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Dossier : Image et Droit. Les manuscrits juridiques enluminés

Illuminated English Law Books

Anthony Musson

Résumés

Les livres enluminés de la tradition juridique anglaise suivent des modèles iconographiques distincts en fonction de la nature du matériel juridique inclus. L’article explore les corrélations et les dissonances entre l’image et le texte, ainsi que le symbolisme associé à l’imagerie (tant dans les initiales que dans les marges) et son lien avec les discours politiques, juridiques et sociaux. Il évalue ce que les images révèlent sur les concepts clés du droit et de la justice médiévales, y compris la royauté et la bonne gouvernance, le rôle du parlement et de l’Église dans leur approbation, ainsi que la façon dont ces aspects pourraient être sapés (ou paradoxalement confirmés) par le penchant de la société médiévale pour l’inversion des rôles, la transgression et la mauvaise gouvernance.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 A. Musson, Medieval Law in Context: the Growth of Legal Consciousness from Magna Carta to the Peasa (...)
  • 2 J. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 201 (...)
  • 3 A. Harding, Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 170-20 (...)
  • 4 A. Musson, « Criminal Legislation and the Common Law in Late-Medieval England », From the Judge’s A (...)
  • 5 For proceedings in parliament and statutes see: The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England [PROME], d (...)

1The books of English law surviving today are the product of three significant developments starting in the late thirteenth century, but intensifying from the fourteenth century onwards: the rise of parliament as a forum for political debate and the promulgation of royal legislation after its sessions (‘acts of parliament’); the emergence of a distinct English legal profession and its increasing ‘professionalisation’; and the growth of legal consciousness not just amongst the ranks of the gentry and merchant households, but more broadly amongst the general populace1. Parliament provided a focal point where the community of the realm (representatives drawn from the ranks of the nobility, gentry, lawyers, the mercantile elite and higher and lower clergy) expressed views on issues of constitutional import connected to the Crown’s jurisdiction and the nature of royal governance, on problems of law and order and on many other issues within an economic and social context. Indeed, the Crown encouraged the airing of public and private grievances through the mechanism of common (collective) and private (individual) petitions2. For those taking an interest in its decision and law-making business, parliament (and the petitioning process) acted as a catalyst for legal thought, provoking suggestions for reform and legislative impulses. While the results of royal investigations into local government and the administration of the shires and amendments to the common law led to key edicts issued in Edward I’s reign (1272-1307), during Edward III’s fifty-year reign (1327-77), consent to taxation became linked to legislative enactments incorporating and redressing many of the complaints raised by constituencies which triggered an avalanche of new statutes3. The new method for the formulation of statutes gave rise to opinions as to the inherent qualities of statute law and a perceptual differentiation from the common law. Statutory law was referred to as ley especial or novel ley (special or new law) as distinct from the auncien ley (common law). The ‘new law’ not only took authority as the king’s decree from the form of words by which it was framed, but was regarded as ‘the law now in force’4. From this period onwards, therefore, the law of the realm encompassed not only judicial decisions handed down in the royal courts (and recorded in ‘law reports’), but also ‘law-giving’ in the form of enacted statutes, thereby earning the written law enhanced weight and certainty5.

  • 6 P. Brand, The Origins of the English Legal Profession, Oxford, Oxford University Press; C. Donahue, (...)
  • 7 J. H. Baker, The Legal Profession and the Common Law, London, Hambledon, 1986; P. Brand, « Legal Éd (...)
  • 8 P. Brand, The Making of the Common Law, London, Hambledon, 1992; P. Brand, « The Serjeants of the C (...)

2The English legal profession (versed in the common law as distinct from the Continental ius commune tradition of canon law and Roman civil law) witnessed both the development of its own identity as a body of practitioners (with its own distinctive costume, rules of conduct and avenues of promotion) and an expansion of the profession itself, as litigants increasingly sought the services of ‘men of law’ for representation in the courts and other forms of legal work6. Advances in the provision of legal education and training in the common law together with a corresponding demand for professional literature covering substantive law and procedure, marked it out as a book-learned profession at every level. Indeed, although there was no formal structured theory of precedent imposed on the courts in this period, reports of cases that had taken place in the higher courts or sometimes on circuit (compiled in what were known as Year Books) proved useful not only for students learning the law, but also practitioners who used them to cite past arguments and judgments7. In addition to formal lectures and practical learning exercises for those who attended the nascent Inns of Court and Chancery, legal knowledge and private reference was aided by treatises by senior judges and lawyers on various jurisprudential topics and manuals providing precedents on modes of pleading or bringing an action in court8.

  • 9 Musson, Medieval Law in Context, p. 120-24.

3The legal profession (strictly defined) were not the only ‘consumers’ of legal literature. Concomitant with a more documentary culture and in line with expanding levels of literacy, a pragmatic desire for legal knowledge took hold amongst non-lawyers, fostered by a mixture of litigiousness, growing familiarity with record-keeping and increasing participation in the proliferating court system. Informal instruction by word of mouth and practical experience was supplemented by handbooks on how to hold local courts and manage estates as well as templates for potential administrative and judicial encounters. Some literature even catered for women who required assistance in managing their estates in the absence of their husbands. An awareness of significant statutes and current legislation was particularly crucial for those landowners serving as justices of the peace, while locating the correct legal remedy was also paramount. From the marginal annotations and indications of ownership it is clear that consumers of this legal literature included public officials, male and female lay landowners, merchants, estate stewards, ecclesiastical corporations and urban corporations (in addition to lawyers) and they were clearly genuinely used for the purposes for which they were compiled9.

  • 10 D. C. Skemer, « Reading the Law: Statute Books and the Private Transmission of Legal Knowledge in L (...)
  • 11 While King John's original 1215 version or Henry III's re-issue in 1225 are included in various sur (...)
  • 12 For example: BL MS Arundel 331; MS Egerton 667; MS Hargrave 335. The organizational scheme for Will (...)
  • 13 For example: BL MS Cotton Nero C 1; MS Hargrave 274; MS Additional 15728; New Haven, CT, Yale Law S (...)
  • 14 E.g. BL, MSS Harley 947, 3819, Lansdowne 652; CUL MS F.6.5; London, Lambeth Palace Library, MSS 429 (...)
  • 15 E.g. Oxford, Oriel College, MS 46; Bodleian, MS Rawlinson B 160; T. McSweeney, « Creating a Literat (...)

4Before the age of printing, books comprising texts of the English law were essentially privately produced for a relatively small, though expanding market, and the majority, given their modest size, were probably destined for individual use10. The earliest compendia date from the late thirteenth century and usually comprise collections of statuta antiqua (or statuta vetera): Magna Carta11 and statutes from Henry III’s reign (1216-72), followed by the great legislative canon promulgated by Edward I (1272-1307) and enactments dated to Edward II’s reign (1307-27). A second tranche of legislation, known as statuta nova, was added to existing volumes (or increasingly opened with them) from the late fourteenth century. Starting with statutes from the reign of Edward III (1327-77) and Richard II (1377-99), they move through to Henry IV (1399-1413) or into Henry V's (1413-22) and Henry VI's reigns (1422-61, 1470-1) depending upon when the volume was compiled12. Those produced in the later fifteenth-century volumes bring the legislative canon up to date by adding statutes from the reigns of Edward IV (1461-70, 1471-83), Richard III (1483-5), and Henry VII (1485-1509)13. To this body of statutory material other essential common law texts were copied at the commissioner’s request. Volumes can comprise precedents on pleading (Brevia Placitata or Novae Narrationes) or contain registers of writs (precedents of the documents that initiated legal actions)14. They can also include Henry de Bracton’s treatise De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni Angliae and/or shorter works (Hengham Parva, Hengham Magna, Fet Asaver and Judicium Essoniorum) that formed part of an evolving vernacular legal literature15.

I. Illuminated Legal Texts

  • 16 This is discussed in Illuminating the Law: Medieval Legal Manuscripts in Cambridge Collections, dir (...)
  • 17 For example: Bodleian, MS Douce 17 fo 11r; BL, MS Additional 32085 fo 7r, MS Hargrave 434 fo 9r. A (...)
  • 18 Art historians have highlighted this in the context of the wider study of English Gothic illuminati (...)
  • 19 For a contextualisation of the Yale Law School New Statutes of England see McGerr, Lancastrian Mirr (...)

5Vernacular literature of this type is not normally envisaged as containing decoration or illumination owing to its technical content and utilitarian nature16. The vast majority of surviving English law books accord with this expectation: they contain no form of coloured decoration, let alone illumination, or at best have been accorded rubrication and floriated initials at key points17. Yet, although they were produced predominantly for members of the legal profession and to a large extent were purely utilitarian, it does not follow that as a genre they were not considered worthy of decoration and that the practice/art of illumination had no bearing on use and appreciation of the legal text. If law books in general represent an under-studied, but significant sub-genre of medieval illuminated manuscripts18, then the sub-section comprising illuminated volumes of English statutes and legal treatises is one that has been comparatively neglected. Indeed, to date there has been no systematic study of the images in English law books that combines detailed analysis undertaken by art historians with the wider significance of their iconography within a legal and political context19.

  • 20 See, for example, A. Bennett, « Anthony Bek’s Copy of Statuta Angliae », England in the Fourteenth (...)
  • 21 For example, although compiled for Bishop Anthony Bek, the MS Scheide 30 was later owned by royal j (...)
  • 22 A. Musson, « Seeing Justice: The Visual Culture of the Law and Lawyers », Miscellanea Mediaevalia, (...)
  • 23 See English Legal Manuscripts in the United States of America: Medieval and Renaissance Period (to (...)
  • 24 This figure is based on the 58 manuscripts that have been digitised by the Ames Foundation and augm (...)
  • 25 For example: the Digital Scriptorium Database (http://dpg.lib.berkeley.edu) and the Free Library of (...)
  • 26 The author is grateful to the British Academy for funding the initial research upon which this pape (...)
  • 27 This obviously does not include manuscripts where images originally (or potentially) in the manuscr (...)
  • 28 See N. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, 5 vols, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 196 (...)

6The English book trade did produce legal compendia with genuine illumination, some of which were large, lavish versions destined as presentation copies (akin to modern ‘coffee-table’ volumes) for influential patrons or institutions20. While even certain deluxe volumes were owned by lawyers21, others that were smaller in size, with less extensive illumination survive today. Evidence for ownership or readership beyond the legal profession (as mentioned above) provokes interesting questions about the production and consumption of legal literature. It also raises issues about the visual dimension of contemporary legal culture and thus not only their authority as legal texts and but also their value to the legal historian22. Extant copies of common law “statute books” are now spread throughout the world as a result of the dispersal over time of personal and institutional libraries and the attentions or obsessions of avid manuscript collectors, particularly in the United States of America23. The Harvard Law School, for example, has the largest collection of medieval statute books, of which at least seven contain a fully illuminated miniature in the initial letter of the opening text24. The research carried out for this paper utilises digital versions of these manuscripts and others in the USA examined personally or available on-line25, but draws especially upon research undertaken on the legal manuscripts in collections in the British Library, the Bodleian Library (and those of various Oxford colleges), Cambridge University Library (and those of several Cambridge colleges) as well as Holkham Hall, Lambeth Palace Library, the Inns of Court, the National Archives and the London Metropolitan Archives26. This has yielded a source-base of around 40 texts27. While this does not cover the possible images in statute books residing in various county museums and archives, cathedral libraries or in private hands28, nor those that might exist in collections housed outside the UK that have not been digitised, it does provide a suitable, if fragmented, group for comparative analysis.

  • 29 The evidence from illuminated charters suggests this: E. Danbury, « English and French Artistic Pro (...)
  • 30 At least one statute book has instructions to the illuminator, the words 'Edwardus Rex' (in a diffe (...)
  • 31 J. J. G. Alexander, « Art History, Literary History and the Study of Medieval Illuminated Manuscrip (...)
  • 32 M. Camille, « The Language of Images in Medieval England, 1200-1400 », The Age of Chivalry, dir. J. (...)
  • 33 For discussion of the provenance of illuminations see Hanna, London Literature, p. 79-84;
  • 34 K. A. Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books (...)
  • 35 The portrayal of Edward I and composition of additional figures for the Magna Carta initial in Bodl (...)
  • 36 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 19-29.
  • 37 A. Musson, « Images of Marriage: A Comparison of Law, Custom and Practice in Medieval Europe », Reg (...)

7Since only a comparatively small proportion of extant volumes contain any illumination, these must have been added at the owner or donor’s request29. There is no evidence (as far as I am aware) of surviving contracts drawn up for preparing English law books and it is rare to find specific instructions remaining in the margins opposite or close to the image as exists in other spheres of illuminated texts30. Even if the extent of any input from the commissioning patron and the illuminator’s models or influences are largely undocumented or unknown, correlation between text and image suggests that the insertion of pictures in English law books was not entirely random: there was evidently direct instruction at the time of the commission or careful consideration of the subject matter by the illuminator, who brought to his work his technical professionalism as well as his own imagination and experience of the world31. Much also depended upon how such images were intended to be read and understood32. Through a study of characteristic traits and correspondences of detail observable in other genres, art historians have identified certain masters’ work and demonstrated that in spite of initial preconceptions, the English book trade produced legal compendia that utilised the services of 'fully-fledged illuminators'33. While the hands of some fourteenth-century craftsmen are discernible, notably the De Bois master, who is known to have illustrated books of hours as well as statute books34, and some similarities observable between portrayals35, the artistic context of smaller, more sparsely pictured fourteenth-century volumes is understandably obscure. The growth of workshops devoted to the production of illuminated statuta nova in the later fifteenth century, nevertheless testifies to the strength of this tradition and the range of workmanship associated with their iconography36. The illuminations in English law books are, however, indebted to the Roman civil law and canon law traditions. The portrait of a king at the opening of the statute book and at various book divisions had its counterpart in and probably derived from the Roman civil law tradition, where a representation of the Emperor Justinian is usually the first image to be incorporated in copies of his Digest and the Institutes. The universality of this tradition can be observed, too, in the governing books of canon law, which usually have the pope pictured at the outset. Pictures in the books of canon law are more likely to have correspondences with scenes or illustrative traits from Bibles and Books of Hours. Even though the cycle of illuminations in canon and Roman law texts, similar to those in bibles and psalters, tends to follow set patterns or conventions, the extent of the illuminated programme varies as does the complexity of the visual content. The mirroring of images with the legal concepts and problems in such texts, however, is often sufficiently over that comparisons and divergences between regional custom and practice in whole areas of law can be discerned and mapped37. In considering the phenomenon of peculiarly English illuminated legal texts, this paper examines the development of distinct iconographic traditions based on the contents of the volume and the nature of the legal (and occasionally non-legal) material included. It explores correlations and dissonance between image and text as well as the symbolism associated with the imagery (in both initials and the margins) and its connection to external political, legal and social discourses. In so doing it evaluates what the images reveal about key concepts of medieval law and justice, including kingship and good governance, the role of parliament and the church in endorsing these, as well as how these aspects might be undermined (or paradoxically confirmed) by medieval society’s penchant for role reversal, transgression and misrule.

II. Statuta Vetera

  • 38 Bracton, De Legibus, 2:20.
  • 39 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson B 178 fo 1r; MS Rawlinson C 292 fo 9r; BL MS Yates Thompson 48 fo 41r.
  • 40 BL MS Royal VI E vii. fo 526v (printed in Sandler, Omne Bonum, II, p. 245); BL MS Arundel 331 fo 22 (...)
  • 41 Cambridge, St John’s College, MS A.7 fo 1r; Oxford, Trinity College, MS 8 fo 131v. These two pictur (...)

8The image of royal majesty, a king seated on a bench-like throne, is by far the most common depiction in the illuminated statute book initials. Medieval people were familiar with royal images and understood their associated symbolism both in an ecclesiastical context (symbolizing God or biblical monarchs) or in the secular world (serving as an icon of royal government). Iconographic correspondences (derived through similarities with images in other genres or from the nature of the setting) can imbue the picture with cosmic and divine connotations, highlighting the symbolic fusion of God and king and the close relationship between heavenly and earthly kingdoms. The influential common law treatise attributed to Henry de Bracton, De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni Angliae, speaks of the king as being God’s vicar: ‘For judgments are made not by man, but by God, which is why the heart of the king who rules well is said to be in the hand of God’38. The depiction of God in Nicholas Trevet’s chronicle, for example, has similarities with the portrayal of Edward I as an elderly, white-bearded monarch39. There is also a strong similarity between the image employed for Christ enthroned (in the mid fourteenth-century encyclopaedia Omne Bonum) and that of his earthly counterpart, Edward III, used in a statute book of similar date40. The relationship with the divine is taken further by the illuminator of a book of statutes now held in St John’s College, Cambridge. Not only does the kingly figure, seated on a wooden throne, appear to be hovering in a star-spangled vortex, but the bearded face given Henry III bears a strong resemblance to that accorded the risen Christ in a missal now in Trinity College, Oxford41.

  • 42 J. Watts, « Looking for the State in Later Medieval England », Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Displ (...)
  • 43 Fleta, dir. H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, Selden Society, 72, London, 1955, p. 35 (Book 1, c.1 (...)
  • 44 Rather than pointing at the text with the sword, the king’s eyes can be directed towards the openin (...)
  • 45 e.g. HLS MS 177 fo 13r; Huntington HM 19920 fo 1r; PFL, LC. 14 20.5 fo 1r; BL, MS Harley 869 fo 7r; (...)
  • 46 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 270b fo 102r B2.
  • 47 L’Engle and Gibbs, eds, Illuminating the Law, p. 92, 126, 132, (Pl 5k).
  • 48 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 160 fo 1r.
  • 49 Bracton, De legibus, 2:19.
  • 50 BL, MS Addd 11353 fo 9r.

9The formal iconic qualities of the kingly figure offer gravitas to the portrayal in the initial and an acknowledgement of his role as legislator and fount of justice42. The crown is highly symbolic in this respect, as the fourteenth-century legal treatise Fleta explains: it is a sign that he will rule the people subject to him by due process of law (ideo corona insignitur ut per iudicia populum regat sibi subiectum)43. The king is also usually depicted holding a sword, which is pointing towards the opening words of the text44. This is not a universal portrayal, however, as in some examples the king is not holding a sword, nor indeed a sceptre/rod, merely pointing to the beginning of the text with his index finger45. In iconographical terms, though, the sword is regarded as a significant prop, symbolising not only military might and skill in war, but also the power of justice and the consequent ability to punish wrongdoers. Emperors and kings were endowed with swords to enable them to exercise secular justice46. Canon and Roman law texts thus specifically illustrate the delegation of powers from the divine ruler to temporal and spiritual leaders47. The king’s duty to do justice was enshrined in notions of kingship and captured in the iconography of the Bracton treatise which is sometimes included in the legal compendia or exists in a stand-alone format. The opening page of two of these volumes go beyond the conventional iconography of a king enthroned by encapsulating visually the Roman law maxim: ‘graced with arms, armed with laws’. In one version, underneath the text at the bottom of the page, the king is portrayed seated with a sword held aloft in his right hand, while in his left he is holding up an open book (the treatise); two knights in armour on horseback engage in combat with lances, duly observed by three-coifed individuals (lawyers), one of whom is gesticulating48. The action of the scene directly reflects the opening words of the treatise: ‘To rule well requires two things, arms and laws, that by them both times of war and of peace may rightly be ordered. For each stands in need of the other, that the achievement of arms be conserved [by the laws], the laws themselves preserved by support of arms’49. The other illuminated version is slightly less dramatic, though equally fulfils the requirements of the maxim. Straddling the margin between the two columns of text seated on a bench-like throne, the crowned king awards (with his right hand) a sword to six mailed knights (wearing blue, green and red surcoats), while at the same time presenting (with his left hand) a document bearing a white seal to a corresponding number of judges/lawyers50.

Fig. 1 – Bracton: the king’s duty to do justice

Fig. 1 – Bracton: the king’s duty to do justice

BL MS Add 11353 fo 9. ©The British Library

  • 51 Justinian features in the Speculum Historiale: see, for example, BL MS Egerton 1500 fo 30v.
  • 52 For example: Cambridge, St John's, MS A 7 fo 1r; Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 454 fo 19r; Huntington, M (...)
  • 53 For example: HLS MS 183 fo 5r; CUL, MS Add. 2827 fo 9r; CUL, MS DD. 15.12 fo 9r. Edward I's coronat (...)
  • 54 For example: HLS, MS 58 fo 5r; MS 213 fo 1r.
  • 55 London, The National Archives, Public Record Office, Exchequer Memoranda Rolls, E 368/72 m. 12; rep (...)
  • 56 BL, MS Harley Charter 83 C 13. The green seal pictured is similar to the one attached to the surviv (...)
  • 57 For example: BL, MS Royal 20 D x fo 28 (Black Prince); Oxford, University College, MS 82 fo 7r (St  (...)

10The image of a monarch in the common law statutes should be read not just in terms of an abstract king, but in relation to a specific king (or kings), just as the Emperor Justinian, himself an historical figure, is an icon for the Roman law tradition51. To some extent the image of the king is personalised. Since Magna Carta is symbolically placed at the head of these volumes, it is possible to distinguish at a glance which particular monarch is envisaged from the shape of the initial letter. Illuminated miniatures containing images of John or Henry III are rare52. The majority of texts are the 1297 confirmation by Edward I, where the letter “E” (appropriate for the beginning ‘Edwardus Rex…’) shapes the miniature. While he is normally portrayed as a bearded, elderly figure, corresponding to the stage in his reign that the Great Charter was confirmed, some miniatures show him as a young man (more appropriate to the period of his accession twenty-five years earlier in 1272)53. The image of the king should be taken in conjunction with the written text. In the majority of versions he is demonstrably looking towards the opening words or pointing at them, either with a raised index finger or with the sword he his holding54. His gesture not only serves as a directional device for the reader, but can be regarded as underlining the text’s importance and endorsing its authority. A graphic instance of this can also be seen in an exchequer memoranda roll of 1300 which has the marginal figure of a bearded and crowned Edward I pointing to a request that the barons of the exchequer should observe the clauses of Magna Carta55. Emblematic of royal judicial authority, the image of the king conveys the notion that it is his law (royal law) that is enshrined in the words of the text and given effect through his person (and likewise the apparatus of justice he controls). In this there are clear parallels with royal charters issued to individuals and institutions. An inspeximus from Edward III to Richard of Arundel (son of Edmund, lately earl of Arundel), for example, shows the young king giving a charter complete with green seal to a young man kneeling56. The scene in the illuminated initial and accompanying features were intended to convey in visual terms their charter’s authority and legal effect57.

  • 58 Digitised images from the manuscripts are viewable online via the Harvard Law School Library, Histo (...)
  • 59 For example: Cambridge, Trinity College, MS 0.7.27 fo 90r; PUL, MS Scheide MS 30 fo 18r; Lilley MS  (...)
  • 60 For example: BL, MS Harley 947 fo 107r, 170r.
  • 61 HLS MS 12 fo 2r; BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 3r.
  • 62 Unfortunately the king’s face has been rubbed obscuring the detail.

11The only two surviving books of statuta vetera which contain a series of illuminations bearing royal images extending beyond the initial for Magna Carta are Harvard Law School MS 12 and British Library MS Lansdowne 117458. An additional image is occasionally included for the Forest Charter or other statutes in legal compendia, but generally the only image is for that of Magna Carta59. Alternatively, where the old statutes themselves are not illuminated or have only foliated initials, an historiated initial may be placed at the book division of the Register of Writs or the Nova Narrationes60. The illuminators for the two volumes with an extended iconographic programme are noticeably different in their style and use of materials, yet their approach to the content has some remarkable similarities, but also some significant divergences. A royal coronation may be the theme portrayed in the opening Magna Carta initial, thereby underlining the monarch’s constitutional position and his royal obligations. Unusually, the initial “E” of Edward I’s confirmation of Magna Carta in both volumes comprises a double scene (one above the middle bar of the letter and one below it)61: in HLS MS 12 the upper picture shows a king seated on a throne attended by two archbishops and two laymen (one holding a rod); all appear to be pointing to the lead archbishop, who is in turn pointing to himself62. In Lansdowne 1174, the king is handing a book to the archbishop, which may represent the original issuing of Magna Carta under John or, more likely, Henry III’s 1225 version; in HLS MS 12 the lower picture is similar in composition, but presumably depicts its re-issue under Edward I, itself the outcome of another bout of constitutional debate. In Lansdowne 1174, the lower picture comprises a central figure of a lord in a red furred robe with two laymen either side.

Fig. 2 – Edward I and Magna Carta

Fig. 2 – Edward I and Magna Carta

BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 3r. ©The British Library

  • 63 For modern accounts of this see: N. Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, 1321-1326, Cambridge, (...)
  • 64 W. M. Ormrod, Edward III, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2011, p. 106-10, 120-46; M.  (...)
  • 65 Sir J. Baker, The Reinvention of Magna Carta 1216-1616, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017 (...)

12Given both volumes are dated to the second quarter of the fourteenth century, the image cannot have been formulated without regard to recent political events in the kingdom and its representation of the monarch and constitutional authority was given greater clarity of meaning by Edward II’s deposition in 132763. It would, therefore, have held particular significance not just for contemporaries who had lived through the constitutional upheaval, but for the new king himself, whose very position as monarch lay in the hands of the archbishops, magnates, and judges portrayed alongside the king64. Scenes depicting the king being crowned are common in chronicles (where the scene prefaces the new reign) and are significant in terms of their capacity to convey the symbolic moment, following his ceremonial anointment with holy oil, when authority passes to the sovereign and he takes the oath to uphold the laws and customs of the realm, preserve the faith of the church, maintain the peace and do justice to all. A coronation scene thus focuses attention on the king’s binding oath and the allegiance that is correspondingly pledged by the nobles on behalf of the realm. Contemporary responses to such representations may have varied according to how Magna Carta was understood by different sections of medieval society and how it came to be re-interpreted over time65.

  • 66 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 19r.
  • 67 HLS MS 12 fo 5r.
  • 68 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 24r.
  • 69 HLS MS 12 fo 9r.
  • 70 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 39r.
  • 71 HLS MS 12 fo 14r.
  • 72 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 67v.

13Further comparison of the two volumes is interesting in revealing similarities and differences in approaches of the respective artists. The illuminated initial in Lansdowne 1174 for the Provisions of Merton (1236) depicts a scene outside a house: a man with a rod in his left hand is holding a woman by the other hand and tapping the door with his rod (with two onlookers behind him)66. This corresponds with the opening chapter of Merton which concerns a widow’s dower. HLS MS 12 does not have an illuminated initial at this point, but accordingly there is a marginal figure of a woman dressed in black pointing towards the start of the text67. Lansdowne 1174 also has an image of a king debating with a bishop (or archbishop) for the Statute of Marlborough (absent from the HLS MS 12 programme) which may relate to the chapter on benefit of clergy (representing the compromise between Henry II and Thomas a Becket on the reach of secular power)68. Both volumes have historiated initials for the First Statute of Westminster (1275), though it is not clear how the image in HLS MS 12 (which appears to show the king addressing a similarly attired young man (his heir?) with an official behind him)69 particularly explains or relates to the statute, which contains over fifty different chapters on a whole swathe of legal areas. The image in Lansdowne 1174, however, encapsulates the general significance of the statute and its confirmation of the provisions of Magna Carta with a picture of an enthroned king holding a sealed document in the presence of a bishop and a lord/knight (signified by his sword belt)70. The Statute of Gloucester, which concerns the action of novel disseisin is treated similarly by both illuminators, though they differ slightly in the composition and detail. The scene in HLS MS 12 places three figures (differentiated by the colour of their garments, red, green and blue and the fact that the latter is coifed) in front of a house. The coifed figure has his hand on the door and appears to be accepting a large coin from the red-robed person71. It may be that he is recovering damages from the person who has deprived him of his seisin (his right in the property). In Lansdowne 1174 there are two characters, one wearing a hood, who has a pouched dagger and has his hand on the door clasp; another who is bearded and coifed and possibly holding out his hand in expectation72. Again, the detail is significant in that it was sufficient to have hold of the door handle to establish seisin over a property, but it maybe legal representation was required (hence the coifed figure) in order to achieve a successful suit.

  • 73 This intended in a forthcoming article comparing the two.
  • 74 HLS MS 12 fo 30v, 33v, 35v.
  • 75 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 142v.
  • 76 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 163r.

14It is beyond the scope of this present paper to analyse the complete cycle of images73, but the divergences in the particular statutes chosen to be illustrated is interesting. The artist of HLS MS 12, for instance, depicts a man pouring a bag of coins onto an exchequer table while another man counts them (the statute relating to the exchequer) and appropriately a tankard and two loaves of bread (the assize of bread and ale) as well as a man doing homage (for the statute concerning homage and fidelity)74. Whereas the HLS MS 12 artist does not cover the important Statute of Winchester (which concerns the arrangements for local policing and the requirements of the assize of arms), the BL Lansdowne 1174 artist does and shows men assembled before the king carrying a sword and a staff75. Unlike HLS MS 12 he additionally portrays the Statute of Conspirators with a man pleading at the bar of the court, while two others appear to be discussing the case and a third man carrying a bundle of documents looks on76. The range of images deployed in the statuta vetera volumes highlighted here is quite extraordinary given the paucity in other English compendia. While it is known that HLS MS 12 was specifically part of a compilation of texts presented to the young Prince Edward (the future Edward III) in 1326 and thus explainable in the context of production of an elite manuscript, BL Lansdowne 1174 does not betray a contemporary owner or have an obvious workshop provenance. Its programme is nevertheless complex and its implications are considered further below. Both schemes testify to the legal knowledge required by the illuminator (and/or the commissioner) and their broader cultural repertoire that goes beyond that required for images accompanying the Magna Carta texts.

  • 77 Bloomington, Indiana, University of Indiana, Lilly Library, MS Poole 22. I am grateful to Rosemary (...)
  • 78 Lilly, MS Poole 22 fo 19r.
  • 79 HLS MS 56 fo 1r; BL MS Harley 926 fo 9r.
  • 80 P. Raffield, Images and Cultures of Law in Early Modern England. Justice and Political Power, 1558- (...)

15The divine context accorded certain other volumes is equally intriguing and may signify ownership/commissioning by ecclesiastics. The medieval belief in the derivation of all law from God and thus the divinely ordained nature of the common law is symbolically portrayed in one fourteenth-century volume of statutes which contains solely images of religious icons in its illuminated initials77. In the initial letter for Edward I's inspeximus of Magna Carta, the Madonna and Child are depicted: Christ, dressed in a red robe, is shown standing on his mother's knee, blessing a kneeling penitent (who may represent the owner of the book)78. While this overtly spiritual scene may seem out of place in a law book, the representation may be a means of linking the symbolism of ‘the Word of God made flesh’ and the Charter’s concern with ‘reason’ via the twin meanings of ‘logos’ (as both “word” and 'divine reason'). Indeed, transmission of the word of God was a key responsibility of medieval kingship, one the king makes clear in the preamble of Magna Carta when declaring that the Great Charter is being issued 'for the advancement of holy church'79. By the sixteenth century it was certainly a widely held notion that the common law was equated with God's word80.

Fig. 3 – The Virgin Mary and Christ Child

Fig. 3 – The Virgin Mary and Christ Child

BL MS Harley 947 fo 170r. ©The British Library

  • 81 BL MS Harley 947 fo 170r.
  • 82 For example: Bodleian, MS Douce 35; BL, MS Royal 9 A VII. In the British Library volume, the New Te (...)
  • 83 BL MS Royal 9 A VII fo 14v, 18r.
  • 84 For early use of 'Gospel Books' for this purpose, see: M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record (...)
  • 85 Huntington, MS EL 34 A 8 fo 13v, 20.
  • 86 See, for example, BL MS Harley 3828 fo 40r (showing stigmata); MS Additional 38116 fo 13v, MS Harle (...)

16The representation may also have a slightly different connotation. The substitution of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child for the usual figure of a king in the initial ‘E’ (Edward) to a writ of right in a fourteenth-century register of writs may reflect her regality and divine association as Queen of Heaven as well implying that of her earthly counterpart. The writ in this particular register is directed to the bailiff of the honor of Peveril (in the High Peak, Derbyshire), which was under the personal control of the queen consort, Queen Isabella81. Since the text of the writ refers to her specifically a direct iconographic correspondence with the Virgin Mary may well have been intended by the artist. It would be significant, too, if the image of the Virgin and Child was intended to correspond to Isabella and the young prince Edward (Edward III), thereby providing a visual reflection of her de facto position as queen regent during his minority. Given their overtly religious themes, these images may have been intended to accompany Biblical text, passages from the Gospels in the New Testament, which were sometimes included in collections of legal material, prefacing the liturgical calendar and Magna Carta82. Indeed, in a volume of statutes in the British Library otherwise lacking formal illuminations there are miniatures of both the Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion83. While the inclusion of the religious material (extracts from the scriptures and prayers) may have had a meditational value, it is more likely that it was bound with the statutes for practical purposes to facilitate the taking of oaths (by officials, jurors or witnesses), circumventing the need to locate a 'Gospel Book'84. This connection is also suggested in another overtly religious scene in a Huntington Library statuta vetera manuscript. Although it precedes the text of Magna Carta by a few folios (somewhat strangely out of liturgical sequence opposite January in the calendar of major feast days), portrayal of Christ crucified, flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John (holding the gospel), again evokes the incarnation, but also the redemption of the world by his death85. Since the crucifixion (or at least the symbols of Christ's passion) is often overlaid on Christ in Majesty in scenes of the Last Judgment, the imagery of justice may also be reflected upon here in addition to the transformative religious event lying at heart of Christianity86.

  • 87 Oxford, Merton College MS 297B fo 9r.
  • 88 M. Camille, « The Language of Images in Medieval England, 1200-1400 », The Age of Chivalry, ed. J.  (...)
  • 89 For example: Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 612B fo 7r; MS Rawlinson C 292 fo 105r; Lambeth Palace, MS 42 (...)
  • 90 M. Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England, London, R (...)
  • 91 London, The National Archives, King’s Bench Plea Rolls, KB 27/820.

17The absence of a royal personage in the Magna Carta initial of a collection of statuta vetera (included with an early fifteenth-century volume of nova statute) again has connotations of divine law, the natural world and disseminating the word of God. Magna Carta is symbolised by an Eagle bearing the text scroll 'laus legislate volat undique cum probitate'87. The eagle is emblematic of the king of birds and so is a fitting correspondence for the normal royal image. In Christian art, however, the eagle also represents St John the Evangelist and this again brings notions of the 'word of God' since the Gospel attributed to him starts: 'In the beginning was the word and the word was with God'. While it is unusual in English law books to find words embedded with images in this way, it is in fact a feature of this particular statute book. The scroll symbolically vocalises the Latin text, which in effect provides an external or ex-cathedra statement on the role of the king in law-making and/or the authority of Magna Carta. Picking up the bird imagery it contends that his (Edward I’s) renown for law-giving 'flies everywhere', though the text emphasises that this is true only if it is done 'with integrity' or “uprightly”. In this way the reputation of royal legislation is united symbolically with the ethical demands of kingship. By contrast, the lofty ideals of Magna Carta and other statutes are sometimes juxtaposed with more playful or transgressive images in the margins. In most of the statuta vetera miniatures the upper, lower and side margins of the page also contain images that contribute to the prevailing discourse (whether positively or negatively) and influence the viewer's engagement with the text. Indeed, for contemporaries, the text was merely one part of the experience of “reading” the manuscript88. At the bottom of the page of several Magna Carta texts are images of hybrid creatures, part-animal, part-human, gesticulating towards each other with fingers outstretched89. Jousting figures are quite common in marginalia90 and in addition to those previously mentioned as depicting the ‘law and arms’ motif in Bracton, some figures are even portrayed in combat to the side of the monarch at the start of a King's Bench plea roll91. In this context these amusing-looking caricatures probably represent lawyers, reflecting the verbal sparring that is the essence of the English adversarial legal tradition.

  • 92 FLP, LC 14 20.5 fo 1r. See also images associated with the Forest Charter (above) and BL MS Harley  (...)
  • 93 CUL MS Dd 6.85 fo 1r.
  • 94 For example: Lambeth Palace, MS 429 fo 6r; BL, MS Harley 3819 fo 103r.
  • 95 Lambeth Palace, MS 429 fo 163r.
  • 96 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 612B fo 7r.

18Hunting imagery or beasts of the forest are portrayed in several collections. A squirrel, a jay, a hare and a deer – all evocative of the forest appear below the text in one version of Magna Carta (imagery normally associated with the Forest Charter)92. The hunting motif and other vignettes, however, including a hare being chased by a dog, which occurs at the bottom of a page in a book of legal pleading93, were not placed there simply to provide light relief or aesthetically pleasing glimpses of nature. If the hunting imagery is considered in more metaphorical terms, it was in fact often employed to symbolize the pursuit of knowledge and may even here signify the advocate pursing a line of legal argument against his opponent. The appearance of subversive or anti-authoritarian elements may represent the disorder of the imagination vying with the ordered world not just of the written word, but the legal text itself. Several of the initial letters in the statute volumes (including both Magna Carta and the opening image in registers of writs) show a figure intruding on the space occupied by the king94. In one a man dressed in blue with a blue feather in his cap inhabits left hand corner of the miniature and is pointing at the king with his finger, mimicking his actions95. In another, a figure in a red hood in the left margin grasps the bottom rung of the letter ‘E’. He, too, is looking up at the king, but brandishing a cudgel96. Such images provide an alternative discourse on the nature of authority by implying opposition to the rule of law or criticism of the monarch and the judicial system.

III. Statuta Nova

  • 97 BL MS Harley 5233 fo 11r, 141r, 219r, 289v.
  • 98 BL MS Yates Thompson 48 fo 41r, 104r, 147r, 172v, 190r.
  • 99 J. Sumption, The Hundred Years War, 4 vols, London, Faber & Faber, 1990-2015.
  • 100 Oxford, Merton College, MS 297B fo 328r.

19The illuminated statuta nova collections are more circumscribed than their earlier counterparts in purely (mostly) having a royal image at the start of each reign. Although the crowned king enthroned with regalia is the basis for most portrayals, one collection notably focuses on the king’s head (without providing the full picture of him seated on the throne)97, while another volume shows each of the kings arrayed differently and standing in a variety of poses98. Moreover, like the Magna Carta initials, it is possible to tell from the shape of the letter (in addition to the content of the legislation) which king is envisaged. In some the image is also personalised. This is noticeable, first, with regard to the likeness of the king, which in some cases reflect his age on accession, though in some instances they also depict a more mature monarch. The image conditions the perspective on the monarch in question: Richard II, who assumed the throne when only 10, is occasionally portrayed as a boy, but more often as an older man (even though he died aged 33). In so doing, the collections of statutes perpetuate a fiction of the king’s legal capacity and demonstrate how royal legislation continued to be issued in his name in spite of the reality arising from minority (Edward III, Richard II, Henry VI), periods of physical incapacity (Henry IV) or mental disorder (Henry VI). The iconography of these volumes is not unduly limited, however, as there are connotations of their style of kingship and aspects of their rule that are implied by the images. One volume not only depicts Henry VI as a boy (as he was at his coronation), but also portrays the enhanced constitutional role arising from the English king’s claim to the French throne and dual monarchy contested first by Edward III and consolidated by Henry V in the Hundred Years War99. Henry VI is seated on a red canopied throne, dressed in a blue robe edged with fur and a green fur-trimmed hat, holding a crown in each hand; two sceptres are in his lap. This imagery reflects the official unification of the French and English Crowns in his person for the first time following his coronation in Rouen in 1431. In case the viewer is in any doubt, there is an accompanying scroll which has the phrase: ‘vivere pacifice mihi sit: et unique corone’100. The illuminator or his patron has used the opportunity to move beyond the obvious royal imagery and make a particular constitutional statement, one wholly in keeping with the role of the king in endorsing the authority of the law. Henry VI’s image is further enhanced in another volume where the direct link between the heavenly and earthly kingdoms and the bestowal of power (symbolised by the regalia) is demonstrated, creating an overlap between his dual status as an historical figure and (to certain contemporaries at least) a religious icon.

Fig. 4 – Veneration of Henry VI

Fig. 4 – Veneration of Henry VI

BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 204v. ©The British Library

  • 101 BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 204v.
  • 102 See, for example, YLS, MS G. St 11, fo 55r, 139r.
  • 103 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 60.
  • 104 London, Lincoln’s Inn Library, MS Hale 194, fo 34r.
  • 105 Cambridge, St John's, MS A.7 fo 133r.
  • 106 For example: BL MS Burney 169 fo 11r, MS Harley 4431 fo 53r, MS Royal 16 G v fo 6r; Oxford, Christ (...)
  • 107 Illuminating the Law, dir. L’Engle and Gibbs, p. 92, 126, 132 (Pl 5k).

20The standard royal portrait flanked by parliamentary advisors is distinguished not only by the stature of the monarch (who is holding a triple sceptre and an orb), who dwarfs the lords temporal and spiritual either side of him, but also by the accompanying religious imagery. The upper half of the initial ‘H’ has two descending angels holding the regalia, one preparing to crown him, the other handing him a sceptre101. This portrayal may reflect the patron’s devotion to the contemporary cult of sainthood for Henry VI. Indeed, religious devotions befitting a saint are implied by the green bound book open on the king’s lap, which could represent a prayer book, signifying Henry’s well-known piety. Alternatively, in keeping with other illustrations of books or documents in the legal volumes, occasionally open on a reading desk positioned in front of the king102, it could represent the statute book itself, here receiving holy approbation. Indeed, Henry VI’s portrayal in other manuscripts wearing an arched imperial-style crown ‘suggests that Henry VI represents the highest degree of divine favor and earthly authority of all the kings depicted’103. The notion of the king endorsing the law is encapsulated imaginatively in various ways. In a fifteenth-century volume the king (Edward III) appears to be giving a sheet of parchment (his statutes) to the assembled red-robed courtiers104, while in one late fourteenth-century volume of statutes a kneeling cleric is shown presenting a book to an enthroned Richard II105. The format of this initial would have resonances in a wider context for those who possessed other genres of illuminated manuscript since in some ways the scene is an iconographical construct: it is reminiscent of (or a variation on) the “presentation”, a common motif at the preface to volumes commissioned by or dedicated to a royal or lordly patron. The seated patron is shown being handed and graciously accepting the book in question, whether it is a chronicle, romance, or treatise106. There is a specifically legal-related precedent for this presentational scene in volumes of canon and Roman civil law: the introductory miniature to the Decretales, for example, shows the text’s compiler presenting it to Pope Gregory IX, while the Codex, the product of Roman jurists’ codification is pictured being received by the Emperor Justinian. In these scenes there is an implication that pope and emperor, respectively, by accepting the volume of laws are approving and certifying the authenticity of their texts107.

  • 108 Compare with Justinian dictating the law in London, British Library, MS Royal 10 D viii fo 1r.
  • 109 H. G. Richardson, « The English Coronation Oath », Speculum, 24, 1949, p. 43-75.
  • 110 A. Musson, « Second “English Justinian” or Pragmatic Opportunist? A Re-examination of the Legal Leg (...)
  • 111 E. H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study of Medieval Political Theology, Princeton, NJ, Pr (...)
  • 112 BL, MS Lansdowne 474 fo 145r.
  • 113 A. Musson, « Law and Arms: The Politics of Chivalry in Late Medieval England », Monarchy, State and (...)

21This image is taken further in another version, where from his pointing gesture and the scribbling scribe, the enthroned king appears to be dictating the law108. While the text accompanying this particular image is legislation that has been agreed and drafted ('est assentu et establi') during the first year of Richard's reign (1377-8), the portrayal is ambiguous, not to say misleading, in an English legal context. Royal confirmation of the laws of the realm was expected of a monarch at his coronation109 and the illuminator's intention may have been to underline royal legislative authority. Yet, by the late fourteenth century, constitutionally the king gave his assent to statutes based on petitions that had been debated and confirmed in parliament, not usually acts of his own motion110. Given this image is specifically associated with Richard II, it has connotations of the Roman law maxims 'what pleases the prince has the force of law' and 'the prince has all the laws in the shrine of his breast', sentiments which encapsulated the grievance of absolutism levelled against Richard in the deposition articles of 1399111. Significantly, in this context, the statute itself confirms the rights, liberties and franchises set out in the Great Charter112, and so ironically he is pictured dictating Magna Carta in spite of criticism at the time of his deposition that his actions (particularly in relation to the Court of Chivalry) were manifestly contrary to it113.

  • 114 See, for example, BL, MS Additional 15728, MS Hargrave 274; Holkham, Holkham Hall, Library of the E (...)
  • 115 YLS, MS G St 11 no 1, fo 55r, 139r, 198r, 235r, 261r, 358r.
  • 116 PFL, LC 14 09.5 fo 46r.
  • 117 Ibid., fo 147r.
  • 118 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 48-51.
  • 119 Ibid., p. 52.

22In addition to the presentation scenes, variations on the royal image occur, normally in the form of a group of advisors or courtiers surrounding the monarch. The series of images within these fifteenth-century volumes marks a distinct shift of emphasis in the picturing of royal legislative authority, reflecting the well-entrenched participatory nature of governance in England and underlining the fact that legislation was not simply a decree of the sovereign as older, more simplistic, iconography might suggest. Indeed, the role of Lords Temporal and Spiritual as the king’s natural allies and supporters in government is explicit in that they are represented in their respective robes flanking the king on either side of his throne (the clerics to the left, are denoted by mitres or tonsures)114. These pictures are not entirely static and can differ in iconography from reign to reign. Whereas in one fifteenth-century volume of statuta nova in the Yale Law Library, the first two royal images solely comprise the king, in the initial for Henry IV’s statutes a lone figure is discernible behind the green curtains of the throne; he has turned towards the seated king with arms outstretched (as if addressing him?) in the image for Henry V; and is then shown at right angles facing outward in the same direction as King Henry VI (towards the text) with the hint of another person standing behind him. The final image, that for Edward IV, comprises a group of Lords Spiritual and Temporal either side of the throne115. In another located in Philadelphia, the king (Edward III), wearing a pink robe and holding a sceptre (rather than a sword) is shown (through his hand gesture) addressing them, while one of the tonsured clerics (in a green robe) and one of the senior lords (in a scarlet one) are clearly (through their hand gestures) interacting with the king116. In a later picture, however, one of the mitred clerics and one of the assembled lords are conversing with Henry IV, but unlike the image for Edward III are doing so from behind the throne rather than in front or alongside the king117. The series of initials in the Yale volume, if taken as a composite narrative, may represent the king receiving counsel (either in relation to the legislation or more generally in accord with ‘mirror for princes’ literature), though it is strange that neither Edward III nor Richard II are perceived to have the benefit of this advice118. Moreover, it has been surmised that on the basis of the non-standardised iconographic portrayal of the sword (held in his left, rather than his right hand) the illustrator responsible for the image of Edward IV may have been making the point that his title arose through unjust use of military power119. Can the differences observable in the Philadelphia volume equally be equated with the nature of the king’s rule? Is the variation a statement on the perceived style of Henry IV’s government, an autocratic one in contrast to a more participatory Edwardian one, or simply a structural conceit on the part of the illuminator?

  • 120 BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 50r; BL MS Cotton Nero C i. fo 44r.
  • 121 K. L. Scott, « Caveat Lector », Later Gothic Manuscripts…, op. cit., p. 22.

23The images can provide a contextualisation of the prevailing political situation behind the legislation in the reign. Indeed, medieval political discourse may be represented in the detail put into the image in the initial letter, differentiating the scene either from similar ones in the same book or corresponding versions in other volumes. In at least two examples of the initial for Edward III’s reign (which traditionally begins with the statute condemning his father’s favourites, the Despensers), an historical perspective is implied. Indeed, rather than conveniently ignoring reality, the problem of the Regency, who wielded power during the king’s minority, is raised. A young Edward III is shown as opposed to the elderly incarnation normally depicted. He is flanked by clerics and lords, but unusually, the lord nearest to the throne (wearing a golden bejewelled chain) is pointing to himself or appears to be speaking, which suggests he has assumed or been accorded some precedence120. It is unlikely that it is the patron or owner identifying himself, since in such cases he would be portrayed kneeling121. As the chancellor, who normally spoke for the king at the opening of parliament, was a cleric at this time, the person identifying themselves must be the leading magnate of the day.

Fig. 5 – Edward III and Lords Spiritual and Temporal

Fig. 5 – Edward III and Lords Spiritual and Temporal

BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 50r. ©The British Library

  • 122 Oxford, St John’s College MS 257 fo 86r.

24Two contenders fit the bill: Henry of Lancaster, heir to Earl Thomas (executed in 1322 following the king’s victory in the civil war, which heralded the ascendancy of the Despensers), or Roger Mortimer, earl of March, who with Queen Isabella was one of the beneficiaries of Edward II’s deposition and the male power behind the throne during their brief regime. Since both volumes in which this individual lord is demarcated were illuminated in the fifteenth century, the question as to who he represents would seem to rest on the reader’s knowledge of history and particular perspective. Roger Mortimer may be considered a valid choice from the point of view of historical hindsight given his undoubted influence on politics. For a Lancastrian supporter, however, Henry of Lancaster was president of the regency council at the time of Edward III’s accession and might thus provide a more constitutional reading of the image. In giving deference to one of the Lords, though, it is a portrayal that stands at odds with other versions, notably that in one manuscript where Edward III is shown with an outsized left hand. It may be that it is intended to be pointing towards the start of the statute, but it clearly dwarfs those of the accompanying clerics and lords and his own right hand which is holding a sceptre and may well be signifying he is definitely the person in charge122.

  • 123 BL MS Add. 15728 fo 222v.
  • 124 T. Haskett, « Conscience, Authority and Justice in the Late-Medieval Court of Chancery », Expectati (...)

25The standard statuta nova scene of a king flanked by the parliamentary lords (spiritual and temporal) in the initial letters of one late fifteenth-century volume in the British Library is again significantly different in its application. Here, unusually, the king does not hold a sword or sceptre (his unencumbered hands are across his chest) and his eyes are directed not toward the opening words of the text, but toward the bishop nearest to him on his right, who judging by the latter’s hand gestures appears to speaking123. This may be an acknowledgement of the role of the chancellor, who during this period was a senior cleric and usually preached at the opening session of parliament. In outlining the issues to be considered and measures to be taken, he embodied the voice of the king. It was he also who presided over the Court of Chancery, hearing petitions and redressing grievances, and thus performed an important dual role on behalf of the king124.

Fig. 6 – The King and Parliament

Fig. 6 – The King and Parliament

BL MS 15728 fo 222v. ©The British Library

  • 125 BL MS Add. 15728 fo 222v, 232v, 265v.
  • 126 For discussion of this phenomenon see Dodd, « Justice and Grace » and « Medieval Petitions », Grace (...)
  • 127 YLS, MS G St 11, no. 1, fo 358r.
  • 128 PROME, Parliament of November 1461.

26This manuscript is unique in that the series of miniatures for the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII depicts ordinary people, some of them kneeling and gesturing, approaching a wooden bar in front of the king and the lords125. This image may be intended to represent subjects who have come in person to petition the grace of the king in sessions of parliament and seek redress of grievances in what was by then, as mentioned above, a well-established practice126. The notion of petitioning may also be observed in an image of Edward IV’s reign from another statute book which depicts a cleric and a lord (either side of the king) holding out a scroll towards him127. The scene may appear to focus on the king and lords who are physically separated by the wooden bar, but the presence of the Commons should not be overlooked as a mere illuminator’s fancy. The first parliament of Edward IV in 1461 (from which the initial legislation in the statute book derives) did indeed open as per the image: ‘with the lord king sitting on the royal throne in the Painted Chamber within his palace of Westminster; there being also present many prelates, nobles and the Commons of the kingdom of England assembled at the parliament then there summoned by royal authority’128.

  • 129 PROME, Parliament of April 1463.
  • 130 PROME, Parliament of June 1467.

Moreover, the depiction of petitioning is not just a generalised one: it has historical veracity in that in 1463 (in the second parliament of Edward IV’s reign) the chancellor picked up on concerns raised in the previous parliament and specifically encouraged communities to prepare bills for presentation to the king129. The imagery therefore formally recognises the Commons as a constituent part of parliament. Indeed, the depiction of commoners in the court scene further suggests that it symbolises the three complementary and mutually supportive estates – the Lords Spiritual, Lords Temporal and the Commons – who (according to the speech made by the Chancellor Robert Stillington, bishop of Bath and Wells at the opening of parliament in 1467) were understood to carry out their political functions under the guiding hand and watchful eye of the king130.

  • 131 G. Holmes, The Good Parliament, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975; J. S. Roskell, The Commons and their (...)
  • 132 PROME, Parliament of November 1461, item 10: ‘The commons in this present parliament, having adequa (...)
  • 133 Cambridge, King’s College Archive Centre, Governing Records KC/18.

27The sheer volume of members of the Commons (perhaps as many as 300) crammed in at the far end of the room behind the bar, however, may have meant that many were unable to see, let alone hear, what was going on! Their determination nevertheless to be heard and have their views taken seriously is perhaps indicated by the actions of the man singled out in the picture, who appears to be addressing the king. In an acknowledgement of another constitutional phenomenon, he may well represent not just a random petitioner, but the Speaker of the Commons, regarded from 1376 as their official mouthpiece131. Indeed, the addition of the Commons to the images at the start of each group of statutes also reflects historical reality in their parliamentary endorsement (through the Speaker) of the sovereign title of all three of the monarchs, whose legitimacy to rule would otherwise have been in doubt132. Their political prominence in parliamentary business is also recognised in the iconography of the foundation charter of King’s College, Cambridge. The charter’s artwork encapsulates both private petitioning and the parliamentary process: it shows Henry VI, kneeling at a prayer desk holding the charter and offering up a prayer (in a scroll) to St Nicholas (one of the patrons of the College). He in turn is interceding with the Virgin (the other patron of the College), who is being carried up to heaven, presumably to offer to mediate to the Almighty on the king’s behalf. As with the presentation of common petitions (frequently the basis for parliamentary legislation), the royal prayer is endorsed by representatives of the Commons, whose scroll reads ‘Prient les communes’ and above them members of the Lords add ‘Et nous le prioms auxi133.

28While the imagery associated with the statuta vetera underlines the importance of the king in promulgating the laws of the realm and of Magna Carta as the first statute in the legislative canon, the collections of nova statuta not only identify closely with the reigns and perceived characteristics of the reigns/personalities of the various kings, but also provide an iconography associated with the democratic role of parliament. Indeed, the mid to late fifteenth century volumes in particular reflect in their imagery the fact that although legislation can be influenced or determined by the advice the king receives from the Lords (both lay and ecclesiastical), its ratification (and indeed its source material) can be found in the growing voice and representative power of the Commons.

  • 134 Merton College, fo 161r, 225r, 273r, 304r.
  • 135 Ibid., fo 328r.
  • 136 Bodleian MS Hatton 10 fo 97r, 153r, 188r, 210r, 226r. Digital images from this statute book are vie (...)
  • 137 MS Hatton 10 fo 328v. They are not obviously a personal emblem of Richard III, as this was a boar, (...)

29In spite of its obvious iconography in the context of royal legislation, however, the image of a king enthroned is not represented in all the reigns of kings featured in statuta nova volumes. Nevertheless the representation within the initial letter, even in his absence, has powerful symbolism. A collection of statuta nova in Merton College, Oxford, for example, contains emblems associated with the monarch rather than an image of the particular king. Edward III is recognisable through the symbol of a leopard (a supporter on the royal coat of arms), while Richard II is represented by his personal badge of a white hart. The next two kings in the pantheon are less obviously represented by known badges: Henry IV has a dog and Henry V, a strange dog-like spotted animal with horns134. Only the reigning monarch at the time of the book’s inception, Henry VI, is portrayed regally as the apotheosis of the collection135. In a similar way, there is an image of the king prefacing the legislation solely for the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII in Bodleian MS Hatton 10. A variety of images feature in the other miniatures, including colourful birds such as a jay (for Edward III) and a peacock (for Henry VI) and mythical beasts such as griffin for Richard II, a dragon (holding the royal standard outside a castle or walled city) for Henry IV and a phoenix for Henry V136. The reason for the images being attributed to these particular kings is not obvious, nor is the depiction of two non-sequential monarchs, unless the volume was originally intended to end with Edward IV. It is unlikely that the lack of a kingly portrait is simply a deliberate attempt to airbrush Richard from the canon, though his absence may be way of emphasising political unity through Henry VII’s marriage to Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. Curiously, in preference to a representation of Richard III, the artist presents a stork, a teasel and two trees joined by a scroll. Since the design is also picked up in the margins of the page for Henry VII’s reign, some connection between the reigns is nevertheless implied137.

IV. Law and Justice in the Margins

  • 138 BL Lansdowne 1174 fo 142v.
  • 139 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.
  • 140 M. Ingram, « Juridical Folklore in England Illustrated by Rough Music », Courts and Communities in (...)

30In moving beyond the confines of the initial letter, images can supplement or sometimes undermine the existing representation and its associated meaning. Musicians feature in a number of the statute volumes. They can be blowing long trumpets across the top of the text of a statute as if heralding the legislation138, playing a pipe and tabor or the bagpipes139. While the bagpipes often have connotations of lewdness, together they symbolise alternatives to royal justice – the popular community justice or ‘rough music’ as it was known, which targeted those who did not conform to its norms and ways of doing things140. By contrast, the owl (in the Magna Carta initial of MS Hatton 10) in the centre of the page above the text is looking at (and probably singing from) a book with mensural notation, suggesting the heavenly music of the liturgical Psalter. There is thus a collision of the sacred and secular worlds with the music more associated with feasting, entertainment and punishment being played by the rabbit and dog musicians on either side.

  • 141 ‘Natural law is impulse, regard being had to all creatures, rational and irrational…’ (Bracton, de (...)
  • 142 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.
  • 143 M. Camille, « At the Edge of the Law, An Illustrated Register of Writs in the Pierpont Morgan Libra (...)

31Images from the natural world can often feature in the margins of legal texts, perhaps symbolising ius naturale, the fundamental characteristic of jurisprudence141. Just one page of MS Hatton 10 contains numerous plants and flowers and a whole menagerie, including a gaggle of blue geese, a squirrel, a fox, a butterfly, several dogs, a monkey and an owl142. Such images are not necessarily simply for the beautification of the manuscript. Those in the margins of a Register of Writs in the Pierpoint Morgan Library at first glance appear to be unconnected to the text, yet are in fact associated with the legal requirements of particular writs. Indeed, they were consciously produced to accompany the text of the breviary and intended not only to be visual representations of various rights, but also, more functionally, as visual aids enabling the reader to pinpoint the location of the relevant writ for originating legal action. The artist producing the designs obviously intended them to have some meaning both within the context of the adjacent writ and more generally, since they have little labels or tags that are attached to them. Accordingly the pictures frame the proprietary rights that are inherent in the forms of action available to remedy the wrongs and interferences with rights that might be suffered. There are pictures, for instance, of ponds and hills (corresponding to the right of free fishing), and a man chopping down a tree (relating to the right to take timber). There are also pictures of a wolf chasing a rabbit and of a snail, which may not related directly to the legal situation, but are common motifs in other contexts and could thus be invoking generalised representations or particular puns on words. As a coherent group the marginal images served both as a reminder of the legal content and as a way of those knowing the law locating the correct form of writ143.

  • 144 The Latin text begins: « Pone peticionem petentis coram iusticiariis nostri at Westmonasterium tali (...)
  • 145 Camille, « At the Edge of the Law », p. 9.

32In addition to its depictions of animals and woodland products, a memorable image in the Morgan Register is the one accompanying the text for the writ pone144, a writ used to secure removal of a case from an inferior court (such as the county court or court baron) to the court of common pleas at Westminster. The artist depicts a little bird singing at a lectern to which the tag ‘cornix cantat’ has been appended. Michael Camille has found a precedent for the singing crow (corvis cantat) in the works of Plutarch, where it features as an omen and sign of cunning, and posits the image ‘might be a pun or wordplay on the cornix or corvus also known as loquax’. Yet he is at a loss to explain more accurately what it represents: ‘How it functions as a sign of central justice or the higher court is still not entirely clear and probably refers to some lost proverb or saying that made clear the association between the crow and the court at Westminster’145. An association between the image and the court, however, can be made if one considers the symbolism normally associated with crows and then contextualise what the crow is doing. Given lawyers are frequently identified with birds in contemporary sermons and literary works, particularly those such as magpies and crows with an unsavoury reputation as scavengers, it probably symbolises the pleaders (narratores) of the superior royal courts whose loquaciousness was necessary for achieving success in actions brought there. Building on this, it may also be an allusion to the tag ‘sing si dedero’ (sing ‘I will give’), which appears in the contemporary ‘Poem on the Evil Times of Edward II’ (dateable to c.1325) and has connotations of the conventional satire of corruption in the royal courts: that it was necessary to pay money to the pleaders and judges to ensure ‘justice’ in your case. The notion of ‘singing for justice’ surfaces as a concern at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt and had clearly passed into general repertoire. The representation of the singing crow thus provides a parallel to this popular theme.

  • 146 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 f0 3r (see Fig. 2).
  • 147 The Dialogue of Solomon and Marcolf: A Dual-Language Edition from Latin and Middle English Printed (...)
  • 148 Dialogue, 4.43b.
  • 149 Dialogue, 4.48b.
  • 150 M. Curschmann, « Marcolf or Aesop? The Question of Identity in Visio-Verbal Contexts », Studies in (...)

33The pictures employed in legal texts are, on one level, merely illustrating aspects of kingship, law and justice, but in their juxtaposition of different representational elements in fact insinuate a range of possible meanings thereby manipulating the reader’s response to the image. The most outrageous or shocking for our twenty-first century sensibility for its effrontery (though medieval readers would not have baulked quite so much at the obscenity) is the scene below the text of Magna Carta in the BL Landsdowne 1174 statuta vetera in which a figure has pulled down his breeches and is baring his bottom146. On the one hand this could be taken simply as a comical, if somewhat inappropriate vignette, in which the king and by implication, the constitutional importance of Magna Carta, are mocked profanely. However, there is a deeper symbolism here, which goes beyond this particular illustration and links it with other iconographic and literary contexts, notably the contest of wits known as The Dialogue of Solomon and Marcolf. The paradigm of wisdom and equity, King Solomon, is pitted against a foolish, but cunning peasant, Marcolf. The Dialogue, which appears in iconography in England from at least the early fourteenth century and survives in verse form in manuscripts from the early fifteenth century, has its origin in scholastic disputation and initially takes the form of a ‘discourse of opposites’, a dialectic in which different sources of authority are set against each other147. They move on to a series of riddles set by Solomon, which Marcolf proves empirically, rather than using logic. Finally, Marcolf sets Solomon some proverbs, which he is unable to fathom, possibly because of their absurdity. In the course of their encounter, Marcolf makes a number of retorts or repudiations with relevant legal or jurisdictional connotations that could relate to the figure in the statute book, among them: ‘A naked ars no man kan robbe or disployle’148 and ‘An opyn arse hath no lord’149. Although the figure in the statute book does not resemble precisely the iconographic paradigm for Marcolf, the image nevertheless betrays 'an anti-authoritarian stance that tends toward the obscene and grotesque' that is characteristic of Marcolf in The Dialogue and would strike a chord in the cultural consciousness of the viewer150.

  • 151 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.
  • 152 Marcolf appears riding a goat in the Pierpont Morgan Register of Writs and is also depicted various (...)
  • 153 « The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. » (As You Like It)
  • 154 Dialogue, 7.8.
  • 155 Dialogue, 5.11.

34A link with The Dialogue, could also explain another unusual illustration of Magna Carta, a version owned (and probably commissioned) by sergeant-at-law Thomas Pygot (d. 1519) in the late fifteenth century151. The king is wholly absent from the miniature and has been replaced by someone who from his familiar dress resembles a jester or court fool. The fool figure has a bird on his arm and his legs are either side of the bar of the initial letter as if riding it, a revisualisation of depictions of Marcolf riding a goat with an owl or hawk on his arm, the complex answer to one of the proverbs he sets Solomon152. In the Dialogue Marcolf’s challenges make the wise king seem foolish and the fool, wise (a trope we are more familiar with from Shakespeare)153. Indeed, Marcolf himself states: ‘He is holden wise that reputeth himself a fool’154. The prevalence of this conceit makes it likely that the inherent irrationality highlighted by the image is a clever visual pun that in turn signals the deeply held notion that the king ought to rule in accord with reason. This is further underlined by the damning retort from Marcolf: ‘There is no king where no law is’155, issued when Solomon refuses to honour his promise of reward (to make him rich and have a name above all others in the realm). In this initial there is no king, only a fool.

V. Conclusion

35Books of statutes and other legal texts were commonplace in the English common law world as they were vital both to the legal profession and to those concerned with understanding and protecting their legal rights. This paper has demonstrated the immense variety in the imagery that exists within the sub-genre of illuminated English law books and the sheer inventiveness of the artists. While the majority of such compendia do not have programmatic illustrations that follow the text in the way that volumes of Roman and canon law do, they are nevertheless usually more than simply the head of a king. Even if not wholly illustrative of the legal text itself, they are given relevance and contemporary resonance by the fact that the subject matter of the pictures reflect the nature of royal judicial power and authority and thus complement the text.

36The inclusion of the kingly image, prevalent in many miniatures, was an acknowledgement of the king’s role as legislator and fount of justice. The images, however, maintain the fiction of constitutional continuity and unbroken legal tradition of the common law untarnished by personality deficiencies of the monarchs depicted and unflustered by political realities such as their minority or deposition. They also contain ambiguities and distortions that can lead to more complex interpretations than might otherwise be considered. Indeed, it is the addition of details (whether orthodox or subversive) that enable a reader to discern historical, theological, philosophical and political commentary on the nature of royal power. As such illuminated books of English law offer an alternative and complementary perspective to the purely textual versions of statutes and legal treatises. In turn they provide a remarkable insight into the significance of legal iconography and the strength of contemporary visual culture.

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Notes

1 A. Musson, Medieval Law in Context: the Growth of Legal Consciousness from Magna Carta to the Peasants’ Revolt, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2001.

2 J. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010; G. Dodd, Justice and Grace: Private Petitioning and the English Parliament in the Late Middle Ages, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

3 A. Harding, Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 170-200, 226-57.

4 A. Musson, « Criminal Legislation and the Common Law in Late-Medieval England », From the Judge’s Arbitrium to the Legality Principle, dir. G. Martyn, A. Musson and H. Pihlajamäki, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2013, p. 40-41.

5 For proceedings in parliament and statutes see: The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England [PROME], dir. C. Given Wilson et al., Leicester, Scholarly Editions, 2005 (www.british-history.ac.uk); The Statutes of the Realm, dir. A Luders et al., London, Dawsons, 1810-28.

6 P. Brand, The Origins of the English Legal Profession, Oxford, Oxford University Press; C. Donahue, Jr., « The Legal Professions of Fourteenth-Century England: Serjeants of the Common Bench and Advocates of the Court of Arches », Laws, Lawyers and Texts: Studies in Medieval Legal History in Honour of Paul Brand, dir. S. Jenks, J. Rose and C. Whittick, Leiden, Brill, 2012, p. 227-51; A. Musson, « Men of Law and Professional Identity in Late Medieval England », Law and Society in Later Medieval England and Ireland: Essays in Honour of Paul Brand, dir. T. R. Baker, Abingdon, Routledge, 2018, p. 225-53.

7 J. H. Baker, The Legal Profession and the Common Law, London, Hambledon, 1986; P. Brand, « Legal Éducation in England before the Inns of Court », Learning the Law: Teaching and the Transmission of Law, 1150-1900, London, Hambledon, 1999, p. 51-84.

8 P. Brand, The Making of the Common Law, London, Hambledon, 1992; P. Brand, « The Serjeants of the Common Bench in the Reign of Edward I: An Emerging Professional Elite », Thirteenth Century England VII, dir. M. Prestwich, R. Britnell and R. Frame, Woodbridge, Boydell, 1999, p. 81-102.

9 Musson, Medieval Law in Context, p. 120-24.

10 D. C. Skemer, « Reading the Law: Statute Books and the Private Transmission of Legal Knowledge in Late Medieval England », Learning the Law: Teaching and the Transmission of English Law, 1150-1900, dir. J. Bush and A. Wijffels, London, Hambledon, 1999, p. 113-31; N. Ramsy, « Law », The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume II, 1100-1400, dir. N. J. Morgan and R. M. Thompson, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 272-86; R. Hanna, London Literature, 1300-1380, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 77-9.

11 While King John's original 1215 version or Henry III's re-issue in 1225 are included in various surviving fourteenth-century statute books (E.g. London, British Library [BL], MS Additional 62534 fo 1r, 6r; MS Arundel 310 fo 9r; Cambridge, MA, Harvard Law School [HLS], MS 57 fo 1r), the text of Edward I's 1297 confirmation is the one that by this period was habitually copied in preference to (though sometimes in addition to) earlier versions (e.g. BL, MS Harley 858 fo 1r; Oxford, Bodleian Library [Bodleian], MS Rawlinson C 454 fo 19r; Cambridge, Cambridge University Library [CUL], DD.15.12 fo 9r; HLS, MS 213 fo 1r). Occasionally the 1300 confirmation was preferred (e.g. BL, MS Royal 9 A VII fo 23v, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Library, MS Scheide 30 fo 9r).

12 For example: BL MS Arundel 331; MS Egerton 667; MS Hargrave 335. The organizational scheme for William Breton’s book is provided in D. C. Skemer, « Sir William Breton’s Book: Production of Statuta Angliae in the Late Thirteenth Century », English Manuscript Studies, 1100-1700, dir. P. Beal and J. Griffiths, London, 1998, VII, p. 38-42.

13 For example: BL MS Cotton Nero C 1; MS Hargrave 274; MS Additional 15728; New Haven, CT, Yale Law School [YLS], Goldman Library, MS G St. 11; K. L. Scott, « A Late Fifteenth-Century Group of Nova Statuta Manuscripts », Manuscripts at Oxford: R. W. Hunt Memorial Exhibition, ed. A. C. de la Mare and B. C. Barker-Benfield, Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1980, p. 102-5; R. McGerr, A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes: The Yale Law School New Statutes of England, Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 2011, p. 20-24.

14 E.g. BL, MSS Harley 947, 3819, Lansdowne 652; CUL MS F.6.5; London, Lambeth Palace Library, MSS 429, 564; HLS MSS 25, 26.

15 E.g. Oxford, Oriel College, MS 46; Bodleian, MS Rawlinson B 160; T. McSweeney, « Creating a Literature for the King’s Courts in the Later Thirteenth Century: Hengham Magna, Fet Asaver and Bracton », Journal of Legal History, 37, 2016, p. 41-71.

16 This is discussed in Illuminating the Law: Medieval Legal Manuscripts in Cambridge Collections, dir. S. L’Engle and R. Gibbs, London, Harvey Miller, 2001. See also The Formation and Transmission of Western Legal Culture: 150 Books that Made the Law in the Age of Printing, dir. S. Dauchy, G. Martyn, A. Musson, H. Pihlajamäki, A. Wijffels, Cham, Springer, 2017, p. 8, 477-51.

17 For example: Bodleian, MS Douce 17 fo 11r; BL, MS Additional 32085 fo 7r, MS Hargrave 434 fo 9r. A few have “homemade” illustrations or informal decoration (e.g. HLS, MS 59 fo 15r; BL, MS 44842 fo 196v).

18 Art historians have highlighted this in the context of the wider study of English Gothic illumination, but have tended to concentrate on texts Roman and canon law (e.g. L’Engle and Gibbs) rather than those pertaining to the common law: L. F. Sandler, Gothic Manuscripts, 1285-1385. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, vol. 5, London, Harvey Miller, 1986; K. L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390-1490. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, vol. 6, London, Harvey Miller, 1996.

19 For a contextualisation of the Yale Law School New Statutes of England see McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror. See also A. Musson, Law and Image: the Iconography of Medieval English Justice (forthcoming).

20 See, for example, A. Bennett, « Anthony Bek’s Copy of Statuta Angliae », England in the Fourteenth Century. Proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxton Symposium, dir. W. M. Ormrod, Woodbridge, Boydell, 1986, p. 1-27; M. A. Michael, « A Manuscript Wedding Gift from Philippa of Hainault to Edward III », The Burlington Magazine, 127, 1985, p. 582-9.

21 For example, although compiled for Bishop Anthony Bek, the MS Scheide 30 was later owned by royal justices Sir John Markham (d. 1409) or his son, Sir John Markham (d. 1479); Bodleian MS Hatton 10 was owned by and probably produced for serjeant-at-law, Thomas Pygot.

22 A. Musson, « Seeing Justice: The Visual Culture of the Law and Lawyers », Miscellanea Mediaevalia, 38, 2014, p. 51-61; A. Musson, « Visual Sources: Mirror of Justice or « Through a Glass Darkly" », Making Legal History: Approaches and Methodologies, dir. A. Musson and C. Stebbings, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 264-83.

23 See English Legal Manuscripts in the United States of America: Medieval and Renaissance Period (to 1558), dir. J. H. Baker, London, Selden Society, 1985, p. vii-viii. Baker counted 65 manuscripts of statuta vetera in American libraries, purchased mainly between 1890 and 1950. Of these (as at 1985), 8 contain illuminated miniatures at the start (Magna Carta): HLS MSS 12, 58, 173, 177; San Marino, Huntington Library [Huntington], MSS EL 34 A.8, HM 19920; Philadelphia Free Library [PFL], MS LC 14.21; Princeton, Princeton University Library, MS Scheide 30. This figure does not take into account manuscripts acquired subsequently or which were not catalogued at the time (e.g. PFL LC 14.20.5).

24 This figure is based on the 58 manuscripts that have been digitised by the Ames Foundation and augments Baker's earlier count of HLS MSS with the addition of MS 213. (http://amesfoundation.law.harvard.edu/digital/StatsAndRegWrits/).

25 For example: the Digital Scriptorium Database (http://dpg.lib.berkeley.edu) and the Free Library of Philadelphia Digital Collection (libwww.freelibrary.org/digital/collection).

26 The author is grateful to the British Academy for funding the initial research upon which this paper is based.

27 This obviously does not include manuscripts where images originally (or potentially) in the manuscripts have been robbed (e.g. Cambridge, Trinity College, O.7.27 fo 9r) or were intended, but never executed (e.g. HLS MS 38 fo 9r; Huntington, EL 34 B 23 fo 6r).

28 See N. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, 5 vols, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1969-2002.

29 The evidence from illuminated charters suggests this: E. Danbury, « English and French Artistic Propaganda during the Period of the Hundred Years War: Some Evidence from Royal Charters », Power, Culture and Religion in France, c.1350-1550, dir. C. Allman, Woobridge, Boydell, 1989, p. 76-77, 80.

30 At least one statute book has instructions to the illuminator, the words 'Edwardus Rex' (in a different hand) in the space left by the scribe where the initial letter of the text of Magna Carta was to be illuminated (Huntington, EL 34 B 23 fo 6r). For the instructions to artists in another fourteenth century book see L. Freeman Sandler, Omne bonum: A Fourteenth Century Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge, 2 vols, London, Harvey Miller, 1996, I, p. 83-4.

31 J. J. G. Alexander, « Art History, Literary History and the Study of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts », Studies in Iconography, 18, 1997, p. 55-6; M. Camille, Mirror in Parchment: the Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England, London, London, Reaktion, 1998; K. Kerby-Fulton and D. L. Despres, Iconography and the Professional Reader: the Politics of Book Production in the Douce ‘Piers Plowman’, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1999, p. 1-3.

32 M. Camille, « The Language of Images in Medieval England, 1200-1400 », The Age of Chivalry, dir. J. J. G. Alexander and P. Binski, London, Harvey Miller, 1989, p. 33; S. Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth Century illuminated Apocalypse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. xxi-xxii.

33 For discussion of the provenance of illuminations see Hanna, London Literature, p. 79-84;

34 K. A. Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books of Hours, London, British Library, 2003, p. 28 n. 71.

35 The portrayal of Edward I and composition of additional figures for the Magna Carta initial in Bodleian, MS Douce 35 fo 9r is remarkably similar to the picture of Edward I presenting the charter confirming the privileges of Cambridge University in Cambridge, Cambridge University Archives, MS Luard  7*.

36 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 19-29.

37 A. Musson, « Images of Marriage: A Comparison of Law, Custom and Practice in Medieval Europe », Regional Variations in Matrimonial Law and Custom in Europe, 1100-1600, dir. M. Korpiola, Leiden, Brill, 2011, p. 117-46.

38 Bracton, De Legibus, 2:20.

39 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson B 178 fo 1r; MS Rawlinson C 292 fo 9r; BL MS Yates Thompson 48 fo 41r.

40 BL MS Royal VI E vii. fo 526v (printed in Sandler, Omne Bonum, II, p. 245); BL MS Arundel 331 fo 22r.

41 Cambridge, St John’s College, MS A.7 fo 1r; Oxford, Trinity College, MS 8 fo 131v. These two pictures are juxtaposed and discussed in P. Binski, « The Liber Regalis: its Date and European Context », The Regal Image of Richard II and the Wilton Dyptych, dir. D. Gordon, L. Monnas and C. Elam, London, Harvey Miller, 1995, p. 239-40.

42 J. Watts, « Looking for the State in Later Medieval England », Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Display in Medieval England, dir. P. Coss and M. Keen, Woodbridge, Boydell, 2002, p. 245, 264-5; A. Musson, « Ruling “Virtually”: Royal Images in Medieval Law Books », Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in Ancient and Medieval Worlds, dir. L. Mitchell and C. Melville, Leiden, Brill, 2013, p. 151-71.

43 Fleta, dir. H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, Selden Society, 72, London, 1955, p. 35 (Book 1, c.17).

44 Rather than pointing at the text with the sword, the king’s eyes can be directed towards the opening words: e.g. HLS MS 58 fo 9r.

45 e.g. HLS MS 177 fo 13r; Huntington HM 19920 fo 1r; PFL, LC. 14 20.5 fo 1r; BL, MS Harley 869 fo 7r; CUL, MS Add. 2827 fo 9r.

46 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 270b fo 102r B2.

47 L’Engle and Gibbs, eds, Illuminating the Law, p. 92, 126, 132, (Pl 5k).

48 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 160 fo 1r.

49 Bracton, De legibus, 2:19.

50 BL, MS Addd 11353 fo 9r.

51 Justinian features in the Speculum Historiale: see, for example, BL MS Egerton 1500 fo 30v.

52 For example: Cambridge, St John's, MS A 7 fo 1r; Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 454 fo 19r; Huntington, MS HM 19920 fo 1r.

53 For example: HLS MS 183 fo 5r; CUL, MS Add. 2827 fo 9r; CUL, MS DD. 15.12 fo 9r. Edward I's coronation was two years after his accession in 1274.

54 For example: HLS, MS 58 fo 5r; MS 213 fo 1r.

55 London, The National Archives, Public Record Office, Exchequer Memoranda Rolls, E 368/72 m. 12; reproduced in Prestwich, Edward I, New Haven, CT and London, Yale University Press, 1988, plate 20 in between p. 330 and 331.

56 BL, MS Harley Charter 83 C 13. The green seal pictured is similar to the one attached to the surviving charter.

57 For example: BL, MS Royal 20 D x fo 28 (Black Prince); Oxford, University College, MS 82 fo 7r (St John's Beverley); Oxford, Oxford University Archives, A.1 fo 171r (Oxford University).

58 Digitised images from the manuscripts are viewable online via the Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collections Catalogue and the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

59 For example: Cambridge, Trinity College, MS 0.7.27 fo 90r; PUL, MS Scheide MS 30 fo 18r; Lilley MS Poole 22 fo 93r.

60 For example: BL, MS Harley 947 fo 107r, 170r.

61 HLS MS 12 fo 2r; BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 3r.

62 Unfortunately the king’s face has been rubbed obscuring the detail.

63 For modern accounts of this see: N. Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, 1321-1326, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979); C. Valente, The Theory and Practice of Revolt in Medieval England, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2003; J. S. Phillips, Edward II, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2010.

64 W. M. Ormrod, Edward III, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2011, p. 106-10, 120-46; M. Michael, « The Iconography of Kingship in the Walter of Milemete Treatise », Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 57, 1994, p. 35–47; Michael, « Manuscript Wedding Gift », p. 582.

65 Sir J. Baker, The Reinvention of Magna Carta 1216-1616, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017; Challenges to Authority and the Recognition of Rights: From Magna Carta to Modernity, dir. C MacMillan and C. Smith, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

66 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 19r.

67 HLS MS 12 fo 5r.

68 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 24r.

69 HLS MS 12 fo 9r.

70 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 39r.

71 HLS MS 12 fo 14r.

72 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 67v.

73 This intended in a forthcoming article comparing the two.

74 HLS MS 12 fo 30v, 33v, 35v.

75 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 142v.

76 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 163r.

77 Bloomington, Indiana, University of Indiana, Lilly Library, MS Poole 22. I am grateful to Rosemary McGerr for drawing my attention to this and to the Medieval Studies Institute of Indiana University for funding my visit. For examples of the cross-fertilisation of religious texts with elements of the vernacular in other contexts see J. Brantley, « Images of the Vernacular in the Taymouth Hours », English Manuscript Studies, 1100-1700, dir. A. S. G. Edwards, 10, London, 2002, p. 83-113.

78 Lilly, MS Poole 22 fo 19r.

79 HLS MS 56 fo 1r; BL MS Harley 926 fo 9r.

80 P. Raffield, Images and Cultures of Law in Early Modern England. Justice and Political Power, 1558-1660, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 1-2, 15.

81 BL MS Harley 947 fo 170r.

82 For example: Bodleian, MS Douce 35; BL, MS Royal 9 A VII. In the British Library volume, the New Testament extracts predominantly chart the birth of Christ (Luke 1: 26-38; Matthew 2: 1-12; John 1: 1-14), but also include the risen Jesus urging his disciples to spread the good news (Mark 16: 14-20).

83 BL MS Royal 9 A VII fo 14v, 18r.

84 For early use of 'Gospel Books' for this purpose, see: M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England, 1066-1307, 3rd ed., 2013, p. 258.

85 Huntington, MS EL 34 A 8 fo 13v, 20.

86 See, for example, BL MS Harley 3828 fo 40r (showing stigmata); MS Additional 38116 fo 13v, MS Harley 1251 fo 109 (an angel holds the cross). See also: A. Musson, « Controlling Human Behaviour? The Last Judgment in Late Medieval Art and Architecture », Theorizing Legal Personhood in Late Medieval England, dir. A. D. Boboc, Leiden, Brill, 2015, p. 166-91.

87 Oxford, Merton College MS 297B fo 9r.

88 M. Camille, « The Language of Images in Medieval England, 1200-1400 », The Age of Chivalry, ed. J. J. G. Alexander and P. Binski, London, Harvey Miller, 1989, p. 33; S. Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth Century illuminated Apocalypse, Cambridge, 1995, p. xxi-xxii.

89 For example: Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 612B fo 7r; MS Rawlinson C 292 fo 105r; Lambeth Palace, MS 429 fo 6r. The similarity of these pictures suggests the two volumes are related.

90 M. Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England, London, Reaktion, 1998, p. 60-1.

91 London, The National Archives, King’s Bench Plea Rolls, KB 27/820.

92 FLP, LC 14 20.5 fo 1r. See also images associated with the Forest Charter (above) and BL MS Harley 927 fo 2; Bodleian MS Hatton 10 fo 336v.

93 CUL MS Dd 6.85 fo 1r.

94 For example: Lambeth Palace, MS 429 fo 6r; BL, MS Harley 3819 fo 103r.

95 Lambeth Palace, MS 429 fo 163r.

96 Bodleian, MS Rawlinson C 612B fo 7r.

97 BL MS Harley 5233 fo 11r, 141r, 219r, 289v.

98 BL MS Yates Thompson 48 fo 41r, 104r, 147r, 172v, 190r.

99 J. Sumption, The Hundred Years War, 4 vols, London, Faber & Faber, 1990-2015.

100 Oxford, Merton College, MS 297B fo 328r.

101 BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 204v.

102 See, for example, YLS, MS G. St 11, fo 55r, 139r.

103 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 60.

104 London, Lincoln’s Inn Library, MS Hale 194, fo 34r.

105 Cambridge, St John's, MS A.7 fo 133r.

106 For example: BL MS Burney 169 fo 11r, MS Harley 4431 fo 53r, MS Royal 16 G v fo 6r; Oxford, Christ Church College, MS 92 fo 8v; J. J. G. Alexander, « Painting and Manuscript Illumination for Royal Patrons in the Later Middle Ages », English Court Culture in the Later Middle Ages, dir. V. J. Scattergood and J. W. Sherborne, London, Duckworth, 1983, p. 141-62. The supposed presentation scene is sometimes ambiguous. The miniature in Hoccleve’s Regement of Princes (BL MS Arundel 38 fo 37r), for example, which has been taken to show the author giving a copy of the work to the future Henry V (then Prince of Wales), may in fact be Henry V presenting the book to John Mowbray.

107 Illuminating the Law, dir. L’Engle and Gibbs, p. 92, 126, 132 (Pl 5k).

108 Compare with Justinian dictating the law in London, British Library, MS Royal 10 D viii fo 1r.

109 H. G. Richardson, « The English Coronation Oath », Speculum, 24, 1949, p. 43-75.

110 A. Musson, « Second “English Justinian” or Pragmatic Opportunist? A Re-examination of the Legal Legislation of Edward III’s Reign », The Age of Edward III, dir. J. Bothwell, Woodbridge, York Medieval Press, 2001, p. 69-88.

111 E. H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study of Medieval Political Theology, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1957, p. 153-4; C. Given-Wilson, Chronicles of the Revolution, 1397-1400: The Reign of Richard II, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1992, p. 172-3, 175-8, 180-1. For contemporary continental debates see: K. Pennington, The Prince and the Law, 1200-1600: Sovereignty and Rights in the Western Legal Tradition, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, University of California Press, 1993.

112 BL, MS Lansdowne 474 fo 145r.

113 A. Musson, « Law and Arms: The Politics of Chivalry in Late Medieval England », Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England, dir. G. Dodd and C. Taylor, York, York Medieval Press, 2020, p. 128-54.

114 See, for example, BL, MS Additional 15728, MS Hargrave 274; Holkham, Holkham Hall, Library of the Earl of Leicester, MS 232.

115 YLS, MS G St 11 no 1, fo 55r, 139r, 198r, 235r, 261r, 358r.

116 PFL, LC 14 09.5 fo 46r.

117 Ibid., fo 147r.

118 McGerr, Lancastrian Mirror, p. 48-51.

119 Ibid., p. 52.

120 BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 50r; BL MS Cotton Nero C i. fo 44r.

121 K. L. Scott, « Caveat Lector », Later Gothic Manuscripts…, op. cit., p. 22.

122 Oxford, St John’s College MS 257 fo 86r.

123 BL MS Add. 15728 fo 222v.

124 T. Haskett, « Conscience, Authority and Justice in the Late-Medieval Court of Chancery », Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages, dir. A. Musson, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2001, p. 151-64.

125 BL MS Add. 15728 fo 222v, 232v, 265v.

126 For discussion of this phenomenon see Dodd, « Justice and Grace » and « Medieval Petitions », Grace and Grievance, dir. W. M. Ormrod, G. Dodd and A. Musson, York, York Medieval Press, 2009.

127 YLS, MS G St 11, no. 1, fo 358r.

128 PROME, Parliament of November 1461.

129 PROME, Parliament of April 1463.

130 PROME, Parliament of June 1467.

131 G. Holmes, The Good Parliament, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975; J. S. Roskell, The Commons and their Speakers in English Parliaments, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1965.

132 PROME, Parliament of November 1461, item 10: ‘The commons in this present parliament, having adequate and clear knowledge of the said unrightful usurpation and intrusion by the said Henry, late earl of Derby, into the said crown of England and knowing for certain and without doubt or ambiguity that the right and title of our said sovereign lord to it is true, and that by God's law, man's law and the law of nature, he and no other is, and ought to be, their true, rightful and natural liege and sovereign lord…’. For similar statements on the title of the king see Parliaments of January 1484 (item 5) and November 1485 (item 5).

133 Cambridge, King’s College Archive Centre, Governing Records KC/18.

134 Merton College, fo 161r, 225r, 273r, 304r.

135 Ibid., fo 328r.

136 Bodleian MS Hatton 10 fo 97r, 153r, 188r, 210r, 226r. Digital images from this statute book are viewable on Digital Bodleian (https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/collections/western-medieval-manuscripts).

137 MS Hatton 10 fo 328v. They are not obviously a personal emblem of Richard III, as this was a boar, but are unlikely to be randomly associated.

138 BL Lansdowne 1174 fo 142v.

139 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.

140 M. Ingram, « Juridical Folklore in England Illustrated by Rough Music », Courts and Communities in England, 1100-1900, dir. C. Brooks and M. Lobban, London, Hambledon, 1997, p 61-82.

141 ‘Natural law is impulse, regard being had to all creatures, rational and irrational…’ (Bracton, de Legibus, 2:26).

142 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.

143 M. Camille, « At the Edge of the Law, An Illustrated Register of Writs in the Pierpont Morgan Library », England in the Fourteenth Century, dir. N. Rogers, Stamford, Sean Tyas, 1993, p. 6-13.

144 The Latin text begins: « Pone peticionem petentis coram iusticiariis nostri at Westmonasterium tali de loquelam ».

145 Camille, « At the Edge of the Law », p. 9.

146 BL MS Lansdowne 1174 f0 3r (see Fig. 2).

147 The Dialogue of Solomon and Marcolf: A Dual-Language Edition from Latin and Middle English Printed Editions, dir. N. M. Bradbury and S. Bradbury, Kalamazoo, MI, 2012; N. M. Bradbury, « Rival Wisdom in the Latin Dialogue of Solomon and Marcolf », Speculum, 83, 2008, p. 331-65.

148 Dialogue, 4.43b.

149 Dialogue, 4.48b.

150 M. Curschmann, « Marcolf or Aesop? The Question of Identity in Visio-Verbal Contexts », Studies in Iconography, 21, 2000, p. 1-45 (quotation at p. 22).

151 Bodleian, MS Hatton 10 fo 43r.

152 Marcolf appears riding a goat in the Pierpont Morgan Register of Writs and is also depicted variously in the Smithfield Decretals, the Ormesby Psalter and a misericord in Worcester Cathedral; Camille, Image on the Edge, p. 26 (fig. 15); The Age of Chivalry, dir. Alexander and Binski, p. 433 (cat. No 536).

153 « The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. » (As You Like It)

154 Dialogue, 7.8.

155 Dialogue, 5.11.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Bracton: the king’s duty to do justice
Crédits BL MS Add 11353 fo 9. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,9M
Titre Fig. 2 – Edward I and Magna Carta
Crédits BL MS Lansdowne 1174 fo 3r. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Titre Fig. 3 – The Virgin Mary and Christ Child
Crédits BL MS Harley 947 fo 170r. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,2M
Titre Fig. 4 – Veneration of Henry VI
Crédits BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 204v. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Titre Fig. 5 – Edward III and Lords Spiritual and Temporal
Crédits BL MS Hargrave 274 fo 50r. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Titre Fig. 6 – The King and Parliament
Crédits BL MS 15728 fo 222v. ©The British Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/docannexe/image/1808/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 974k
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Anthony Musson, « Illuminated English Law Books »Clio@Themis [En ligne], 21 | 2021, mis en ligne le 09 novembre 2021, consulté le 11 août 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cliothemis/1808 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.35562/cliothemis.1808

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Anthony Musson

Historic Royal Palaces
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London

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