1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Curia Regis

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CURIA REGIS, or Aula Regis, a term used in England from the time of the Norman Conquest to about the end of the 13th century to describe a council and a court of justice, the composition and functions of which varied considerably from time to time. Meaning in general the “king’s court,” it is difficult to define the curia regis with precision, but it is important and interesting because it is the germ from which the higher courts of law, the privy council and the cabinet, have sprung. It was, at first the general council of the king, or the commune concilium, i.e. the feudal assembly of the tenants-in-chief; but it assumed a more definite character during the reign of Henry I., when its members, fewer in number, were the officials of the royal household and other friends and attendants of the king. It was thus practically a committee of the larger council, and assisted the king in his judicial work, its authority being as undefined as his own. About the same time the curia undertook financial duties, and in this way was the parent of the court of exchequer (curia regis ad scaccarium). The members were called “justices,” and in the king’s absence the chief justiciar presided over the court. A further step was taken by Henry II. In 1178 he appointed five members of the curia to form a special court of justice, and these justices, unlike the other members of the curia, were not to follow the king’s court from place to place, but were to remain in one place. Thus the court of king’s bench (curia regis de banco) was founded, and the foundation of the court of common pleas was provided for in one of the articles of Magna Carta. The court of chancery is also an offshoot of the curia regis. About the time of Edward I. the executive and advising duties of the curia regis were discharged by the king’s secret council, the later privy council, which is thus connected with the curia regis, and from the privy council has sprung the cabinet.

In his work Tractatus de legibus Angliae, Ranulf de Glanvill treats of the procedure of the curia regis as a court of law. See W. Stubbs, Constitutional History, vol. i. (Oxford, 1883); R. Gneist, Englische Verfassungsgeschichte, English translation by P. A. Ashworth (London, 1891); A. V. Dicey, The Privy Council (London, 1887); and the article Privy Council. (A. W. H.*)