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Knight of Shire

knights, county, parliament, lords, burgesses and lands

KNIGHT OF SHIRE is the designa tion given to the representative in par liament of English counties at large, as distinguished from such cities and towns as are counties of themselves (which are seldom, if ever, called shires), and the representatives of which, as well as the members for other cities and towns, are denominated citizens or burgesses. Though the knights of the shire always sat with the citizens and burgesses as jointly representing the third estate of the realm, as well during the time that the three estates, the spiritually, the lords temporal, and the commons, sat together, as since, we find that grants were occasionally made by the knights to be levied on the counties, whilst sepa rate grants were made by the citizens and burgesses to be levied upon the cities and boroughs. ( Rot. Petri.) The wages payable to knights of the shire for their attendance in parliament, including a reasonable time for their going up and coming down, were four shillings a day, or double what was re ceived by citizens and burgesses. At the close of every session of parliament the course was for the king, in dismissing them to their homes, to inform them that they might sue out writs for their wages, upon which each knight separately ob tained a writ out of Chancery directed to the sheriff, mentioning the number of days and the sum to be paid, and com manding the sheriff to levy the amount. Upon this the sheriff, in a public county court, divided the burthen among the different hundreds and townships, and issued process to levy the amount, which, to the extent of the money levied, he paid over to the knight. The lands of the clergy, as well regular as secular, were exempted from contributing towards these expenses, because the clergy formed a distinct estate, and were represented in parliament by their prelates and the pro curatores deli, although the latter were, as Lord Coke expresses it, voiceless as sistants only. All lay fees within the county were liable to contribute, except lands belonging to the lords and their men. The lords insisted that this ex

emption extended to every freeholder who held land within their baronies, seigniories, or manors, alleging that they served in parliament at their own ex pense for themselves and their tenants. And such was undoubtedly the practice ; as by the Parliament Roll it appears that the commons frequently petitioned that the exemption should be confined to such lands as the lords kept in their own hands and occupied by their farmers or by their bond-tenants, or villeins. These request. however were met either by a simple re fusal or by a statement by the king that he did not mean to lessen the liberties of the lords. If however a lord purchased land which had previously been contri butory to the knight's wages, the liability continued. Freehold lands, held either by knight's service or in common socage, were liable to this burthen, but custom ary tenures in ancient demesne and tenures in burgage were exempt. In the county of Kent no socage land was con tributable, the whole burthen being thrown upon those who held knight's fees, an anomaly against which the com mons preferred many ineffectual petitions. Knights of the shire, and also their elect ors, were formerly required to be persons either resident or having a household in the county. This regulation, though confirmed by several statutes, had fallen into neglect, and was formally repealed in both its branches by 14 George c. 58. The removal of the latter part of the restriction has greatly added to the expense of county elections ; and though the Reform Act, 2 Will. IV. c. 45, dis franchises out-voters in boroughs, it does not restore the old law as to non-resident county electors. (Rot. Petri., vol. ii. 258, 287; iii. 25, 44, 53, 64, 212; iv. 352.)