What’s Next?


Depiction of the Murder of Thomas Becket

The Saint Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research is creating an image database hosted by the University of St Andrews Library in collaboration with the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. The aim of this project is to bring primary sources to the forefront and to help facilitate access to manuscript sources as we move onto other exciting public engagement projects based on historical trials.

In particular, we aim to focus on the trial of Archbishop Thomas Becket of Canterbury in 1170 and the subsequent administrative changes that occurred in the century following his death. This jurisdictional interaction can be seen, for example, in cases concerning bastardy and inheritance, wills and testaments, violence against clerks, oaths, and excommunication.

The Court of Canterbury was one of the two highest appeals courts in England (the other was York) and it was presided over in name by the archbishop of Canterbury or, when there was no archbishop, by the prior and chapter of Christ Church Canterbury. Both the archbishop and the prior and chapter would frequently appoint an official to preside over the Court in their place.

The earliest Canterbury Court records begin in 1193, some twenty years after Becket’s martyrdom. However, the jurisdictional conflicts of Becket’s time were still matters of contention when these earliest surviving records were made.

For more information contact Sarah White: sbw@st-andrews.ac.uk