Chapter

Tame Magnates? The Justiciars of Later Medieval Scotland

Hector Macqueen

in Kings, Lords and Men in Scotland and Britain, 1300–1625

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2014 | ISBN: 9780748691500
Published online September 2015 | e-ISBN: 9781474400848 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691500.003.0005
Tame Magnates? The Justiciars of Later Medieval Scotland

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The justiciars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were, like their predecessors, drawn from the ranks of the magnates. Generally speaking they were also men prominent elsewhere in royal government. Thus they cannot be described as ‘professional’ judges in the sense that they spent their working lives acting solely in a judicial capacity. If they could be said to be of any profession it was that of ‘civil servant’ or ‘government minister’. The chapter compiles a list of all known justiciars, showing that, especially in the fifteenth century, many held office for short periods – say a year – but more than once in their careers. Justiciarships appear therefore to have been delegated from time to time to members of the king’s council. Although some of them held office for much longer periods, the justiciars were a ‘part-time, lay magistracy’. They came to be part of the king’s government because they were deemed fit for the task by the standards of the time – whatever those may have been and however different from our own or those of other countries then and now.

Keywords: justice; administration; government; law; crime

Chapter.  13172 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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