Eyre (legal term)

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An eyre or iter, sometimes called a general eyre, was the name of a circuit travelled by an itinerant royal justice in medieval England (a justice in eyre), or the circuit court over which they presided,[1] or the right of the monarch (or justices acting in their name) to visit and inspect the holdings of any vassal. The eyre involved visits and inspections at irregular intervals of the houses of vassals in the kingdom. The term is derived from Old French erre, from Latin iter ("journey"), and is cognate with errand and errant. Eyres were also held in those parts of Ireland under secure English rule from about 1220 onwards, but the eyre system seems to have largely gone into abeyance in Ireland at the end of the thirteenth century, and the last Irish eyre was held in 1322.

Eyre of 1194[edit]

The eyre of 1194 was initiated under Hubert Walter's justiciarship to restore royal justice following the anarchy of Prince John's rebellion. Within two months, justices on eyre had visited every shire in England. The Articles of Eyre appointed local knights as coroners to record crown pleas to be presented to the justices. The motivation for this administrative reform was the need to raise money for King Richard I's reconquest of Normandy. The coroners were also required to account for the wealth forfeited by the rebels and list the financial resources of each shire.[2]

Eyre of 1233[edit]

One medieval chronicle asserts that the 1233 Eyre of Cornwall provoked terror in the populace, with men having "fled into the woods" in fear of the judges.[3][4]

Itinerant justices[edit]


  1. ^ "Eyre: Definition, usage and pronunciation - YourDictionary.com". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  2. ^ Robert C. Stacey, ‘Walter, Hubert (d. 1205)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  3. ^ William Craddock Bolland (1922). The General Eyre. Cambridge University Press. pp. 22-23.
  4. ^ Hunt Janin (2004). Medieval Justice: Cases and Laws in France, England, and Germany: 500-1500. p. 78.
  5. ^ Stenton, Doris Mary (1964). English Justice Between the Norman Conquest and the Great Charter 1066–1215. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. p. 73.

Further reading[edit]

  • William Craddock Bolland. The General Eyre. Cambridge University Press. 1922. Internet Archive: [1] [2]. First paperback edition. 2015. Google Books
  • David Crook. Records of the General Eyre. HMSO. 1982. Google Books
  • Kenneth F. Duggan, "The Limits of Strong Government: Attempts to Control Criminality in Thirteenth-Century England", Historical Research 93:261 (2020), pp. 399–419
  • Reginald Francis Treharne. "Appendix C2: Note on the Frequency of the General Eyre". The Baronial Plan of Reform, 1258–1263. 1932. Manchester University Press. Barnes and Noble, New York. Reprinted with additions. 1971. Page 398.
  • Blomefield, Francis, (1807) An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: volume 6, p. 244.