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Warranty and good lordship in twelfth-century England

Hyams, Paul R. (1986) Warranty and good lordship in twelfth-century England. Humanities Working Paper, 116. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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Already in the twelfth century, men canvassed different views on the ways in which they thought lordship ought to be exercised. They used their picture of how an idealised "Good Lord" -- a familiar label in later times -- comported himself to assess the treatment they actually received from their lords. This Good Lordship had both Positive and Negative aspects: the "good lord" maintained his vassals in their honours and renounced his right to revoke grants afterwards. One excellent way to study the pursuit of this double ideal is through the language of charters, more particularly through the warranty clauses by which Good Lordship was often implemented. The transformation of warranty into its familiar Common-Law shape reflects corresponding and complex changes in both lord-vassal relations and the role of the King and his justice. Warranty actually began as a security device, designed to keep men to their word, and is found used in this sense over wide areas of sub-Carolingian Europe. It was probably imported to England by the French, and can be seen in twelfth-century charters progressively superseding other forms of words to become the classic "guarantee" of Good Lordship. In this manner it came by 1200 to be virtually equated with the lordship it had originally been used to enforce. Warranty was lordship seen from the vassal's point of view, that is, tenant-right. Despite this origin in very personal relations, warranty probably always created between the parties' heirs some kind of obligation, which sharpened and was made infinitely more clear-cut with the emergence of full legal inheritance rights. Warranty swelled to full tenant-right, a full guarantee of the Right to Good Lordship. As the heir's claim grew into an enforceable right of inheritance through increasing access to remedies by royal justice, and because such justice tended to strict construction, warranty became a contractual addition to which claimants had to prove their entitlement. The narrative of legal change from 1150 argues for gradual evolution but also suggests 1153-4 8S the decisive turning-point in this development. Detailed (sometimes technical) examination of evidence for some relevant cases, royal writs concerning warranty and the turning-point of 1153-4 is reserved for three appendixes.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Additional Information:The rough draft from which this paper grew was composed at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton in 1980 and tested at the First Cal tech-Weingart Conference in the Humanities the next year. I completed it during my year as a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at Caltech in 1985. The reactions of Donald Sutherland and Eleanor Searle at the 1981 conference and of Paul Brand, Jeffrey Hackney, John Hudson and Steven D. White to intermediate drafts have all left noticeable impressions on the present shape of the argument. I am grateful to them all and especially for those responsible for my fruitful stays in Princeton and Pasadena. My wife Elaine Marcotte Hyams, as always, has contributed in many diverse ways.
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:116
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100820-111147684
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Official Citation:Hyams, Paul. Warranty and good lordship in twelfth-century England.Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1986. Humanities Working Paper, No. 116.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:19555
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:14 Sep 2010 16:28
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:58

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