Curia regis is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court." It was the name given to councils of advisors and administrators who served early French kings as well as to those serving Norman and later kings of England.
|Houses||Magnum Concilium and the Royal Court|
|Succeeded by||Parliament of England|
The Magnum Concilium political groups
Officers of the court
Archbishops, Bishops and certain Abbots
The Royal Court political groups
|Officers of the court
The Norman kings, following the conquest of England, used a council called the curia regis to conduct much of the business of state in England. It was similar to, but not the same as the Witenagemot (or Witan) which advised the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and the Curia Ducis which served the Dukes of Normandy. This council existed in two forms. The first was the great curia regis or Magnum Concilium, composed of the tenants-in-chief, the great officers of the king's court, and those ecclesiastics who held lands of the king.[a] This council met on special occasions and were summoned by the king. When not in session it was replaced by a smaller council which itself was in continuous session called the lesser or small curia regis made up of the king's officers of state and those magnates who were at court. The lesser curia regis was in essence the king's royal court and as such was an itinerant court that followed the king in all his travels. The king, when traveling throughout his realm and as an integral part of the court, often heard suitors in person.
The curia regis in either of its two forms did the business of state whether legislative, judicial, or diplomatic. These functions were executed seamlessly with no regard to specialized functions. Neither the greater or lesser curia regis was subservient to the other, as it was considered the same entity. Under the Norman kings the business of government was handled the same regardless of which curia was meeting at the time.
In judicial matters, the basis for the law remained the Anglo-Saxon laws of Edward the Confessor which both William the Conqueror and Henry I promised to uphold. The powers of the sheriffs were retained as well as those of the communal courts (Hundred Courts and Shire Courts). The curia regis attempted to maintain continuity with its predecessor as the Norman kings wanted to be seen as the lawful successors of Edward the Confessor.
Evolution into specialist institutions
Gradually the curia regis began to branch off into entities which formed into other institutions, including the Cabinet, the Star Chamber, Chancery, and others. One of the first was the exchequer, which specialized in the financial matters of government.
During the thirteenth century the two forms of the curia themselves began to separate. The great curia regis after taking on representative elements formed into Parliament. The first mention of a court of the king's bench (curia regis) being termed "Parliament" was in 1236 during the Michaelmas term (of the great curia regis). The small curia regis became the Privy Council.
Even after a split between the two parts both continued to involve themselves in all three functions of the original curia and only slowly began to specialize in one function over the others. Some judicial functions of the House of Lords persisted until 2009.
Parliament of England
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 traveled 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 ecclesiastics included archbishops, bishops and certain abbots. William the Conqueror required homage of all bishops and abbots for their lands prior to their consecration, so they were summoned to the curia regis as barons. See: William A. Morris, 'The Lesser Curia Regis Under the First Two Norman Kings of England', The American Historical Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Jul., 1929), p. 772 & notes 3, 4 and 5.
- Adams, George Burton (October 1907). "The Descendants of the Curia Regis". The American Historical Review. 13 (1): 11–15. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
- Holdsworth, William Searle (1922). A History of English Law. Vol. I. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.
- William A. Morris, 'The Lesser Curia Regis Under the First Two Norman Kings of England', The American Historical Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Jul., 1929), p. 772
- Holdsworth 1922, p.32
- Adams 1907, p. 12
- Holdsworth 1922, p. 33
- Adams 1907
- Pike, Luke Owen (1907). "Plan of Evolution of the Chief Courts and Departments of the Government". The public records and the constitution. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press. inside back cover. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
- Adams 1907, p. 13
- Adams 1907, p. 14
- H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, 'The Earliest Known Official Use of the Term "Parliament"', The English Historical Review, Vol. 82, No. 325 (Oct., 1967), p. 747
- Adams 1907, pp. 13-14
- William Kibler, Medieval France: An Encyclopedia (Routledge, 1995), p. 255
- Arthur Augustus Tilley, Medieval France: A Companion to French Studies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. 72