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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 134  2014  page 267

A History of the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Diocese of Canterbury, 1566-86, based on the
   Cause papers bound within the Volume MS.F.4.12. By Karen Rushton

to instance causes in the manner in which they were brought forward, but they would be carried out through the office and in relation to cases where the defendant was contravening canon or moral laws as opposed to just a civil dispute.
   Most cases were plenary investigations and were undertaken through the examination of written evidence, thus producing large numbers of records. Cases could be addressed in a summary manner on the basis of oral testimonies, leaving little or no evidence in the court records, which often applied to cases13 that went uncontested or were related to simple matters. Summary pleading was also common to the process of office causes.14 Plenary cases on the contrary could result in a large number of records and continue for many months as each item would be produced on a separate court day. The following descriptions of record types outline some of the records created during this process, many examples of which can be found in MS.F.4.12.


A libel can be defined as ‘a declaration or charge, drawn up in writing, on the part of the plaintiff, unto which the defendant is obliged to answer’,15 and was the preliminary paper issued for instance causes clearly outlining the case and listing the evidence in numbered paragraphs. The prosecuting party would have been given a date on which they could present the libel to court and so the plaintiff was able to include the name of the judge who would hear the case, as seen in MS.F.4.12, which would only be possible if the court was scheduled in advance and its proceedings well organised. A libel was directed towards the judge themselves and sometimes included a paragraph at the end appealing to the judge regarding how they wished the case to proceed, as in entry 5, ff.12-13. In the section beginning ‘unde facta fide’ the proctor implores the judge on the part of his client to punish the defendant accordingly and make him liable for the legal expenses.


The corresponding preliminary paper in office causes is known as the articles, as it theoretically represents the role of the judge articling against the defendant, notable in the phrase ‘obiicimus et articulamur’, which recurs regularly throughout the document. Like a libel it sets out the case against the defendant in a clear, structured way.


The citation was the record that summoned the defendant to court.16 The only examples in MS.F.4.12 originate from the Court of Arches in London

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