The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4


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Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs


after-gild, after-payment,
aewda, oath-giver, compurgator,
aldor, cf. ealdor.
ambiht-smith, smith or carpenter.
angylde, price fixed by law.
ath, oath; fore-ath, preliminary oath; rim-ath, oath taken by accused and compurgators together.

birele, cup-bearer.
blot, sacrifice or offering to idols.
boc-land, land held by charter.
bold-gaetal, lord’s estate (?).
borh, surety; borh-bryce, breach of surety.
bot, compensation.
bryce, breach, violation.
brygc, bryc, bric, bridge.
burh, castle or dwelling.
byth-fytling, fillings of the butts (meaning uncertain).

can, canne, clearance, averment.
ceap, bargain; ceap-gild, sale’s price.
ceorl, churl, simple freeman.
cyne, kin; cyne-bot, cyne-gild, part of the fine for killing the king which
     went to the folk as compensation.

drihtin-beah, lord-ring, lord’s compensation.
drinc-lean, payment due from tenant to lord for ale.

ealdorman, chief, governor of a province.
edor, homestead, farmhouse.
eorl, noble.
esne, serf. cf. theow.

faehth, feud.
fah, foe.
fare, go.
feax-fang, seizing by the hair.
feoh, fioh, money, payment.
feorm, firma, farm, rent in kind paid by tenants.
flet, house, home.
flyma, runaway, fugitive; flyman-fyrmth, harbouring a fugitive.
folc-land, common land, held by the folk or nation.
foresteal, an assault.
forespeca, forespreca, advocate.
foster-lean, remuneration for rearing a child.
frith, peace.
frum-gyld, first payment of "wer".
frum-tyhtle, first accusation.
ful, unconsecrated ground.
fyrd, army, general levy.

gaeng-gang, pregnant (?).
gafol, rent. gafol-land, rent-land.
gemot, meeting, court.
geneat, a servile tenant.
gild, guild, club.
grith, peace, protection.

had-bot, compensation for injury, to a person in holy orders.
ham-scyld, shoulder-blade (?).
heals-fang, pillory.
hearm, hue and cry.
heorth-faest, having a fixed dwelling.
hion, membrane, covering.
hlaf-aeta, loaf-eater, servant.
hlaford, lord; hlafordes-gifu, gift to lord, a form of rent.
hloth, a following, any number of men from 8 to 35.
hold, lord, noble.
homola, one whose head has been shaved (?).
hordere, treasurer.
hynden, an association of ten men(?).

in-both, security, pledge.
inland, demesne land, lord’s land.
The Library of Original Sources, Vol. 4, p.210
laad-ring, guide, avant-courier
lad, purgation, exculpation; also, a form of service consisting in supplying the lord
     with beasts of burden.
laet, half-free, a class between slaves and freemen.
lah-slit, fine for offences committed by Danes, corresponding to Anglo-Saxon ’write,’ q.v.
land-rica, land-hlaford, lord of the soil, landlord.
land-ceap, land-cop, purchase of land.
leod, man; people; leod-geld, leud-geld, wergeld, fine paid for killing a man.
liblac, lyblac, witchcraft.
lyswe, leaswe, injury of some kind (uncertain).

maeg-burh, kindred, kin; maeg-bot, compensation paid to family.
maerra, maere peningas, (money of some kind).
mancus,= 30 pennies.
manung, district over which reeve has jurisdiction.
man-wyrth, wergeld, cf. leod-geld.
methel, council, meeting.
morgen-gifu, morning-gift, gift from husband to wife on the morning after marriage.
morth, murder.
mund mund-byrd, protection, guardianship.
mynster, minister, monastery; mynster-ham, dwelling house of monastery (?).

oferhyrnes, contempt; disobedience; also, penalty attached thereto.
ora, =16 pennies.
orwige, outlawed.

reaflac, robbery.
reeve, gerefa, official, esp. sheriff.
Rom-feoh, Peter’s pence.

sac, right of a lord to private jurisdiction.
sceat, scaet, 4 sceats=1 penny.
scip, ship.
sithcund, gesithcund, belonging to king’s followers.
socn, sanctuary, right of protection.
stauela, settle, bench.
stermelda, court-officer (uncertain).
syxhynde man, one whose wergeld was 600 shillings.

thegn, knight, noble.
theow, slave.
thrymsas, =3 pennies of Mercian money.
tiht-bysig, of bad repute.
tihtle, accusation; furm-tihtle, first accusation; wither tihtle, cross-action.
tun, villa, dwelling, town.
twelf-hynde man, one whose wergeld was 1200 shillings.
twy-hynde man, one whose wergeld was 200 shillings, lowest class of freemen.

utware, (uncertain,) perhaps a form of tenure.

walreaf, despoiling the dead.
Wealh, Wylisc, British, Welsh.
wed, pledge, security.
wer, wergild, cf. leod-geld.
wic, town.
wita, member of supreme council.
wite, fine.

The Laws of King Aethelbirht

KENT 560–616

These are the dooms which King Aethelbirht established in the days of Augustine.

Of church-’frith.’

1. The property of God and of the church, twelve-fold; a bishop’s property, eleven-fold; a priest’s property, nine-fold; a deacon’s property, six-fold; a clerk’s property, three-fold; ’church-frith,’ two-fold; ’m … frith,’ two-fold.

2. If the king calls his ’leod’ to him, and any one there do them evil, (let him compensate with) a two-fold ’bot,’ and L. shillings to the king.

3. If the king drink at any one’s home, and any one there do any ’lyswe,’ let him make two-fold ’bot.’

4. If a freeman steal from the king, let him pay nine-fold.

5. If a man slay another in the king’s ’tun,’ let him make ’bot’ with L. shillings.

6. If any one slay a freeman, L. shillings to the king, is ’drihtinbeah.’

7. If the king’s ’ambiht-smith,’ or ’laad-rinc,’ slay a man, let him pay a half ’leod-geld.’

8. The king’s ’mund-byrd,’ L. shillings.

9. If a freeman steal from a freeman, let him make three-fold ’bot;’ and let the king have the ’wite’ and all the chattels.

10. If a man lie with the king’s maiden, let him pay a ’bot’ of L. shillings.

11. If she be a grinding slave, let him pay a ’bot’ of XXV. shillings. The third [class] XII. shillings.

12. Let the king’s ’fed-esl’ be paid for with XX. shillings,

13. If a man slay another in an ’eorl’s’ ’tun,’ let him make ’bot’ with XII. shillings.

14. If a man lie with an ’eorl’s’ ’birele,’ let him make ’bot’ with XII. shillings.

15. A ’ceorl’s’ ’mund-byrd,’ VII. shillings.

16. If a man lie with a ’ceorl’s’ ’birele,’ let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings; with a slave of the second [class], L. ’scaetts;’ with one of the third, XXX. ’scaetts.’

17. If any one be the first to make an inroad into a man’s ’tun,’ let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings; let him who follows, with III. shillings; after, each, a shilling.

18. If a man furnish weapons to another where there is strife, though no evil be done, let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings.

19. If ’weg-reaf’ be done, let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings.

20. If the man be slain, let him make ’bot’ with XX. shillings.

21. If a man slay another, let him make ’bot’ with a half ’leod-geld’ of C. shillings.

31. If a freeman lie with a freeman’s wife, let him pay for it with his ’wer-geld,’ and provide another wife with his own money, and bring her to the other.

32. If any one thrust through the ’riht ham-scyld,’ let him adequately compensate.

33. If there be a ’feax-fang,’ let there be L. scearts for ’bot.’

34. If there be an exposure of the bone, let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

35. If there be an injury of the bone, let ’bot’ be made with IV. shillings.

36. If the outer ’hion’ be broken, let ’hot’ be made with X. shillings.

37. If it be both, let ’bot’ be made with XX. shillings.

38. If a shoulder be lamed, let ’bot’ be made with XXX shillings.

39. If an ear be struck off, let ’bot’ be made with XII. shillings.

40. If the other ear hear not, let ’bot’ be made with XXV. shillings.

41. If an ear be pierced, let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

42. If an ear be mutilated, let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings.

43. If an eye be [struck] out, let ’bot’ be made with L. shillings.

44. If the mouth or an eye be injured, let ’bot’ be made with XII. shillings.

45. If the nose be pierced, let ’bot’ be made with IX. shillings.

46. If it be one ’ala,’ let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

47. If both be pierced, let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings.

48. If the nose be otherwise mutilated, for each let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings.

49. If it be pierced, let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings.

50. Let him who breaks the chin-bone pay for it with XX. shillings.

51. For each of the four front teeth, VI. shillings; for the tooth which stands next to them IV. shillings; for that which stands next to that, III. shillings; and then afterwards, for each a shilling.

52. If the speech be injured, XII. shillings. If the collar-bone be broken, let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings.

53. Let him who stabs [another] through an arm, make ’bot’ with VI. shillings.

54. If a thumb be struck off, XX. shillings. If a thumb nail be off, let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings. If the shooting (i.e. fore) finger be struck off, let ’bot’ be made with VIII. shillings. If the middle finger be struck off, let ’bot’ be made with IV. shillings. If the gold (i.e. ring) finger be struck off, let ’bot’ be made with VI. shillings. If the little finger be struck off, let ’bot’ be made with XI. shillings.

55. For every nail, a shilling.

56. For the smallest disfigurement of the face, III. shillings; and for the greater, VI. shillings.

57. If any one strike another with his fist on the nose, III. shillings.

58. If there be a bruise, a shilling; if he receive a right hand bruise, let him [the striker] pay a shilling.

58. If the bruise be black in a part not covered by the clothes, let ’bot’ be made with XXX. ’scaetts.’

60. If it be covered by the clothes, let ’bot’ for each be made with XX. ’scaetts.’

61. If the belly be wounded, let ’bot’ be made with XII. shillings; if it be pierced through, let ’bot’ be made with XX. shillings.

62. If any one be ’gegemed,’ let ’bot’ be made with XXX. shillings.

63. If any one be ’cear-wund,’ let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

64. If any one destroy [another’s] organ of generation, let him pay with III. ’leud-gelds;’ if he pierce it through, let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings; if it be pierced within, let him make ’bot’ with VI. shillings.

65. If a thigh be broken, let ’bot’ be made with XII. shillings; if the man become halt, then the friends must arbitrate.

66. If a rib be broken, let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

67. If a thigh be pierced through, for each stab VI. shillings; if (the wound be) above an inch, a shilling; for two inches, II.; above three, III. shillings.

68. If a sinew be wounded, let ’bot’ be made with III. shillings.

69. If a foot be cut off, let L. shillings be paid.

70. If a great toe be cut off, let X. shillings be paid.

71. For each of the other toes, let one-half be paid, like as it is stated for the fingers.

72. If the nail of a great toe be cut off, XXX. ’scaetts’ for ’bot;’ for each of the others, make ’bot’ with X. ’scaetts.’

77. If a man buy’ a maiden with cattle, let the bargain stand, if it be without guile; but if there be guile, let him bring her home again, and let his property be restored to him.

78. If she bear a live child, let her have half the property if the husband die first.

79. If she wish to go away with her children let her have half the property.

80. If the husband wish to have them, [let her portion be] as one child.

81. If she bear no child, let her paternal kindred have the ’fioh’ and the ’morgen-gyfu.’

82. If a man carry off a maiden by force, let him pay L. shillings to the owner, and afterwards buy [the object of] his will of the owner.

83. If she be betrothed to another in money, let him make ’bot’ with XX. shillings.

84. If she become ’gaengang,’ XXXV. shillings; and XV. shillings to the king.

85. If a man lie with an ’esne’s’ wife, her husband still living, let him make two-fold ’bot.’

The Laws of Kings Hlothhaere and Eadric

These are the dooms which Hlothhaere and Eadric, Kings of the Kentishmen,

Hlothhaere and Eadric, kings of the Kentish-men, augmented the laws, which their elders had before made, by these dooms, which hereafter say:

1. If any one’s esne slay a man of an ’eorle’s’ degree, whoever it be, let the owner pay with three hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and add three ’man-wyrths’ thereto.

2. If the slayer escape, let him add a fourth ’man-wyrth,’ and let him prove, with good ’aewdas,’ that he could not obtain the slayer.

3. If any one’s ’esne’ slay a freeman, whoever it be, let the owner pay with a hundred shillings, give up the slayer, and a second ’man-wyrth’ thereto.

4. If the slayer escape, let the owner pay for him with two ’man-wyrths’; and let him prove, with good ’aewdas,’ that he could not obtain the slayer.

5. If a freeman steal a man; if the man return, and denounce him before the ’stermelda;’ let him clear himself, if he be able, and let him have the number of free ’aewda’-men, and one with (himself) in the oath, each at the ’tun’ to which he belongs; if he be unable, let him pay.

16. If any Kentish-man buy a chattel in ’Lunden-wic,’ let him then have two or three true men to witness, or the king’s ’wic’-reeve. If it be afterwards claimed of the man in Kent, let him then vouch the man who sold it to him to warranty, in the ’wic’ at the king’s hall, if he know him, and can bring him to the warranty; if he can not do that, let him prove at the altar, with one of his witnesses or with the king’s ’wic’-reeve, that he bought the chattel openly in the ’wic,’ with his own property, and then let him be paid its worth; but if he can not prove that bylawful averment, let him give it up, and let the owner take possession of it.

The Laws of King Wihtraed

These are the Dooms of Wihtraed, King of the Kentish-Men. 690–725.

In the reign of the most clement king of the Kentish-men, Wihtraed, in the fifth year of his reign, the ninth indiction, the sixth day of Rugern, in the place which is called Bergham-styde, where was assembled a deliberative convention of the great men, there was Birhtwald, arch-bishop of Britain, and the fore-named king; also the bishop of Rochester, the same was called Gybmund, was present; and every degree of the church of that province spoke in unison with the obedient people. There the great men decreed, with the suffrages of all, these dooms, and added them to the lawful customs of the Kentish-men, as it hereafter saith and declareth.

16. Let the word of a bishop and of the king be, without an oath, incontrovertible.

17. Let the ’aldor’ of a ’minster’ clear himself with a priest’s ’canne’.

18. Let a priest clear himself by his own sooth, in his holy garment before the altar, thus saying: ’Veritatem dico in Christo, non mentior.’ In like manner, let a deacon clear himself.

19. Let a clerk clear himself with four of his fellows, and he alone with his hand on the altar, let the others stand by, make the oath.

20. Let a stranger [clear himself] with his own oath at the altar; in like manner, a king’s thane.

21. Let a ’ceorlish’ man clear himself with four of his fellows at the altar; and let the oath of all these be incontrovertible; then is the church ’canne right.

The Laws of King Alfred


The Lord spake these words to Moses, and thus said: I am the. Lord thy God. I led thee out of the land of the Egyptians, and of their bondage.

Of oaths and of ’weds.’

1. At the first we teach, that it is most needful that every man warily keep his oath and his ’wed.’ If any one be constrained to eitherof these wrongfully, either to treason against his lord, or to any unlawful aid; then it is juster to belie than to fulfil. But if he pledge himself to that which it is lawful to fulfil, and in that belie himself, let him submissively deliver up his weapon and his goods to the keeping of his friends, and be in prison forty days in a king’s ’tun;’ let him there suffer whatever the bishop may prescribe to him; and let his kinsmen feed him, if he himself have no food. If he have no kinsmen, or have no food, let the king’s reeve feed him. If he must be forced to this, and he otherwise will not, if they bind him, let him forfeit his weapons and his property. If he be slain, let him lie uncompensated. If he flee thereout before the time, and he be taken, let him be in prison forty days, as he should before have been. But if he escape, let him be held a fugitive, and be excommunicate of all Christ’s churches. If, however, there be another man’s ’borh,’ let him make ’bot’ for the ’borh-bryce,’ as the law may direct him, and the ’wed-bryce,’ as his confessor may prescribe to him.

Of church-’socns.’

2. If any one, for whatever crime, seek any of the ’mynsterhams’ to which the king’s ’feorm’ is incident, or other ’free-hired’ which is worthy of reverence, let him have a space of three days to protect himself, unless he be willing to come to terms. If during this space, any one harm him by blow, or by bond, or wound him, let him make ’bot’ for each of these according to regular usage, as well with ’wer’ as with ’wite:’ and to the brotherhood one hundred and twenty shillings, as ’bot’ for the church-’firth:’ and let him not have ’forfongen’ his own.

Of ’borh-bryce.’

3. If any one break the king’s ’borh,’ let him make ’bot’ for the plaint, as the law shall direct him; and for the ’both-bryce’ with V. pounds of ’maerra’ pence. For an archbishop’s ’borh-bryce,’ or his ’mund-byrd,’ let him make ’bot’ with three pounds: for any other bishop’s or an ’earldorman’s’ ’borh-bryce,’ or ’mund-byrd,’ let him make ’bot’ with two pounds.

Of plotting against a lord.

4. If any one plot against the king’s life, of himself, or by harbouring of exiles, or of his men; let him be liable in his life and in all that he has; or let him prove himself according to his Lord’s ’wer.’

Of church-’frith.’

5. We also ordain to every church which has been hallowed by a bishop, this ’frith :’ if a ’fah-man’ flee to or reach one, that for seven days no one drag him out. But if anyone do so, let him be liable in theking’s ’mund-byrd’ and the church-’frith;’ more if he there commit more wrong, if, despite of hunger, he can live; unless he fight his way out. If the brethren have further need of their church, let them keep him in another house, and let not that have more doors than the church. Let the church-’ealdor’ take care that during this term no one give him food. If he himself be willing to deliver up his weapons to his foes, let them keep him XXX. days, and then let them give notice of him to his kinsmen. It is also church-’frith:’ if any man seek a church for any of those offences, which had not been before revealed, and there confess himself in God’s name, be it half forgiven. He who steals on Sunday, or at Yule, or at Easter, or on Holy Thursday, and on Rogation days; for each of these we will that the ’bot’ be two-fold, as during Lent-fast.

Of stealing in a church.

6. If any one thieve aught in a church, let him pay the ’angylde,’ and the ’wite,’ such as shall belong to the ’angylde;’ and let the hand be struck off with which he did it. If he will redeem the hand, and that be allowed him, let him Pay as may belong to his ’wer.’

In case a man fight in the king’s hall:

7. If any one fight in the king’s hall, or draw his weapon, and he be taken; be it in the king’s doom, either death, or life, as he may be willing to grant him. If he escape, and be taken again, let him pay for himself according to his ’wer-gild,’ and make ’bot’ for the offence, as well ’wer’ as ’wite,’ according as he may have wrought.

Of fornication with a nun.

8. If any one carry off a nun from a minster, without the king’s or the bishop’s leave, let him pay a hundred and twenty shillings, half to the king, half to the bishop and to the church-’hlaford’ who owns the nun. If she live longer than he who carried her off, let her not have aught of his property. If she bear a child, let not that have of the property more than the mother. If any one slay her child, let him pay to the king the maternal kindred’s share; to the paternal kindred let their share be given.

Of those men who lend their weapons for man-slaying.

19. If any one lend his weapon to another that he may kill some one therewith, they may join together if they will in the ’wer.’ If they will not join together, let him who lent the weapon pay of the ’wer’ a third part, and of the ’wite’ a third part. If he be willing to justify himself, that he knew of no ill-design in the loan; that he may do. If a sword-polisher receive another man’s weapon to furbish, or a smith a man’s material, let them both return it sound as either of them mayhave before received it: unless either of them had before agreed that he should not hold it ’angylde.’

Of confession of debt.

22. If any one at the folk-mote make declaration of a debt, and afterwards wish to withdraw it, let him charge it on a righter person, if he can; if he cannot, let him forfeit his ’angylde.’ [and take possession of the ’wite’].

Of kinless men.

27. If a man, kinless of paternal relatives, fight, and slay a man, and then if he have maternal relatives, let them pay a third of the ’wer;’ his guild-brethren a third part; for a third let him flee. If he have no maternal relatives, let his guild-brethren pay half, for half let him flee.

Of slaying a man thus circumstanced.

28. If a man kill a man thus circumstanced, if he have no relatives, let half be paid to the king; half to his guild-brethren.

Of ’hloth’-slaying of a ’twy-hynde’ man.

29. If any one with a ’hloth’ slay an unoffending ’twy-hynde’ man, let him who acknowledges the death-blow pay ’wer’ and ’wite;’ and let every one who was of the party pay XXX. shillings as ’bloth-bot.’

Of a six-’hinde’ man.

30. If it be a six-’hynde’ man, let every man pay LX. shillings as ’hloth-bot;’ and the slayer, ’wer’ and full ’wite.’

Of a twelve-’hynde’ man.

31. If he be a twelve-’hynde’ man, let each of them pay one hundred and twenty shillings; and the slayer, ’wer’ and ’wite.’ If a ’hloth’ do this, and afterwards will deny it on oath, let them all be accused, and let them then all pay the ’wer’ in common; and all, one ’wite,’ such as shall belong to the ’wer.’

Of those who commit ’folk-leasing.’

32. If a man commit ’folk-leasing,’ and it be fixed upon him, with no lighter thing let him make ’bot’ than that his tongue be cut out; which must not be redeemed at any cheaper rate than it is estimated at according to his ’wer.’

Of a ’bold-getael.’

37. If a man from one ’bold-getael’ wish to seek a lord in another ’bold-getael,’ let him do it with the knowledge of the ’ealdorman’ whom he before followed in his shire. If he do it without his knowledge, let him who entertains him as his man pay CXX. shillings as ’wite;’ let him, however, deal the half to the king in the shire where he before followed, half in that into which he comes. If he has done anythingwrong where he before was, let him make ’bot’ for it who has then received him as his man; and to the king CXX. shillings as ’wite.’

In case a man fight before an ’ealdorman’ in the ’gemot.’

38. If a man fight before a king’s ’ealdorman’ in the ’gemot,’ let him make ’bot’ with ’wer’ and ’wite,’ as it may be right; and before this, CXX. shillings to the ’ealdorman’ as ’wite.’ If he disturb the folk-mote by drawing his weapon, one hundred and twenty shillings to the ’ealdormn’ as ’wite.’ If aught of this happen before a king’s ’ealdorman’s’ junior, or a king’s priest, XXX. shillings as ’wite.’

Of fighting in a ’ceorlish’ man’s ’flet.’

39. If any one fight in a ’ceorlish’ man’s ’tier,’ with six shillings let him make ’bot’ to the ’ceorl.’ If he draw his weapon and fight not, let it be half of that. If, however; either of these happen to a six’hynde’ man, let it increase threefoldly, according to the ’ceorlish’ ’bot’ to a twelve-’hynde’ man, twofoldly, according to the six-’hynde’s’ ’bot.’

Of ’burh-bryce.’

40. The king’s ’burh-bryce’ shall be CXX. shillings. An archbishop’s, ninety shillings. Any other bishop’s, and an ’ealdorman’s,’ LX. shillings. A twelve-’hynde’ man’s, XXX. shillings. A six’hynde’ man’s, XV. shillings. A ’ceorl’s edor-bryce,’ V. shillings. If aught of this happen when the ’fyrd’ is out, or in Lent fast, let the ’bot’ be twofold. If any one in Lent put down holy law among the people without leave, let him make ’bot’ with CXX. shillings.

Of ’boc-lands.’

41. The man who has ’boc-land,’ and which his kindred left him, then ordain we that he must not give it from his ’maeg-burg,’ if there be writing or witness that it was forbidden by those men who at first acquired it, and by those who gave it to him, that he should do so; and then let that be declared in the presence of the king and of the bishop, before his kinsmen.

Of feuds.

42. We also command: that the man who knows his foe be home-sitting fight not before he demand justice of him. If he have such power that he can beset his foe, and besiege him within, let him keep him within for VII. days, and attack him not, if he will remain within. And, then, after VII. days, if he will surrender, and deliver up his weapons, let him be kept safe for XXX. days, and let notice of him be given to his kinsmen and his friends. If, however, he flee to a church, then let it be according to the sanctity of the church; as we have before said above, But if he have not sufficient power to besiege him within,let him ride to the ’ealdorman,’ and beg aid of him. If he will not aid him, let him ride to the king before he fights. In like manner also, if a man come upon his foe, and he did not before know him to be home-staying; if he be willing to deliver up his weapons, let him be kept for XXX. days, and let notice of him be given to his friends; if he will not deliver up his weapons, then he may attack him. If he be willing to surrender, and to deliver up his weapons, and any one after that attack him, let him pay as well ’wer’ as wound, as he may do, and ’wite,’ and let him have forfeited his ’maeg’-ship. We also declare, that with his lord a man may fight ’orwige,’ if any one attack the lord: thus may the lord fight for his man. After the same wise, a man may fight with his born kinsman, if a man attack him wrongfully, except against his lord; that we do not allow. And a man may fight ’orwige,’ if he find another with his lawful wife, within closed doors, or under one covering, or with his lawfully-born daughter, or with his lawfully-born sister, or with his mother, who was given to his father as his lawful wife.

Of the celebration of mass-days.

43. To all freemen let these days be given, but not to ’theow’-men and ’esne’-workmen: XII. days at Yule, and the day on which Christ overcame the devil, and the commemoration day of St. Gregory, and VII. days before Easter and VII. days after, and one day at St. Peter’s tide and St. Paul’s, and in harvest the whole week before St. Mary-mass, and one day at the celebration of All-Hallows and the IV. Wednesdays in the IV. Ember weeks. To all ’theow’-men be given, to those whom it may be most desirable to give, whatever any man shall give them in God’s name, or they at any of their moments may deserve.

The Laws of King Edward


Of doom and suit.

King Edward commands all the reeves: that ye judge such just dooms as ye know to be most righteous, and as in the doom-book stands. Fear not on any account to pronounce folk-right; and that every suit have a term when it shall be brought forward, that ye then may pronounce.

Of buying.

1. And I will that every man have his warrantor; and that no man buy out of port, but have the port-reeve’s witness, or that of otherunlying men whom one may believe. And if any one buy out of port, then let him incur the king’s ’oferhyrnes,’ and let the warranty nevertheless go forward, until it be known where it shall stop. Also we have ordained: that he who should vouch to warranty should have unlying witness to the effect that he rightfully vouched it; or should bring forward an oath which he might believe who made the claim. So we have ordained the same respecting ownership; that he should adduce unlying witness thereof, or bring forward the oath, if he could, of persons unchosen, by which the claimant should be bound. But if he could not, then should be named to him six men of the same neighbourhood wherein he was resident, and of the six let him get one for one ox, or for that cattle which may be the worth of this, and afterward let it increase, according to the value of the property, if there ought to be more. Also we have ordained: if there were any evil-minded man who would put another’s property in ’borh’ for ’wither-tihtle,’ that he should then declare on oath that he did not ’from any knavery, but with full right, without fraud and guile,’ and that he then should there do as he durst with whom it is attached: ’like as he it owned, so be it vouched to warranty.’

Of him who denies justice to another.

2. Also we have ordained of what he were worthy who denied justice to another, either in ’boc-land’ or in ’folc-land,’ and that he should give him a term respecting the ’folc-land’ when he should do him justice before the reeve. But if he had no right either to the ’boc-land’ or to the ’role-land,’ that he who denied the right should be liable in XXX. shillings to the king; and for the second offense, the like: for the third offense, the king’s ’oferhyrnes,’ that is, CXX. shillings, unless he previously desist.

Of perjurers.

3. Also we have ordained concerning those men who were perjurers; if that were made evident, or an oath failed to them, or were out-proved, that they afterwards should not be oath-worthy, but ordeal-worthy.

Of ’frith.’

4. King Edward exhorted his ’witan’ when they were at Exeter, that they should all search out how their ’frith’ might be better than it had previously been: for it seemed to him that it was more indifferently observed than it should be, what he had formerly commanded. He then asked them, who would apply to its amendment, and be in that fellowship that he was, and love that which he loved, and shunthat which he shunned, both on sea and land? That is, then, that no man deny justice to another: if any one do so, let him make ’bot’ as it before is written; for the first offence, with XXX. shillings; and for the second offense, the like; and for the third, with CXX. shillings to the king.

Of the reeve who does not lawfully exact.

5. And if the reeve do not lawfully exact it, with the witness of those men who are assigned him to bear witness, then let him make ’bot’ of my ’oferhyrnes,’ with CXX. shillings.

Of those accused of theft.

6. If any one be accused of theft, then let those take him in ’borh’ who before commended him to his lord, that he may justify himself thereof; or let other friends, if they have any, do the same. If he knows not who will take him in ’borh,’ then let those on whom it is incumbent take an ’in-borh’ on his property. If he have neither property nor other ’borh,’ then let him be held to judgement.

Of those who will not seek their own.

7. Also I will that every man have constantly those men ready on his land, who may lead those men who desire to seek their own, and for no meed-monies prevent them, nor anywhere protect or harbour a convicted offender, willfully nor violently.

Of those who protect a convicted offender.

8. If any one disregard this, and break his oath and his ’wed,’ which all the nation has given, let him make ’bot’ as the doom-book may teach: but if he will not, let him forfeit the friendship of us all, and all that he has. If any one harbour him after that, let him make ’bot’ as the doom-book may say, and as he ought who harbours a fugutive, if it be here within. If it be within the east-country, let him make ’bot’ according as the ’frith-gewritu’ say.

Of him who forfeits his freedom.

9. If any one, through a charge of theft, forfeit his freedom, and deliver himself up, and his kindred forsake him, and he know not who shall make ’bot’ for him; let him then be worthy of the ’theow’-work which thereto belongs, and let the ’wer’ abate for the kindred.

Of him who receives another man’s man without leave.

10. Let no man receive another man’s man without his leave whom he before followed, and until he be blameless towards every hand. If any one do so, let him make ’bot’ of my ’oferhyrnes.’

Of ’gemot’-terms.

11. I will that each reeve have a ’gemot’ always once in fourweeks; and so do that every man be worthy of folk-right: and that every suit have an end and a term when it shall be brought forward, If that any one disregard, let him make ’bot’ as we before ordained.

Again His, and Guthrum’s, and Edward’s

These are the dooms which king Alfred and king Guthrum chose.

And this is the ordinance also which king Alfred and king Guthrum, and afterwards king Edward and king Guthrum, chose and ordained, when the English and Danes fully took to peace and to friendship; and the ’witan’ also, who were afterwards, oft and unseldom that same renewed and increased with good.

This is the first which they ordained: that they would love one God, and zealously renounce every kind of heathendom. And they established worldly rules also for these reasons, that they knew that else they might not many control, nor would many men else submit to divine ’bot’ as they should: and the worldly ’bot’ they established in common to Christ and the king, wheresoever a man would not lawfully submit to divine ’bot,’ by direction of the bishops.

1. And this then is the first which they ordained: that church-grith within the walls, and the king’s ’hand-grith,’ stand equally inviolate.

2. If any one violate Christianity, or reverence heathenism, by word or by work, let him pay as well ’wer,’ as ’wite’ or ’lah-slit,’ according as the deed may be.

3. And if a man in orders steal, or fight, or forswear, or fornicate, let him make ’bot’ for it according as the deed may be, as well by ’wer,’ as by ’wite’ or by ’lah-slit;’ and, above all things, make ’bot’ before God as the canon teaches, and find ’borh thereof, or yield to prison. And if a mass-priest misdirect the people about a festival or about a fast, let him pay XXX. shillings among the English, and among the Danes three half-marks. If a priest fetch not the chrism at the right term, or refuse baptism to him who has need thereof, let him pay ’wite’ among the English, and among the Danes ’lah-slit;’ that is, twelve ’ores.’

Of incestuous persons.

4. And concerning incestuous persons, the ’witan’ have ordained that the king shall have the upper, and the bishop the nether, unless’bot’ be made before God and before the world, according as the deed may be; so as the bishop may teach. If two brothers or near kinsmen commit fornication with the same woman, let them make ’bot’ very strictly, in such wise as it may be allowed, as well by ’wer,’ as by ’wite’ or by ’lah-slit,’ according as the deed may be.

If a man in orders foredo himself with capital crime, let him be seized and held to the bishop’s doom.

5. If a man guilty of death desire confession, let it never be denied him. And all God’s dues let every one zealously further, by God’s mercy, and by the ’wites’ which the ’witan’ have annexed thereto.

6. If any one withhold tithes, let him pay ’lah-slit’ among the Danes, ’wite’ among the English. If any one withhold ’Rom-feoh,’ let him pay ’lah-slit’ among the Danes, ’wite’ among the English. If any one discharge not ’light-scot,’ let him pay ’lah-slit’ among the Danes, ’wite’ among the English. If any one give not plough-alms, let him pay ’lah-slit’ among the Danes, ’wite’ among the English. If any one deny any divine dues, let him pay ’lab-slit’ among the Danes, ’wite’ among the English. As if he fight and wound any one, let him be liable in his ’wer.’ If he fell a man to death, let him then be an outlaw, and let every (one) of those seize him with ’hearm’ who desire right. And if he so do that any one kill him, for that he resisted God’s law or the kings, if that be proved true, let him lie uncompensated.

Of workings on a festival-day.

If any one engage in Sunday marketing, let him forfeit the chattel, and twelve ’ores’ among the Danes, and XXX. shillings among the English. If a freeman work on a festival-day, let him forfeit his freedom, or pay ’wite’ or ’lah-slit.’ Let a ’theowman’ suffer in his hide or ’hide-gild.’ If a lord oblige his ’theow’ to work on a festival-day, let him pay ’lah-slit’ within the Danish law, and ’wite’ among the English.

Of feasts.

8. If a freeman break a lawful feast, let him pay ’wite’ or ’lah-slit.’ If a ’theowman’ do so, let him suffer in his hide or ’hide-gild.’

Of ordeals and oaths.

9. Ordeal and oaths are forbidden on festival-days and lawful fast-days; and he who shall break that, let him pay ’lah-slit’ among the Danes, and ’wite’ among the English.

If it can be so ordered, no one condemned should ever be executedn the Sunday festival, but be secured and held till the festival be gone by.

10. If a limb-maimed man who has been condemned or forsaken, and he after that live three days then any one who is willing to take care of sore and soul may help him, with the bishop’s leave.

Of witches, diviners, perjurers, etc.

11. If witches or diviners: perjurers or ’morth’-workers, or foul, defiled, notorious adulteresses, be found anywhere within the land; let them be driven from the country, and the people cleansed, or let them totally perish within the country, unless they desist, and the more deeply make ’bot.’

Of ecclesiastics and foreigners.

If any one wrong an ecclesiastic or a foreigner, through any means, as to money or as to life, then shall the king or the ’eorl’ there in the land, and the bishop of the people, be unto him in the place of a kinsman and of a protector, unless he have another; and let ’bot’ be strictly made, according as the deed may be, to Christ and to the king, as it is fitting; or let him avenge the deeds very deeply who is king among the people.

How a ’twelve-hynde’ man shall be paid for.

A ’twelve-hynde’ man’s ’wer’ is twelve hundred shillings.

A ’twy-hynde’ man’s ’wer’ is two hundred shillings.

If any one be slain, let him be paid for according to his birth. And it is right that the slayer, after he has given ’wed’ for the ’wer,’ find, in adition, ’wer-borh’ according as shall thereto belong; that is, to a ’twelve- hynde’s ’wer-borh,’ VIII. of the paternal kin, and IV. of the maternal kin. When that is done, then let the king’s ’round’ be established, that is, that they all of either kindred, with their hands in common upon one weapon, engage to the mediator that the king’s ’round’ shall stand. In XXI. days from that day let CXX. shillings be paid as ’heals-fang’ at a ’twelve-hynde’s’ ’wer.’ ’Heals-fang’ belongs to no kinsman, except to those who are within the degrees of blood. In XXI. days from that day that the ’heals-fang’ is paid, let the ’man-bot’ be paid; in XXI. days from this, the fight-’wite ;’ in XXI. days from this, the ’frum-gyld’ of the ’wer;’ and so forth, till it be fully paid, within the time that the ’witan’ have appointed. After this they must depart with love, if they desire to have full friendship.

All men shall do with regard to the ’wer’ of a ’ceorl’ that which belongs to his condition, like as we have said about a ’twelve-hynde’ man.



Thus shall a man swear fealty oaths.

1. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, I will be to N. faithful and true, and love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns, according to God’s law, and according to the world’s principles, and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by work, do ought of what is loathful to him; on condition that he keep me as I am willing to deserve, and all that fulfil that our agreement was, when I to him submitted and chose his will.

Thus shall a man swear when he has discovered his property, and brings it in process.

2. By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, so I my suit prosecute with full folk-right, without fraud and without deceit, and without any guile, as was stolen from me the cattle N. that I claim, and that I have attached with N.

The other’s oath with whom a man discovers his cattle.

3. By the Lord, I was not at rede nor at deed, neither counsellor nor doer, where were unlawfully led away N.’s cattle. But as I cattle have, so did I lawfully obtain it. And: as I vouch it to warranty, so did he sell it to me into whose hand I now set it. And: as I cattle have, so did it come to my own property, and so it by folk-right my own possession is, and my rearing.

The oath of him who discovers his property, that he does it not either for hatred or for envy.

4. By the Lord, I accuse not N. either for hatred or for envy, or for unlawful lust of gain; nor know I anything soother; but as my informant to me said, and I myself in sooth believe, that he was the thief of my property.

The other’s oath that he is guiltless.

5. By the Lord, I am guiltless, both in deed and counsel, and of the charge of which N. accuses me.

His companion’s oath who stands with him.

6. By the Lord, the oath is clean and unperjured which N. has sworn.

Oath if a man finds his property unsound after he has bought it.

7. In the name of Almighty God, thou didst engage to me sound and clean that which thou soldest to me, and full security againstafter-claim, on the witness of N., who then was with us two.

How he shall swear who stands with anotherin witness.

8. In the name of Almighty God, as I here for N. in true witness stand, unbidden and unbought, so I with my eyes over-saw, and with my ears over-heard, that which I with him say.

Oath that he knew not of foulness or fraud.

9. In the name of Almighty God, I knew not, in the things about which thou suest, foulness or fraud, or infirmity or blemish, up to that day’s-tide that I sold it to thee; but it was both sound and clean, without any kind of fraud.

10. In the name of the living God, as I money demand, so have I lack of that which N. promised me when I mine to him sold.


11. In the name of the living God, I owe not to N. ’sceatt’ or, shilling, or penny or penny’s worth; but I have discharged to him all that I owe him, so far as our verbal contracts were at first.

Of the oath and degree—’bot’ of men in orders.

12. A mass-priest’s oath, and a secular thane’s, are in English-law reckoned of equal value; and by reason of the seven church-degrees. that the mass-priest, through the grace of God, has acquired, he is worthy of thane-right.

Of the Mercian oath.

13. A ’twelt-hynde’ man’s oath stands for six ’ceorls’ oaths:’ because, if a man should avenge a ’twelf-hynde’ man, he will be fully avenged on six ’ceorls,’ and his ’wer-gild’ will be six ’ceorls’ ’wer-gilds.’

Bequeathed. it and died, he who it owned, with full folk-right, so as it his elders, with money and with life, lawfully got, and let and left, in power of him, whom they well gifted. And so it have, as he it gave, who had it to give, without fraud and unforbidden; and I will possess it, as my own property, that that I have; and ne’er for thee design, nor plot nor ploughland, nor turf nor toft, nor furrow nor foot-mark, nor land nor leasowe, nor fresh nor marsh, nor rough nor plain, by wood nor field, by land nor by strand, by weald nor by water, but that will maintain, the while that I live; for there is no man alive, who ever heard, that any one made plaint against, or summoned him at the hundred, or anywhere at ’gemot,’ in market-place, or among church-folk, the while that he lived. Sackless he was in life, be he in the grave, so as he may. Do as I teach: be thou with thine, and leave me with mine: I covet not thine, nor ’laeth’ nor land, nor ’sac’ nor ’socn;’ nor needest thou mine; nor design I to thee any thing.


1. The North people’s king’s ’gild’ is XXX. thousand ’thrymsas;’ fifteen thousand ’thrymsas’ are for the ’wer-gild,’ and XV. thousand for the ’cyne-dom.’ The ’wer’ belongs to the kindred, and the ’cyne-bot’ to the people.

2. An archbishop’s and an aetheling’s ’wer-gild’ is XV. thousand ’thrymsas.’

3. A bishop’s and ’ealdorman’s,’ VIII. thousand ’thrymsas.’

4. A ’hold’s’ and a king’s high-reeves, IV. thousand ’thrymsas.’

5. A mass-thane’s and a secular thane’s, II. thousand ’thrymsas.’

6. A ’ceorl’s’ ’wer-gild’ is CC. and LXVI. ’thrymsas,’ that is CC. shillings by Mercian law.

7. And if a ’Wilsc’-man’ thrive so that he have a hide of land, and can bring forth the king’s ’gafol,’ then in his ’wer-gild’ CXX. shillings. And if he thrive not except to half a hide, then let his ’wer’ be LXXX. shillings.

8. If he have not any land, and yet be free, let him be paid for with LXX. shillings.

9. And if a ’ceorlish’ man thrive, so that he have V. hides of land for the king’s ’ut-ware,’ and any one slay him, let him be paid for with two thousand ’thrymsas.’

10. And though he thrive, so that he have a helm and a coat of mail, and a sword ornamented with gold, if he have not that land, he is nevertheless a ’ceorl.’

11. And if his son and his son’s son so thrive, that they have so much land; afterwards the offspring shall be of ’gesithcund’ race, at two thousand [’thrymsas.’]

12. And if they have not that, nor to that can thrive, let them be paid for as ’ceorlish.’

1. Let the king’s ’wer-gild’ be with the English race, by folk-right, thirty thousand thrymsas,’ and of these, let XV. thousand be for the ’wer,’ and the other XV. M. for the ’cyne-dom.’ The ’wer’ belongs to the kindred of the royal family, and the ’cyne-bot’ to the people of the country.

2. An archbishop’s and an ’eorl’s’ ’wer-gild’ is XV. M. ’thrymsas.’

6. A ’ceorl’s’ ’wer-gild’ is CCLXVII. ’thrymsas’ by the Danishlaw.

7. And a ’Wylisc’-man’s ’wer-gild,’ if he be to that degreeenriched that he have a hide of land and property, and pay ’gafol’ to the king, it is then CCXX. shillings. But if he be only risen to half a hide, then let his ’wer’ be LXXX. shillings.

8. If he have no land, but is free, let him be paid for with LXX. shillings.

9. If a ’ceorl’ be enriched to that degree, that he have V. hides of land, and anyone slay him, let him be paid for with II. M. ’thrimsas.’

10. And if he acquire so that he have a coat of mail and a helmet, and an over-gilded sword, if he have not that land, he is ’sithcund.’

11. And if his son and the son’s son that acquire, that they have so much land, let their successors be of the ’sithcund’ kin, and let them be paid for with II. M. ’thrimsas.’


A ’ceorl’s’ ’wer-gild’ is by the Mercian law CC. shillings. A thane’s ’wer-gild’ is six times as much, that is, XII. hundred shillings. Then is a king’s simple ’wer-gild’ VI. thanes’ ’wer’ by Mercian law, that is, XXX. thousand ’sceatts,’ and that is altogether CXX. pounds. So much is the ’wer-gild’ in the people’s folk-right by Mercian law. And for the ’cyne-dom’ there is due another such sum as ’bot’ for ’cyne-gild.’ The ’wer’ belongs to kindred, and the ’cyne-bot’ to the people.


Of people’s ranks and law.

1.. It is whilom, in the laws of the English, that people and law went by ranks, and then were the counsellors of the nation of worship worthy, each according to his condition, ’eorl’ and ’ceorl,’ ’thegen’ and ’theoden.’

2. And if a ’ceorl’ thrived, so that he had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bell-house and ’burh’-gate-seat, and special duty in the king’s hall, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.

3. And if a thane thrived, so that he served the king, and on his summons, rode among his household; if he then had a thane who him followed, who to the king’s ’ut-ware,’ five hides had, and in the king’s hall served his lord, and thrice with his errand went to the king; he might thenceforth, with his ’fore-oath,’ his lord represent, at various needs, and his plaint lawfully conduct, wheresorer he ought.

4. And he who so prosperous a vicegerent had not, swore to himself according to his right, or it forfeited.

5. And if a thane thrived, so that he became an ’eorl,’ then was he thenceforth of ’eorl-right worthy.

6. And if a merchant thrived, so that he fared thrice over the wide sea by his own means, then was he thenceforth of thane-right worthy.

7. And if there a scholar were, who through learning thrived, so that he had holy orders, and served Christ; then was he thenceforth of rank and power so much worthy, as then to those orders rightfully belonged, if he himself conducted as he should; unless he should misdo, so that he those orders’ ministry might not minister.

8. And if it happened, that any one a man in orders, or a stranger, anywhere injured, by word or work; then pertained it to king and to the bishop, that they that should make good, as they soonest might.

The Laws of King Aethelstan



I, Aethelstan king, with the counsel of Wulfhelm, archbishop, and of my other bishops, make known to the reeves at each ’burh,’ and beseech you, in God’s name, and by all his saints, and also by my friendship, that ye first of my own goods render the tithes both of live stock and of the year’s earthly fruits, so that they may most rightly be either meted, or told, or weighed out; and let the bishops then do the like from their own goods, and my ’ealdorrnen’ and my reeves the same. And I will, that the bishop and the reeves command it to all those who ought to obey them, that it be done at the right term. Let us bear in mind how Jacob the patriarch spake: ’Decimas et hostias pacificas offeram tibi:’ and how Moses spake in God’s law: ’Decimas et primitias non tardabis offerre Domino.’ It is for us to think how awfully it is declared in the books: If we will not render the tithes to God, that he will take from us the nine parts when we least expect; and, moreover, we have the sin in addition thereto. And I will also that my reeves do, that there be given the church-scotts and the soul-scotts at the places to which they rightly belong: and plough-alms yearly, on this condition; that they shall enjoy it at the holy places who are willing to serve their churches, and of God and of me are willing todeserve it: but let him who will not, forfeit the bounty, or again turn to right. Now ye hear, saith the king, what I give to God, and what ye ought to fulfil by my ’oferhirnes.’ And do ye also so that ye may give to me my own what ye for me may acquire. I will not that ye unjustly anywhere acquire aught for me; but I will grant to you your own justly, on this condition, that ye yield to me mine; and shield both yourselves, and those whom ye ought to exhort, against God’s anger and against my ’oferhirnes.’


Of thieves.

1. First: that no thief be spared, who may be taken ’hand-haeb-bende,’ above XII. years, and above eight pence. And if any one so do, let him pay for the theif according to his ’wer,’ and let it not be the more settled for the thief, or that he clear himself thereby. But if he will defend himself, or flees away, then let him not be spared. If a thief be brought into prison: that he be XL. days in prison, and let him be released thereout with CXX. shillings, and let the kindred enter into ’borh’ for him that he evermore desist. And if after that he steal, let them pay for him according to his ’wer,’ or bring him again therein: and if any one stand up for him, let him pay for him according to his ’wer,’ as well to the king as to him to whom it lawfully belongs: and let every man of those there who stand by him pay to the king CXX. shillings as ’wite.’

Of lordless men.

2. And we have ordained: respecting those lordless men of whom no law can be got, that the kindred be commanded that they domicile him to folk-right, and find him a lord in the folk-mote; and if they then will not or cannot produce him at the term, then be he thenceforth a ’flyma,’ and let him slay him for a thief who can come at him: and whoever after that shall harbour him, let him pay for him according to his ’wer,’ or by it clear himself.

Of denial of right.

3. And the lord who denies justice, and upholds his evildoing man, and the king be applied to on that account; let him pay the ’ceap-gild,’ and give to the king CXX. shillings: and he who, applies to the king before he has prayed for justice, as oft it shall behove him; let him pay the like ’wite’ that the other should if he had denied him justice. And the lord who is privy to his ’theow’s’ theft, and it is made manifest against him, let him forfeit the ’theow, and be liable in his’wer,’ for the first time. If he do so oftener, let him be liable in all that he has: and, also, such of the king’s ’horderes,’ or of our reeves, as shall be privy to the thieves who have stolen, let him be subject to the like.

Of witch-crafts.

6. And we have ordained respecting witch-crafts, and ’lybacs,’ and ’morth-daeds:’ if any one should be thereby killed, and he could not deny it, that he be liable in his life. But if he will deny it, and at threefold ordeal shall be guilty; that he be CXX. days in prison: and after that let kindred take him out, and give to the king CXX. shillings, and pay the ’wet’ to his kindred, and enter into ’both’ for him, that he evermore desist from the like.

Of incendiaries.

Let incendiaries, and those who avenge a thief, be worthy of the like law. And he who will avenge a thief, and wounds no man, let him give to the king CXX. shillings, as ’wite’ for the assault.

Of the single ordeal.

7. And we have ordained respecting the single ordeal, for those men who have been often accused, and have been found guilty, and they know not who shall take them in ’borh;’ let them be brought into prison: and let them be delivered out as here before is ordained.

Of landless men.

8. And we have ordained: if any landless man should become a follower of another shire, and again seek his kinsfolk; that he may harbour him on this condition, that he present him to folk-right if he there do any wrong, or make ’bot’ for him.

Of attaching cattle.

9. He who attaches cattle, let V. of his neighbours be named to him; and of the V. let him get one who will swear with him that he takes it to himself by folk-right: and he who will keep it to himself, to him let there be named X. men, and let him get two of them, and give the oath that it was born on his property, without the ’rim-ath;’ and let his ’cyre-ath’ stand for over XX. pence.

Of exchange.

10. And let no man exchange any property without the witness of the reeve, or of the mass-priest, or of the land-lord, or of the ’hor-dere,’ or of other unlying man. If any one do so, let him give XXX. shillings, and let the land-lord take possession of the exchange.

Of wrongful witness.

But if it be found that any of these have given wrongful witness,that his witness never stand again for aught, and that he also give XXX. shillings as ’wite.’

That a man buy not out of port.

12. And we have ordained: that no man buy any property out of port over XX. pence; but let him buy there within, on the witness of the port-reeve, or of another unlying man: or further, on the witness of the reeves at the folk-mote.

Of repairing of ’burhs.’

13. And we ordain: that every ’burh’ be repaired XIV. days over Rogation Days.

Secondly: that every marketing be within port.

Of moneyers.

14. Thirdly: that there be one money over all the king’s dominion, and that no man mint except within port. And if the moneyer be guilty, let the hand be struck off that wrought the offense, and, be set up on the money-smithy: but if it be an accusation, and he is willing to clear himself; then let him go to the hot-iron, and clear the hand therewith with which he is charged that fraud to have wrought. And if at the ordeal he should be guilty, let the like be done as here before ordained.

In Canterbury VII. moneyers; IV. the king’s, and II. the bishop’s, I. the abbot’s.

At Rochester III.; II. the king’s, and I. the bishop’s.

At London VIII.

At Winchester VI.

At Lewes II.

At Hastings I.

Another at Chichester;

At Hampton II.

At Wareham II.

At Exeter II.

At Shaftesbury II.

Else, at the other ’burhs’ I.

Of shield-wrights.

15. Fourthly: that no shield-wright cover a shield with sheep’s skin; and if he so do, let him pay XXX. shillings.

16. Fifthly: that every man have to the plough II. well-horsed men.

Of those who take meed-money of a thief.

17. Sixthly: if any one take meed-money of a thief, and suppressanother’s right, let him be liable in his ’wer’.

Of horses.

18. Seventhly: that no man part with a horse over sea, unless he wish to give it.

Of a ’theowman’ who is guilty at the ordeal.

19. And we have ordained respecting a ’theowman:’ if he were guilty at the ordeal, that the ’ceap-gild’ should be paid; and that he be scourged thrice, or a second ’gild’ be given: and be the ’wite’ of half value for ’theows.’

Of him who fails to attend the ’gemot.’

20. If any one, [when summoned] fail to attend the ’gemot’ thrice; let him pay the king’s ’ oferhyrnes,’ and let it be announced seven days before the ’gemot’ is to be. But if he will not do right, nor pay the ’oferhyrnes;’ then let all the chief men belonging to the ’burh’ ride to him, and take all that he has, and put him in ’bohr.’ But if any one will not ride with his fellows, let him pay the king’s ’oferhyrnes.’ And let it be announced at the ’gemot,’ that the ’frith’ be kept toward all that the king wills to be within the ’frith,’ and theft be foregone by his life and by all that he has. And he who for the ’wites’ will not desist, then let all the chief men belonging to the ’burh’ ride to him, and take all that he has; and let the king take possession of half, of half the men who may be in the riding; and place him in ’borh.’ If he knows not who will be his ’borh,’ let them imprison him. If he will not suffer it, let him be killed, unless he escape. If any one wilt avenge him, or be at feud with any of them, then be he foe to the king, and to all his friends. If he escape, and any one harbour him, let him be liable to his ’wer;’ unless he shall dare to clear himself by the ’flyma’s’ ’wer,’ that he knew he was a ’flyma.’

Of him who compounds for an ordeal.

21. If any one compound for an ordeal, let him compound for the ’ceap-gild,’ as he can, and not for the ’wite;’ unless he is willing to grant it to whom it may belong.

Of him who receives another man’s man.

22. And let no man receive another man’s man, without his leave whom he before followed. If any one so do; let him give up the man, and make ’bot’ the king’s ’oferhyrnes.’ And let no one dismiss his accused man from him before he has done what is right.

Of him who gives ’wed’ for an ordeal.

23. If any one gives ’wed’ for an ordeal, then let him come three days before to the mass-priest who is to hallow it; and let him feedhimself with bread and with water, and salt, and herbs, before he shall go to it; and let him attend mass each of the three days, and make an oblation, and go to the house on the day that he shall go to the ordeal: and then swear the oath that he is, according to the folk-right, guiltless of the charge, before he goes to the ordeal. And if it be water, that he dive an ell and a half by the rope; if it be iron ordeal, let it be three days before the hand be undone. And let every man begin his charge with a fore-oath, as we before ordained: and be each of those fasting, on either hand, who may be there together, by God’s command and the archbishop’s: and let there be on either side not more than XII. If the accused man be with a larger company than some twelve, then be the ordeal void, unless they will go from him.

Of him who buys property.

24. And he who buys property with witnesses, and if after obliged to vouch it to warranty, then let him receive it from whom he before had bought it, whether he be free or bond, whichsoever he be.

And let no marketing be on Sundays; but if any one do so, let him forfeit the floods, and pay XXX. shillings as ’wite.’

Of perjurers.

25. And he who shall swear a false oath, and it be made clear against him; that he never after be oath-worthy, nor let him lie within a hallowed burial-place, though he die, unless he have the testimony of the bishop in whose shrift-shire he may be, that he has made such ’bot’ as his confessor prescribed to him. And let his confessor announce to the bishop, within XXX. days, whether he would turn to the ’bot.’ If he do not so, let him make ’bot’ in such wise as the bishop shall prescribe to him.

26. But if any one of my reeves will not do this, and care less about it than we have commanded; then let him pay my ’oferhyrnes,’ and I will find another who will. And let the bishop exact the ’oferhyrnes’ of the reeve for the first time V. pounds; for the second time, his ’wer;’ for the third time, let him forfeit all that he has, and the friendship of us all.

All this was established in the great synod at ’Great-anlea:’ in which was the archbishop Wulfhelm, with all the noble men and ’witan’ whom King Aethelstan … gather (sentence incomplete.)

Doom concerning hot iron and water.

7. And concerning the ordeal we enjoin by command of God, and of the archbishop, and of all the bishops: that no man come within the church after the fire is borne in with which the ordeal shall be


heated, except the mass-priest, and him who shall go thereto: and let there be measured nine feet from the stake to the mark, by the man’s feet who ’goes thereto. But if it be water, let it be heated till it low to boiling. And be the kettle of iron or of brass, of lead or of clay. And if it be a single accusation, let the hand dive after the stone up to the wrist; and if it be threefold, up to the elbow. And when the ordeal is ready, then let two men go in of either side; and be they agreed that it is so hot as we before have said. And let go an equal number of men of either side, and stand on both sides of the ordeal, along the church; and let these all be fasting, and abstinent from their wives on that night; and let the mast-priest sprinkle holy water over them all, and let each of them taste of the holy water, and give them all the book and the image of Christ’s rood to kiss: and let no man mend the fire any longer when the hallowing is begun; but let the iron lie upon the hot embers till the last collect: after that let it be laid upon the ’stapela;’ and let there be no other speaking within, except that they earnestly pray to Almighty God that he make manifest what is soothest. And let him go thereto; and let his hand be enveloped, and be it postponed till after the third day, whether it be foul or clean within the envelope. And he who shall break this law, be the ordeal with respect to him void, and let him pay to the king CXX. shillings as ’wite.’

’Wal-reaf’ is the ’nithing’s’ deed: if any one desire to deny it, let him do so with eight and forty full-born thanes.

The Laws of King Edmund



King Edmund assembled a great synod at London, during the holy Easter tide, as well of ecclesiastical as of secular degree. There was Oda archbishop, and Wulfstan archbishop, and many other bishops, meditating concerning the condition of their souls, and of those who were subject to them.

Of the chastity of ecclesiastics.

1. This is the first: that those holy orders who have to teach God’s people by their life’s example, hold their chastity according to their degree, whichsoever it may be. If they do not so, then are they worthy of that which in the canon is ordained; that is, that theyforfeit their worldly possessions and a consecrated burial-place, unless they make ’bot.’

Of tithes and church-scots.

2. A tithe we enjoin to every Christian man by his Christendom, and church-scot, and ’Rome-feoh,’ and plough-alms. And if any one will not do so, let him be excommunicated.

Of homicide.

3. If any one shed a Christian man’s blood, let him not come into the king’s presence, ere he go to penance, as the bishop may teach him, and his confessor direct him.

Of nun’s fornication and of adultery.

4. He who commits fornication with a nun, let him not be worthy of a consecrated burial place (unless he make ’bot’), any more than a man-slayer. We have ordained the same respecting adultery.

Of the repairing of churches.

5. We have also ordained: that every bishop repair the house of God in his own [district], and also remind the king that all God’s churches be well conditioned as is very needful for us.

Of perjurers and lyblacs.’

6. Those who swear falsely and work ’lyblac,’ let them be forever cast out of all commission with God, unless they turn to right repentence.

The Laws of King Edgar


First, that they meet always within four weeks: and that every man do justice to another.

2. That a thief shall be pursued …

If there be present need, let it be known to the hundred-man, and let him [make it known] to the tithing-men; and let all go forth to where God may direct them to go: let them do justice on the thief, as it was formerly the enactment of Edmund. And let the ’ceap-gild’ be paid to him who owns the cattle, and the rest be divided into two; half to the hundred, half to the lord, excepting men; and let the lord take possession of the men.

3. And the man who neglects this, and denies the doom of the hundred, and the same be afterwards proved against him; let him pay to the hundred XXX. pence, and for the second time sixty pence; halfto the hundred, half to the lord. If he do so a third time, let him pay half a pound: for the fourth time, let him forfeit all that he owns, and be an outlaw, unless the king allow him to remain in the country.

4. And we have ordained concerning unknown cattle; that no one should possess it without the testimonies of the men of the hundred, or of the tithing-man; and that he be a well trusty man: and, unless he have either of these, let no vouching to warranty be allowed him.

5. We have also ordained: if the hundred pursue a track into another hundred, that notice be given to the hundred-man, and that he then go with them. If he neglect this, let him pay thirty shillings to the king.

6. If any one flinch from justice and escape, let him who held him to answer for the offense pay the ’anylde.’ And if any one accuse him of having sent him away, let him clear himself, as it is established in the country.

7. In the hundred, as in any other ’gemot,’ we ordain: that folk-right be pronounced, in every suit, and that a term be fixed when it shall be fulfilled. And he who shall break that term, unless it be by his lord’s decree, let him make ’bot’ with XXX. shillings, and, on the day fixed, fulfil that which he ought to have done before.

8. An ox’s bell, and a dog’s collar, and a blast-horn; either of these three shall be worth a shilling, and each is reckoned an informer.

9. Let the iron that is for the three-fold ordeal weigh III. pounds; and for the single, one pound.—Thorpe’s Laws of the Anglo-Saxons.


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Chicago: "Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 210–222. Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2022,

MLA: . "Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 210–222. Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2022.

Harvard: , 'Anglo-Saxon Laws and Customs' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.210–222. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2022, from