The Social Status, Education, and Benefices of Gilbert Rothbury, a Clerical Common Law Justice (1295-1321)
Monumenta Iuris Canonici, Series C: Subsidia vol. 15, pp. 453-470
18 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2016 Last revised: 20 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2016
King Edward I (1272-1307) transformed the English Common Law through procedural reforms and a raft of statutes. The judicial contingent of the King’s Council bore the primary task of drafting these statutes, and these same justices interpreted and applied the laws during trial. Yet, we know relatively little about the lives of Edward I’s judges. This article seeks to reanimate Gilbert Rothbury, one of Edward I’s justices who was simultaneously a priest and a Common Law judge, by examining in detail three aspects of his life that likely influenced his work as a judge: his social standing; his education; and his financial relationships with the church.
Examination of a range of unpublished archival sources and published primary sources suggests several broad conclusions. First, perhaps unique among central royal court judges, Rothbury came from an extremely humble background which may have made him more attuned to poorer litigants in a society separated sharply by class. Second, Rothbury received some education in the learned law at Oxford University that influenced his Common Law decisions. Finally, Rothbury’s pecuniary ties to abbots, priors, and bishops dwarfed his annual royal salary, making it possible that friendship or funding shaped the outcome of his decisions.
Keywords: law, medieval, common law, justice, judge, education, benefice, Edward I, Rothbury, cleric, priest
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