By Rose Mary Coley
Historical Social Research, Vol. 14, No.3 (1989)
Introduction: Knowledge about the great and famous is easily obtained. A monarch and his actions are recorded many times over by historians, chroniclers, and poets. Little is known about the men that participated at the king’s court. Evidence about the workings of the court and the courtiers can be found in the witness lists of the charters.
The witnesses to royal documents prior to Magna Carta formed the basis for a parliament system. There were three types of charters which were witnessed: Grants, Confirmations, and Writs. These men, by attesting charters agreed to enforce and accept the king’s decrees. Furthermore, by attesting to grants, these witnesses may have agreed to help the king provide the property being gifted. Therefore, a system of government evolved whereby the king sought approval for his decrees. It becomes important to know who the courtiers were and how they were allied, because they gradually become an integral part in the government of Great Britain.