|Boudicca - Queen of the Iceni|
Roman Britain -
Many of our cities and towns date from the Roman period (or earlier) - e.g. London (Londinium), York (Eboracum), Chester (Castra Deva), Bath (Aquae Sulis), Manchester (Mamucium) etc. The tribes of Iron Age Britain undoubtedly had their "law" and the Romans were governed by their own laws and attempted to stamp their authority over the inhabitants. The brave stance of Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni) against the might of the Roman occupiers is one our earliest statements of a desire to be a people free from any foreign yoke. The Romans built highways linking their various garrisons and this is perhaps the origin of the phrase "All roads lead to Rome." They also created Hadrian's Wall. which features in the film "The Eagle" (based on the novel by Rosemary Sutcliff "The Eagle of the Ninth). However, it is more in terms of physical remains that the Roman legacy survives in Britain today. There is little direct survival of Roman Law though, in the Middle Ages through the Church, principles of Roman Law have come to indirectly influence some aspects of our modern law (e.g. wills). Roman Law has also been taught in our Universities and courses are still available. Roman Law had a much more profound influence on the legal systems of other nations including Scotland.
The Anglo-Saxon Period -
|Alfred the Great 849-899|
of what existed by custom but sometimes stated new law and modified practices. King Alfred claimed not to have made any new laws but chose the "wisest laws" of his predecessors. Another important feature of this period was The Witan (or Witanagemot) which was a King's Council. The Norman successor to this - the Curia Regis - was to become the source of our modern High Court of Justice.
In his "Historical Introduction to English Law" - Professor Potter wrote - "Before William I landed on our shores England had for centuries some form of government, which had administered, after some fashion, a law which was rooted in the traditions of its people." Winston Churchill, in his monumental History of the English Speaking Peoples, wrote of the Saxon Dusk when, in the time of Edward the Confessor, "the lights of Saxon England were going out." Edward died on 5th January 1066 and it was to Harold that the mantle of Kingship fell though he was destined to carry this for only a short time. In October 1066, on Senlac Hill near Hastings, he was defeated in battle by William of Normandy whose expedition to England had been blessed by the Pope. Turning to Churchill once more - "... the English once again accepted conquest and bowed to a new destiny, yet ever must the name of Harold be honoured in the Island for which he and his famous house-carls fought indomitably to the end." The Normans did not set about instant replacement of the law which existed. Change was to be a gradual process taking many decades and perhaps centuries but the Norman Conquest had a major impact on our governmental and legal history.
|Death of Harold - The Bayeux Tapestry|
Great stories of our history:
York - Jorvik - an amazing discovery under the City of York
Boudicca - Britain's warrior Queen
Alfred burns the cakes
The Battle of Hastings 1066
The Shrine of Edward the Confessor - Westminster Abbey
Radar pinpoints the tomb of Edward the Confessor
Channel 4 - Monarchy - Dr David Starkey
The Anglo-Saxon Legal System - London University - International
Addendum 26th April: This blogpost was reproduced on Legal Week to whom I express my thanks.