Abbot Henry's Story

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[1] This story is set in the time of King Henry II and King Richard. It demonstrates the variety of court processes in those times.

  • Abbot Robert owned the Abbey of Croyland and the marsh included in it. The Prior of Spalding wanted it and tried to win it by force.
  • The Abbot defended it and also made a complaint to the local justice.
  • The Abbot traveled to the justices at Westminster who summoned the Prior and heard accusations.
  • They were then summoned to appear before the Justiciar, but then Henry II died and Richard became king, meaning all the justices changed.
  • The Prior claimed the land was his, and promised King Richard some money so he can have a 'grand assize' (a trial) to prove this.
  • The Abbot did not have his royal charter (certificate of title) with him at that time, so a 'recognition' was held (a trial by jury of people from the area who would know the truth).
  • However, the Abbot fell ill and died.
  • The new Abbot, Henry, was summoned to answer the charges, but was afraid that he will be harmed on the way and said he was sick. Knights were sent to see whether he was sick, but those were allies of the Prior, so Henry hid.
  • The Abbot finally came, and though he brought the charter, judgment was given against him because of his absence on the original court date.
  • Abbot Henry traveled to Germany, to see King Richard who was held prisoner there (The king was still settling legal disputes from captivity).
  • The King gave him legal possession of the land, but then the Prior also went to see the king and the king revoked the Abbot's possession.
  • The Abbot went to see the King again (now free and in France). After having to follow the king for a while, he was given a mandate to present in Westminster to get back his land. However, he was late again because of high seas.
  • In the end, the Abbot got his land back.


Textbook refers to Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009).

  1. Textbook, pp. 39-42
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