Spoliation and disseisin: possession under threat and its protection before and after 1215

Spoliation and disseisin: possession under threat and its protection before and after 1215

By Dafydd Bened Walters

Vergentis: Revista de Investigación de la Cátedra Internacional conjunta Inocencio III, Vol.1 (2015)

Holding the scales of justice – British Library MS Royal 6 E VII f. 387v

Abstract: Each of the two great law-making events of 1215, Magna Carta and the Fourth Lateran Council, included provisions relating to dispossession (spoliation, disseisin) and how to remedy some of its previous deficiencies. This paper considers the legal texts in some detail and the history behind them, in canon law and, in relation to this topic, its Roman base; and in England, notably the legislation of the Anglo-Norman King Henry II (1154-1189). It then considers the effect of these changes in both canon and secular law after 1215 in the rest of the 13th century and a little beyond. The Anglo-Norman royal law is also compared with variants found in boroughs or cities (like London); in northern France; and in the Liber Augustalis of Frederick II for his kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy.

Introduction: In 1072, or a little later, a trial took place between Lanfranc and William’s half-brother, Odo (in French texts, Odon or Eudes) a son of William the Conqueror’s mother Herleva by Herluin de Conteville. Lanfranc was Abbot of Caen, but William I wanted him as archbishop of Canterbury in place of Stigand, the last pre-conquest archbishop. Lanfranc was born in Pavia, a notable centre of legal learning, c1010 where he had had a lay career in both civil and canon law. Before Caen, he had served as prior of the Benedictine house of Bec in Normandy which he had entered in 1042, his scholarly reputation preceding him. He died in 1089.

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