in 1202, the hundred jury included an account of the matter among their presentments. A double outlawry for the same deed must have looked highly irregular to the justices. They questioned the shire representatives, who told the story reproduced above. Ought the justices to believe it? They remained suspicious and suspended judgement on the coroners amd hundred jurors. They must have been very aware how easy it was for the locals to concoct a plausible story of this kind in order to protect their friends, how difficult for outsiders sent in from Westminster to get to the bottom of such an affair. Of course the plausibility of the shire's story is the major point here, for the purposes of this book.

     The case nicely documents a stage in the developing common-law treatment of homicide pardons at which the kin's rights seem still ominously close to blood vengeance.


Orderic, vi. 458-62.

    L’Aigle partisans pursued St. Evroul and its men for gain even – to Orderic’s horror -- in Whit week.  The townsmen seized twelve of those responsible (out of 30) and hanged them from an oak tree. The L’Aigle party greatly infuriated  came together to avenge their fellows by attacking the town of St. Evroul. The monks expected that their house would be the next target. They tearfully sought to excuse themselves with the attackers and offered justice and c due compensation for the crime, as they termed it, of hanging the seven attackers. But by this time, the L’Aigle party was so blinded by fury that they would have none of this,  but threatened to knock the monks from their horses and lacking any reverence for God went on seeking their vengeance on the innocent monks and their dependants.  When after the wind changed to save the monastic church from fire and the L’Aigle side began to lose, Orderic took this as a sign of God’s judgement against them and their lord, Richer, for turning against his godparents, the monks. The lesson he deduced, that when heavily armed men fight against the simple and defenseless, they risk not merely defeat but opprobium and derision, was apparently shared by some of the attackers, who were so shamed by the taunts of the opposition as to break down and repent publicly of their actions. The fact that God might be expected to punish men who sought wrongful vengeance was thus widely enough accepted as to play a part in the politics of such disputes.


Ransford 1989, no. 368.

     One may deduce from the concord (our sole evidence) that the precipitating event in this story was an attack by armed men on a house in the manner of those found in appeal cases on the early plea rolls a generation later and discussed above in Cap. 7.  Among 4 men killed was Julian f. William. His brother, a clerk called Laurence, may (or may not) have initiated a formal appeal for his death. All we know comes from the settlement Laurence made with Sir Simon of Stanstead, whose brother is said to have been one of the actual killers. This document reflects an occasion which patently involved kin groups on either side and drew in a fair proportion of the local gentry to boot.

     Sir Simon promised to have 3 masses celebrated each year for Julian's soul, to feed one pauper on every day remaining in his own life and to donate a small packet of land and meadow to the Hospitallers in perpetual alms free from both secular service and any claims from the donor's heirs. He then did homage to the cleric, Laurence, along with 40 knights (some of them described as his kinsmen, others as unqualified amici), and swore a carefully drafted oath. This stated that 1. he had not killed Julian with his own hand; 2.  he had not come to the hospicium where the brothers then dwelt for the sake of their death; and 3. when he heard of Julian's death "he was more saddened (condoluit) by the news than joyful (letatus)". (The wording chosen implies that he shared the pain of the dead man's kindred and felt no inclination to gloat over them. It is an indicator of the passions roused by the killing, including the fear of being shamed among the victim's friends.) He then promised "in the hand" of the Prior of the whole order of Hospitallers in England, on both his own behalf and that of his whole party, gens, that he would observe the terms of the peace. I imagine that he made this undertaking on his knees or in some previously agreed pose of submission and humiliation. When Laurence made a similar promise for his side (again gens) there was a significant addition; he expressly excepted from the amnesty all those who had actually committed the homicide. The fact that the document then goes on to name the alleged killers, in whose number we find Sir Simon's own brother, forcibly suggests that he would have been unable to make this peace, had he been an accomplice, and that Laurence's friends reserved, as it were, their right to take physical vengeance on any of the killers that fell into their hands. There is no sign that any of those involved paid the slightest attention to either royal justice or any public officials. The final sentence before witnesses are named expresses the positive outcome of the deal: "In this way, Laurence and Simon and their kinsmen became concordes et amici for ever, except for those whom we excluded above".

     For once this settlement seems to have been effective. Both principals lived on into the 1220s (Ransford 1989, nos. 318, 367, 370, 378) by which time Waltham possessed a substantial interest in the village, still known as Stanstead Abbots and the whole Wanchy fee ( from which Simon held) there. Laurence had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1184/1201), just conceivably at the time of the 3rd Crusade.

     The document remains more or less unique at this stage. Private agreements not concerning landed property are themselves rare. Laymen will seldom have recorded their peace settlements in writing without severe clerical prompting. And if they did, only the very great possessed safe places to preserve documents. (Cf. CUSIN v. FITZJOHN above.) But few churchmen would bother much about such a document either once the immediate crisis had passed; unlike title deeds, they had no cash value for the house's saint. This one was passed over by two early cartulary compilers before gaining inclusion in a 14th-century cartulary, more than a century after the event. It shows signs of careful drafting, possibly by someone with a schools training. (Cf. the phrase "plus inde condoluit quam letatus est".) One possibility is that  if Prior Roger acted as mediator and helped settle the peace terms, which seems plausible, then he or one of his  Hospitaller scribes might have composed the text too. But Waltham was much closer to Stanstead (7 m.), probably already interested in expanding its property interests there, and so perhaps happy to offer a convenient archive in which to conserve the all-important concord in the absence of any Hospitaller house nearby. This is all very fortunate for us.

TOSNY v. BEAUMONT (c. 1030-63)

Orderic, ii. 40, 90, 92, 104-6, 124; iii. 88; iv. 212-7.
Comment: D.C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (), 85; G.H. White, TRHS 4th s., xxii (1940), 87; Chibnall 1984, 195; Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid (University Press: Oxford, 1989), 78-9.

    Orderic does not tell the whole story, just alludes to it obliquely in a way favorable to the Tosny side as friends of St. Evroul and founders of Conches. Robert (junior) de Grandmesnil had entered St. Evroul shortly after 1050, lamenting the “dangers of secular warfare” by which his father and others had died fighting bravely against their enemies but falling thereby into traps they had prepared for others. The death of Robert’s father alongside Roger de Tosny and his sons, some time around 1040, was the reason why Robert now chose a better militia as a monk. His decision did not bury the enmities. The way Orderic told the story, Earl Roger of Montgomery and Mabel his wife took advantage of disturbed times after the French king’s death in 1060 (?) to plot against the life of Roger (II) de Tosny by unsupported accusations to duke William against him and various of his close associates. Orderic’s own abbot was implicated for injudicious words spoken in private against the duke. He was afraid that the duke’s malivolentia would lead to physical action against him and his kin, and so fled. Another of those who went into exile at this time was Arnold d’Echaffour. He avenged the wrong of his expulsion and effective disherison by three years harrying the area including his own old castle at Lieuvin and even St. Evroul. This became a full werra waged with the help of Arnold’s Giroie kinsmen and other men summoned from various regions to his support. Duke William could not afford such disorder in the midst of his own campaigns against Brittany and Maine. Powerful voices among his barons counseled him to recall the exiles and broker a peace that presumably suited all participants.

UPSALL v. FOSSARD (c. 1183/1203, ? 1183/9)

EYC, ix. 81-2.

     Arnold of Upsall and Adam Fossard were substantial knightly landowners whose lands abutted on each other on the North Yorkshire moors.  Friction between them arose from conflicting claims to common rights in Killingwith wood  which lay between their properties a fair way up on the moors. We know about their magna discordia both from narrative memorandum written rather later by a monk of Byland, the house that in the long term was to acquire all the disputed land and more, and from Adam's charter made at or close to the time of its settlement. The argument seems to have been about timber for building rather than mere firewood. In this kind of rough country, trees suitable for building were rare enough to make the subject matter of real value and enough to provoke violence and strong feelings. Our sources may be too concerned with property rights to convey any hints of this. But one has to suspect some element of real conflict in the woods to explain the mediation of amici and kinsmen that was felt to be needed to broker the settlement. The terms were as follows: Each was responsible for conserving growing trees "in good peace" until they needed some for building purposes. They could only give or sell wood by mutual consent. This "concord" was made "on the moor" in the presence of William de Stuteville, their common lord, 4 other knights and many others. William, a baron who served three kings at different times as, among other offices, sheriff of more than one county and, between 1188 and 1194, as a royal justice (EYC, pp. 9-12) was clearly one of the amici (he was cousin to Adam's wifewho had made the peace. The gathering was, indeed, probably understood as a meeting of his (honorial) court. His heir later confirmed the settlement by charter as lord (EYC, ix. 60, ?1224/33).

     Adam's sealed charter, preserved in the Byland archive, needs to be supplemented from the monks' own account drawn up doubtless with the help of oral memories.  This explains that originally Arnold and his men were supposed to have only pasture rights in the disputed wood but only took wood there "per eschapiam" without Adam knowing about it.   Adam must have found out! This adds details of a marriage agreement unmentioned in Adam's charter.  For making his peace settlement, Arnold was to receive Juliana, Adam's sister as his wife, and Adam granted the couple "in augmentum" of their marriage full rights of common in the wood except that they needed the consent of him or his heirs to cut and carry off trees. "And all these things were brought to closure ("completa") amicably and in peace", the narrative continued, and the two principals "lived to the end of their lives in great peace and love".

     Two final comments. Neither William de Stutevill, for all his connections, nor anyone else appears to have felt the need for confirmation of the deal in a royal court or by a royal act. Secondly, neither of these documents would have survived had the property and its title deeds not passed to the monks of Byland.

WARIN OF WALCOT  (mid-twelfth century).

Stenton 1940, no. 390, with comment: pp. lxv-lxvi

     This is a story so unexpected in context that the plea roll clerk left too little space to tell it and had to struggle to find room on his roll. It was told in an action of right as the quite exceptional special verdict of a grand assixe at the Coventry eyre of 1221.

     Warin of Walcot was initially an honest knight errant ("miles..itinerans et probus") in the Warwickshire of Stephen's reign. He came one night to stay at the house of Robert of Shuckburgh, on the eastern edge of the county, a few miles south of Rugby and close to the Leicestershire border. There he met his host's daughter, the (presumably) fair Isabel, and in true romance style fell in love with her and sought her hand.  Alas, neither Robert nor his son and heir, William, approved the match. Our hero was not to be put off. He left the house to return soon afterwards with a whole mob of supporters and abducted Isabel by force against her will, so we are told and without assent from either herself or her father.   Warin held his prize a long time, while earning his living as a robber.  The couple may be said to have lived as man and wife, since a son was born and named Warin after his father. The jurors of 1221 were uncertain that they were ever married, though this may represent an imposition of the new consensual marriage requirement in hindsight. Then Stephen died and the new king, Henry II, proclaimed his peace. This was not good news for Warin.  By this time, he could not give up his trade as a robber, yet trade was much worse than before and he fell into poverty. Complaints about the knightly robber reached the king ("auditis de eo clamoribus") who ordered his arrest. Unsurprisingly the first attempt to take him failed. Warin fled to a marshy fastness a few miles north of Shuckburgh where he stayed for a while longer at liberty. Captured at last, he was brought before the king himself at Northampton to receive his day in court coram rege.   We hear if no defense. The king consulted his barons in proper manner before delivering a sentence that sent Warin to the pillory where he died.

     With Warin dead, Isabel could return to her father's house. Doubtless she had no alternative. Our narrative strongly implies that her welcome was dependent upon her having been an unwilling victim of abduction.  In time, a more acceptable suitor, a local man called William, sought her hand, was approved and duly received her in marriage along with a modest dowry of 4 virgates of land.  The plaintiff (demandant) of our action of right, Henry, was the legitimate issue of this union. The principals of our tale being long dead, his opponent was Robert f. Warin, the errant knight's grandson and Henry's half-nephew.  That Henry sued the writ suggests that Robert had taken possession of at least part of the land. The grand assize jurors went on to help us understand why Robert had put himself on them. Isabel had survived her (second?) husband, William. While he still lived, however, she had persuaded him to make a grant jointly with herself of half a virgate from their small estate to Robert, her grandson by her (first?) husband Sir Warin. They jurors were nevertheless sure that Isabel had died in seizin of the whole 4 virgates, which she held (they report) first as her dowry and then after her husband's death as her inheritance, since he had not other heir but her.  That too is a trifle mysterious, since Henry can only be suing on the basis that he was his father's heir.
One can only say that when facts like these reach a grand assize, they can be excused for declining to rule who had greater right to the disputed land, as was their charge, and narrate all the facts so that the court might make the ruling in their stead. In the event, the parties saved the justices the trouble by concording on terms which go some way to confirming the plausibility of the whole story. Robert f. Warin, grandson of the ill-fated robber knight, abandoned his claim in return for 5 m. plus confirmation of his right to the half virgate. Maybe this was what it had all been about. Normally in such cases, somebody has to pay the king for license to concord. On this occasion however, the justices gave their permission free, "for God", deeming both parties to be too poor.

    Lady Stenton, author of The English Woman in History (1957), remarked upon the "surprising fact" that one finds such a "fresh account of a love story" in such a source. Readers in this day may find it equally surprising that she did not think to consider the abduction as the rape of an unwilling virgin, which is the way the story is told.  The whole tale would look very much in place in one of the contemporary romances, whose ambiguities have been explored recently by feminists of a more recent vintage (eg Gravdal 199?). And yet, there could be a love story behind, for the jurors were perhaps telling it their way to exclude Robert f. Warin's claim to the whole 4 virgates. We shall never know.

    Two points should interest legal historians. We are presented with proceedings coram rege from the early years of Henry II as some kind of appeal plaint quite explicitly described as against the new king's peace and leading to a judgement of life and members. But we hear of no accuser, prepared to set his life at risk in proof of the accusations. Perhaps this was an "office" prosecution prosecuted by the itinerant king himself.  And perhaps such prosecutions provoked the thoughts that led to the Assize of Clarendon in 1166 with its innovatory system of public prosecution. The second noteworthy point is the sentence itself. Was the pillory imposed because the king hesitated to judge a free man to death in such circumstances, or was it perhaps understood as a concealed death sentence anyway?


PRS xiv. 18-20; RCR i. 60, 100. Cf. RCR i. 6.

 The Waver family derived their toponymic from Cesters Over (nr. Monks Kirby, Warwicks.) which they held from the Camvilles within the honor of Mowbray. (Greenway 1972, 263 (10); cf.  ibid., nos. 81, 192.) Night was already falling by the time that Richard de Waver and his entourage reached his Northamptonshire property in  the village of Byfield (Wardon Hundred). He had expected to find a bed with his reeve, Robert Thwerteful, and may have been anxious to reach shelter in the knowledge that old enemies, the Argentain family lived close by. But Robert demurred; he could not put him up, because his household was in the process of brewing that night. He then diverted him to a neighbor's house. Richard asked him whether he had any white sheets for the bed, and the reeve said that his were out at some woman's house and went off, so he said, to get them. In fact he sent word of Richard's arrival to the brothers Argentain, "whom he knew to be (his lord's) enemies". Richard went bed but was wakened in the middle of the night by the arrival of his enemies, 28 of them. These included men of at least three different lords, Robert de Nevill, Robert Capun and Hugh de Herdeberg' (Harby, Leics.?). They wounded him (in the shoulder) and several of his men, and killed two people (one of them his nephew) taking their bodies away in sacks provided by a helpful villein.

     The first step in a murder appeal was to show the bodies to the coroner. Richard was obviously unable to do this. His first effort to bring an appeal nevertheless reached a jury inquiry which found against it.  Richard then successfully complained to the Justiciar that the inquisition verdict had been fraudulent and false from bribery. He was then granted a royal order to arrest the appellees from which followed the proceedings whose record provides most of what we know.

    The enmity can be traced back at least to the start of the reign and the preparations for the 3rd Crusade. Richard, a cleric in deacon's orders, did not go; the crusader was his (elder?) brother, William, who died in the process. William's crusading preparations affected relations with the Argentein family in two different ways.

    First he had to make respectable dispositions for the safety of his wife and her land during his expedition. William's  wife, Maud, was an heiress in the royal gift. William had paid 220 m. for her hand. () The way Richard told the story later, William had committed her with her lands into the custody of her kinsman, Reginald of Argentein. He requited this trust by breaking many of the rules governing such custodies. He wrongfully took for himself 150 m. worth of produce from the land, and then married off Maud (by that time a widow, I hope) to his own brother Roger without royal license. But Reginald told a different tale. He claimed to have taken the land on a crusading lease, which would imply a loan (towards traveling expenses?) to William as lessor repayable on his safe return. It was not he but his lord, Robert de Nevill, he said, who gave Maud to Roger.  Richard was in any event suing Roger for Maud's abduction and his intrusion into her land, in what reads from the roll like a trespass plaint. In his defense to this action, Roger denied that Maud was a royal ward, confirmed his brother's story, and summoned his lord Robert de Nevill to confirm the story as his charter warranty required.

    Richard also remembered William as having deposited his warhorse with Henry of Mentmore another of the 1194 appellees, and now sued to get it back, pledging all his property that he would convict William of unjust detinue. But Henry claimed that all he had done was give his lord (= William?) a palfrey in exchange for a trotting nag ("runcinum trotantem").  His point may be that William wanted a mount more suitable for the journey makes more sense than abandoning the expensive prerequisite for battle. But these are guesses and there is no further information.

     Whether these two disputes are adequate to explain an enmity worth a murderous night attack is a matter for individual judgement. The different lords of the two sides are very likely also part of the story. The litigation of which we can be sure includes at least 4 appeals carried over from the shire plus two other plaints made to look on the rolls more trespassory in form. Even in the appeals, Richard evaded the risks of battle by pleading his clerical status with his disability (mayhem) as an additional excuse. This would have compelled his opponents to undergo either an ordeal or battle against the vigorous kinsmen of those who had been killed. They met the threat by adding to their general denial a defense as against an excommunicate, which may imply additional proceedings in a church court. All this litigation fanned the flames of enmity while ensuring that everyone in the area knew what was going on.