ecclesiastical courts

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Have existed alongside secular courts from the Norman Conquest, though their activities were much diminished after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In addition to supervising clerical discipline, the courts had important jurisdiction over matrimonial disputes, probate, and wills, and a general responsibility for the behaviour of the laity. In the 12th cent. the boundaries between royal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the extent of benefit of clergy were hotly disputed and contributed much to the conflict between Henry II and Becket. Until the Reformation the hierarchy of courts was archdeacons' courts, bishops' (consistory) courts, archiepiscopal courts, and the papal court. Above the archiepiscopal court for Canterbury was the Court of Arches: above York, the Chancery Court.

Subjects: History.

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