CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND 1216-1399: Vol. III (The Development of the Constitution 1216-1399) by B. Wilkinson (Longmans, 35s.).
THE Professor of Medieval His
tory in the University of Toronto now completes his trilogy with a general survey to the end of the 14th century.
The student is thus enlightened on the great problems of his subject, the kingship, administration, justice, parliament, Church and state, The collection of documents continues the work of Stubbs in the famous "Select Charters" and is he most comprehensive that has yet appeared.
This makes it easier to understand the conflict of the central government with the traditions of feudalism, poputarly known as "King versus Barons," and to perceive that the medieval English King was very seldom a menace to the rights of his subjects. By his coronation oath he swore to ensure peace to the Church, to put down robbery and evil deeds, to render justice and mercy to all.
THIS was the heart of the medieval constitution, older than all the charters and statutes, more trusted than the operations of Curia Regis, Exchequer, or Chancery. Gradually, but not systematically, the personal monarchy turned into "The Crown".
The Kingdom ceased to be deemed the personal property of the sovereign and by a parallel evolution the royal justice became less personal, more professional, more efficient. The King's will became the laws of England and eventually the Common Law was felt to be the bulwark against arbitrary power.
On the other hand, Bracton's concept of "the King under God and the Law" was much more theory than practice; there was for centuries an unimpaired residue of royal power, the more formidable for not being defined; the King's power usually went just as far as he could make it go.
So the reader may follow the expansion of a feudal order into a national state and the long process of harmonising conflicting interests in a new structure of politics.
J. J. DWYER.