Philippa Byrne
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Histories of justice
The crown, persuasion and lordship
in Justice and mercy
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This chapter examines how ideas about the correct way in which to judge and to exercise justice were used by twelfth- and thirteenth-century writers to critique royal conduct. Royal justice was subject to close scrutiny, especially as it was accompanied by concerns that the wicked and unscrupulous might attempt to abuse merciful leniency, or use their rhetorical abilities to redefine partiality as impartiality. The chapter examines royal justice across the period, and through a range of sources – from Orderic Vitalis to Matthew Paris, from William I to Henry III. It emphasises how each of these chroniclers was concerned about the effects which wrongful judgment could have on the political community in the long term; and how much of this discussion depended on classical rhetorical frameworks and, in particular, the influence of Cicero in structuring these presentations of royal justice. Finally, the chapter also considers what changed in assessments of royal justice across this period, and how long-running arguments about the nature of justice and mercy engaged with the development of systematic law and the changing nature of royal authority.

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Justice and mercy

Moral theology and the exercise of law in twelfth-century England

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