Mortmain refers to property held by a ‘dead hand’ and therefore inalienable. Kings and barons objected to persons granting their land to a religious institution and receiving it back again, having shed, in the process, their military and other feudal obligations. The provisions of Westminster (1259) declared against alienation of land without the lord's permission. Edward I's statute of 1279 forbade such transfers on pain of forfeiture, to the chagrin of the clergy.
Subjects: British History.