Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Glanville, Ranulf de
GLANVILLE, RANULF de (d. 1190), chief justiciar of England. His family, which probably derived its name from Glanville, near Lisieux, seems to have settled in Suffolk at or soon after the Norman conquest, and to have become moderately wealthy. Ranulf, it is said, was born at Stratford, that is at Stratford St. Andrew, near Saxmundham. Throughout his life he seems to have been connected with this part of the country, and to have had considerable possessions thereabout. He married Bertha, daughter of Theobald de Valoines, lord of the neighbouring township of Parham, and he left three daughters, among whom his estates were divided. He founded the priory of Butley, the abbey of Leiston, and a hospital at Somerton. We first hear of him as sheriff of Yorkshire. This office he held from 1163 until the spring of 1170, when Henry II removed all the sheriffs and instituted a rigorous inquiry into their doings. The great rebellion of 1173 gave him a chance of showing what was in him. In the course of that year he was made sheriff of Lancashire, seemingly at a moment when an incursion of Scots was imminent, and he was also custodian of the honour of Richmond, which was in the king's hand. Early in 1174 the Scots under William the Lion crossed the border; Henry was busy with his enemies in Poitou; Richard Lucy, his justiciar, was detained in the midlands; the greatest of the English feudatories were in revolt; an invasion of England from the Flemish shore was threatened. In this strait, on 13 July 1174, a decisive victory was won over the Scots at Alnwick; they were taken by surprise and routed; their king and many of their leaders were captured. The chief commanders of the English host were Robert Stuteville, the sheriff of Yorkshire, and Glanville, who probably led the men of Lancashire and Richmondshire; a messenger from him carried the good news to Henry, and it was to him that the king of Scots yielded himself a prisoner (Jord. Fant. pp. 355, 363; Ben. i. 65; Hov. ii. 62; Newb. pp. 183, 189; Gir. Cambr. v. 300; Cogg. p. 18; Stubbs, Const. Hist. § 144). After this exploit Glanville becomes prominent. Almost at once he was reappointed to the shrievalty of Yorkshire, which he held thenceforth until the end of the reign, and for some years he was sheriff of Westmoreland also. In 1176 he was a justice in eyre, in 1177 ambassador to the Count of Flanders, in 1179 a justice in eyre and one of the six members of the permanent royal court that was then formed (Ben. i. 108, 136, 239); in 1180 he succeeded Richard Lucy as chief justiciar of England (Hov. ii. 215). Thenceforward he was the king's right-hand man—'the king's eye' a chronicler calls him (Rich. Dev. p. 385). In 1182 he was appointed an executor of Henry's will (Gerv. i. 298), and in the same year he led an army against the Welsh (Ben. i. 289); in 1186 we find him negotiating, now a peace in the Welsh marches, and now a truce with the French king (Ben. i. 353-5; Dic. ii. 43). During the last year of the reign he passed rapidly to and fro between England and France, collecting forces and aiding his master in the final struggle with his rebellious sons (Ben. ii. 40; Gerv. i. 447). Henry apparently had found just the servant he wanted, and was well served to the last. Naturally, therefore, Richard may not have known how to deal with Glanville. Perhaps for a moment he gave way to resentment. Glanville had to pay a large sum 15,000l. it is said (Rich. Dev. p. 385) but Richard was raising money for the crusade upon every excuse, and he seems to have seen the value of the old statesman. Glanville was present at the coronation (3 Sept. 1189), and was employed to suppress the riots which arose out of the ensuing Jew-bait (Newb. i. 297). According to one story, he resigned the justiciarship, misdoubting Richard's policy (ib. i. 302); an old man, worn out by work, he wished to fulfil the crusader's vow which he had taken some years before (Ben. ii. 87). According to another, Richard deposed him and forced him to go on the crusade (Rich. Dev. p. 386). Very possibly the king hoped to make him useful, but did not dare to leave him behind in England. Anyway, he, with Archbishop Baldwin and Hubert Walter, accompanied Richard to Marseilles (July 1190); and thence he sailed for the siege of Acre (Ben. ii. 115). At Acre he died. His death seems to have happened before 21 Oct. 1190 (Ep. Cant. p. 329), and to have been caused, not by the sword of the infidel, but by the eastern climate (Cogg. p. 29).
The picture that we get of him is that of an active, versatile man, ready at short notice to lead an army, negotiate a peace, hold a council, decide a cause; above all things faithful to his master. We read of his sagacity and of his eloquence; of the pride that he took in the expeditious justice of the royal court (Map, Nug. Cur. p. 241). There is against him one very bad story of how he sought to pervert the law in order that he might compass the death of a certain Gilbert Plumpton, against whom he had a private grudge; and this story comes from a good source (Ben. i. 314). He must have had a hand in carrying through the great legal changes which mark the reign of Henry II. In after days tradition made him the inventor of the assize of novel disseisin and the action of replevin (Mirror of Justices, c. 2, §§ 25, 26), but that he was a trained lawyer we are not told by any writer of his time. We are told, however, that when in power he was much influenced by his secretary and nephew, Hubert Walter. This is the Hubert Walter who became dean of York, bishop of Salisbury, archbishop of Canterbury, chief justiciar and chancellor, and who bore a high reputation for legal learning ('omnia regni novit jura,' Gerv. ii. 406). Perhaps later ages have ascribed to Glanville juristic attainments which in truth were those of his more clerkly kinsman and successor.
But he has long been best known as the reputed author of a 'Treatise on the Laws and Customs of England,' the oldest of our legal classics. His right to this fame depends mainly on the words of the contemporary chronicler Roger of Hoveden, who under the year 1180 says that the king appointed as justiciar Ranulf Glanville, 'cujus sapientia conditæ sunt leges subscriptæ.' On this statement there follow: (1) a set of laws professedly made by the Conqueror; (2) the collection of laws generally known as 'Leges Edwardi Confessoris;' (3) the treatise in question; (4) certain ordinances of Henry II. Probably Hoveden only means that Glanville, as justiciar, sanctioned these various documents, or that they contained the rules which he administered; it can hardly be intended that he composed what announce themselves as laws of the Confessor and the Conqueror, and it seems very plain that the hand that wrote the treatise was not the hand that compiled the 'Leges Edwardi.' Thus as to the authorship of the treatise Hoveden's evidence falls short, and it is not certain that we have any other first-hand evidence. An examination of all the many manuscripts which give the treatise might perhaps settle this point; but it is believed that as a general rule they simply state that the book was written during Glanville's justiciarship ('justiciæ gubernacula tenente … Ranulpho de Glanvilla'). There is good internal evidence that it was written during the last years of Henry's reign, and apparently it was not finished until after October 1187 (lib. viii. cap. ii. iii.) Its object is to describe the procedure of the king's court; more than once the author says that he is ignorant of what goes on in other courts. He does not speak in a tone of authority; in England there is a confused multitude of laws which it were hopeless to define; but he will try to set down some matters of daily importance. He writes as a lawyer keenly interested in legal problems, and not ashamed to confess that he does not know the answer to all the questions that he raises. The book looks more like the work of one of the clerks of the royal court than like that of the chief justiciar, who, during the last years of Henry's reign, can have had little time for writing a legal treatise. The conjecture seems permissible that it was written by Hubert Walter. When in the middle of the thirteenth century Bracton [q . v.] was going over the same ground with this treatise before him, and wanted examples of proper names in order to show how fatal it was for a pleader to make mistakes in them, the two names which occurred to him were his own and that of Hubert Walter (f. 188b). If he had coupled Glanville's name with his own, we should have thought it very natural that he should thus associate himself with the writer in whose steps he was following. However, ever since the book was printed it has been known among lawyers as 'Glanville.' It is a brief but clear and orderly book, and must have done much towards settling the procedure of the royal court and defining the common law. The impulse to write a treatise of this kind was probably due to the reviving study of Roman law, and of that law the author knew a little; but he shows no desire to adopt it wholesale, and does not even take the arrangement of the 'Institutes' as his model. His book, one of the very first treatises on law produced on this side of the Alps, became a venerated authority among English lawyers; Coke acknowledges that he owed it a heavy debt. Upon it some Scottish lawyer founded the text-book known, from its first words, as 'Regiam Majestatem.' How far this fairly represents Scottish law is a debated question. 'Glanville' is of great value to students of legal and social history, continental as well as English, and is well known in France and Germany.
[Occasional notices of Glanville in Gesta Henrici ('Benedict'), R. Hoveden, Gervase of Canterbury, William of Newburgh, R. de Diceto, R. Coggeshall, Giraldus Cambrensis, Jordan Fantosme, Rich. of Devizes, Epistolæ Cantuarienses (all in Rolls Ser.); Jocelin of Brakelond, and Mapes, De Nugis Curialium (Camd. Soc.); Madox's Hist Exchequer; Stubbs's Const. Hist. and prefaces to Hoveden; Monasticon (under 'Butley' and 'Leystone'); List of Sheriffs in 31st Rep. of Dep.-keeper of Publ. Records. There is some genealogical information in Glanville-Richards's Records of the House of Glanville; but much of this is incorrect or very questionable. For Hoveden's testimony as to Glanville's authorship of the treatise see Stubbs's Preface to vol. ii. of Hoveden (Rolls Ser.) The treatise was printed by Tottel without date, about 1554; later editions in 1604, 1673, 1780; English translation by Beames, 1812; published in France by Houard in Traités sur les coutumes Anglo-normandes; in Germany by Phillips, Englisch. Rechtsgesch.; also printed in Acts of Parliament of Scotland, vol. i., and collated with the Regiam Majestatem. A new edition by Sir T. Twiss (Rolls Ser.) is advertised.]