The sixth of the six cases of a noun. The ablative case is used for nouns that are ‘by, with or from’ something. For example, in the sentence ‘we grant land by a charter’, ‘a charter’ is in the ablative case. Some prepositions are followed by the ablative case.
With an active verb, the subject of the sentence carries out the action of the verb. For example, in the sentence ‘the king grants the charter’, the king is the subject and he is doing the action of the verb (granting). The opposite of the active is passive, where the subject of the sentence is acted upon by something else. For example, in the sentence ‘the charter was granted’, the charter is the subject and it is being acted upon (granted). Only active verbs are covered in this tutorial.
A small item, such as a minor right over property, that belongs to something more important, such as a manor. The smaller item passes with the larger in possession or inheritance. An appurtenance to a manor could be a mill, a market, a garden, a rent from a tenant, or the right to let pigs forage in a wood.
Beasts of the chase
Animals designated as suitable for hunting, whether as a pastime or for food. Deer were the most prestigious beasts of the chase. ‘Lesser’ beasts included wild animals (such as wolves, foxes and wildcats), domesticated animals (such as rabbits) and birds (including pheasants and partridges).
Senior priest within the organisation of the Christian Church, with spiritual and administrative authority over a geographical area known as a diocese. During the period 1086 to 1733, all English bishops were male.
There are six cases of Latin nouns, each with a singular and a plural. The cases are nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative. The case of a noun is determined by its relationship with the verb. For example, if the noun is the subject of the verb, it will be in the nominative case.
Member of the Catholic Church hierarchy and therefore separate from the majority of the population (known as the laity). A cleric was exempt from many normal courts and law codes, instead coming under the jurisdiction of the law administered by the Church. In the period covered by this tutorial, all clerks in England would have been male. The term ‘clerk’ was also used for men who had entered into the lower religious orders, but had not yet committed themselves to a life within the Church.
Common, common land
Land held by an individual or a corporation, often the lord of the manor. Other people – perhaps the local community – enjoyed specified rights on the land. Often, this included the right to pasture, enabling them to graze livestock there.
The household, residence and/or retinue of a lord or king. An assembly of judges or men appointed to hear and determine legal cases. In the medieval period, law courts were held by the king, the church and the local lord.
Court of Common Pleas
Central royal court, first held in the late 12th century and also known as the Bench. It came to concentrate on civil disputes between individuals, known as pleas. A clause in Magna Carta established that the court should be held in a fixed place, which was normally Westminster. From 1288 until 1731, records were transferred from the court to the Treasury of the Receipt of the Exchequer; subsequently they passed to The National Archives.
The fifth of the six cases of a noun. The dative case is used for things that are ‘to or for’ something. For example, in the sentence ‘she bequeaths land to the parish’ – ‘the parish’ would be in the dative case. ‘They pay rents for the land’ – ‘the land’ would be in the dative case.
Latin nouns are divided into five groups called declensions. In each declension, the nouns share the same endings. A declension is usually defined by its ending in the nominative singular. For example, nouns in the first declension end ‘-a’ in the nominative singular. If a declension has a variety of forms in the nominative singular, it will be defined by its endings in the genitive singular. For example, nouns in the third declension end ‘-is’ in the genitive singular.
Property held ‘in demesne’ was held by the owner for himself, rather than being leased out. In the medieval period, the lord of a manor might keep land in demesne so that he and his family could eat the produce themselves, or so that it could be sold at a market.
Extensive and detailed survey of land tenure in England made for King William I in 1086. As well as recording who held the land, the survey also noted who was living on it, the livestock they had, the value of the land and the taxes it owed to the Crown. The English people named the survey ‘Domesday’ after the Day of Judgement described in the Bible, when every soul would be judged with no right of appeal. The Domesday Book is the oldest surviving public record in England. It is held at The National Archives.
King of England, 1307 – 1327. Son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile. During Edward’s reign there were serious political tensions between the King, his favourites and those who felt excluded from his court. In 1327, Edward was deposed by a faction led by his wife Isabella and their son and heir, Prince Edward. Prince Edward was subsequently crowned Edward III. Edward II died in prison later in the year.
Edward the Confessor, King Edward
King of England, 1042 – 1066. Son of King Ethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy. Last of the line of Anglo-Saxon kings of England, Edward had no son and therefore was without an obvious heir. Amongst several possible claimants to the throne, the two most important were William, Duke of Normandy and Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex. William claimed that Edward promised him the throne, but it appears that Edward nominated Harold on his deathbed. Harold succeeded Edward in 1066, but later in the year William successfully invaded England and seized the throne. Edward was made a saint in the twelfth century; the centre of his cult was Westminster Abbey.
Edward the Martyr
King of England, 975 – 978. Son of King Edgar. Although only 13 years old and probably illegitimate, Edward was the eldest of Edgar’s sons and was therefore chosen by the archbishop of Canterbury to be the next king. After a very brief reign, Edward was murdered by his step-mother, allowing his young step-brother Aethelred to succeed to the throne. Edward’s body was eventually buried at Shaftesbury nunnery; he quickly became venerated as a saint. From the late eleventh or early twelfth century, Edward became known as ‘the Martyr’.
Queen of England, 1558 – 1603. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. As princess, she became a focus for Protestant opposition during her half-sister Mary’s reign and as such was briefly held prisoner in the Tower of London. Elizabeth came to the throne on 17 November 1558. She is said to be one of England’s most popular monarchs. Elizabeth never married. She was buried at Westminster Abbey.
In the medieval period, a term for a personal attendant. Often it was used for a young or teenage boy who served a knight as an apprentice, before becoming a knight himself. Later, ‘squire’ became a term of address for a gentleman who held property in the country; it was often written after his surname.
In the medieval period, a knight’s fee was the land or property held by a knight in return for service to his lord. The amount of land or property varied. Later, a fee came to mean freehold property which could be inherited.
One of the three genders of nouns. Nouns relating to women and to female names are usually feminine, such as domina (lady), filia (daughter) and Maria (Mary). Many other nouns are also feminine, including terra (land) and ecclesia (church).
Document recording a fictitious legal case used to prove the right of a purchaser to property. The document began with the phrase hec est finalis concordia, which means ‘this is the final concord’. It was written in triplicate: two copies were identical whilst a third, known as the foot of the fine, was kept by the Court of Common Pleas. Many final concords are now held at The National Archives.
Frankpledge, view of frankpledge
System of law and order found in England from the 11th century. Men were organised into groups based on ten households, each responsible for the behaviour of its members. Each group had to attend a court held by their lord, called a view of frankpledge, to demonstrate that the system was working. As frankpledge only applied to the lower levels of society, knights, nobles and clergy were not included in the system.
All Latin nouns have a gender. There are three genders – masculine (for things that are male), feminine (for things that are female) and neuter (for things that are neither masculine nor feminine). Gender in grammar is not the same as gender in sex. In English, few nouns are given a gender, although we describe ships as ‘she’.
The fourth of the six cases of a noun. The genitive case is used for nouns that are ‘of’ something else and also to show possession. For example, in the sentence ‘the lord of the manor’ – ‘the manor’ would be in the genitive case. ‘A knight’s fee’ – ‘knight’ would be in the genitive case.
Recorded c.1022-68. Daughter of Thorgils Sprakaleg and member of an important Danish family. Wife of Godwin, earl of Wessex, one of the most powerful men in England during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Mother of both Edith, queen of Edward the Confessor, and of Harold, King of England. After Harold’s death in 1066, Gytha retired to live on her estates in the south and south-west of England. However, in 1067-68 she was involved in a rebellion against William I and subsequently left England for good.
King of England, 1066. Son of Godwin, earl of Wessex and Gytha. When Harold succeeded his father as Earl of Wessex in 1052, he became the most powerful English nobleman. His brother-in-law, King Edward, died childless in 1066 and nominated Harold as his successor. Harold was accepted as king by the English. However, William, Duke of Normandy, believed that he had been promised the throne and invaded England. Harold was killed at the battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066.
King of England, 1100 – 1135. Son of William I and his wife Matilda of Flanders. Henry succeeded his brother William Rufus as King of England in 1100. In 1106, he took control of Normandy after capturing his brother Duke Robert. Henry’s only legitimate son was drowned, leaving his daughter Matilda as his heir.
King of England, 1399 – 1413. Henry landed in England in 1399 and led a successful revolt against Richard II. After deposing Richard, Henry became the first of the Lancastrian kings. He was succeeded by his son Henry V.
King of England, 1485 – 1509. Son of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort. Henry grew up in Wales. He had a distant claim to the English throne. After the accession of Richard III in 1483 and the apparent murder of the young Edward V, Henry gathered support amongst disaffected English nobles. In 1485, he defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and succeeded to the throne. The first of the Tudor kings, Henry married Elizabeth of York. After successfully overcoming many plots to depose him, Henry died in 1509 and was succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
The form of a verb that has not been conjugated. In this tutorial, our examples end ‘-are’, ‘-ere’ or ‘-ire’. In English, the infinitive of a verb begins ‘to …’. The infinitive is the second part of a verb listed in a Latin word list.
Person sworn to deliver a verdict on a legal case. In the period covered by this tutorial, all jurors were male. In the court held by the lord of the manor, the jurors would have been chosen from the prominent local tenants.
The dominant letter in the endings of a verb. In the present tense, the key letter of first conjugation verbs is ‘a’, of second conjugation verbs is ‘e’ and of third and fourth conjugation verbs is ‘i’.
Man who fought on horseback. In medieval England, noblemen went through a ceremony to become a knight during adolescence. This ceremony confirmed their high social status and membership of the military and landed class. Generally, a knight fought for a particular lord, who rewarded him with land and other forms of patronage. In the 16th and 17th centuries and beyond, the term ‘knight’ was retained as a form of courtesy and status. Knights were often addressed as ‘sir’ (dominus in Latin) and might have the word knight (miles) after their name.
Person with power over others. The lord of the manor was the man or woman who held the manor. Men of high social status were also called ‘lord’. The Lord is a Christian term for both Jesus and God.
Meaning ‘Great Charter’, this document was drawn up in 1215 by magnates who wanted to limit King John’s ability to act according to his own will. John temporarily agreed to the demands set out in Magna Carta, but could not accept them in the longer term, resulting in a civil war. When Magna Carta was subsequently reissued by John’s son Henry III, the limitations on the power of the king were largely removed. The final version of Magna Carta was issued in 1225. A copy of this is held at The National Archives.
Administrative unit, made up of a mixture of lands, properties, rents and rights. A manor would generally be held by a lord or lady, or by an institution, such as a monastery. It might include an important residence known as the manor house. The lord of the manor would have rights over and duties towards those who farmed and worked on the manor.
One of the three genders of nouns. Nouns relating to men and male names are generally masculine, such as homo (man), rex (king) and Willelmus (William). Many other nouns are also masculine, including panis (bread) and solidus (shilling).
A man with authority and control over others. The use of this term implies respect. In the medieval period, it was used for a man with a higher degree and therefore also for some teachers, scholars and those in senior positions in the Church.
The name for the inhabitants of the area of northern France called Normandy. In 1066, the duke of Normandy conquered England: he and his descendants controlled the country from 1066 until 1154. This period of English history is therefore known as Norman.
A solemn or formal statement or promise. The person taking the oath often called on God to witness his promise. Other people were present when the oath was taken, so that they could confirm what had been promised if this was necessary later.
Language in which the government and other important institutions write documents. Government documents from 1066 onwards were written in Latin. You may find informal documents written in English from as early as the 15th century onwards. During the Protectorate (1653-60), Latin was replaced by English. After 1660, Latin once again became the official language of documents, although, in practice many documents were written in English. In 1731, an Act was passed, making English the official language of documents. This Act came into effect in 1733.
Medieval England was divided into thousands of parishes, each a small area local to and administered by a Catholic church for religious purposes. People within the parish worshipped at the parish church and paid a tenth of their produce, known as a tithe, to the priest or parson at the church. In return, the priest was responsible for their spiritual welfare. After the Reformation, the parishes were taken over by the Church of England. The term parish is also used for an area of civil administration; this may or may not coincide with the ecclesiastical parish.
Describes action which has already occurred and has been completed. For example, ‘I went home’, ‘he walked the dog’. The ‘I’ form of the past tense is the third part of a verb given in a Latin dictionary.
Document recording letters patent (open letters) issued by the king or queen under the great seal. Letters patent were issued to deal with a wide range of topics, including grants, pardons, appointments and licences.
|First person singular (I)
|First person plural (we)
|Second person singular (you/thou)
|Second person plural (you)
|Third person singular (he/she/it)
|Third person plural (they)
If the subject of a sentence is
- The speaker or speakers, the verb is in the first person: I bequeath, we confirm
- A person or persons spoken to, the verb is in the second person: you are, you pray
- A third party (someone else), the verb is in the third person: he gives, they summon
The presentation of an argument in court.
In Latin, a preposition is a word which goes in front of and determines the case of a noun. Most prepositions are followed by either the accusative or the ablative case; some take both, depending on their meaning. Latin prepositions are often short words. They do not decline.
The parts of a verb listed in a Latin dictionary. Usually there are four parts, although only three are given for some verbs. The parts are always arranged in this order: the ‘I’ form of the present tense; the infinitive; the ‘I’ form of the past tense and the supine (not covered in this tutorial).
For example, dare to give: do, dare, dedi, datum
Knowing the parts of a verb enables you to look it up in a dictionary. It also enables you to conjugate the present tense (using the first part of the verb given) and the past tense (using the third part of the verb given).
Proving a will. Wills had to be proved in court – that is, the court had to be satisfied that the will truly reflected the last wishes of the deceased. Until the Court of Probate was established in 1858, ecclesiastical courts did the proving as wills were also seen as religious documents, in which the testator commended his soul to God.
Word that stands in for a noun. A pronoun gives a useful reminder of the person or thing being discussed, with its gender, number and case. Not all Latin pronouns have an equivalent in English and therefore they can take a while to understand. Always make sure you understand the function of each pronoun in its sentence.
Wills had to be proved in church courts, that is, the court had to be satisfied that the will truly reflected the last wishes of the deceased. Until the Court of Probate was established in 1858, ecclesiastical courts (generally either at Canterbury or at York) did the proving as wills were seen as religious documents, in which the testator commended his soul to God.
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After the death of a person considered to have been exceptionally holy, the Church could begin a process of recognising their life, which ultimately ended in their being named as a saint. In medieval England, the Catholic Church controlled this process, deciding which saints could lawfully be recognised and therefore prayed to for aid. Besides being a source of help and possibly of miracles themselves, saints were also a means of obtaining God’s help. Therefore they were an important focus for religious worship and had a major impact on everyday life in the medieval period. Each saint was said to have one or more attributes and had a particular day of the year designated to him or her. Parish churches were dedicated to one or more of the saints.
Duty owed by an individual to a lord, consisting of a payment in money or kind, a defined act or a specified amount of labour. In the medieval period, service was owed to an individual or institution in return for holding land, property or office, or for protection.
The spiritual part of man, which is distinct from the physical body. In Christian thought, the soul survives after death and experiences either happiness or misery depending on the actions of the man during his life.
The part of a verb that does not change within a tense. It expresses the meaning of the verb. Endings are added onto the stem to explain who is doing the action of the verb. Verbs have a different stem for the present and past tenses.
The subject of a sentence is the person or thing performing the verb. For example, in the sentence ‘the lord grants a charter’, ‘the lord’ is doing the granting and is the subject of the sentence. To find the subject, decide who or what is doing the verb.
Part of a word that is pronounced as one sound without interruption. Some words are only one syllable long, for example, ‘cat’. Other words have two or more syllables, for example, ‘Latin’ has two syllables and ‘tutorial’ has four syllables.
A verb describes an action – the tense of the verb tells you when the action occurred. There are several tenses, which divide time into the past, present and future. This tutorial covers the present tense (actions that are happening now) and the past tense (actions that have happened).
Thomas the Martyr, Thomas Becket
Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-70. Thomas served Henry II as royal chancellor from 1154. He was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Following many disagreements with Henry, Thomas was forced to leave England from 1164 until 1170. In December 1170, Thomas was murdered in Canterbury cathedral by four of Henry II’s knights. Thomas quickly became venerated as a saint and remained the most important saint in late medieval England
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Urban area just to the west of London, which originally developed around Westminster Abbey. The palace at Westminster was an important residence of the medieval kings of England and therefore the royal court was frequently there. The central government functions of finance, law and administration were increasingly carried out at Westminster and it became the usual meeting place of Parliament.
William I, William the Conqueror, Duke William of Normandy
King of England 1066-87. The illegitimate son of Robert II, duke of Normandy and of Herleva, a tanner’s daughter. William succeeded his father as duke in 1035. Through his mother he had a link to the royal line of England; William believed that the last Anglo-Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, promised him the throne. When Edward died in 1066, the English earl Harold Godwinson seized the throne. William invaded England later in 1066, defeated Harold and became king of England. He commissioned the Domesday Book in 1085, a survey of land-holding in England. The first Norman king of England, William was succeeded by two of his sons and a nephew.
An observer of an event. Having one or more witnesses is useful when conducting important business, or when subsequently trying to establish the circumstances of an event, for example in a legal dispute. The witnesses to the granting of a charter could, if necessary, later confirm the authenticity of the grant.
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