Curia regis

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Royal Council

Curia regis
Houses Magnum Concilium and the Royal Court
Preceded by Witenagemot
Succeeded by Parliament of England and privy council
Parliament of Scotland
since 1215 (Magna Carta)
The Magnum Concilium political groups
  • Tenants-in-chief
  • Officers of the court
  • Archbishops, Bishops and certain Abbots
The Royal Court political groups
  • Officers of the court
  • Magnates

Curia regis (Medieval Latin:  [ˈkuː.ri.a ˈreː.d͡ʒis] ) is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court". It was the name given to councils of advisers and administrators in medieval Europe who served kings, including kings of France, Norman kings of England and Sicily, kings of Poland and the kings and queens of Scotland.



The Normans, following their conquest of England, used a council called the curia regis to conduct much of the business of state in England. [1] It was similar to, but not the same as, the Witenagemot (or Witan) which advised the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and the curia ducis which served the Dukes of Normandy. [2]

This council existed in two forms, one large and one smaller form. The council in its smaller form, which was in continuous session, was made up of the king's officers of state and those magnates who were at court. [3] This small council was known as the "lesser curia regis". The lesser curia regis was in essence the king's royal court and as such was an itinerant court that followed the king in all his travels. The king, when traveling throughout his realm and as an integral part of the court, often heard suitors in person. [4]

On special occasions the king would summons others to the council including tenants-in-chief, the great officers of the king's court, and those ecclesiastics who held lands belonging to the king. The ecclesiastics included archbishops, bishops and certain abbots. [lower-alpha 1] This larger assembly was known as the "great curia regis", Magnum Concilium , or simply the Great Council. [3]

The curia regis in either the large or small form did the business of state whether legislative, judicial, or diplomatic. These functions were executed seamlessly with no regard to specialised functions. Neither the greater or lesser curia regis was subservient to the other, as it was considered the same entity. Under the Norman kings the business of government was handled the same regardless of which curia was meeting at the time. [3]

In judicial matters, the basis for the law remained the Anglo-Saxon laws of Edward the Confessor which both William the Conqueror and Henry I promised to uphold. The powers of the sheriffs were retained as well as those of the communal courts (hundred courts and shire courts). The curia regis attempted to maintain continuity with its predecessor as the Norman kings wanted to be seen as the lawful successors of Edward the Confessor. [4]

Evolution into specialist institutions

Gradually the curia regis began to branch off into entities which formed into other institutions, including the Cabinet, the Star Chamber, Chancery, and others. [5] [6] One of the first was the exchequer, which specialised in the financial matters of government. [5]

During the thirteenth century the two forms of the curia themselves began to separate. [5] The great curia regis after taking on representative elements formed into Parliament. [7] The first mention of a court of the king's bench (curia regis) being termed "Parliament" was in 1236 during the Michaelmas term (of the great curia regis). [8] The small curia regis became the Privy Council.

Even after the split between them, both parts continued to involve themselves in all three functions of the original curia and only slowly began to specialise in one function over the others. [9] Some judicial functions of the House of Lords persisted until 2009.


In France the King's Court, called the Curia Regis in Latin, functioned as an advisory body under the early Capetian kings. It was composed of a number of the king's trusted advisers but only a few travelled with the king at any time. By the later twelfth century it had become a judicial body with a few branching off to remain the king's council. [10]

By the fourteenth century the term curia regis was no longer used. [10] However, it was a predecessor to later sovereign assemblies: the Parlement, which was a judiciary body, the Chamber of Accounts, which was a financial body, and the King's Council. [11]


The Royal Council of Poland  [ pl ] in early medieval times was composed exclusively by King's will. Over time, in addition to King's appointments, certain higher dignitaries were assumed to belong to the Council owing to their functions. The following dignitaries were permanent members of the Coincil in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland:

By the end of the 15th century the Royal Council was transformed into the Senate of Poland.

See also


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  1. William the Conqueror required homage of all bishops and abbots for their lands prior to their consecration, so they were summoned to the curia regis as barons. See: William A. Morris, 'The Lesser Curia Regis Under the First Two Norman Kings of England', The American Historical Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Jul., 1929), p. 772 & notes 3, 4 and 5.
  1. William A. Morris, 'The Lesser Curia Regis Under the First Two Norman Kings of England', The American Historical Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Jul., 1929), p. 772
  2. Holdsworth 1922, p. 32.
  3. 1 2 3 Adams 1907, p. 12.
  4. 1 2 Holdsworth 1922, p. 33.
  5. 1 2 3 Adams 1907, p. 13.
  6. Pike, Luke Owen (1907). "Plan of Evolution of the Chief Courts and Departments of the Government". The public records and the constitution. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press. inside back cover. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  7. Adams 1907, p. 14.
  8. H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, 'The Earliest Known Official Use of the Term "Parliament"', The English Historical Review, Vol. 82, No. 325 (Oct., 1967), p. 747
  9. Adams 1907, pp. 13–14.
  10. 1 2 William Kibler, Medieval France: An Encyclopaedia (Routledge, 1995), p. 255
  11. Arthur Augustus Tilley, Medieval France: A Companion to French Studies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. 72

Preceded by
Curia regis
Succeeded by
Parliament of England
and privy council
Parliament of Scotland