Medieval Justice; By Faith French

What is the Magna Carta and who was involved in signing it?

The Magna Carta was a document signed by King John in 1215. This meant that the king would call his lords by name to discuss important matters. A similar thing was done with commoners. In certain communities, ordinary people were elected to discuss events in their area.

What is the common law and what were a few of the trials in it?

The common law is the set of laws and justice set out for the country. Some of the things in it are Trial by Ordeal and Trial by Combat. Trial by Ordeal is made up of two trials, trial by water and trial by fire. Trial by water was when the accused was trapped underwater. If they drowned, they were innocent, whereas, if they survived and floated, they were guilty and put to death. Trial by fire was when one of the accused limbs was held in fire. If the wounds began to heal within three days, they were innocent, if not, they were guilty.

What was the downside to King John signing the Magna Carta?

 The downside to signing it was that he lost a lot of his power. Also, the Magna Carta did not apply for ordinary peasants, it only applied for freeman like barons, merchants and knights.

Why was the Magna Carta important?

The Magna Carta was important because it gave everyone a chance to speak their peace. If there was a problem within the community, the people would be able to come together and calmly devise a solution. When it came to the king and his lords, this was important so that the king had some outside influences and could find out if something that may be good for the country, would also be good for the commoners.

My Diorama.

This is my diorama. It shows King John Signing the Magna Carta.


Book: Humanities Alive History 1

Author: Maggie Saldais


Medieval Justice By Kealy Sutton 8A

Trial of Ordeal- in the medieval period, they believed that people should be scared of punishment given to the criminals. They called it the Trial of Ordeal, there are three types:  

  • Trial of water- The victims had their hands and feet tied together. Then they were lowered down under water. If they floated they were guilty, and if they sank, they were innocent.

  • Trial of fire- The victim has to pick up a red hot iron in a bowl of boiling water. After putting down the iron, they put a bandage around the wound. Three days later, they are supposed to come back in and show the wound. If it is starting to heal they are innocent, if it has no sign of healing they are guilty.

Trial of fire

  • Trial of Combat- The victim has to go up against a noblman toe the death, whoever wins the battle is considered to be in the right.

Trial of combat

What type of court dealt with what type of crimes?

Village Court- Village Courts dealt with minor crimes such as:

  • Bakers who made bread underweight
  • A woman who quarrelled with another woman

The punishments for these crimes would include:

  • Forced to wear a mask of shame
  • Put in the stocks

Manor Court- Manor Courts protected the authority of the lords.

A Father who lets his daughter marry without the lord’s approval might have to pay a fine or do further work on the lord’s estate.

Church Court- Church Courts dealt with people’s religious beliefs and behaviours.

The worst thing you could possibly do in the church court was heresy. Heresy is stating an opinion against the teachings of the church. The punishment for this was torture and death.

King’s court- The king’s court dealt with people who were threatening the monarch’s life. The punishment for this was death

After 1215, how did they deal with crimes?   

After 1215 Trial by Ordeal was replaced by Trial by Jury. A jury trial is a legal continuing in which a jury either makes a decision which is then applied by a judge. It is decided from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.

Trial of Jury

How is justice different now and then?

In the 21st century we are innocent until proven guilty but in the medieval period it was guilty until proven innocent. It was difficult for people who were innocent and had no way of proving it.

What court would stealing bread be under?

It would be under Village Court, because it is a minor crime yet still a crime that affects the baker. Punishment might include:

  • Forced to wear a mask of shame
  • Put in the stocks.