King Edward had taken a vow of chastity, so upon his death in 1066 there was lack of a clear heir to the throne. There were 3 contenders: * William of Normandy – nephew of Edward, claimed that Edward promised him the throne and that Harold II of had sworn agreement to this. * Harold II – riches and powerful of the English aristocracy. * Harald III of Norway – based on previous agreement between Magnus of Norway and the earlier Danish King, where if either died without a heir to their throne, the other would inherit England and Norway. Harold II was immediately elected as King by the pro-Saxon Witan as they feared there could be invasions from abroad.
Harald III of Norway invaded Harold II in the Battle of Stamford Bridge(28th September 1066). Harold II won but lost many in battle. Just days later, William of Normandy invaded Harold II in the Battle of Hastings (14th October 1066). Here Harold II died in battle with an arrow through his eye, leaving the throne to William of Normandy. William became King in 1066 and the Norman Conquest left the Saxons conquered by the Normans.
* Prior to the conquest, all law was written and spoken in English, whilst after the conquest law was to be written in Latin and occasionally French. Slowly English returned to the courts, but many French and Latin terms were adopted. Hence why today, the English language is closer to French/Latin that Old English. * Stronger central government – courts of the King began to take many of the functions that were traditionally used by the hundred moots and shire moots. Legal recordings were taken much more seriously with legal practices being written down and recorded in the Doomsday book.
* Feudalism/land ownership – King became the ultimate ruler of all land in England (Crown owned all land). Anyone who owned land, owed their allegiance to the King and if you weren’t loyal to the King, he could take away your land. If you owned land, you really just owned a title to that land which the King lends you. Today Crown still owns all land. * Trial by Battle was introduced – women, King, elderly, could choose a warrior to fight for them. If the warrior was still standing when the stars came out it was seen as not guilty. It rested on the assumption that a divine power would intervene and whoevers case was just would triumph. Over time, people became skeptical and it was abolished.
Norman conquest is seen as the traditional starting point of English Common Law. It ensured that both common law and civil law systems remained. NZ uses this common law system that William retained from Harold. Today in NZ we still buy land in ‘fee simple’ to the Crown. Our legal system still contains some the Latin and French words that were adopted after the Norman Conquest.
Magna Carta 1215
King John was not a popular king as he treated his people very poorly, he was seen as a tyrant. He also caused serious arguments amongst Pope Innocent III and the English Barons. Pope Innocent III wanted Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury but John wanted John De Grey. As John would not accept Langton, the Pope placed England under interdict (suspends all religious life) and declares John’s kingdom forfeit and encourages King Phillip of France to invade. John eventually accepts Langton and surrenders the kingdom back to the Pope and receives it back as a fiefdom. King John is now under the Pope in hierarchy. King John was also unsuccessful in battle, having lost land back to France.
This meant less money flowing into England, so John started taxing people of England. It had always been customary that the King consult with the Barons before raising taxes. The Barons agreed to make war on King John if he didn’t sign a charter affirming the rights of the Barons. After attempting to break up the Barons from bribery, John eventually signs. The Magna Carta included promises to protect freedom and rights of the church and to consult with the Barons more closely on taxes, and to guarantee certain rights to all free men. Immediately after this, John asks the Pope to declare Magna Carta null and void. The Barons encourage Prince Louis of France to invade. King John suddenly dies of dysentery, and Henry III becomes King. Every new king from then on will reissue/sign the Magna Carta.
So much of the common law was based upon the Magna Carta that is was seen as one of the constitutional documents of England. Courts began citing Magna Carta to support principles and concepts that did not exist when it was created. It influenced the content of other documents that protect people’s rights such as America’s Bill of Rights, and NZ’s.
It was the first document in English history that limited the power of the monarch. Until then there was the belief that the Monarch could do whatever they pleased. This established the rule that no one is higher than the law. It marked that power was being shared by more people. The Magna Carta also stated that a council of 25 Barons would be created to advise the King which some people argue is the start of Parliament in common law.
Petition of Right 1628
King Charles upset Parliament during his reign from 1625 – 1649. He married a Roman Catholic called Henrietta, protected anti-protestant writers and sought to wage was in Europe on behalf of his Roman Catholic in-laws. It looked like he was favouring Roman Catholics and letting them into the monarchy. When Parliament refused to give Charles the money he needed to fight a battle in Europe, he started taxing the people of England without the consent of he Parliament.
This went against a principle established nearly 300 years ago. Parliament responded by issuing the Petition of Right in 1628. It outlined the abuses the King had committed and formally requested that the King rectify his abuses. The Petition of Right was just a soft, light not harsh piece of legislation. Just a set of rules that the King was meant to follow. Charles essentially ignored the Petition of Right and ruled without a Parliament from 1629-1640. This led to the English Civil War where Charles eventually lost and was executed by Parliament. The Monarchy was abolished until 1660.
Ruled without Parliament for eleven years.
Along with the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right are the constitutional foundational documents of England. The Petition of Right and most important aspects of the English Bill of Rights are still part of NZ law and is still in force today.
English Civil War
After the Petition or Right was issued to King Charles in 1628, he dissolved Parliament in 1629 and refused to call it for eleven years. But in 1640 he needed money again to ward of the threat of a takeover from Scotland so he reconvened Parliament to ask for the funds. Parliament only agreed to give Charles the funds if he agreed to discuss the abuses that had occurred during his reign as ruler by himself. Parliament took in Henrietta (Charles’ Roman Catholic wife) for questioning under the fear that Roman Catholicism was creeping into power. In retaliation Charles stormed an armed sitting of Parliament with his own army and the English Civil War ensued between the Monarchists and Parliamentarians.
Charles was defeated as King in 1645 and escaped to the Island of Whit. He was recaptured in 1647 and sent to permanent exile. The House of Commons passed a special statute that created a special court to trial King Charles for treason. Charles was executed in 1649, being the first and only monarch to be executed which was revolutionary. It showed that Power was shifting upwards and showed that everyone is subject to the law – even the King. Another main consequence was the Parliament was now supreme with a shift in power from the Monarchy to Parliament. This allowed for the responsibility of law making and then came Prime Ministers.
Glorious Revolution 1688
King Charles II had no legitimate children, so when he died his brother James became King – King James II. King James II did a number of things that upset Parliament, reminding them of King Charles I (Petition of Right and Civil War). He was a Roman Catholic and baptized his son as a Roman Catholic. He gave Catholics a number of prominent jobs in Government. He proclaimed religious freedom for non-Anglicans and suspended Parliament when it criticized him on the above topics. Members of the House of Lords invited Dutch nobleman William of Orange to invade and become new king. William of Orange was married to James II daughter Mary, so they could argue that the throne was staying in the family. William easily defeated James who fled to France. Parliament declared that James had abdicated the throne and it was vacant. In 1689, Parliament appointed William and Mary as joint sovereigns and issued the Bill of Rights.
Bill of Rights 1689
In the Bill of Rights, Parliament makes the appointment of William and Mary as joint sovereigns conditional on the following principles; Without Parliament, the sovereign cannot suspend or create laws, make new courts, impose new taxes, create or maintain an army in peacetime etc.
Along with Magna Carta and Petition of Right, the Bill of Right is a constitutional document for the English legal system. About 100 years after the English Bill of Rights was drawn up, the American Bill of Right was passed. The most significant parts of the Bill of Rights are still part of the NZ Bill or Rights, which is still in force in NZ today.
Refers to the separate evolution of the Equity Courts.
During the reign of Edward I, he formed three great courts;
1. The King’s Bench
2. The Court of Common Pleas
3. The Exchequer
The Exchequer court was a governmental office split into the Exchequer(fiscal) and the Chancery (secretarial). Along with administering writs, the Chancery had to “reflect a reserve of justice in the King” by trying to incorporate fairness into the legal system. Equity worked by allowed a person to succeed against an individual for a moral or religious wrong, even if that same person was legally in the right. The Chancellor initially administered justice to people who came to him under the Maxims of Equity – he who comes with equity must come with clean hands. Equity worked (examples of son taking money and neighbors tree) by the Chancellor deciding what was right in the eyes of the church and the eyes of clarity.
Over time, Equity as a means of obtaining justice became popular enough for the Courts of Equity to be established. In 1616, King James I, ruled that equity was to take precedent over common law, allowing the King to exert some control over his supposedly separated judges.
This system was very flexible as to how the law was applied to different situations. The point of equity was that each individual case was to be decided on the points of that case alone so the most just outcome could be reached. Thus it became clear that the Court of Equity was not bound by precedent, giving rise to the aphorism “equity varies as the length of the chancellor’s foot”.