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CRIME AND JUSTICE Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval London frankpledge police alderman crime detection social control

Subject: Requirement to be in frankpledge
Original source: Corporation of London Records Office, Misc. Roll AA, m.2
Transcription in: Helena Chew and Martin Weinbaum, eds. The London Eyre of 1244, London Record Society, vol.6 (1970), 24.
Original language: Latin
Location: London
Date: 1231


Let it also be known that the mayor and citizens say that no-one may be like a citizen in the city, staying there and having [the benefits of] its laws, for more than three nights without finding two guarantors, and thus being in frankpledge. Should he lodge in the city for one night longer in that way [i.e. without guarantors], and then commit a felony or some other breach of the king's peace, and not answer to justice, the alderman in whose ward he was ought to be amerced for accepting him in the ward when not in frankpledge.


Here frankpledge is not associated with a tithing system, per se, but applies essentially the same concept in requiring those outside the tithing system to find guarantors of behaviour. Those guarantors would be subject to a fine if the person for whom they vouched failed to appear in court to answer an accusation, so care was taken in legal records to note the names of guarantors. It was the responsibility of the alderman to know of anyone staying in his ward who was not in frankpledge, and the responsibility of ward residents to report such individuals to the alderman; if judicial satisfaction could not be obtained from a defaulting defendant without guarantors, the alderman and the whole ward could be fined. The period of three nights was to distinguish persons staying in London from those passing through; certain groups exempt from finding guarantors were identified in an ordinance made as a result of the 1244 eyre: merchants from outside the city; travellers; household servants of magnates, come to buy provisions or conduct business for their masters; and persons involved in cases before the king's court.



Referring to the system of aldermannic wards into which the city was divided for administrative purposes (although it is possible the wards may reflect earlier nuclei of Anglo-Saxon settlement).

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