Journal Article

The Intervention of the Crown and the Effectiveness of the Sheriff in the Execution of Judicial Writs, c.1355–1530

Pamela Nightingale

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXIII, issue 500, pages 1-34
Published in print February 2008 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online March 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cen004
The Intervention of the Crown and the Effectiveness of the Sheriff in the Execution of Judicial Writs, c.1355–1530

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This article uses statistics compiled from returns to Chancery writs to examine the effectiveness of the sheriffs in enforcing the re-payment of debts recorded under Statute Staple procedures between 1355-1530. It concludes that sheriffs improved on their performance under Edward III, despite the subsequent delegation of judicial authority to the landed classes, in periods when the crown was strong, such as the reign of Henry V. This was possible because of the supervisory powers the Chancellor acquired over the sheriffs from 1346, and through Chancery's use of the sub-pena writ. By contrast, the appointment of sheriffs from the royal household, and from the royal affinity, under Richard II and Henry VI, made little difference to the standards achieved in executing writs since royal nominees were just as likely as county gentry to become embroiled in local power struggles. The statistics show that Edward IV began a sustained recovery of royal authority, while earlier additions to the Chancellor's powers, and the development of higher professional standards in Chancery allowed Henry VII, aided by his ruthless use of financial penalties, to achieve a highly effective degree of control over the sheriffs. Henry's harsh and grasping rule was tolerated by his subjects because social and economic changes meant that more people, particularly the powerful mercantile class of London, needed the more effective judicial system that Henry gave them.

Journal Article.  15174 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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