Magna Carta Glossary

Advowson             A right of patronage, that is the right to appoint a person, to a position in a church, monastery or other ecclesiastical benefice
Amerced Fined arbitrarily
Assizes A trial session held periodically in specific locations by a judge
Burgage A tenure in which burgesses or townsfolk held lands or tenements of the lord, usually for a fixed rent within an ancient borough. The property could be mortgaged, sold or bequeathed. In Scotland the term related to tenure in property in the royal burghs.
Castle guard A kind of knight’s service, whereby a tenant was bound when required to defend the overlord’s castle
Chattels Moveable possessions
Cinque Ports An ancient association of maritime towns in south-eastern England; originally (1278) numbering five (Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich), and later including Winchelsea, Rye, and several others, receiving special privileges for their part in the naval defence of England
Common pleas Ordinary law suits involving property that did not require the presence of the King to be decided
Custody Wardship or guardianship. When an underage heir inherited a tenancy, the overlord became the heir’s guardian, and was entitled to earnings from the land
Darrein presentment The Assize of darrein presentment was a legal action brought to enquire who was in fact the last patron to present a benefice to a church then vacant, of which the plaintiff complained that he was deforced or unlawfully deprived by the defendant
Demesne 1) Possession of land as one’s own i.e. not as a tenant. 2) The part of an estate worked for the owner 3) Land adjoining the manor house retained by the lord.
Disparagement Degradation by an unequal marriage
Disseised Dispossession of land
Distrained Forced
Dower A wife’s interest in her husband’s property, inheritable at his death. English probate law set this at 1/3. ‘her thirds’ was a phrase used for this. Note: dower later became dowry and the meaning changed to ‘he property or money a bride brings to her husband at their marriage’.
Escheat Land ownership reverting to the Crown, government, or estate owner because of a lack of heirs or forfeited because the holder committed a serious criminal offence.
Feif or Fee Heritable land held in return for service to a lord
Fee farm Land held in return not for a service, but for an annual payment of money
Frankpledge A system where all men were divided into groups for mutual protection and to serve as keepers of the peace; view of frankpledge was a regular review of this system
Free man In Magna Carta, the term free man can mean anyone holding land by free tenure, as distinct from a villein, who was bound to a lord
Free tenement Land held by a free tenant
Haberject Also haberget or hauberget. A type of cloth. Its texture may have superficially resembled a ‘hauberk’ (chain mail) and a worsted wool cloth with a similar name exists in Scandinavia today.
Hospitaller A person, especially a member of a religious order, devoted to the care of the sick or needy in hospitals
Hundred A principle unit of administration and local government into which most counties were divided
In chief Directly from the King, as distinct from holding land through another, intermediary landlord
Inquest of life or member A writ to prevent a man unjustly accused of treason or other felonry from having to face a trial by combat; the plea could be referred to 12 recognitors
Inspeximus An inspeximus issue of a charter is one that inspects and confirms a charter made by a former king
Justiciar The King’s chief political and judicial officer
Knight service Military service, in exchange for a land tenancy
Knight’s fee A fief of land or estate, held in return for military service, which provided sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight; the amount of land for which the services of one knight were due. A tenant by knight’s service was required to provide a fully armed and equipped knight for the King’s wars, usually for 40 days a year
Lay fee Land held in an ordinary tenancy
Letters patent The King’s sealed letters generally sent to be publicly displayed or proclaimed
London quarter A unit of measurement. A quarter was nine inches, or a quarter of a yard
Marriage portion Land brought to a marriage from her father or other relative, for a wife’s use and upkeep during her husband’s lifetime.
Michaelmas The feast of St Michael (29 September)
Mort d’ancestor The Assize of mort d’ancestor was a legal action brought by an heir against someone who wrongfully took his freehold property
Novel disseisin Recent dispossession or eviction. The Assize of novel disseisin was a legal action to recover lands of which the plaintiff had been dispossessed
Open law On trial
Peer A person of the same civil rank or standing
Præcipe A written royal command instructing that a tenant return a tenement to a claimant, or have the case heard in the King’s court
Recognisance A bond entered into before court binding someone to do something
Reeve An administrative officer of a town or district
Relief A payment due to the King by an heir on taking up possession of his estate
Russet A type of cloth, generally dyed reddish-brown
Saving his sufficiency Leaving him enough to live on
Scutage Money accepted by the King in lieu of knights provided for military service
Serjeanty A form of feudal tenure on condition of providing some specific personal service to the King. Petty serjeanties could involve ceremonially presenting to the King annually a small weapon such as a bow or a dagger or a knife
Socage Holding of land by a feudal tenant in return for fixed payment or for non-military service to the lord
Tenement Permanent property such as buildings and land
Tithing Taxing of a tenth part of produce
Tourn The circuit made by a sheriff of a county twice a year in which he presided at each hundred-court
Vill A settlement, consisting of a number of adjacent houses and land
Villein A peasant occupier of land entirely subject to a lord