Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Yewland and the Hundred Court

One of the only images of a hundred court available online
Under the dragon-chiefs of old, there was no division of land into hundreds. It was in the years following Humbolt the High Dragon's victory at Deeping Fell that the hundred system was instituted in order to rule the disparate chiefdoms, now welded together as provinces of Yewland. Humbolt commissioned the creation of the hundreds in 919 Y.F., shortly before his death, but the thing was not carried out until Curin, Scourge of the North, won his wars. Thus, in the 930s a great survey was conducted of Wyranth. This was called the Blue Book, for its pages were dyed blue and its lettering was of giltwork.

King Morant, who acceded in 953 Y.F., created the divisions of the hundred using the Blue Book as a basis in 998 Y.F., which triggered a rebellion in 1000 Y.F. of southern lords—the Edgewoods and Whitemedes. However, he won that brief war and the hundred system was instituted.

A hundred is a region of 100 hides of arable land which is provided with a hundredmote (which is often compared to the weapontake). This was quickly followed by an integration of the old motecourt with the hundred, creating the hundred court. These were ancient courts of Urathi origin (supposedly) which had a completely different derivation of law from the more commonly used ecclesiastical courts. However, after the birth of the hundred court, the ecclesiastical courts closed their doors to all but clerics.

The hundred courts meet twelve times a year (once a month) and are monitored by a representative of the local lord as well as a knight of the king, dispatched from Swornstone. There, all matters of petty trial are undertaken. Capital trials (breaches of the King's Law) must wait till the yearly Assizes, when the circuit judges (generally hand-picked knights) ride the circuit and try cases.

Types of Trial Available in the Hundred Court
I. Wager of Law (Trial by Compurgation)
II. Trial by Ordeal
III. Trial by Combat
IV. Binding over to an Ecclesiastical Court
V. Trial by Jury

The first three types of trial (I-III) are available in all petty cases and some capital cases. Bind-over to the Consistory Courts is available when there are ecclesiastical issues (and is, in fact, necessary when one party is a cleric or an issue of blasphemy or other canon law arises). Requests to bind over may be granted by the judicial authorities upon showing of good cause. Trial by jury is reserved for cases of capital crime and may be transmuted (by the movement of the defendant) into a trial by ordeal.

I. Wager of Law
The wager of law is the most common form of trial in petty matters. More commonly known as trial by oath or compurgation, both sides of a civil case are required to present 6 oath-helpers (compurgators) to swear that they are truthful. In a criminal case of petty nature, the accused is required to produce 12 compurgators. These compurgators in both cases are questioned thoroughly by the advocates, who attempt to prove that they do not know the facts of the case or are mistaken about their party.

If the trial by compurgation cannot be decided on the current number of witnesses, more are added. Either side can move to obtain a trial by combat in a civil case. The defendant can move to have a trial by combat or ordeal in a criminal case.

II. Trial by Ordeal
The defendant is submitted to harrowing ordeal—grabbing a hot iron rod, being doused in boiling water, etc. If, after 3 days, the wounds have not begun to heal, he is adjudged guilty.

III. Trial by Combat
The defendant and plaintiff do battle. Compurgators may stand in as sworn bodies, but the use of hired combatants is prohibited.

Officials Present at the Hundred Court
A knight representative of the local lord (the "bailiff of the court")
A knight representative of the king (the judge, properly the justiciar)
A scribe or secretary (the pronotary)

The Hallmoot
Separate from the Hundred Court, each demesne has its own Hallmooting once a month, usually on the 10th. Purely local claims originating in the demesne are dealt with in the hallmoot by a judicial officer (usually the lord or his appointee, a knight-bailiff) and trial is conducted in the same manner. Hundred Courts are held on the 15th, generally at the seat of the territory.

Hallmoots are exempt from the orders of a hundred court; what this means in practice is that local knights appointed by their demesne lords may practice a sort of private justice completely outside the hundred courts. Major suits of nobility do not proceed in hallmoots, but generally all local crimes do—unless, of course, the crime is a royal felony or capital crime, in which case the offender is held until the Assize arrives for royal justice.

Freemen cannot be sentenced to death by hallmoots but must be bound over to the Assize. Serfs may be executed under color of law by a hallmoot with a presiding knight.

Where should you take your case?
Does your case arise between two serfs?
Yes.   Are they both from the same demesne?
          Yes. The Hallmoot will do fine.
          No. Then your case is for the hundred court.
No.    Is there at least one freeman involved?
         Yes.  Is it a capital case?
                  Yes. Then you must wait for the Assize.
                  No. Then you may take it to the hundred court or hallmoot.
         No. Then there is a nobleman involved, it must go to the hundred court or, if a capital case, the Assize.

Next week we shall address the Royal Court of Assize.

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