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Curia Regis

court, council, judicial, henry and committee

CURIA REGIS (Lat. "Kings Court"), in English history, the name applied at different times to three distinct judicial bodies: (1) the feudal assembly of the tenants-in-chief ; (2) the Privy Council, organized under Henry I; (3) the Court of King's Bench, founded in 1178. The first of these bodies constituted the Magnum Concilium or "Great Council of the Realm," and combined the characters of the Saxon witan and the Norman feudal court. Its consent was necessary for the imposition of extraordinary taxes and the enactment of new laws; also, the king was supposed to consult its advice on general questions of state policy. In those days no distinction was recognized be tween the various functions of government legislative, executive, judicial, financial, ecclesi astic, or military; hence all royal measures of national importance were undertaken in the presence and with the consent of the Council. In course of time an inner council arose,. the nucleus of which was provided in the royal household, and gradually took shape under Henry I as the Curia Regis proper. This was the beginning of the House of Lords, and was practically a committee of the parent body, which had grown too unwieldy. While legisla tive powers remained with the council, the committee supervised legislation generally, and was composed of high court officials appointed by the Crown. It comprised what may be re garded as the Privy Council, a bureau of ad ministration, and a high court of justice, and in the course of centuries gave birth to all the administrative institutions of the United King dom as each was severed from the parent body and became an independent unit. In the reign of Henry I the Curia, presided over by the Great Justsciar, began to confine its opera tions mainly to judicial work, and its members were called justices who sat in the Court of Exchequer. Every baron (lord) of this court

was also a justice of the Curia. and from this connection arose the system of judicial circuits. Judicial administration was extended and de veloped by the Curia until it became part of the regular judicial machinery under Henry II. Up to that time the Curia moved with the king from place to place and held its sittings wher ever the royal court happened to be located. In 1178, however, a separate committee of five judges was created to be fixed in one spot and determine criminal cases, and is to-day known as the Court of King's Bench. The separation of the Court of Common Pleas from the Curia was effected by Magna Charta (1215). The three bodies were completely separated with a distinct staff of justices for each, under Henry HI. Another offshoot from the Curia Regis is the Court of Equity; while the Court of Ex chequer, formerly the financial committee of the Curia under the Chancellor, is now part of the Supreme Court of On the accession of the Tudors the Privy Council of the Curia was organized into the Star Chamber (1486), a distinctly illegal court in• which the king's ministers sat as Judges and conducted trials without juries, inflicting torture, mutila tion, imprisonment and fines contrary to law. This unsavory institution, which was abolished in 1641, was the direct ancestor, strange to say, of the modern ((Cabinet'