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Palatine Courts in United Kingdom

(Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) These were special jurisdictions in which the King’s writ did not run. The Palatinate of Chester was a portion of the Earldom of Chester, the Palatinate of Durham was presided over by the Bishop of Durham, and the Duchy of Lancaster was created from the Earldom of Lancaster, when the Earl became Duke in 1351. Each palatinate had its own administration and kept its own records. The published sources are listed in Graves’ 1975 bibliography(29). Only the published plea rolls of the courts are listed below.

29. Graves, Edgar B., and Charles Gross, comps. A Bibliography of English History to 1485: Based on The Sources and Literature of English History From the Earliest Times to About 1485 by Charles Gross. Oxford, Eng.; New York: Clarendon Press, 1975 at pp.475-80.

County palatine

A county the lord of which formerly had the same royal powers and jurisdictions as those held by the Crown elsewhere in the kingdom. In England there were three such counties, Chester, Durham, and Lancaster, the first two existing by prescription from time immemorial, the last created by Edward III.

The Palatinate of Chester reverted to the Crown in 1237 and the court of the county palatine was abolished in 1830.

The jurisdiction long vested in the Bishop of Durham was in 1836 vested in the Crown as a separate franchise and royal and the jurisdiction of the Duke of Lancaster was vested in the Crown by Henry IV. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a member of the government with nominal duties in relation to the Duchy.

The distinct Court of Common Pleas at Lancaster and the Court of Pleas at Durham were merged in the High Court in 1873 but the separate Chancery Courts of each existed till 1971.

The Isle of Ely was not a county palatine but a royal franchise, the bishop of which had been granted jura regalia by Henry I.

J. B. Yates, Rights and Jurisdiction of the County Palatine of Chester; G. T. Lapsley, The County Palatine of Durham; H. Fishwick, Pleadings and Depositions in the Duchy Court of Lancaster, 1489-1558.

Source: The Oxford Companion to Law, 1980, p. 301.

Palatine Courts and Medieval Law

Palatine Courts and Legal History

Bibliographies of English Law History

  • Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
  • Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
  • Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.


See Also

  • Exchequer (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Usurpation (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Pleading (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Comparative Legal History (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Deceit (in this legal Encyclopedia)

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  • Article Name: Palatine Courts
  • Author: David Gordon
  • Description: (Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) These were special jurisdictions in which the King's writ [...]

This entry was last updated: May 22, 2018

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