Curia regis (Medieval Latin: [ˈkuː.ri.a ˈreː.d͡ʒis]) is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court". It was the name given to councils of advisers and administrators in medieval Europe who served kings, including kings of France, Norman kings of England and Sicily, kings of Poland and the kings and queens of Scotland.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the central governing body of the Kingdom of England was called the curia regis. Before the Conquest, the Anglo-Saxons called this body the witan, and English writers continued to use this term as well. It corresponded to the placitum generale of the Frankish kingdoms, and this name was also applied to the English curia regis. It was similar to, but not the same as, the curia ducis which served the Dukes of Normandy.
The curia regis conducted the business of state whether legislative, judicial, or diplomatic. Its membership was the tenants-in-chief (i.e. the baronage, including bishops and abbots) along with the great officers of state and of the royal household, such as the chancellor, constable, treasurer or chamberlain, marshal, and steward. Occasionally, these would be summoned by the king to meet as a magnum concilium (Latin for "great council").
In between great councils, the curia regis remained in session; though, its membership was much smaller. The smaller curia was composed of royal officers and barons attending the monarch. English kings had itinerant courts during this period, and the small curia followed the king in all his travels. As they traveled the kingdom, the king and curia often heard suitors in person. The powers and functions of the great council and the small curia were identical since they were considered the same institution meeting under different circumstances.
During the 13th century, the great council and the small curia separated into two distinct bodies. The great council evolved into Parliament and the small curia evolved into the Privy Council. The small curia regis then is "the very distant ancestor of the modern executive, the Cabinet acting for the authority of the crown." Early government departments also developed out of the small curia regis, such as the chancery, the treasury, and the exchequer.
In France the King's Court, called the Curia Regis in Latin, functioned as an advisory body under the early Capetian kings. It was composed of a number of the king's trusted advisers but only a few travelled with the king at any time. By the later twelfth century it had become a judicial body with a few branching off to remain the king's council.
By the fourteenth century the term curia regis was no longer used. However, it was a predecessor to later sovereign assemblies: the Parlement, which was a judiciary body, the Chamber of Accounts, which was a financial body, and the King's Council.
The Royal Council of Poland in early medieval times was composed exclusively by King's will. Over time, in addition to King's appointments, certain higher dignitaries were assumed to belong to the Council owing to their functions. The following dignitaries were permanent members of the Council in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland:
- Great Chancellor of the Crown
- Deputy Chancellor of the Crown
- Great Marshal of the Crown
- Great Treasurer of the Crown
- Land dignitaries
- Certain ecclesiastical dignitaries
By the end of the 15th century the Royal Council was transformed into the Senate of Poland.
- Adams 1926, p. 1.
- Holdsworth 1922, p. 32.
- Adams 1907, p. 12.
- Adams 1926, pp. 5–6 & 10.
- Holdsworth 1922, p. 33.
- Adams 1907, pp. 13–14.
- Butt 1989, p. 23.
- William Kibler, Medieval France: An Encyclopaedia (Routledge, 1995), p. 255
- Arthur Augustus Tilley, Medieval France: A Companion to French Studies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. 72
- Adams, George Burton (October 1907). "The Descendants of the Curia Regis". The American Historical Review. 13 (1): 11–15. doi:10.1086/ahr/13.1.11. JSTOR 1834884.
- Adams, George Burton (1926). Council and Courts in Anglo-Norman England. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780598892126.
- Butt, Ronald (1989). A History of Parliament: The Middle Ages. London: Constable. ISBN 0094562202.
- Holdsworth, William Searle (1922). A History of English Law. Vol. I. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.
- Holland, Arthur William (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 7 (11th ed.). p. 639. .
- Morris, William A. (July 1929). "The Lesser Curia Regis Under the First Two Norman Kings of England". The American Historical Review. 34 (4): 772–778. doi:10.2307/1836781. JSTOR 1836781.
- Pike, Luke Owen (1907). "Table of Evolution of the Constitution and the Public Records". The Public Records and the Constitution. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press. inside back cover.