Ard Chreag Manorial Court, 2004

On June 7, 2004, Ardchreag acted out a manorial court. Each person wishing to participate brought with them a certain number of gold coins (loonies). The amount of money brought was up to each participant, and should not be any more than they would be willing to have donated to the canton. (This exercise was, in part, a fundraiser for the canton after all.)

In attendance that night were:

Corwyn Galbraith, Lord of the Manor
Domhnail Galbraith, Lady of the Manor
Colyne Stewart, juror, member of the Green Tithing, Yeoman of the White Arrow, member of the Cliffguard
Keelyn, juror, member of the White Tithing, member of the Cliffguard
Naja Kesali, juror, member of the Green Tithing, Yeoman of the White Arrow
Yosho, reeve, member of the White Tithing, member of the Cliffguard
Thomas, beadle, member of the Green Tithing
Wulfgang Donnerfaust, Chief Pledge of the White Tithing, member of the Cliffguard
Lina Carville, member of the White Tithing
Pierre, representative of the Royal Court
Thorfinna gra’feldr, woodward, member of the Green Tithing, Yeoman of the White Arrow, member of the Cliffguard
Iolanda de Albornoz, Yeoman of the White Arrow
Wat of Sarum, Chief Pledge of the Green Tithing
Eirik Andersen, village alderman, member of the Green Tithing
Mahault van der Eych, ale taster, member of the Green Tithing, member of the Cliffguard
Berend van der Eych, ale taster, member of the White Tithing, member of the Cliffguard
Tarian verch Gadarn, ale taster, member of the White Tithing
Sof’ia Bardeva, ale taster, member of the White Tithing
Jean-Margaret Donnerfaust, member of the White Tithing
Siegfried Brandbeorn, village alderman

The lord and lady of the manor, and the jurors sat at one end of the room representing the court. One of the jurors also acted as the clerk, writing down the charges, the results of the case, and the fines. All others in attendance sat about the other three sides, leaving the centre of the room open. Someone wishing to lay a charge would respectfully step before the court and state their accusation. The accused would then step forward as well. Both would be instructed to gather pledges and between one and two minutes were allowed for this. During this time much money changed hands as pledges were bought, silences ensured and officials bribed. (Any bribe to a juror went right into the beadle’s money jar.)

Both sides then presented their stories, and all pledges were allowed to speak. Rebuttals were allowed, though the court could stop them at any time. The court then discussed the testimony and settled on a verdict. Generally, if the defendent was found guilty they—and all their pledges—were fined. As well, generally, if the defendent was found innocent, the plaintiff and all their pledges were fined. There were of course cases where both sides were fined, or only certain people on both or either side.

Most of the cases brought forth were entirely facestious (such as Berend’s tryst with Tarian) whilst others (like the wandering lamb) were based on fact. Anyone thinking of running such a manorial court themselves may want to consider which charges to allow and disallow before hand so as not to possibly upset someone (some might not find the idea of being charged as a fornicatrix funny, not even in jest).

The charges and their results are below:

Wat of Sarum, Chief Pledge of the Green Tithing, charged Berend van der Eych with reeping some of his grain. As pledges, Wat presented Sof’ia Bardeva, an ale taster, and Mahault, also an ale taster and ‘the much abused wife’ of Berend. In his defence, Berend called on yet another ale taster, Tarian verch Gadarn. Wat alleged that he arose late one morning, after a night spent at a tavern, to find that Berend had reaped some of his grain. Berend, who said that while he was being charged with stealing grain was obviuosly the victim of Wat stealing his wife, successfully argued that Wat was a drunken sot, and by Tarian’s testimony proved this. Berend was found innocent, and Wat was fined one gold piece for bringing a false charge before the court, plus another gold coin for improper management of his field. He was fined a further gold coin for pointing in a threatening manner at one of the jurors.

Iolanda de Albornoz, a Yeoman of the White Arrow, claiming to be the village forester, charged Eirik Andersen, a village alderman, with killing a deer. As pledges she brought Lina Carville and Thomas the beadle. Eirik’s pledges were Thorfinna, the village woodward, and Wat of Sarum, Chief Pledge of the Green Tithing. Iolanda claimed that she had found a dead deer in the woods, and believed that Eirik had slain it, as Lina had seen Eirik walking near the area where the deer was found, and Thomas had overheard him speaking of venison. However, Eirik proved his innocence through Thorfinna, who was the real forester for the village (being its woodward). The deer, she said, had died of natural causes, and Eirik, acting as her deputy, was in the area as he was going to fetch a cart to bring it to the lord’s manorial officers. Upon his return however, the deer was gone. The matter of the deer’s whereabouts was not solved. When Thorfinna was asked why she had not reported this dead deer to the reeve or beadle, the reeve agreed with her that reports were due later that very evening. Iolanda was fined one gold piece for bringing a false charge before the court, and a further gold piece for usurping another’s village appointment.

Mahault van der Eych charged her husband, Berend van der Eych, with creating a fornicatrix of the unmarried and pregnant Tarin verch Gadarn. As pledges Mahault presented Wulfgang Donnerfaust, the Chief Pledge of the White Tithing, Jean-Margaret Donnerfaust, Sof’ia Bardeva the ale taster and Wat of Sarum, Chief Pledge of the Green Tithing. Tarian brought Eirik Andersen, village alderman, whilst Berend brought forth Yosho the reeve. This case got very convoluted as many accusations were thrown. In a surprise testimony, Yosho revealed that Tarian’s unborn child was his own, not Berend’s (and he quickly paid the beadle a marriage tax). Berend was therefore found innocent of creating a fornicatrix of Tarian. However, many women present had apparently been beset by him after having been in his cups, and he paid one gold piece for every one present who so accused him. Also, Eirik Andersen was remanded to the Royal Court for later trial for having—by his own admission—given Tarian cod liver oil, which is an abortive.

Thorfinna gra’feldr, the woodward, charged the Donnerfaust family with poaching a lamb, and the van der Eych family for concealing it. As pledges Thorfinna presented Tarian verch Gadarn, ale taster, Wat of Sarum, chief Pledge of the Green Tithing, Eirik Andersen, village alderman, and Thomas the beadle. The defendents presented Sof’ia Bardeva, ale taster, Iolanda de Albornoz, Yeoman of the White Arrow, Lina Carville, and Siegfried Brandbeorn, village alderman. As with the previous case, many extra charges were leveled by pledges against each other, the plaintiff and the accused. In this case everyone was charged with one gold coin. The defendents were charged as three seperate stories of how the lamb came to be in their possession were presented by them as truth. However, the plaintiff was also charged for not having already seized the lamb. (Plus, charging both sides, with so many pledges, brought much extra revenue into the lord’s coffer.)

A representative of the Royal Court, Pierre, then announced that he had been authorized on behalf of the Crown to prosecute a case of murder. Sof’ia Bardeva, ale taster, charged Wulfgang Donnerfaust, Chief Pledge of the White Tithing, with murder, having killed her husband, Francisco Deceasi. Sof’ia’s pledges were Mahault van der Eych, ale taster, and Lina Carville. Wulfgang’s pledges were Wat of Sarum, Chief Pledge of the Green Tithing, Thorfinna gra’feldr, woodward, Yosho the reeve and Jean-Margaret Donnerfaust. The court heard how Wulfgang had allegedly slain Francisco by stabbing him in the back with a knife, and later bragging of the dead and of the strength of his arm. His pledges countered that Francisco was indeed still alive, as he had been seen recently, and that Sof’ia herself had been heard plotting his death. The court asked if a death tax had been paid on Francisco and was told that it had been paid. And, as Francisco was not present to prove that he was indeed alive, Wulfgang was found guilty and sentanced to be hung by the neck until dead. The Crown seized his land and goods (all his remaining gold coins) and in its magnamity, donated them back to the lord and lady of the manor. Sof’ia then had to pay an inheritance tax on her land. (This also meant that Wulfgang could not participate as a pledge in the last case of the night, as his village persona was now dead.)

Thomas the beadle charged Eirik Andersen, village alderman, with not doing his share of the reaping. As pledge Thomas presented Yosho the reeve. For his pledge, Eirik presented Thorfinna gra’feldr, woodward. Thomas and Yosho alleged that Eirik had not done his share of the reaping, and that he had attempted to bribe Yosho to keep the matter out of court. Yosho presented the alleged bribe money to the court and gave it into the care of the beadle. Thorfinna and Eirik countered that as a Viking, Eirik lived on a boat in the lord’s harbour, and did not own land, and therefore could not reap. Instead, he paid a yearly tax in lieu of that service. The money that the reeve alleged was a bribe was in fact Eirik’s tax money. The lord and lady of the manor, worried over apparent corruption in their officers, stepped forward and said that Eirik was innocent, and Thomas and Yosho had to pay a fine of one gold coin for corruption.

Before the court could be closed, Pierre, on behalf of the Crown, after hearing so much perjury that day, ordered everyone to pay further fines to the manor (in effect, any gold coins they still had on their person).

The canton then decided that the court was so much fun that it should be held twice a year. To facilitate this, it was agreed that the canton appointments should be shuffled so that those dynamics will change for next time. Likely Ardchreag will continue with its manorial courts in late October and May (around the times when the hallmote and frankpledge courts would have been held).

All in all the experiment was a great success. Everyone had fun and over one hundred dollars was raised to help defray canton event costs.

 

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