Final Concords of the County of Lincoln 1244-1272. Originally published by Lincol Record Society, Horncastle, 1920.
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XIV. TIMES AND SEASONS, DAYS AND YEARS
(1) The Dating of Final Concords.
It was the practice to date final concords, (fn. 1) and this fact gives them a great advantage over charters of feoffment, which, until the latter part of the thirteenth century, were usually undated. Even then, the practice of dating them was only gradually adopted. To ascertain their date we have to depend upon the character of the hand-writing, on the occurrence of certain formulas, and on the evidence afforded by the names of the parties and witnesses. Often, no more than an approximate date can be deduced, and a final concord will frequently serve to confirm or to modify a somewhat precarious conclusion and, not infrequently, to give a fairly exact date.
The return-days, which have already been referred to, (fn. 2) were the days appointed for the return into court by the sheriff of original writs. They were also called days in bench, or days in bank. When the court sat at Westminster these days fell in one of the four law-terms, Hilary, Easter, Trinity, or Michaelmas. In the time of Henry II no special days seem to have been appointed as return-days, and we find concords dated with reference to various feasts: St. Hilary, (fn. 3) St. Vincent, (fn. 4) St. Gregory, (fn. 5) the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, (fn. 6) St. Peter and St. Paul, (fn. 7) St. Margaret, (fn. 8) St. Denis, (fn. 9) St. Luke, (fn. 10) St. Martin, (fn. 11) St. Nicholas. (fn. 12) The same practice prevailed under Richard I. In the time of John there was a tendency to fix return-days with reference to a few feasts: St. Hilary, Easter, Trinity, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Michaelmas, and Martinmas. To these the Purification of the blessed Virgin and Ascension Day were added in the early years of Henry III; and the return-days generally occurred about once a week during term. From 1245 to 1272, the period with which this volume is specially concerned, it had become the almost invariable rule, when the court sat at Westminster, to use the return-days which were appointed by a statute (fn. 13) which is usually assigned to the fifty-first year of Henry III, and which no doubt crystallised the existing practice, namely:
By these days the business of the court was dated. Thus the octave of St. Hilary served as the date for transactions from the 20th to the 26th of January; and one month from Easter for transactions from the fourth Sunday after Easter to the following Saturday; or in other words each return-day served as the date of proceedings in court until the next return-day, or the end of term, as the case might be. When Easter fell early and lengthened the period between Trinity Sunday and the Nativity of the Baptist, we meet with a return-day three weeks from Trinity. (fn. 14)
Such was the practice at Westminster. In the country, however, when final concords were to be levied before the justices in eyre, it would have been inconvenient always to confine the proceedings to the usual return-days, and the practice was to make the writs returnable 'at the coming of the justices into those parts.' Since the justices in eyre often sat in vacation, the dates of some of the concords are out of term-time, as for instance, three weeks, or one month from the Purification of the blessed Virgin, three weeks from the Nativity of the Baptist, three weeks or a month from St. Martin. (fn. 15)
The expressions in the text, 'in eight days of Easter,' 'from Easter in fifteen days,' 'in one month of Easter,' etc., have been taken from the final concords of the Commonwealth period, when English was used instead of Latin; and these were presumably the forms in which men thought and spoke, although they had previously written in Latin, and after the Restoration were to write in Latin again.
The parties summoned to appear in court were allowed three days' grace reckoned from the return-day specified in the writ, and they were not adjudged contumacious on the ground of non-appearance until the fourth day. With reference to these days of grace, Blackstone remarks that 'our sturdy ancestors held it beneath the condition of a freeman to appear, or do any other act, at the precise time appointed.' (fn. 16) English villages are in many respects notoriously conservative, and one may speculate whether the frequent unwillingness of their present inhabitants to appear until long past the hour appointed for a meeting may not perchance be a survival of the characteristic that Blackstone noticed in their sturdy ancestors.
(3) Modern equivalents of ancient dates.
For the convenience of the reader the modern equivalents of the ancient forms of date have been given, for it is not every one who would be prepared to give out of hand the date of Easter in the twenty-ninth year of Henry III, or to state the day, month, and year of the Friday after the feast of St. Denis, 27 Henry II.
(4) Interesting methods of dating documents.
The final concords afford some instances of interesting methods of dating documents by important events, a practice which is characteristic of the twelfth century, though it survived into the reign of Henry III:
Friday, the first feast of St. Gregory after the lord Henry II first received the allegiance of the Scots at York. (fn. 17)
The morrow of St. Martin next after the agreement made between Pope Alexander III and the Emperor of Germany. (fn. 18)
The king, the grandfather [of Henry II], gave that land to Wigain . . . on the day that he crossed the sea to go into Normandy in that year in which was born his grandson, Henry son of the Empress Maud. (fn. 19) and from a charter of William Rufus preserved in the Registrum Antiquissimum (fn. 20) of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln:
This gift was made on the morrow of the day on which archbishop Anselm was made my lawful man (meus ligius homo factus cst). (fn. 21) and from a volume of facsimiles and copies of charters, made in 1641–2, and now in the possession of the Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham: die quo Dux Saxon' desponsauit filiam Henrici Regis Anglie. (fn. 22)
(5) Terms of payment.
Rents were generally payable at one, two, or four times in the year; and the usual terms were Easter, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Michaelmas, and Christmas. Sometimes other terms are found, as the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary, (fn. 23) 15 August, and the feast of the popular Lincolnshire saint, Botulph. (fn. 24)