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13 January, 2012
Dooms of Canute
|11. Here now follows the secular ordinance which, by the counsel of my witan, I wish to be obeyed throughout all England....
12. These are the rights which the king enjoys over all men in Wessex: namely, [compensations for] breach of his personal protection (mundbryce), housebreaking (hamsocne), assault by ambush (forsteal), and neglect of army service (fyrdwite) — unless he wishes to honour some one in particular [by granting him even these rights]....
 More accurately, unlawful entry upon a person's premises, whether a house or land; cf. Aethelberht, 5-27 (above, p. 3), and Alfred, 40 (above, p. n).
14. And in Mercia he [likewise] enjoys the aforesaid rights over all men.
15. And in the Danelaw he enjoys the fines for fighting, neglect of army service, breach of his personal peace (gryðbryce), and house-breaking — unless he wishes to honour some one in particular....
 Fihtewite, having to do especially with cases involving bloodshed.
17. And no one shall appeal to the king unless he fails to obtain justice in his hundred. Every one, under pain of fine, must attend his hundred court whenever attendance is demanded by law.
 Cf. Aethelstan, II, 3 (above, p. 14), and Edgar, III, 2 (above, p. 19).
18. And the borough court shall be held three times [a year] and the shire court twice unless there is need to hold it oftener. And the shire bishop and the alderman shall be present and shall there administer both ecclesiastical and secular law.
 A re-enactment of Edgar III, 5 (above, p. 19).
19. And no one shall seize property [to enforce his rights] either in the shire [court] or outside it, unless he has thrice sought justice in the hundred. If he fails to obtain justice on the third attempt, then, the fourth time, he shall go to the shire court, and the shire shall set him a day for his fourth effort. And if this fails, then he shall secure leave either here or there to go after his property [in any way he can].
 Following Miss Robertson's suggestion that the hundred and shire courts are referred to.
20. It is our will that every freeman above the age of twelve shall be brought within hundred and tithing, if he wishes to be law-worthy when accused by some one, or wergeld-worthy [when slain]. Otherwise he shall not enjoy any rights as a freeman, whether he is a householder or a member of another's household. Every one shall be brought within a hundred and under surety (borge), and his surety shall keep him and see that he performs his legal obligations....
 Cf. Edgar, I, 2; IV, 3 (above, pp. 18, 20). One group of writers headed by Liebermann, has held that the tithing of this passage refers to a group of ten men combined for the sake of mutual suretyship; another that such a system was a police measure introduced by the Normans and that the tithing here, as in Edgar's dooms, was territorial. For a cogent presentation of the latter argument, see W. A. Morris, The Frankpledge System.
22. And every trustworthy man, who is free of accusations and has never failed in oath or ordeal, shall be law-worthy in the hundred, [clearing himself] through a simple oath. For an untrustworthy man oath-helpers for the simple oath shall be chosen from three hundreds, and for the threefold oath from [a territory] as wide as belongs to the borough — or he must go to the ordeal. And a simple oath of exculpation shall be introduced by a simple fore-oath [of accusation]; a threefold oath by a threefold fore-oath....
 And with oath-helpers chosen by himself, as appears from the following provision.
24. And no one, either within a borough or in the open country, shall buy anything worth more than 4d., whether living or not, without the trustworthy witness of four men....
 See the oaths under no. 14.
29. And if any one encounters a thief and wilfully lets him go without making an outcry, he shall pay the thief's wergeld as compensation, or shall clear himself by a full oath, [swearing] that he did not know him [whom he let go] to be guilty of anything. And if any one hears the outcry and neglects it, he shall pay the king's oferhyrnesse or clear himself by a full oath.
 That is to say, without raising hue and cry, as it was known in the later law.
30. And if any man appears untrustworthy to the hundred, being discredited by accusations, and if now three men together bring charges against him, he shall have no recourse but to go to the threefold ordeal....
57. And if any one plots against the king or against his own lord, he shall forfeit his life and all that he has, unless he goes to the threefold ordeal and there clears himself....
 Cf. Alfred, 4 (above, p. 10).
65. If any one neglects the repair of boroughs, the repair of bridges, or army service, he shall pay 120s. compensation to the king [in the region] under English law, and in the Danelaw whatever is customary [there]; or he shall clear himself with eleven oath-helpers out of fourteen named for him [by the court]. All the people shall, according to law, assist in the repair of churches....
 See above, p. 22, n. 7.
70. And if any one, whether through negligence or through sudden death, departs this life without having made a will, his lord shall take no more of his chattels than his lawful heriot. Rather, by his direction, the goods are to be most justly apportioned to the widow, the children, and the near relatives — to each the share that is rightfully his.
 Dying intestate was already considered exceptional. Many Anglo-Saxon wills have come down to us from earlier centuries.
71. And heriots shall be fixed in proportion to rank. The heriot of an earl [shall be] what belongs thereto: namely, eight horses, four saddled and four unsaddled; also four helmets, four shirts of mail, eight spears and as many shields, four swords, and 200 mancuses of gold. For king's thegns, those who live close to him, the heriot shall be four horses, two saddled and two unsaddled; also two swords, four spears and as many shields, helmets, and shirts of mail; and 50 mancuses of gold. And for an ordinary thegn [the heriot shall be] his horse with its harness and his weapons, or, in Wessex, his healsfang; in Mercia £2 and in East Anglia £2. And among the Danes the heriot of a king's thegn who enjoys soke is £4. And if he lives in greater intimacy with the king, [it is] two horses, one saddled and the other unsaddled; also a sword, two spears, two shields, and 50 mancuses of gold. And for him who is not so well off [the heriot is] £2.
 Mancus is derived from the Arabic and was originally used to designate an Arabic gold coin or an imitation of one. In the dooms, however, it is a weight of gold equal to 30d. in silver.
 A term normally used to mean a tenth of the wergeld.
 Jurisdictional rights over certain persons, or profits of justice in certain places; see below, p. 30, n. 23.