Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH LAW INTO IRELAND 1 - The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, vol. 2
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THE INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH LAW INTO IRELAND 1 - Frederic William Maitland, The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, vol. 2 
The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, ed. H.A.L. Fisher (Cambridge University Press, 1911). 3 Vols. Vol. 2.
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THE INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH LAW INTO IRELAND1
It is well known that under John and Henry III several ordinances were issued with the object of enforcing English law in Ireland; they are noted in Mr Sweetman's Calendar of Irish Documents. When a change was made in English law a corresponding change was made in Irish law. In searching, however, for early copies of the English Registrum Brevium, the register of writs current in the English chancery, I have come across evidence of a measure which seems to have escaped the attention of historians, and yet to have been of considerable importance. Henry III, in 1227, sent over to Ireland a copy of the English register, and ordained that the formulas contained in it should be used in Ireland. A copy of this ordinance is found in the Cottonian MS., Julius D. II, a manuscript which belonged to St Augustine's, Canterbury. It is found on f. 143 b, and runs thus:—
Henricus Dei gracia Rex Anglie, Dominus Hibernie, Dux Normannie et Aquietanie, Comes Andegavie, Archiepiscopis, Episcopis, Abbatibus, Comitibus, Baronibus, Militibus, Libere Tenentibus, et omnibus Ballivis et Fidelibus suis tocius Hibernie salutem. Quum volumus secundum consuetudinem regni nostri Anglie singulis conquerentibus de injuria in regno nostro Hibernie justiciam exhiberi, formam brevium de cursu quibus id fieri solet presenti scripto duximus inserendam et ad vos transmittendam, ut per ea que ad casus certos et nominatos in scripto isto justicia inter vos per breve et sigillum justiciarii nostri Hibernie teneantur. Teste me ipso apud Cant’ decimo die Novembris anno regni nostri xij°, etc.
Upon this there follows a Registrum Brevium containing between fifty and sixty writs, beginning with the “writ of right patent.” The interest of this is twofold. In the first place we have a solemn and authoritative introduction into Ireland of the English system of procedure. In the second place we have an official copy, or rather a copy of an official copy, of the English Chancery Register of “writs of course (de cursu)” from an extremely early date. I say an extremely early date, for at present I have seen no other register so ancient, and know of but two others which can be attributed to Henry III's reign. This would not be the place in which to speak of the importance of so old a formulary in our technical legal history, but the ordinance sending the English writs into Ireland may be of more general interest.
I am in duty bound to add that, to all seeming, Henry III was not at Canterbury on 10 Nov. 1227. He was there on 30 and 31 Oct., but on 5 Nov. he was at Rochester, and from 6 to II Nov. he was at Westminster. Also I must add that the ordinance is not on the patent roll or the close roll for the year, nor, as I gather from Mr Sweetman's calendar, on any other extant roll. This fact may be due partly to the length of the registrum which would have filled several membranes of parchment, partly to the fact that there was no good in enrolling formulas already current in the English chancery. As to the date, I can only guess either that the transcriber wrote “decimo” (in letters, not figures) in mistake for some other word1 , or that the copying of the writs took some days, and that the date of the ordinance was left in blank until the registrum was ready for transmission to Ireland. It will be observed that the king was at Canterbury within ten days or a week of the date thus given, and that the document is found in a Canterbury book. I cannot pretend to skill in palaeography, but the handwriting of the part of the Cottonian MS. that is in question seems to me nearly as old as the transaction which it records, while that the register belongs to the early years of Henry's reign is, as I think, very clear indeed from internal evidence.
English Historical Review, July 1889.
Possibly the mistake arose from the numeral “I°” being read as “10.”—Ed.E. H. R.