This text survives only in the early twelfth-century compilation Textus Roffensis. The document deals with suits brought by Englishmen against Frenchmen, and introduces the English to the unfamiliar challenges of trial by battle.

Digital edition

Edited by David Bates

Manuscripts

Introduction

by David Bates

    This famous text was splendidly edited by Liebermann. It is obvious that only the English version represents a text likely to have been issued in William's name. It is edited below from the only surviving early copy, H. The Latin text does not appear in H and appears to be a translation whose earliest surviving text is in the early twelfth-century legal tract known as Quadripartitus. The manuscripts of Quadripartitus have recently been discussed afresh in P. Wormald, 'Quadripartitus', in Garnett, George, and Hudson, John (eds.), Law and Government in Medieval England and Normandy: Essays in Honour of Sir James Holt (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 113-21; the datings given here follow his edition. Other texts of the translation were interpolated into later editions of William of Malmesbury's De gestis regum Anglorum (see Gesta Regum Anglorum: The History of the English Kings, 2 vols., ed. R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom (Oxford, 1998-99), i, pp. xlix, lxxii–lxxvi; ii. 348) and into the collection of documents known as The Red Book of the Exchequer, 2 vols., ed. Hubert Hall (London, 1896), i. pp. l–li. A text also occurs in the so-called Chronicle of John of Brompton (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 96, fo. 106v. 15th-cent). I have made no attempt to comment on the complex problems of this text's transmission or on its legal significance; it is included here as the text of a writ apparently compiled in the name of William I. It is noted in the Introduction. 47–8, that this text bears little diplomatic resemblance to the Conqueror's other Old English writs. This may be explained by its unique content. But the alternative possibility that its resemblance to writ-form is the creation of the author of Textus Roffensis must at least be considered.