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Peace Council: appointment of British priests

Author's point of view: Beginning in July 1424, many clergymen in England were regularly appointed commissioners of peace, placing their legal activities firmly within context of common law.

At close of reign of Henry V, on February 28, 1422, bishops of Winchester, Salisbury, Bath and Wales and Exeter were appointed to oversee peace councils of southern counties. By this time, Henry V had left England and was campaigning for more than six months in France, which also involved bishops, to address growing concerns about war, since there was no one to replenish ranks of army, they usually took on responsibility of keeping peace on ground with a heavy burden.

As we have seen, in December 1421, Thomas Langley, Bishop of Durham, mentioned in his speech that it is duty of every man to follow his conscience and obey law of God, purpose of General Assembly is to provide "laws for maintenance of world and earth" order is clearly on agenda.

Factual basis: in 1424, priests were permanently included in Peace Council, and for first time this affected 27 counties of England, with almost all parishes involved except Lincoln and York.

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

After death of Archbishop Henry Bowett, Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, was chosen to succeed him. This succession has caused great controversy. They were placed in hands of king, and Durham was excluded. Outside, because bishop (Thomas Langley) exercised jurisdiction of Crown within his diocese.

There is a close geographic relationship between wards and districts, with bishops linked to these councils in areas controlled by their wards. Thus, in 1424, most of counties where council did not have a bishop (Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland and Yorkshire) came under jurisdiction of liberated parish of York and Lincoln.

Interestingly, Bishop of Durham was expelled from Northumberland Peace Council, although Northumberland offered most of territory for Diocese of Durham, he was unable to participate. This reflects regional sensitivities associated with powers of Bishop of Durham and suggests desire of crown to avoid extending temporal powers of bishop beyond jurisdiction of Palatinate.

The rest of bishops were appointed to county councils from one to three, with exception of Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, who was appointed to at least fourteen councils, Beaufort in this case Dominating, and when his name appeared on nine peace councils in southern counties in 1421 testified strongly that he was most important driving force behind new policy.

Over years, Beaufort wielded unrivaled political influence and, most importantly, twice he was a key member of Royal Commission, when bishops participated in Peace Commission, first time in 1421 and again in 1424.

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

In 1424, Beaufort was not only de facto leader of Parliament, but also chancellor. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that decision to include bishops in peace council was made by Beaufort himself.

The reasons why Beaufort did this began to become clear, as temporary strengthening of Council of Peace in 1421 was in response to threat posed by long absence of Henry V abroad, and decision to extend policy to whole kingdom in 1424. , probably. A threat from minorities coming from Henry VI and a chronic lack of oversight of judiciary.

Furthermore, Parliament was aware of planned expedition of Duke of Gloucester into Lowlands in October 1424 and feared that absence of a protector of realm would lead to more confusion. law supremacy.

At session of Parliament in October 1423, a number of petitions were submitted to House of Commons concerning misdemeanors they wanted Justices of Peace to deal with, in particular respecting past labor laws.

In many respects, inclusion of priests in Commission was a natural continuation of changes that occurred in second half of 14th century, when barons and nobility were formally involved in peacekeeping activities, and involvement of dignitaries is highlighted by modern assumptions, that is, there is a direct relationship between effectiveness judicial execution and social status of judges.

There is, however, no evidence of pastors sitting around table to schedule routine quarterly meetings, though committees themselves are carefully designed to spare them from dealing with matters inappropriate to their clerical status. Like temporal lords, their appointment symbolizes a desire to revive Crown justice at local level and signals a growing focus on this law enforcement agency.

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

Author's point of view: In a sense, we can downplay importance of this development, thinking that bishops are only users of king's rights, and they only provide royal family with their duties as landowners. But does authority of bishops lie in their temporal power, or in moral and spiritual authority conferred on their high religious offices, and in their status as spiritual counterparts of kingdom, to enhance prestige they bring to council? .

Author's opinion: 1424 is therefore an important watershed. Symbolically, this marks a break with traditional discretionary courts of parliament, councils, and chancellors, which have hitherto limited participation of bishops in administration of royal justice. From then on, higher clergy also participated symbolically in regular common law procedures throughout kingdom.

Why do bishops serve as judges for king? The goal is to free yourself from shackles of joining royal family. They just like to be promoters of secular causes, and not personally support theories of this activity.

In 2004 Benjamin Thompson described late medieval church as an institution "always facing two roads", one of which is irreconcilable tension between desire for social division and recognition of importance of social and state integration.

God is best served when church leaders dedicate themselves to "quiet service in ward." An alternative view holds that people's spiritual well-being is best when clergy are fully immersed in secular ministries.

The author argues that: it is important that those bishops who choose last path, holding public positions in government or performing key duties, fundamentally do not place themselves in Church to teach or mediate in disputes, in minds of church reformers and critics, justice was at heart of service of bishops to king and faith.

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

Priests are particularly important in functioning of "discretionary" justice as members of parliamentary judges and central members of Royal Commission, Lord Chancellors who spearheaded development of Court of First Instance, and members of local judicial inquiries. and many factors explain why bishops take part in this activity.

However, what is perhaps underestimated is deeply rooted normative and theological concepts that underlie judicial activity of these institutions, which are themselves shaped by basic rules of natural law and natural justice.

This is what makes Lord Chancellor and Parliament highest courts in land, as they are more strictly and definitely subject to precepts of natural law than any other royal courts, which are to them akin to law of God.

Thus, spiritual and educational level of priests made them arbiters of ideal of natural justice in medieval society. All this may indicate that bishops who occupy high office of king, it is quite correct to characterize as "civil servants and politicians, and not church people."

This may actually draw too sharp a distinction between secular and religious matters, ignoring spiritual mission of "civil servant" bishops, and ignoring fact that they are already in office to some degree.

This does not mean that bishops still act out of political or material considerations in serving king, these factors are offset or perhaps combined with an ideological stance that makes such service fully compatible with spiritual duties of a bishop.

Because bishop expects him to promote harmony between God and people, he has every reason to engage in secular affairs.

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

While in fourteenth century and earlier, administration of natural justice was often understood in terms of application of critical faculty of "reason", in fifteenth century, after introduction of word "conscience" into legal and political discourse, indicates a change in point of view.

This marks a closer connection between operation of discretionary justice and concept of theological norms, and a more clearly defined role for members of episcopate in making judgments based on principles of natural law.

The presence of chancellor is itself a discretionary court, and higher clergy are always appointed by chancellors, which greatly contributes to focus of case. Fifteenth-century education, many with degrees in canon or civil law, provided an important intellectual foundation for this development.

The fact that most of those who studied law in public schools were men may explain why bishops were willing to play a prominent role in legal affairs in fifteenth century.

Jeremy Catto argues that during this period influx of highly educated clergy into "Council of Kings" brought new ideas about secular politics and moral foundations of government. Cato argues that because these clerics "worried about their participation in cruel world of politics", a new concept of power emerged, based on notion of conscience, which "provides self-respect and material comfort to careerist".

In a broad sense, this change could be applied to developing system of chancellors in fifteenth century. By expressing a moral obligation to justly enforce natural justice, this is an effective way to address critics who advocate a complete separation of church and state.

By serving as judge of conscience, chancellor serves not only king, but also God and church. Thus, their ministry emphasized indivisibility of church and state, and natural law and concepts of reason, conscience and justice derived from it provided an important ideological bridge between them, allowing clergy to legitimately serve both.

The result of this was that fifteenth-century ministers assumed role of heads of judiciary more prominently than their fourteenth-century predecessors, a fact which did not escape Richard, Duke of York,in 1455 from Archbishop of Canterbury. , Thomas Bourgeois, declared that "you are judicial head of country."

Peace Council: appointment of British priests

The author argues that: in an era when church usually loses jurisdiction and influence to royal family, Yorke acknowledges that laity still prefer to submit to authority of clergy because it comforts them.

These considerations were reinforced by problematic nature of secular rule during this period, and apart from brief episodes in reign of Henry V, England experienced a long period of royal instability throughout most of fifteenth century, with reigning monarch either incapacitated by youth or illness, or its credibility is seriously undermined by claims of legitimacy or political dissent.

According to people, it was vacuum of central power that provoked and supported first peace councils of Henry VI. It is no coincidence that in same period prime ministers began to preach to political world superiority of natural law and obligation of everyone to observe its key principles.

Natural law has also been used as part of a rhetorical agenda in other important contexts. In early 1460s, John Fortescue wrote The Laws of Nature, a pamphlet that clearly affirmed principle that powers of monarchy flowed from laws of nature.

In Lancaster, idea that king cannot elicit loyalty and obedience among populace has a particular resonance, so that legitimacy and dominance become a matter of maintaining rule of natural law that one is said to decide. succession to throne.

This gets to heart of Fortescue's theory of government from point of view of a fifteenth-century minister, in absence of a powerful monarch claiming to be representative of justice and peace in kingdom, and regardless of whether system would be compromised by political interests, because of which subjects it would be a major problem to swear allegiance to king in a law-abiding and obedient manner.

The author argues that legal system has always been based on a strong moral compass, and that in fifteenth century this connection became part of mainstream political discourse and was used by prime ministers to persuade and even coax subjects of the kingdom into accepting them to secure peace and consent debt justice.


Benjamin Thompson "Rumford Works" (1968~1970)

Natural Law 1460 by John Fortescue

Encyclopædia Britannica, Cambridge University Press, Your Honor, 11th edition (1911)

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