Kin and the Courts: Testimony of Kinship in Lawsuits of Angevin England

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Kin and the Courts: Testimony of Kinship in Lawsuits of Angevin England

By Nathaniel L. Taylor

Haskins Society Journal, Vol. 15 (2005)

Synopsis: In the secular and ecclesiastical courts of Angevin England one finds, for the first time anywhere in Western Europe, genealogical narrative expressed within an increasingly formalized framework of judicial testimoney.  In reviewing the variety of cases and proceedings from the era, one can discern three broard categories of lawsuit which hinge on genealogical testimony: marriage litigation, suits involving the inheritance of property, and suits challenging the inherited legal status of villeins.  The present paper is limited to a review of the two more clearly defined types of litigation: marriage and villeinage.  This preliminary qualitative study is based on a small sample of published cases from the Curia Regis Rolls in the regin of King John (for suits involving villeinage) and from the Select Please of the Court of Canterbury covering the whole thirteenth century (for marriage litigation), with additional reference to comparative material from other sources.  After reviewing each type of case in turn, we will suggest common and divergent elements and note questions and directions for future research.

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Sharan Newman