Frankpledge was a system of joint suretyship common in England throughout the Early and High Middle Ages. Its essential characteristic was the compulsory sharing of responsibility among persons connected in tithingsEnglish historic legal and administrative unit comprising the men of ten neighbouring households, held responsible for the actions for any one of its members. , responsible for producing any member of that tithing accused of a crime before a royal or manorial courtLowest courts of law in England during the feudal period, their civil jurisdiction limited by subject matter and geography. . If the accused failed to appear, the entire tithing could be fined.[1] The leader of a tithing, known as a tithingman, represented his group before such assemblies “at the view of frankpledge”.[2]

Although some elements of the system existed in Anglo-Saxon and Danish England, it really developed after the Norman Conquest of 1066.[3] Sheriffs were instructed to hold twice-yearly meetings to ensure that all persons required to be in tithings belonged to one.[3][a]All males over the age of twelve were required to belong to a tithing; women, clergy and the richer freemen were exempt.[4] This bi-annual review involved the payment of a tithing penny to the sheriff,[4] as well as other opportunities for profit including fines. The Magna Carta of 1217 sought to restrict what the sheriff could legitimately demand of frankpledge.[5]

The frankpledge system began to decline during the 14th century,[6] when the manorial court known as the court leet and the view of frankpledge came to be considered synonyms for the same jurisdiction; court records were often headed “The Court Leet with View of Frankpledge”.[7] The system nevertheless survived in some areas into the 15th century,[8]


a All males over the age of twelve were required to belong to a tithing; women, clergy and the richer freemen were exempt.[4]



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