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Bloodwit and infangthief

So what did the people of the Cinque Ports get in return for their annual shiplending? A pretty sweet deal, in fact. Here it is in the original Anglo Saxon legal speak:

  • Exemption from tax and tallage
    (tallage is usually property taxes)
  • Rights of sac and soc
    (jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases, from the Anglo Saxon soke)
  • Rights of toll and team
    (authority over the sale and movement of cattle)
  • Rights of bloodwit and fledwit
    (authority to punish those who shed blood or do a runner)
  • Rights of pillory and tumbril
    (authority to punish social ne’er-do-wells)
  • Rights of infangthief and outfangthief
    (authority to imprison or execute thieves and felons)
  • The right of mundbryce
    (the right to build sea defenses on private land)
  • Rights of waifs and strays
    (finders keepers)
  • Rights of flotsam, jetsam and ligan
    (the right to appropriate stuff that leaks from ships)
  • All freemen of the towns had the right to call themselves Barons of the Cinque Ports, but in practical terms the Barons were those appointed by the various mayors and councils to attend a coronation.

    The Barons of the Cinque Ports had the right, from time immemorial, to hold a canopy over the head of the king as he processed to his coronation and thereafter to dine with him at his right hand (though at the coronation of William and Mary in 1689, they were refused this seating arrangement and never got it back).

    “Aha!” sez you, “now I know what gives!”

    Uncle B informs me that time immemorial is an actual date in English law: 1189 AD. Anything before that is time immemorial, a matter of tradition, anything after that is assumed to be written down and attributable to somebody.

    May 3, 2023 — 3:00 pm
    Comments: 6