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(Preface) To the Reader. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 1.
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(Preface) To the Reader.
There is nothing that can bee said or written of Lawes, although the field bee large, and the common place thereof may seeme to be infinite, but in mine opinion may bee reduced to one of these sixe heades; Making, Correcting, Digesting, Expounding, Learning, and Observing. Of Lawes, concerning Making of new, sixe things amongst many other doe principally fall into consideration. First, under what forme of Common wealth the Lawmakers be governed; For one consideration is requisite where the government is Monarchicall, another when it is Artistocraticall, and a third where it is Democraticall. Secondly, to know the several kinds of the Muncicipall Lawes of his owne proper Nation: For the innovation or chaunge of some Laws is most dangerous, and lesse perill in the alteration of others. Thirdly, to understand what the true sence and sentence of the Lawes then standing is and how farre forth former Lawes have made provision in the case that falleth into question. Fourthly, by experience to apprehend what have beene the causes of the danger or hinderance that hath fallen out in that particular to the Common wealth, either in respect of time, place, persons or otherwise. Fifthly, to foresee that a proportionall remedy be applied so, as that for curing of some defects past, there bee not a stirring of more dangerous effects in future. Sixtly, the mean, & that only is by authority of the high (that in troth is the highest) Court of Parliament. Concerning the Correction of olde, the same respectes are to be observed, that have been said touching the Making of new. For Digesting of former Laws into Methode and order, three things are requisite: Judgement to know them, Art to dispose them, and Diligence to omit none of them. The Expounding of Lawes doth ordinarily belong to the reverend Judges, and Sages of the realme: And in cases of greatest difficulty and importance to the high court of parliament: Concerning Learning & attaining to the knowledge of these Lawes, I have in the Preface of my first Edition somewhat touched. The observing of Lawes doth concerne all whatsoever; but principally some in particuler, as hereafter shalbe touched, For Summa sequar fastigia rerum.1 Our kingdome is a Monarchie Sucessive2 by inherent birth-right, of all others the most absolute and perfect forme of government, excluding Interregnum,3 and with it infinite inconveniences; The Maxime of the Common Law being, That the king of England never dyeth, which is true in respect of the ever during, and never dying politique capacity. The Lawes of England consist of three parts, The Common Law, Customes, & acts of parliament: For any fundamental point of the ancient Common Lawes and customes of the realme, it is a Maxime in policie, and a triall by experience, that the alteration of any of them is most dangerous; for that which hath beene refined and perfected by all the wisest men in former succession of ages and proved and approved by continuall experience to be good & profitable for the common wealth, cannot without great hazard and danger be altered or chaunged. Infinite were the scruples, suites, and inconveniences that the Statute of 13. Edw. 1. de Donis conditionalibus4 did introduce, which intended to give every man power to create a new found estate in taile, & to establish a perpetuitie of his landes, so as the same should not be aliened nor letten, but only during the life of tenant in taile, against a fundamentall rule of the Common Law; That all estates of inheritance were fee simple, wherupon these inconvenienciesinsued, purchases defeated, leases evicted, other estates and graunts made upon just and good consideration were avoided, creditors defrauded of the just & due debts, Offendors imboldned to commit capital offences, and many other inconveniences followed: Also, what suits and troubles arose by the Statute of cap. 34. Edw. 3. of Nonclaime,5 enacted against a main point of the Common Law, whereby insued the universall trouble of the Kings subjects, as it was resolved in Parliament in 4.Hen. 7. cap.24. is apparant to all of least understanding: What intricate and subtile questions in lawe dayly arose upon the validity and construction of willes of lands, which by the rule of law were not devisable before the statuts of 32. and 34.Hen. 8. of Wils, dayly experience to the ruine of many, and hinderance of multitudes manifestly teacheth. But above all, certaine late inventions and devises in assurances of lands by limitation of uses, under upstart and wild provisoes and limitations, such as the Common Law never knew, doe breed and multiplie infinite troubles, questions, suits, and difficulties: In the Parliament holden in the 20. yeare of King Henry the third, it was mooved that Children borne before mariage (being Bastards by the Common Lawes of this Realme, the wisedome of the Law abhorring clandestine contracts) might be legitimate according to the Civill or Ecclesiasticall lawes, whereunto saith the Statut, Omnes Comites & Barones una voce responderunt, Nolumus leges Anglia mutare quae hucusque usitatae sunt & approbatae:6 In which few words is observable; First, the absolute monaccord and unity, una voce, of all the Peeres and Lords of Parliament: Secondly the deniall, Nolumus leges Anglie,7 not of Normandy, or of any other Nation, as is fondly dreamed, as elsewhere I have shewed, but the common Law of England: And thirdly, the reason of their deniall: Quaehactenus usitate sunt & approbate,8 as if they should have said, we will not change the Lawes of England, for that they have been anciently used and approved from time to time by men of most singular wisdome, understanding, and experience. I will not recite the sharpe Law of the Locrenses9 in magna Graecia, concerning those that sought innovation in preferring any new Law to be made, you may read it in the glosse of the first booke of Justinians Institutes, because it is too sharpe & tart for this age: But take we the reason of that Law, Quia leges figendi & refigendi consuetudo est perniciosa.10 But Platoes Law I will recite touching this matter, which you may read in his sixt booke de Legibus; If any Citizen doe invent any new thing, which never before was read or heard of, the Inventor thereof, shall first practise the same for the space of tenne yeeres in his owne house, before it be brought into the Common wealth, or published to the people, to the end that if the invention be good, it shall be profitable to the Inventor, and if it were nought, he himselfe and not the Common wealth might taste of the prejudice. And I like well the Edict reported by Suetonius; Quae praeter consuetudinem & morem maiorum fiunt, neque placent, nec recta videntur,11 And I would the commandement of Honorius and Arcadius were of us Englishmen observed, Mos fidelissimae vetustatis retinendus est:12 And I agree and conclud this point with the Apotheg[m] of Pereander of Corinth, That old Lawes and new meats are fittest for us. As concerning the correcting of the Common Lawes or antient Customes of England, may be applyed all that hath been said concerning making of Lawes: only this adde; That it hath bin an old rule in Policy and Law, that Correctio Legum est euitanda.13 And yet concerning certaine of our penall statutes, to repeale many that time hath antiquated as unprofitable, and remaine but as snares to intangle the subjects withall; And to omit all those that be repealed, that none by them be deceived, as for example concerning Drapery, or such like. To make one plaine and perspicious law divided into articles, so as every subject may know what actes be in force, what repealed, either by particuler or general words, in part or in the whole, or what branches and parts abridged what inlarged, what expounded: so as each man may clearly know what and how much is of them in force, and how to obey them, it were a necessary worke, and worthy of singular commendation: which his Majesty out of his great wisedome and care to the Common wealth, hath commanded to be done: for as they now stand, it will require great paines in reading over all, great attention in observing, and greater judgement in discerning upon consideration of the whole, what the Law is in any one particular point: But with this Caution that there be certaine Statutes concerning the administration of justice, that are in effect so woven into the Common Law, and so well approved by experience, as it will be no smal danger to alter or change them: And herein according to his Royall commandement (God willing) somewhat in due time shall be performed. For bringing of the Common Lawes into a better Methode, I doubt much of the fruit of that labour. This I know, that abridgements in many professions have greatly profited the Authors themselves; but as they are used have brought no small prejudice to others: For the advised and orderly reading over of the bookes at large in such maner as elswhere I have pointed at, I absolutely determine to be the right way to enduring and perfect knowledge, and to use abridgements as tables, and to trust only to the bookes at large: For I hold him not discreet that will Sectari rivulos,14 when he may petere fontes.15 And certain it is that the tumultuary reading of abridgements, doth cause a confused judgement, and a broken & troubled kind of delivery or utterance: But to reduce the said penall Laws into such methode & order & with such caution as is abovesaid (which cannot be done but in the high court of parliament, nor without the advise of such as before is touched) were an honorable, profitable and commendable worke for the whole common wealth. This fourth part of my Reports doth concerne the true sence & exposition of the lawes in divers & many Cases, never adjudged or resolved before: which for that they may in mine opinion tende to the generall quiet & benefit of many, The onely end (God knoweth) of the edition of them, I thought it a part of my great duty that I owe to the common wealth not to keepe them private, but being withall both incouraged, and in maner thereunto inforced, to publish and communicate them to all, wherein my comfort and contentation is great, both in respect of your singular and favorable approbation of may former labours, as for that I (knowing mine own weakenes) have one great advantage of many famous and excellent men that have taken upon them the great and painfull labour of writing: For they to give their workes the more authority and credite, have much used the figure Prosopopeia in faining divers Princes, and others of high authority, excellent wisedom, profound learning, & long experience, to speake such sentences, rules & conclusions, as they intended and desired for the common good, to have obayed and observed; As Zenophon the great in his Booke which he wrote of the Institution of Princes, faineth that king Cambyses taught and spake many excellent things to Cyrus his sonne; And in another Booke which he wrote of the Art of Chivalry, he saineth how king Philip taught and instructed his sonne Alex[an]der to fight. But I without figure, or fayning, do report and publish the very true resolutions, sentences, and judgements of the reverend Judges and Sages of the lawes themselves, who for their authoritie, wisedome, learning, and experience, are to be honoured, reverenced, and beleeved. The due observation of the said Lawes doth generally without any limitation or exception concerne all: But principally Princes, Nobles, Judges, and Magistrats, to whose custody & charge the due execution (the life and the soule of the Laws) is committed; for that they in respect of their places are more eminent & conspicuous then other men, wherein 3 things are necessarily required, Understanding, Authoritie, and Will: Understanding concerneth things and persons; That is, first what is right, and just to be done, & what ill, and to be avoyded; Secondly, what persons for merit are to be rewarded, And what for offences to be punished: And both in reward and punishment to observe quantity and qualitie. Authoritie to protect the good, and to chastice the ill. Will prompt and readie duely, sincerely, and truely to execute the law. But forasmuch as many Adversaries and two open Enemies do continually lie in wait to assault this good and ready will, it must of necessity have two defensive compleat armors of proofe: first Integrity against these sixe secret adversaries, Gyftes, Affections, Intreatie, Anger, Praecipitation, and Morosa cunctatio, peevish delay. Secondly, Fortitude and Constancie against the terror of Malice, & feare of danger, two open and violent enemies: Videte Judicesquid faciatis, non enim hominis exercetis judicium sed Domini, & quodcunq; judicaveritis in vos redundabit.16 And Deus est Judex justus, fortis, & patiens,17 and so must every Judge bee.18Justus, without respect to give every man his owne: And therefore Judicia are so called, because they are tanquã Juris dicta19 And the law whereby you Judge est mens quadam nullo perturbata affectu,20 Arist. lib. 3°. polit. Fortis against malice and daunger, Neq; timida probitas, neque improba fortitudo reipublicae est vtilis.21 And Patiens, when he doth Justice sincerely & with a good conscience, and yet is despised, despited, or disgraced: Non solum poena, sed patientia acquiret nomen persecutionis, & gloriam victoriae22 Aristotle lib. 2. Top: Melius est iudicare secundũ leges & literas, quam ex propria scientia & sententia. Ignorantia Judicis est plerunque calamitas innocentis.23 And hereof it proceedeth that the kings of this realme have had such speciall care of calling such men to judiciall places, as have knowledge, and other the incidents inseperable above mentioned. And because these Judges are (if order be observed) taken of such as be Sergeants, especially care is alwaies taken in calling men of Learning, integrity, and living to that state and degree; Never can a Judge punish extortion, that is corrupted himselfe, nor any Magistrate punish any sinne as hee ought, that is known to be an offendor therein himselfe; Therefore it is an incident inseperable to good government, that the Magistrates to whom the execution of Laws is committed be princpall observers of the same themselves. But herein heare what shalbe said, to the which nothing can be added; Et nunc reges intelligite, erudimini qui iudicatis terram. Seruite Domino in timore, et exultate ei cum tremore, apprehendite disciplinam, ne quando irascatur Dominus, et pereatis de via iusta.24 Whosoever wil be compleat Judges, Intelligite; apprehendite, erudimini, seruite, exultate25 you must be apparelled with the rich roabes of understanding & learning, you must your selves imbrace discipline, you must observe the lawes your selves, with great feare an humility, which if you will do, Seruite Domino in timore;26 you must be cheerful, & comfort your selves in doing of Justice, for you shall finde many crosses and daungers. Et exultate,27 but yet cum tremore,28 doe all these thinges least ye enter into wrath, and so ye perish from the way of righteousnesse; whereby it appeareth, that the greatest losse a Judge or Magistrate can have, is to give himselfe over to passion and his owne corrupt wil, and to loose the way of righteousnes, Et pereatis via de justa.29 To the whole bodie of the realme concerning this point I say, your fault will be the greater, If having a soveraigne so religious, wise, and learned, so great an observer of Laws, so vertuos of his own person, you apply not your selves to his example & presidet; for the heathen Poet could say; Regis ad exemplum totus componitur Orbis.30 But whilest I was intending and going about this Edition, I by commandment attended upon his most excellent Matie for direction about his highnesse affaires that concerned the duty of my place to prosecute; At what time I well perceived what princely care his Matie had taken for execution and expedition of Justice, and that upon consideration thereof hee found two impediments therein: One, that in the two eminent courts of ordinary Justice, the Kings Bench, and the Common pleas, there were foure Judges, and many times in cases of great difficultie the Judges being equally diuided in opinion in either Court, the matter depending long undecided: For preventing whereof his Majestie in this Terme of Saint Hillarie, in the first yeere of his most happy and prosperous raigne, added a Judge more to either Bench, Sir David Williams Knight, Sergeant at Law, to the King Bench; & Sir William Daniell Knight, Sergeant at Law, to the Court of Common pleas, his Majesty saying, that Numero Deus impare gaudet.31 The second impediment was, that divers doubts and questions of law remained undetermined, the same rising partly upon long and ill penned Statuts lately made, partly by reason of late and new devises and inventions in assurances, which the eye of the Law in former ages never beheld, and cannot yet incline to allow them, and partly by conveyances and willes drawne and devised by such as have Scientiam sciolorum quae est mixta Ignorantia:32 which questions and doubts already growne, his Majesty desired might bee resolved and determined according to the true sence of the Lawes of the Realme. And where there have beene som diversity of opinions betweene certain of the Courts of justice, that the same might upon conference & mature consideration be agreed and resolved. And his Majesty understanding (as it seemes) by reason of my former Editions, that I have observed many determinations and judgements of questionable and doubtfull Cases, which upon great study, consideration, conference, and deliberation, have bin resolved and given by the reverend Judges & Fathers of the Law, required me to proceed, and for the generall good and quiet of the subject to publish them, whose commandement being to me Suprema Lex, hath both incouraged & imposed a necessity upon me to publish this fourth Edition: Whith conteyneth nothing but his Majesties owne, being sweet and fruitfull flowers of his Crowne; for the laws of England are indeed so called, Jura Coronae, or Jura Regia: Because as Bracton lib. I. cap.8. saith: Ipse autem Rex, non debet esse sub homine, sed sub Deo & Lege, quia Lex facit Regem: attribuat igitur Rex legi, quod Lex attribuit ei, videlicet dominationem & imperium: Non est enim Rex ubi dominatur voluntas, & non Lex:33 that is, The King is under no man, but onely God and the Law, for the Law makes the King: Therefore let the king attribute that to the Law, which from the law he hath received, to wit, power and dominion: for where will, and not law doth sway there is no King. And in the Register the wordes of the writ of Ad Jura Regia, be, Rex &c. Salutem: Ad jura nostra Regia ne depereant, seu per aliquorum vsurpationes indebitas aliqualiter subtra-hantur, quatenus juste poterimus, manutenenda, subtractaque & occupata, si quae fuerint ad statum debitum revocanda, necnon ad impugnatores eorundem jurium nostrorum refraenandos, & prout convenit iuxta eorum demerita puniendos, eo studiosius nos decet operam adhibere, & solicitius extendere manum nostram, quo ad hoc vinculo Juramenti teneri dignoscimur & astringi, pluresque conspicimus indies jura illa pro viribus impugnare &c.,34 1. “That our Kingly Lawes and rights perish not, neither be at all withdrawn by undue usurpation of any, which so far forth as Justly we may, are to be mainteyned, & if any shall be with drawne or diverted, to be againe restored to their due state; as also for the bridling of the impugnors of those our said Lawes, & the punishing of them as is meet according to their deserts, we ought the more diligently to provid, & the more carefully to extend our hand & authority; for that we are knowne to be thereto tyed & bound by the bond of an Oath, and for that we daily see very many to their powers to impugne those said Lawes.” And againe, Rex & c. salutem. Ad conseruationem jurium Coronae nostrae, eo nos decet studiosius operam adhibere, quoad hoc astringimur vinculo Sacramenti, & alios conspicimus ad ipsorum jurium eneruationem amplius anhelare &c. concluding thus, Et sciatis quod si secus facere presumpseritis, ad vos tanquam violatores Regii juris nostri non immerito grauiter capiemus,35 which is, “We ought the more earnestly to provid for the conservation of the Lawes & rights of our Crown, as being thereunto tyed by the bond of an Oath; & for that we see others the more greedily to gape after the weakning & subverting of those said Lawes &c. concluding thus; And know ye that if ye shall presume otherwise to do wee shall with griefe not undeservedly hold you as violators of our Kingly rights & Laws.” By which ancient writs appeareth: 1. What an exorbitant offence it hath bin ever deemed to impugne or calumniate these Lawes, being the imperiall Lawes of the Crowne. 2. That in all ages, these Lawes have had many that sought to impugne and violate them: And lastly how grieuously such as so presumed to offend should be punished; Nam & frustra feruntur Leges nisi severe puniantur contemptores;36 And it is truely said, that Non debet Princeps ferre Legum suarum ludibrium:37 And wofull experience hath often taught, (which I my selfe have sometimes observed) that many of those men that have strayned their wits, & streched their tongues to scandalize or calumniate these Lawes, had either practised or plottedsome hainouscrime, and therefore hated, because they feared the just sentence and heavie stroke. The reading of the severall Reports & records of these Lawes, doth not only yeeld immence profit, as elswhere I have noted; but doth conteine the faithfull and true Histories of all successive times, as well concerning the punishment of the evill for their heinous, horrible, and exorbitant offences, as concerning the reward and advancement of men of great merit and vertue for their high and honorable service in the common wealth: And (which is above all) they are memorials to all posterity of the valorous piety, vertues, and victories of the Kings and Princes of this Realme. The first appeareth most evidently amongst other thinges by the creations and erections of men of great desert to eminent places, and degrees of nobility and honour, of such estates, and in such maner and forme, as are warranted by the Lawes of the Realme: The second by the Records of the Attainders in Judiciall proceedings against Capitall and other offendours. And the third by many excellent Records, the most faithfull and perpetuall witnesses, and worthy to be published, and made knowne to all; And therefore at this time least my Preface should exceed his proper module of that sort; Take one example of a Charter made by Edgar King of England, and Recorded, and thereby faithfully continued to this day. “Altitonantis Dei largiflua clementia, qui est Rex Regum, & Dominus Dominantium: Ego Edgarus Anglorum Basileus, omniumque rerum, Insularum Occani quae Britaniam circumiacent, cunctarumque Nationum quae infra eam includuntur Imperator & Dominus: Gratias ago ipsi Deo omnipotenti Regi meo, qui meum imperium sic ampliauit & exaltauit super Regnum patrum meorom. Qui licet Monarchiam totius Angliae adepti sunt a tempore Athelstani, qui primus Regum Anglorum omnes Nationes quae Britaniam incolunt sibi armis subegit, nullus tamen eorum ultra fines Imperium suum dilatare aggressus est, mihi tamen concessit propitia dininitas cum Anglorum imperio, omnia regna Insularum Oceani cum suis ferocissimis Regibus vsque Norvegiam, maximamque partem Hiberniae, cum sua nobilissima Ciuitate de Dublina, Anglorum regno subiugare; quos etiam omnes meis imperiis colla subdare Dei favente gratia coegi. Quapropter & ego Christi gloriam & laudem in regno meo exaltare, & eius seruitium amplificare deuotus disposui: Et per meos fideles fautores Dunstanum videlicet Archiepiscopum, Ayelyolanum, ac Oswaldum Archiepiscopos, quos mihi patres spirituales & consilatores elegi, magna ex parte disposui &c. Facta sunt haec anno Domini 964. Indictione 8. Regni vero Edgari Anglorum Regis 6. in regia vrbe quae ab incolis Ocleayeccastriae nominatur, in natale Domini festiuitate, sanctorum Innocentium feria 4. &c. ✠ Ego Edgar Basileus Anglorum & Imperator Regum gentium, cum consensu & Principum & Archimeorum meorum hanc meam munificentiamsigno crucis corroboro. ✠ Ego Alfriie Reginacon sensi & signo crucis confirmaui. ✠ Ego Dunstan. Archiepiscopus Dorobor. Ecclesiae Christi consensi & subscripsi. ✠ Ego Osticel. Archiepiscopus Eboracensis Ecclesia consensi & subscripsi. ✠ Ego Alferic. Dux. Ego Bruthnod. Dux. Ego Aridgari Dux.38 ✠” Whereby is to be observed, first his piety and devotion towards God the fountaine of all happinesse, the true Summum bonum.39 Secondly, the largenesse of his Empery, and the first Conquest of Ireland, long before the Raigne of King Henry the second. To conclud, of the learned Reader my desire is, that he would eithar amend that which herein he shall finde amisse, or at least that he will not finde fault with any part, untill he hath seriously read over the whole, and then it may be he will reprehend the lesse: And although herein I have taken all the labour; yet I unfainedly wish to all the Readers, all, or at the least equall profit.
[1. ][Ed.: I will cover the chief points (Vergil, Aeneid 1.342).]
[2. ][Ed.: Successive Monarchy.]
[3. ][Ed.: An interval between reigns.]
[4. ][Ed.: concerning conditional gifts.]
[5. ][Ed.: An early statute of limitations.]
[6. ][Ed.: All the Earls and Barons answered with one voice, ‘We will not change the old laws of England heretofore used and approved’.]
[7. ][Ed.: We will not [change] the laws of England.]
[8. ][Ed.: [The laws have been] heretofore used and approved,]
[9. ][Ed.: Locrians. . .ancient (great) Greece,]
[10. ][Ed.: A custom of enacting and abrogating laws is pernicious.]
[11. ][Ed.: Unless things are done according to custom, and the usage of the majority, they will neither be approved nor seem to be right,]
[12. ][Ed.: A custom of trustworthy antiquity ought to be kept:]
[13. ][Ed.: The amendment of Laws is to be avoided.]
[14. ][Ed.: Follow the streams,]
[15. ][Ed.: Seek out the sources.]
[16. ][Ed.: Judges, take heed what you do, for you do not exercise the judgment of man but of God, and whatever you adjudge will redound upon you.]
[17. ][Ed.: God is a just judge, strong and patient.]
[18. ]1. Paralip. 19. vers. 6.
[19. ][Ed.: like statements of the law.]
[20. ][Ed.: it is for me not to confuse those who are affected (Coke’s citation is doubtful).]
[21. ][Ed.: neither provident timidity nor improvident fortitude is useful to the state.]
[22. ][Ed.: Not only pain but suffering acquires the name of persecution and the glory of victory.]
[23. ][Ed.: It is better to judge according to the letter of the law than according to one’s own knowledge and feeling. Ignorance in a judge is a great mischief to the innocent.]
[24. ][Ed.: Be wise now therefore, you Kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Learn discipline so that the Lord is never angry, and you lose the way of righteousness (Psalms 2:10–12).]
[25. ][Ed.: Understand, learn, be instructed, serve and rejoice.]
[26. ][Ed.: Serve the Lord in fear,]
[27. ][Ed.: And rejoice,]
[28. ][Ed.: with trembling,]
[29. ][Ed.: And you lose the way of righteousness.]
[30. ][Ed.: The whole world was created according to the King’s example.]
[31. ][Ed.: God rejoices in an uneven number. (Vergil, Eclogues 8.75)]
[32. ][Ed.: The knowledge of smatterers, which is mixed with ignorance:]
[33. ][Ed.: For the King himself ought to be under no man, but under God and the Law, for it is the Law that makes him King: therefore let the King attribute to the law what the Law attributes to him, namely lordship and power; for where arbitrary whim rules, and not Law, there is no king.]
[34. ][Ed.: Writ, which was used by a King’s clerk to protect a living, or benefice, for someone who contested the King’s title, is translated in the text following this note.]
[35. ][Ed.: This writ is translated in the text following.]
[36. ][Ed.: For the Laws will be rendered useless unless those who disobey them are severely punished;]
[37. ][Ed.: The prince ought not to make a mockery of his Laws:]
[38. ][Ed.: By the great clemency of Almighty God, who is king of kings, and lord of lords, I, Edgar, king of the English and of everything, emperor and lord of all the islands of the ocean which surround Britain, and of whatever nations they enclose, give thanks to the almighty God himself, my king, who has so amplified and exalted my power over the realm of my fathers etc., who, although they had obtained the monarchy of the whole of England from the time of Æthelstan, the first of the kings of England to subdue with arms all the nations which constitute Britain, though none of them had taken the further step of extending their empire beyond the bounds, and has granted me by his divine favour, to subjugate with English power all the kingdoms of the islands of the ocean, with their fiercest kings, as far as Norway and the greater part of Ireland (with its most noble city of Dublin) to the English kingdom, all of which I have with the grace of God brought together with my power; and on account of this, I have arranged to exalt the glory and praise of Christ in my realm, and to amplify his service of devotion, and by my faithful supporters, namely Archbishop Dunstan, Archbishops ‘Ayelyolanus’ and Oswald, whom I have chosen as my spiritual fathers and advisers, I have made great arrangements etc.[...] These things were done in the year of the Lord 964, in the eighth year of the indiction, and in the sixth year of the reign of Edgar, king of the English, in the royal town which is called [Gloucester], in the festival period of Christmas, in the feast of the Holy Innocents etc. I, Edgar, king of the English and emperor of the kingdoms of the world, with the consent of my rulers and great men, have confirmed this my munificence with the sign of the cross. I, Queen Ælfrith, have consented and confirmed with the sign of the cross. I, Dunstan, archbishop of Christ’s church of Dover, have consented and subscribed. I, Oscytel, archbishop of York, have consented and subscribed. I, Duke Ælfere. I, Duke Brihtnoth. I, Duke Ordgar.]
[39. ][Ed.: Highest good.]
[40. ][Ed.: I have done more things than I can catch in words at the present; Nevertheless, I have set things in order.]
[41. ][Ed.: Meanwhile, farewell Reader; and remember that whoever mocks the genuine sense and force of any law, by scheming or craftiness, is to be considered a violator of the law.]
[42. ][Ed.: Farewell.]