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Title: Justice in the Court of Requests, 1483-1538
Author: Flannigan, Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 8204
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis investigates the practices, people, and principles underpinning the administration of justice in late-fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century England. It traces the processes by which this aspect of governance was formalised in a time of personal monarchy and supposedly ‘revolutionary’ governmental reform. Its primary focus is the hitherto little-studied Court of Requests, a committee of the royal Council and household tasked with providing tailored remedies for petitioners facing some legal, social, or economic barrier at the courts of English common law. The thesis charts Requests’ history and socio-political function from its first appearance in the historical record in 1483 to its more formal settlement in 1538. The thesis is split into three parts, analysing Requests from the perspectives of administrative, social, and cultural/intellectual history respectively. Chapter 1 rewrites Requests’ institutional history. Underpinned by a holistic analysis of over 3,000 surviving pleadings and six decree books, the chapter demonstrates that Requests consistently acted in close proximity to the king’s person as part of his itinerant household, where petitioners could attend at any time. Requests therefore offered a much more flexible, responsive kind of justice than that dispensed in the well-studied Westminster-based equity and common-law courts. With these practicalities sketched out, Chapter 2 uses the same material to illustrate the involvement and interests of the Court’s litigants, defendants, judges, lawyers, and commissioners in the course of its business – providing a demography of this central tribunal. The ensuing analysis illuminates the ways in which the intricacies of localised disputes, patterns of legal practice, and politics of the royal household – and the movement of individuals between these spheres – shaped justice-giving at the political centre. Chapter 3 turns the focus outwards, examining contemporary conceptualisations of justice visible in Requests and across the early-Tudor legal landscape more broadly. It considers the kind of interventions sought by petitioners from the king and the forms of remedy bestowed in Requests, but also examines the varying views on access to litigation, due process, legal rights, and jurisdictional boundaries expressed in pleas to (and arguments against) extraordinary royal justice in this period. In all, the thesis contributes to our understanding of political culture in this transitional period by exploring the role of justice-giving in the development of state, society, and law. Primarily it elucidates how litigants and the Crown collaborated to translate long-held expectations about governance into routinised activity.
Supervisor: Cavill, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Justice ; Law ; Monarchy ; Legal History ; Tudor History