The History of the Knights Templar, by Charles G. Addison, , at sacred-texts.com
Antiquities in the Temple–The history of the place subsequent to the dissolution of the order of the Knights Templars–The establishment of a society of lawyers in the Temple–The antiquity of this society–Its connexion with the antient society of the Knights Templars–An order of knights and serving brethren established in the law–The degree of frere serjen, or frater serviens, borrowed from the antient Templars The modem Templars divide themselves into the two societies of the Inner and Middle Temple.
The which on Themme’s brode aged back do ride.
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers;
There whilom wont the Templer Knights to bide,
Till they decayed thro’ pride.”
THERE are but few remains of the antient Knights Templars now existing in the Temple beyond the church. The present Inner Temple Hall was their antient hall, but it has at different periods been so altered and repaired as to have lost every trace and vestige of antiquity. In the year 1816 it was almost entirely rebuilt, and the following extract from “The Report and Observations of the Treasurer on the late Repairs of the Inner Temple
[paragraph continues] Hall” may prove interesting, as showing the state of the edifice previous to that period
“From the proportions, the state of decay, the materials of the eastern and southern walls, the buttresses of the southern front, the pointed form of the roof and arches, and the rude sculpture on the two doors of public entrance, the hall is evidently of very great antiquity . . . . . The northern wall appears to have been rebuilt, except at its two extremities, in modern times, but on the old foundations. . . . The roof was found to be in a very decayed and precarious state; many timbers were totally rotten. It appeared to have undergone reparation at three separate periods of time, at each of which timber had been unnecessarily added, so as finally to accumulate a weight which had protruded the northern and southern walls. It became, therefore, indispensable to remove all the timber of the roof, and to replace it in a lighter form. On removing the old wainscoting of the western wall, a perpendicular crack of considerable height and width was discovered, which threatened at any moment the fall of that extremity of the building with its superincumbent roof. . . . . . The turret of the clock and the southern front of the hall are only cased with stone; this was done in the year 1741, and very ill executed. The structure of the turret, composed of chalk, rag-stone, and rubble, (the same material as the walls of the church,) seems to be very antient . . . . The wooden cupola of the bell was so decayed as to let in the rain, and was obliged to be renewed in a form to agree with the other parts of the southern front.”
“Notwithstanding the Gothic character of the building, in the year 1680, during the treasurership of Sir Thomas Robinson, prothonotary of C.B., a Grecian screen of the Doric order was erected, surmounted by lions’ heads, cones, and other incongruous devices.”
“In the year 1741, during the treasurership of John Blencowe,
esq., low windows of Roman architecture were formed in the southern front.”
“The dates of such innovations appear from inscriptions with the respective treasurers’ names.”
This antient hall formed the far-famed refectory of the Knights Templars, and was the scene of their proud and sumptuous hospitality. Within its venerable walls they at different periods entertained king John, king Henry the Third, the haughty legates of Roman pontiffs, and the ambassadors of foreign powers. The old custom, alluded to by Matthew Paris, * of hanging around the wall the shields and armorial devices of the antient knights, is still preserved, and each succeeding treasurer of the Temple still continues to hoist his coat of arms on the wall, as in the high and palmy days of the warlike monks of old.
At the west end of the hall are considerable remains of the antient convent of the Knights Templars. A groined Gothic arch of the same style of architecture as the oldest part of the Temple Church forms the ceiling of the present buttery, and in the apartment beyond is a groined vaulted ceiling of great beauty. The ribs of the arches in both rooms are elegantly moulded, but are sadly disfigured with a thick coating of plaster and barbarous whitewash. In the cellars underneath these rooms are some old walls of immense thickness, the remains of an antient window, a curious fireplace, and some elegant pointed Gothic arches corresponding with the ceilings above; but they are now, alas! shrouded in darkness, choked with modern brick partitions and staircases, and soiled with the damp and dust of many centuries. These interesting remains form an upper and an under story, the floor of the upper story being on a level with the floor of the hall, and the floor of the under story on a level with the terrace on the south side thereof. They were formerly connected with the church
by means of a covered way or cloister, which ran at right angles with them over the site of the present cloister-chambers, and communicated with the upper and under story of the chapel of St. Anne, which formerly stood on the south side of the church. By means of this corridor and chapel the brethren of the Temple had private access to the church for the performance of their strict religious duties, and of their secret ceremonies of admitting novices to the vows of the order. In 9 Jac. I. A.D. 1612, some brick buildings three stories high were erected over this antient cloister by Francis Tate, esq., and being burnt down a few years afterwards, the interesting covered way which connected the church with the antient convent was involved in the general destruction, as appears from the following inscription upon the present buildings:
“VETUSTISSIMA TEMPLARIORUM PORTICU IGNE CONSUMTA, ANNO 1678, NOVA HÆC, SUMPTIBUS MEDII TEMPLI EXTRUCTA ANNO 1681 GULIELMO WHITELOCKE ARMIGERO, THESAURARIO.
“The very antient portico of the Templars being consumed by fire in the year 1678, these new buildings were erected at the expense of the Middle Temple in the year 1681, William Whitlock, esq., being treasurer.”
During the formation of the present new entrance into the Temple by the church, at the bottom of the Inner Temple-lane, a considerable portion of the brickwork of the old houses was pulled down, and an antient wall of great thickness was disclosed. It was composed of chalk, rag-stone, and rubble, exactly resembling the walls of the church. It ran in a direction east and west, and
appeared to have formed the extreme northern boundary of the old convent.
The site of the remaining buildings of the antient Temple cannot now be determined with certainty.
The mansion-house, (Mansum Novi Templi,) the residence of the Master and knights, who were lodged separately from the serving brethren and ate at a separate table, appears to have stood at the east end of the hall, on the site of the present library and apartments of the masters of the bench.
The proud and powerful Knights Templars were succeeded in the occupation of the TEMPLE by a body of learned lawyers, who took possession of the old hall and the gloomy cells of the military monks, and converted the chief house of their order into the great and most antient Common Law University of England.
For more than five centuries the retreats of the religious warriors have been devoted to “the studious and eloquent pleaders of causes,” a new kind of Templars, who, as Fuller quaintly observes, now “defend one Christian from another as the old ones did Christians from Pagans.” The modern Templars have been termed milites justitiæ, or “soldiers of justice,” for, as John of Salisbury, a writer of the twelfth century, saith, “neque reipublicæ militant soli illi, qui galeis thoracisque muniti in hostes exercent tela quælibet, sed et patroni causarum, qui lapsa erigunt, fatigata reparant, nec minus provident humano generi, quam si laborantium vitam, spem, posterosque, armorum præsidio, ab hostibus tuerentur.” “They do not alone fight for the state who, panoplied in helmets and breastplates, wield the sword and the dart against the enemy, for the pleaders of causes, who redress wrongs, who raise up the oppressed, do protect and provide for the human race as much as if they were to defend the
lives, fortunes, and families of industrious citizens with the sword.”
Are braver now than those in war,
In which the law does execution
With less disorder and confusion;
Has more of honour in’t, some bold,
Not like the new way, but the old,
When those the pen had drawn together
Decided quarrels with the feather,
And winged arrows killed as dead,
And more than bullets now of lead:
So all their combats now, as then,
Are managed chiefly by the pen;
That does the feat, with braver vigours,
In words at length, as well as figures.”
The settlement of the lawyers in the Temple was brought about in the following manner.
On the imprisonment of the Knights Templars, the chief house of the order in London, in common with the other property of the military monks, was seized into the king’s hands, and was committed to the care of James le Botiller and William de Basing, who, on the 9th of December, A.D. 1311, were commanded to hand it over to the sheriffs of London, to be taken charge of by them. * Two years afterwards the Temple was granted to that powerful nobleman, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who had been one of the leaders of the baronial conspiracy against Piers Gavaston. † ‡ As Thomas earl of Lancaster, however, claimed the Temple by escheat as the immediate lord of the fee, the earl of Pembroke, on the 3rd of Oct., A.D. 1316, at
the request of the king, and in consideration of other lands being granted to him by his sovereign, remised and released all his right and title therein to Lancaster. * This earl of Lancaster was cousin-german to the English monarch, and first prince of A the blood; he was the most powerful and opulent subject of the kingdom, being possessed of no less than six earldoms, with a proportionable estate in land, and at the time that the Temple was added to his numerous other possessions he was at the head of the government, and ruled both the king and country as president of the council. In an antient MS. account of the Temple, formerly belonging to lord Somers and afterwards to Nicholls, the celebrated antiquary, apparently written by a member of the Inner Temple, it is stated that the lawyers “made composition with the earl of Lancaster for a lodging in the Temple, and so came hither, and have continued here ever since.” That this was the case appears highly probable from various circumstances presently noticed.
The earl of Lancaster held the Temple rather more than six years and a half.
When the king’s attachment for Hugh le Despenser, another favourite, was declared, he raised the standard of rebellion. He marched with his forces against London, gave law to the king and parliament, and procured a sentence of attainder and perpetual exile against Hugh le Despenser. The fortune of war, however, soon turned against him. He was defeated, and conducted a prisoner to his own castle of Pontefract, where king Edward sat in judgment upon him, and sentenced him to be hung, drawn, and quartered, as a rebel and a traitor. The same day he was clothed in mean attire, was placed on a lean jade without a bridle, a hood was put on his head, and in this miserable
A few days afterwards, the king, whilst he yet tarried at Ponfract, granted the Temple to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, by a royal charter couched in the following terms:–
“Edward by the grace of God, king, &c., to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, justiciaries, &c. &c., health. Know that on account of the good and laudable service which our beloved kinsman and faithful servant Aymer de Valence hath rendered and will continue to render to us, we have given and granted, and by our royal charter have confirmed to the said earl, the mansion-house and messuage called the New Temple in the suburb of London, with the houses, rents, and all other things to the same mansion-house and messuage belonging, formerly the property of the Templars, and afterwards of Thomas earl of Lancaster, our enemy and rebel, and which, by the forfeiture of the same Thomas, have come into our hands by way of escheat, to be had and holden by the same Aymer and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten, of us and our heirs, and the other chief lords of the fee, by the same services as those formerly rendered; but if the said Aymer shall die without heirs of his body lawfully begotten, then the said mansion-house, messuage, &c. &c., shall revert to us and our heirs.” †
Rather more than a year after the date of this grant, Aymer de Valence was murdered. He had accompanied queen Isabella to the court of her father, the king of France, and was there slain (June 23rd, A.D. 1323) by one of the English fugitives of the Lancastrian faction, in revenge for the death of the earl of Lancaster, whose destruction he was believed to have compassed.
[paragraph continues] His dead body was brought over to England, and buried in Westminster Abbey at the head of Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster. He left no issue, and the Temple, consequently, once more reverted to the crown. *
It was now granted to Hugh le Despenser the younger, the king’s favourite, at the very time that the act of parliament (17 Edward II.) was passed, conferring all the lands of the Templars upon the Hospitaliers of St. John. † Hugh le Despenser, in common with the other barons, paid no attention to the parliament, and held the Temple till the day of his death, which happened soon after, for on the 24th of September, A.D. 1326, Queen Isabella landed in England with the remains of the Lancastrian faction; and after driving her own husband, Edward the Second, from the throne, she seized the favourite, and caused him instantly to be condemned to death. On St. Andrew’s Eve he was led out to execution; they put on him his surcoat of arms reversed, a crown of nettles was placed on his head, and on his vestment they wrote six verses of the psalm, beginning, Quid gloriaris in malitiâ. ‡ After which be was hanged on a gallows eighty feet high, and was then beheaded, drawn, and quartered. His head was sent to London, and stuck upon the bridge; and of the four quarters of his body, one was sent to York, another to Bristol, another to Carlisle, and the fourth to Dover. §
Thus perished the last private possessor of the Temple at London.
The young prince, Edward the Third, now ascended the throne, leaving his parent, the dethroned Edward the Second, to the tender mercies of the gaolers of Berkeley Castle. He seized the
[paragraph continues] Temple, as forfeited to him by the attainder of Hugh le Despenser, and committed it to the keeping of the mayor of London, his escheator in the city. The mayor, as guardian of the Temple, took it into his head to close the gate leading to the waterside, which stood at the bottom of the present Middle Temple Lane, whereby the lawyers were much incommoded in their progress backwards and forwards from the Temple to Westminster. Complaints were made to the king on the subject, who, on the 2nd day of November, in the third year of his reign, wrote as follows to the mayor:
“Since we have been given to understand that there ought to be a free passage through the court of the New Temple at London to the river Thames, for our justices, clerks, and others, who may wish to pass by water to Westminster to transact their business, and that you keep the gate of the Temple shut by day, and so prevent those same justices, clerks of ours, and other persons, from passing through the midst of the said court to the waterside, whereby as well our own affairs as those of our people in general are oftentimes greatly hindered, we command you, that you keep the gates of the said Temple open by day, so that our justices and clerks, and other persons who wish to go by water to Westminster, may be able so to do by the way to which they have hitherto been accustomed.
The following year the king again wrote to the mayor, his escheator in the city of London, informing him that he had been given to understand that the bridge in the said court of the Temple, leading to the river, was so broken and decayed, that his clerks and law officers, and others, could no longer get across it, and were consequently prevented from passing by water to Westminster. “We therefore,” he proceeds, “being desirous of providing such a remedy as we ought for this evil, command you to do whatever repairs are necessary to the said bridge, and to defray the cost thereof out of the proceeds of the lands and rents appertaining to the said Temple now in your custody; and when we shall have been informed of the things done in the matter, the expense shall be allowed you in your account of the same proceeds.
Two years afterwards (6 E. III, A.D. 1333) the king committed the custody of the Temple to “his beloved clerk,” William de Langford, “and farmed out the rents and proceeds thereof to him for the term of ten years, at a rent of 24l. per annum, the said William undertaking to keep all the houses and tenements in good order and repair, and so deliver them up at the end of the term.” †
In the mean time, however, the pope, the bishops, and the Hospitaliers had been vigorously exerting themselves to obtain a transfer of the property, late belonging to the Templars, to the order of the Hospital of Saint John. The Hospitaliers petitioned the king, setting forth that the church, the cloisters, and other places within the Temple, were consecrated and dedicated to the service of God, that they had been unjustly occupied and detained
from them by Hugh le Despenser the younger, and, through his attainder, had lately come into the king’s hands, and they besought the king to deliver up to them possession thereof. King Edward accordingly commanded the mayor of London, his escheator in that city, to take inquisition concerning the premises.
From this inquisition, and the return thereof, it appears that many of the founders of the Temple Church, and many of the brethren of the order of Knights Templars, then lay buried in the church and cemetery of the Temple; that the bishop of Ely had his lodging in the Temple, known by the name of the bishop of Ely’s chamber; that there was a chapel dedicated to St. Thomas-à-Becket, which extended from the door of the TEMPLE HALL as far as the ancient gate of the Temple; also a cloister which began at the bishop of Ely’s chamber, and ran in an easterly direction; and that there was a wall which ran in a northerly direction as far as the said king’s highway; that in the front part of the cemetery towards the north, bordering on the king’s highway, were thirteen houses formerly erected, with the assent and permission of the Master and brethren of the Temple, by Roger Blom, a messenger of the Temple, for the purpose of holding the lights and ornaments of the church; that the land whereon these houses were built, the cemetery, the church, and all the space inclosed between St. Thomas’s chapel, the church, the cloisters, and the wall running in a northerly direction, and all the buildings erected thereon, together with the hall, cloisters, and St. Thomas’s chapel, were sanctified places dedicated to God; that Hugh le Despenser occupied and detained them unjustly, and that through his attainder and forfeiture, and not otherwise, they came into the king’s hands. *
After the return of this inquisition, the said sanctified places were assigned to the prior and brethren of the Hospital of Saint John; and the king, on the 11th of January, in the tenth year of his reign, A.D. 1337, directed his writ to the barons of the Exchequer, commanding them to take inquisition of the value of the said sanctified places, so given up to the Hospitaliers, and of the residue of the Temple, and certify the same under their seals to the king, in order that a reasonable abatement might be made in William de Langford’s rent. From the inquiry made in pursuance of this writ before John de Shorditch, a baron of the Exchequer, it further appears that on the said residue of the Temple upon the land then remaining in the custody of William de Langford, and withinside the great gate of the Temple, were another HALL * and four chambers connected therewith, a kitchen, a garden, a stable, and a chamber beyond the great gate; also eight shops, seven of which stood in Fleet Street, and the eighth in the suburb of London, without the bar of the New Temple; that the annual value of these shops varied from ten to thirteen, fifteen, and sixteen shillings; that the fruit out of the garden of the Temple sold for sixty shillings per annum in the gross; that seven out of the thirteen houses erected by Roger Blom were each of the annual value of eleven shillings; and that the eighth, situated beyond the gate of entrance to the church, was worth four marks per annum. It appears, moreover, that the total annual revenue of the Temple then amounted to 73l. 6s. 11d.,
Three years after the taking of this inquisition, and in the thirteenth year of his reign, A.D. 1340, king Edward the Third in consideration of the sum of one hundred pounds, which the prior of the Hospital promised to pay him towards the expense of his expedition into France, granted to the said prior all the residue of the Temple then remaining in the king’s hands, to hold, together with the cemetery, cloisters, and the other sanctified places, to the said prior and his brethren, and their successors, of the king and his heirs, for charitable purposes, for ever. † From the above grant it appears that the porter of the Temple received sixty shillings and tenpence per annum, and twopence a day wages, which were to be paid him by the Hospitaliers.
At this period Philip Thane was prior of the Hospital; and he appears to have exerted himself to impart to the celebration of divine service in the Temple Church, the dignity and the splendour it possessed in the time of the Templars. He, with the unanimous consent and approbation of the whole chapter of the Hospital, granted to Brother Hugh de Lichefeld, priest, and to his successors, guardians of the Temple Church, towards the improvement of the lights and the celebration of divine service therein, all the land called Ficketzfeld, and the garden called Cotterell Garden; ‡ a and two years afterwards he made a further grant, to the said Hugh and his successors, of a thousand-fagots a year to be cut of the wood of Lilleston, and carried to the New Temple to keep up the fire in the said church. §
King Edward the Third, in the thirty-fifth year of his reign, A.D. 1362, notwithstanding the grant of the Temple to the Hospitallers, exercised the right of appointing to the porter’s office, and by his letters patent he promoted Roger Small to that post for the term of his life, in return for the good service rendered him by the said Roger Small. *
It is at this period that the first distinct mention of a society of lawyers in the Temple occurs.
The poet Chaucer, who was born at the close of the reign of Edward the Second, A.D. 1327, and was in high favour at court in the reign of Edward the Third, thus speaks of the MANCIPLE, or the purveyor of provisions of the lawyers in the Temple:
Of whom achatours mighten take ensemple,
For to ben wise in hying of vitaille.
For whether that he paid or toke by taille,
Algate he waited so in his achate,
That he was aye before in good estate.
Now is not that of God a full fayre grace,
That swiche a lewed mannes wit shal pace,
The wisdome of an hepe of lerned men?”
“Of maisters had he mo than thries ten,
THAT WERE OP LAWE EXPERT AND CURIOUS:
Of which there was a dosein in that hous
Worthy to ben stewardes of rent and lond
Of any lord that is in Englelond,
To waken him live by his propre good,
In honour detteles, but if he were wood, p. 357
Or live as scarsly, as him list desire;
And able for to helpen all a shire,
In any cas that mighte fallen or happe;
And yet this manciple cette hir aller cappe.” *
It appears, therefore, that the lawyers in the Temple, in the reign of Edward the Third, had their purveyor of provisions as at this day, and were consequently then keeping commons, or dining together in hall.
In the fourth year of the reign of Richard the Second, A.D. 1381, a still more distinct notice occurs of the Temple, as the residence of the learners and the learned in the law.
We are told in an antient chronicle, written in Norman French, formerly belonging to the abbey of St. Mary’s at York, that the rebels under Wat Tyler went to the Temple and pulled down the houses, and entered the church and took all the books and the rolls of remembrances which were in the chests of the LEARNERS OF THE LAW in the Temple, and placed them under the large chimney and burnt them. (Les rebels alleront a le TEMPLE et jetteront les measons a la terre et avegheront tighles, issint que ils fairont coverture en mal array; et alleront en l’esglise, et pristeront touts les liveres et rolles de remembrances, que furont en leur huches deins LE TEMPLE DE APPRENTICES DE LA LEY; et porteront en le haut chimene et les arderont.” †) And Walsingham, who wrote in the reign of Henry the Sixth, about fifty years after the occurrence of these events, tells us that after the rebels, under Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, had burnt the Savoy, the noble palace of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, they pulled down the place called Temple Barr, where the apprentices or learners of the highest branch of the profession of the law dwelt, on account of
the spite they bore to Robert Hales, Master of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, and burnt many deeds which the lawyers there had in their custody. (“Quibus perpetratis, satis malitiose etiam locum qui vocatur Temple Barre, in quo apprenticii juris morabantur nobiliores, diruerunt, ob iram quam conceperant contra Robertum de Hales Magistrum Hospitalis Sancti Johannis Jerusalem, ubi plura munimenta, quæ Juridici in custodiâ habuerunt, igne consumpta sunt.” *
In a subsequent passage, however, he gives us a better clue to the attack upon the Temple, and the burning of the deeds and writings, for he tells us that it was the intention of the rebels to decapitate all the lawyers, for they thought that by destroying them they could put an end to the law, and so be enabled to order matters according to their own will and pleasure. (“Ad decollandum omnes juridicos, escaetores, et universos qui vel in lege docti fuere, vel cum jure ratione officii communicavere. Mente nempe conceperant, doctis in lege necatis, universa juxta communis plebis scitum de cætero ordinare, et nullam omnino legem fore futuram, vel si futura foret, esse pro suorum arbitrio statuenda.”
It is evident that the lawyers were the immediate successors of the Knights Templars in the occupation of the Temple, as the lessees of the earl of Lancaster.
Whilst the Templars were pining in captivity in the dungeons of London and of York, king Edward the Second paid to their servants and retainers the pensions they had previously received from the treasury of the Temple, on condition that they continued to perform the services and duties they had rendered to their antient masters. On the 26th of November, A.D. 1311, he granted to Robert Styfford, clerk, for his maintenance in the house of the Temple at London, two deniers a day, and five
shillings a year for necessaries, provided he did service in the church; and when unable to do so, he was to receive only his food and lodging. Geoffrey Talaver was to receive, in the same house of the Temple, three deniers a day for his sustenance, and twenty shillings a year for necessaries, during the remainder of his life; also one denier a day for the support of his boy, and five shillings a year for his wages. Geoffrey de Cave, clerk, and John de Shelton, were also, each of them, to receive from the same house, for their good services, an annual pension of forty shillings for the term of their lives. * Some of these retainers, in addition to their various stipends, were to have a gown of the class of free-serving brethren of the order of the Temple † each year; one old garment out of the stock of old garments belonging to the brethren; ‡ one mark a year for their shoes, &c.; their sons also received so much per diem, on condition that they did the daily work of the house. These retainers were of the class of free servants of office; they held their posts for life, and not being members of the order of the Temple, they were not included in the general proscription of the fraternity. In return for the provision made them by the king, they were to continue to do their customary work as long as they were able.
Now it is worthy of remark, that many of the rules, customs, and usages of the society of Knights Templars are to this day observed in the Temple, naturally leading us to conclude that these domestics and retainers of the antient brotherhood became connected with the legal society formed therein, and transferred their services to that learned body.
From the time of Chaucer to the present day, the lawyers have dined together in the antient hall, as the military monks did before them; and the rule of their order requiring “two and two to eat together,” and “all the fragments to be given in brotherly charity to the domestics,” is observed to this day, and has been in force from time immemorial. The attendants at table, moreover, are still called paniers, as in the days of the Knights Templars. * The leading punishments of the Temple, too, remain the same as in the olden time. The antient Templar, for example, for a light fault, was “withdrawn from the companionship of his fellows,” and not allowed “to eat with them at the same table,” † and the modern Templar, for impropriety of conduct, is “expelled the hall” and “put out of commons.” The brethren of the antient fraternity were, for grave offences, in addition to the above punishment, deprived of their lodgings, ‡ and were compelled to sleep with the beasts in the open court; and the members of the modern fellowship have in bygone times, as a mode of punishment, been temporarily deprived of their chambers in the Temple for misconduct, and padlocks have been put upon the doors. The Master and Chapter of the Temple, in the time of the Knights Templars, exercised the power of imprisonment and expulsion from the fellowship, and the same punishments have been freely used down to a recent period by the Masters of the Bench of the modern societies. Until of late years, too, the modern Templars have had their
readers, officers of great dignity, whose duty it has been to read and expound LAW in the hall, at and after meals, in the same way as the readers of the Knights Templars read and expounded RELIGION.
There has also been, in connexion with the modern fellowship, a class of associates similar to the associates of the antient Templars. * These were illustrious persons who paid large sums of money, and made presents of plate, to be admitted to the fellowship of the Masters of the Bench; they were allowed to dine at the Bench table, to be as it were honorary members of the society, but were freed from the ordinary exercises and regulations of the house, and had at the same time no voice in the government thereof.
The conversion of the chief house of the most holy order of the Temple of Solomon in England into a law university, was brought about in the following manner.
Both before, and for a very considerable period after, the Norman conquest, the study of the law was confined to the ecclesiastics, who engrossed all the learning and knowledge of the age. † In the reign of king Stephen, the foreign clergy who had flocked over after the conquest, attempted to introduce the ancient civil law of Rome into this country, as calculated to promote the power and advantage of their order, but were resolutely resisted by the king and the barons, who clung to their old customs and usages. The new law, however, was introduced into all the ecclesiastical courts, and the clergy began to abandon the municipal tribunals, and discontinue the study of the common law. Early in the reign of Henry the Third, episcopal constitutions
were published by the bishop of Salisbury, forbidding clerks and priests to practise as advocates in the common law courts. (Nec advocati sint clerici vel sacerdotes in foro sæculari, nisi vel proprias causas vel miserabilium personarum prosequantur. *) Towards the close of the same reign, (A.D. 1254,) Pope Innocent IV. forbade the reading of the common law by the clergy in the English universities and seminaries of learning, because its decrees were not founded on the imperial constitutions, but merely on the customs of the laity. †
As the common law consequently gradually ceased to be studied and taught by the clergy, who were the great depositaries of legal learning, as of all other knowledge in those days, it became necessary to educate and train up a body of laymen to transact the judicial business of the country; and Edward the First, who, from his many legal reforms and improvements, has been styled “the English Justinian,” made the practice of the common law a distinct profession.
In antient times the Court of Common Pleas had the exclusive administration of the common law, and settled and decided all the disputes which arose between subject and subject; and in the twentieth year of the reign of Edward the First, (A.D. 1232,) the privilege of pleading causes in this court was confined to a certain number of learned persons appointed by authority. By an order in council, the king commanded John de Metingham, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and the rest of his fellow justices, that they, according to their discretions, should provide
and ordain from every county a certain number of attorneys and apprentices of the law, of the best and most apt for their learning and skill, to do service to his court and people, and those so chosen should follow his court and transact the affairs therein, and no others; the king and his council deeming the number of fourscore to be sufficient for that employment; but it was left to the discretion of the said justices to add to that number, or to diminish it, as they should think fit. *
At this period the Court of Common Pleas had been fixed at Westminster, which brought together the professors of the common law at London; and about the period of the dissolution of the order of the Temple, a society appears to have been in progress of formation, under the sanction of the judges, for the education of a body of learned secular lawyers to attend upon that court. The deserted convent of the Knights Templars, seated in the suburb of London, away from the noise and bustle of the city, and presenting a ready and easy access by water to Westminster, was a desirable retreat for the learned members of this infant legal society; and we accordingly find, that very soon after the dissolution of the religio-military order of Knights Templars, the professors of the common law of England mustered in considerable strength in the Temple.
In the sixth year of the reign of Edward the Third, (A.D. 1333,) when the lawyers had just established themselves in the convent of the Temple, and had engrafted upon the old stock of Knights Templars their infant society for the study of the practice of the common law, the judges of the Court of Common Pleas were made KNIGHTS, † being the earliest instance on record
of the grant of the honour of knighthood for services purely civil, and the professors of the common law, who had the exclusive privilege of practising in that court, assumed the title or degree of FRERES SERJENS or FRATRES SERVIENTES, so that knights and serving-brethren, similar to those of the antient order of the Temple, were most curiously revived and introduced into the profession of the law.
It is true that the word serviens, serjen, or serjeant, was applied to the professors of the law long before the reign of Edward the Third, but not to denote a privileged brotherhood. It was applied to lawyers in common with all persons who did any description of work for another, from the serviens domini regis ad legem, who prosecuted the pleas of the crown in the county court, to the serviens or serjen who walked with his cane before the concubine of the Patriarch in the streets of Jerusalem. * The priest who worked for the Lord was called serjens de Dieu, and the lover who served the lady of his affections serjens d’amour. * It was in the order of the Temple that the word freres serjens or fratres servientes signified an honorary title or degree, and denoted a powerful privileged class of men. The fratres servientes armigeri or freres serjens des armes, of the chivalry of the Temple, were of the rank of gentlemen. They united in their own persons the monastic and the military character, they were allotted one horse each, they wore the red cross of the order of the Temple on their breasts, † they participated in all the privileges of the brotherhood, and were eligible to the dignity of Preceptor. Large sums of money were frequently given by seculars who had not been advanced to the honour of knighthood,
to be admitted amongst this highly-esteemed order of men.
The freres serjens of the Temple wore linen coifs, and red caps close over them. * At the ceremony of their admission into the fraternity, the Master of the Temple placed the coif upon their heads, and threw over their shoulders the white mantle of the Temple; he then caused them to sit down on the ground, and gave them a solemn admonition concerning the duties and responsibilities of their profession. † They were warned that they must enter upon a new life, that they must keep themselves fair and free from stain, like the white garment that had been thrown around them, which was the emblem of purity and innocence; that they must render complete and perfect obedience to their superiors; that they must protect the weak, succour the needy, reverence old men, and do good to the poor.
The knights and serjeants of the common law, on the other hand, have ever constituted a privileged fraternity, and always address one another by the endearing term brother. The religious character of the antient ceremony of admission into this legal brotherhood, which took place in church, and its striking similarity to the antient mode of reception into the fraternity of the Temple, are curious and remarkable.
“Capitalis Justitiarius,” says an antient MS. account of the creation of serjeants-at-law in the reign of Henry the Seventh, “monstrabat eis plura bona exempla de eorum prædecessoribus, et tunc posuit les coyfes ‡ super eorum capitibus, et induebat eos
singulariter de capital de skarletto, et sic creati fuerunt servientes ad legem.” In his admonitory exhortation, the chief justice displays to them the moral and religious duties of their profession. “Ambulate in vocatione in quâ vocati estis. . . . Disce cultum Dei, reverentiam superioris (!), misericordiam pauperi.” He tells them the coif is sicut vestis candida et immaculata, the emblem of purity and virtue, and he commences a portion of his discourse in the scriptural language used by the popes in the famous bull conceding to the Templars their vast spiritual and temporal privileges, “Omne datum optimum et omne donum perfectum desursum est descendens a patre luminum, &c. &c.! *
The freres serjens of the Temple were strictly enjoined to “eat their bread in silence,” and “place a watch upon their mouths,” and the freres serjens of the law, we are told, after their admission, did “dyne together with sober countenance and lytel communycacion.”
The common-law lawyers, after their location in the Temple, continued rapidly to increase, and between the reigns of Richard the Second and Henry the Sixth, they divided themselves into two bodies. “In the raigne of king Henry the Sixth,” says the MS. account of the Temple, written “Charles the First,” they were soe multiplied and grown into soe great a bulke as could not conveniently be regulated into one society, nor indeed was the
old hall capable of containing so great a number, whereupon they were forced to divide themselves. A new hall was then erected which is now the Junior Temple Hall, whereunto divers of those who before took their repast and diet in the old hall resorted, and in process of time became a distinct and divided society.”
From the inquisition taken 10. E. III. A.D. 1337, it appears that in the time of the Knights Templars there were two halls in the Temple, so that it is not likely that a fresh one was built. One of these halls, the present Inner Temple Hall, had been assigned, the year previous to the taking of that inquisition, to the prior and brethren of the Hospital of Saint John, together with the church, cloisters, &c., as before mentioned, whilst the other hall remained in the hands of the crown, and was not granted to the Hospitallers until 13 E. III. A.D. 1340. It was probably soon after this period that the Hospitaliers conceded the use of both halls to the professors of the law, and these last, from dining apart and being attached to different halls, at last separated into two societies, as at present.
“Although there be two several societies, yet in sundry places they are promiscuously lodged together without any metes or bounds to distinguish them, and the ground rooms in some places belong to the new house, and the upper rooms to the old one, a manifest argument that both made at first but one house, nor did they either before or after this division claim by several leases, but by one entire grant. And as they took their diet apart, so likewise were they stationed apart in the church, viz. those of the Middle Temple on the left hand side as you go therein, and those of the old house on the right hand side, and so it remains between them at this day.” *
Burton, the antiquary, who wrote in the reign of queen Elizabeth, speaks of this “old house” (the Inner Temple) as “the
mother and most antient of all the other houses of courts, to which,” says he, “I must acknowledge all due respect, being a fellow thereof, admitted into the same society on the 20th of May, 1593.” * The two societies of the Temple are of equal antiquity; the members in the first instance dined together in one or other of the antient halls of the Templars as it suited their convenience and inclination; and to this day, in memory of the old custom, the benchers or antients of the one society dine once every year in the hall of the other society. The period of the division has been generally referred to the commencement of the reign of Henry the Sixth, as at the close of that long reign the present four Inns of Court were all in existence, and then contained about two thousand students. The Court of King’s Bench, the Court of Exchequer, and the Court of Chancery, had then encroached upon the jurisdiction of the Common Pleas, and had taken cognizance of civil causes between subject and subject, which were formerly decided in that court alone. † The legal business of the country had consequently greatly increased, the profession of the law became highly honourable, and the gentry and the nobility considered the study of it a necessary part of education.
Sir John Fortescue, who was chief justice of the King’s Bench during half the reign of Henry the Sixth, in his famous discourse de laudibus legum Angliæ, tells us that in his time the annual expenses of each law-student amounted to more than 28l., (equal to
about 450l. of our present money.) that all the students of the law were gentlemen by birth and fortune, and had great regard for their character and honour; that in each Inn of Court there was an academy or gymnasium, where singing, music, and dancing, and a variety of accomplishments, were taught. Law was studied at stated periods, and on festival days: after the offices of the church were over, the students employed themselves in the study of history, and in reading the Holy Scriptures. Everything good and virtuous was there taught, vice was discouraged and banished, so that knights, barons, and the greatest of the nobility of the kingdom, placed their sons in the Temple and the other Inns of Court; and not so much, he tells us, to make the law their study, or to enable them to live by the profession, as to form their manners and to preserve them from the contagion of vice. “Quarrelling, insubordination, and murmuring, are unheard of; if a student dishonours himself, he is expelled the society; a punishment which is dreaded more than imprisonment and irons, for he who has been driven from one society is never admitted into any of the others; whence it happens, that there is a constant harmony amongst them, the greatest friendship, and a general freedom of conversation.”
The two societies of the Temple are now distinguished by the several denominations of the Inner and the Middle Temple, names that appear to have been adopted with reference to a part of the antient Temple, which, in common with other property of the Knights Templars, never came into the hands of the Hospitallers. After the lawyers of the Temple had separated into two bodies and occupied distinct portions of ground, this part came to be known by the name of the outward Temple, as being the farthest away from the city, and is thus referred to in a manuscript in the British Museum, written in the reign of James the First.–“A third part, called outward Temple, was procured by
one Dr. Stapleton, bishop of Exeter, in the days of king Edward the Second, for a residing mansion-house for him and his successors, bishops of that see. It was called Exeter Inn until the reign of the late queen Mary, when the lord Paget, her principal secretary of state, obtained the said third part, called Exeter-house, to him and his heirs, and did re-edify the same. After whom the said third part of the Templar’s house came to Thomas late duke of Norfolk, and was by him conveyed to Sir Robert Dudley, knight, earl of Leicester, who bequeathed the same to Sir Robert Dudley, knight, his son, and lastly, by purchase, came to Robert late earl of Essex, who died in the reign of the late queen Elizabeth, and is still called Essex-house.” *
When the lawyers came into the Temple, they found engraved upon the antient buildings the armorial bearings of the Knights Templars, which were, on a shield argent, a plain cross gules, and (brochant sur le tout) the holy lamb bearing the banner of the order, surmounted by a red cross. These arms remained the emblem of the Temple until the fifth year of the reign of queen Elizabeth, when unfortunately the society of the Inner Temple, yielding to the advice and persuasion of Master Gerard Leigh, a member of the College of Heralds, abandoned the antient and honourable device of the Knights Templars, and assumed in its place a galloping winged horse called a Pegasus, or, as it has been explained to us, “a horse striking the earth with its hoof, or Pegasus luna on a field argent!” Master Gerard Leigh, we are told, “emblazoned them with precious stones and planets, and by these strange arms he intended to signify that the knowledge acquired at the learned seminary of the Inner Temple would raise the professors of the law to the highest honours, adding, by way of motto, volat ad æthera virtus, and he intended to allude to what are esteemed the more liberal sciences, by giving them Pegasus
forming the fountain of Hippocrene, by striking his hoof against the rock, as a proper emblem of lawyers becoming poets, as Chaucer and Gower, who were both of the Temple!”
The society of the Middle Temple, with better taste, still preserves, in that part of the Temple over which its sway extends, the widely-renowned and time-honoured badge of the antient order of the Temple.
The assumption of the prancing winged horse by the one society, and the retention of the lamb by the other, have given rise to the following witty lines–
The lamb and horse displayed,
The emblematic figures show
The merits of their trade. That clients may infer from hence
How just is their profession;
The lamb denotes their INNOCENCE,
The horse their EXPEDITION.
Oh, happy Britain! happy isle!
Let foreign nations say,
Here you get justice without guile,
And law without delay.”
“Unhappy man! those courts forego,
Nor trust such cunning elves,
The artful emblems only show
Their clients, not themselves.
These all are tricks,
These all are shams,
With which they mean to cheat ye,
But have a care, for you’re the LAMBS,
And they the wolves that eat ye. p. 372
Nor let the plea of no delay
To these their courts misguide ye,
For you’re the PRANCING HORSE; and they
The jockeys that would ride you!”
351:* There was in those days an escheator in each county, and in various large towns: it was the duty of this officer to seize into the king’s hands all lands held in capite of the crown, on receiving a writ De diem clausit extremum, commanding him to assemble a jury to take inquisition of the value of the lands, as to who was the next heir of the deceased, the rents and services by which they were holden, &c. &c.
354:* Sunt etiam ibidem claustrum, capella Sancti Thomæ, et quædam platea terræ eidem capellæ annexata, cum una aula et camera supra edificata, quæ sunt loca sancta, et Deo dedicata, et dictæ ecclesiæ annexata, et eidem Priori per idem breve liberata . . . . Item dicunt, quod præter ista, sunt ibidem in custodia Wilielmi de Langford infra Magnam Portam dicti Novi Templi, extra metas et disjunctions prædictas, una aula et quatuor cameræ, una coquina, unum gardinum, unum stabulum, et una camera ultra Magnam Portam prædictam, &c.
356:* Rex omnibus ad quota &c. salutem. Sciatis quod de gratiâ nostrâ speciali, et pro bono servitio quod Rogerus Small nobis impendit et impendat in futuro, concessimus ei officium Janitoris Novi Templi London Habend. &c. pro vitâ suâ &c. pertinend. &c. omnia vada et feoda &c. eodem modo qualia Robertus Petyt defunct. Qui officium illud ex concessione domini Edwardi nuper regis Angliæ patris nostri habuit . . . . Teste meipso apud Westin. 5 die Aprilis, anno regni nostri 35. Pat. 35. E. 3. p. 2. m. 33.
359:† Unam robam per annum de secta liberorum servientium, et quinque solidos per annum, et deserviat quamdiu poterit loco liberi servientis in domo prædictâ. Ib. m. 2. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 331, 332.
359:‡ Quolibet anno ad Natale Domini unum vetus indumentum de veteribus indumentis fratrum, et quolibet die 2 denarios pro victu garcionis sui, et 5 solidos per annum per stipendiis ejusdem garcionis, sed idem garcio deserviet in domo illâ. Ib.
360:* Thomas of Wothrope, at the trial of the Templars in England, was unable to give an account of the reception of some brethren into the order, quia erat panetarius et vacabat circa suum officium. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 355. Tunc panetarius mittat comiti duos panes atque vini sextarium . . . Ita appellabant officialem domesticum, qui mensæ panem, mappas et manutergia subministrabat. Ducange, Gloss. verb. panetarius.
361:† Nullus clericus nisi causidicus. Will. Malm., lib. iv. f. 69. Radulph de Diceto, apud Hist. Angl. Script. Antiq., lib. vii. col. 606, from whom it appears that the chief justitiary and justices itinerant were all priests.
362:† INNOCENTIUS, &c. . . . Præterea cum in Angliæ, Scotiæ, Walliæ regnis, causæ laicorum non imperatoriis legibus, sed laicorum consuetudinibus decidantur, fratrum nostrorum, et aliorum religiosorum consilio et rogatu, statuimus quod in prædictis regnis leges sæculares de cætero non legantur. Matt. Par., p. 883, ad ann. 1254, et in additamentis, p. 191.
363:* Et quod ipsi quos ad hoc elegerint, curiam sequantur, et se de negotiis in eadem curia intromittant, et alii non. Et videtur regi et ejus concilio, quod septies vigenti sufficere poterint, &c.–Rolls of Parl. 20. E. 1. vol. i. p. 84, No. 22.
364:* Ante, p. 118. Mace-bearers, bell-ringers, thief-takers, gaolers, bailiffs, public executioners, and all persons who performed a specific task for another, were called servientes, serjens, or serjeants.–Ducange Gloss. Pasquier’s Researches, liv. viii. cap. 19.
365:† Et tunc Magister Templi dedit sibi mantellum, et imposuit pileum capiti suo, et tunc fecit eum sedere ad terram, injungens sibi, &c.–Acta contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 380. See also p. 335.
365:‡ It has been supposed that the coif was first introduced by the clerical practitioners of the common law to hide the tonsure of those priests who practised in the Court of Common Pleas, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical prohibition. This was not the case. p. 366 The early portraits of our judges exhibit them with a coif of very much larger dimensions than the coifs now worn by the serjeants-at-law, very much larger than would be necessary to hide the mere clerical tonsure. A covering for that purpose indeed would be absurd. The antient coifs of the serjeants-at-law were small linen or silk cape fitting close to the top of the head. This peculiar covering is worn universally in the East, where the people shave their heads and cut their hair close. It was imported into Europe by the Knights Templars, and became a distinguishing badge of their order. From the freres serjens of the Temple it passed to the freres serjens of the law.
368:† After the courts of King’s Bench and Exchequer had by a fiction of law drawn to themselves a vast portion of the civil business originally transacted in the Common Pleas alone, the degree of serjeant-at-law, with its exclusive privilege of practising in the last-named court, was not sought after as before. The advocates or banisters of the King’s Bench and Exchequer were, consequently, at different times, commanded by writ to take upon them the degree of the coif, and transfer their practice to the Common Pleas.