Read Crowner's Quest Online

Authors: Bernard Knight

Tags: #rt, #onlib, #_NB_Fixed, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #Medieval, #England, #Historical, #Coroners - England, #Devon (England), #Fiction, #Great Britain - History - Angevin period; 1154-1216

Crowner's Quest

BOOK: Crowner's Quest
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Table of Contents

Cover

By Bernard Knight

Title Page

Copyright

Author’s note

Acknowledgements

Epigraph

Maps

Glossary

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Footnotes

By Bernard Knight

The Crowner John Series

CROWNER’S CRUSADE

THE SANCTUARY SEEKER

THE POISONED CHALICE

CROWNER’S QUEST

THE AWFUL SECRET

THE TINNER’S CORPSE

THE GRIM REAPER

FEAR IN THE FOREST

THE WITCH HUNTER

FIGURE OF HATE

THE ELIXIR OF DEATH

THE NOBLE OUTLAW

THE MANOR OF DEATH

CROWNER ROYAL

A PLAGUE OF HERETICS

The Richard Pryor Forensic Mysteries

WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS

ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE

GROUNDS FOR APPEAL

The Tom Howden Mysteries

DEAD IN THE DOG

CROWNER’S QUEST
A Crowner John Mystery
Bernard Knight

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which is was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicably copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

 

First published in Great Britain by Pocket Books, 1999

An imprint of Simon & Schuster

A Viacom Company

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

Africa House

64-78 Kingsway

London WC2B 6AH

This eBook first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Copyright © 1999 Bernard Knight

The right of Bernard Knight to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0125-6 (ePub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This eBook produced by Palimpsest Book Production Limited

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Author’s note

Any attempt to give modern English dialogue an ‘olde worlde’ flavour in historical novels is as inaccurate as it is futile. In the time and place of this story, late twelfth-century Devon, most people would have spoken early Middle English, which would be unintelligible to us today. Many others spoke western Welsh, later called Cornish, and the ruling classes would have spoken Norman-French. The language of the Church and virtually all official writing was Latin.

Part of this story, most of whose major characters actually existed, is set against the rebellious behaviour of Prince John towards his elder brother, Richard the Lionheart. This was a very real threat in this last decade of the twelfth century, John’s first attempt being made to usurp the Crown when Richard was imprisoned in Germany on his way home from the Third Crusade. Then John did homage to Philip of France and a French invasion fleet for a Flemish army was made ready. The mother of the brothers, the redoubtable Eleanor of Aquitaine, mustered a defence force of ‘rustics as well as knights on the coasts over against Flanders’. This was perhaps a medieval precursor of 1940, Home Guard included – had it failed, we might now have all been speaking French!

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the following for historical advice, though reserving the blame for any misapprehensions about the complexities of life and law in twelfth century Devon; Mrs Angela Doughty, Exeter Cathedral Archivist; the staff of Devon Record Office and of Exeter Central Library; Mr Stuart Blaylock, Exeter Archeology; Rev Canon Mawson, Exeter Cathedral; Mr Thomas Watkin, Cardiff Law School, University of Wales; Professor Nicholas Orme, University of Exeter; to copy-editor Hazel Orme and to Gillian Holmes and Clare Ledingham of Simon & Schuster for their continued encouragement and support.

‘Ay marry, is’t crowner’s quest law!’

Hamlet
, Act V, Scene I

Glossary

ABJURER

A criminal or accused person who sought sanctuary in a church and then elected to ‘abjure’ by confessing his sin to the coroner and leaving the realm of England for ever, to avoid being mutilated or hanged. He had to proceed on foot, dressed in sackcloth and carrying a wooden cross, to a port nominated by the coroner and take the first ship abroad. If there was a delay, he had to wade out up to his knees in every tide, to show his willingness to leave.

ALB

A long garment, often elaborately embroidered, worn by priests when celebrating Mass, under a shorter garment called the chasuble (
q.v.
).

AMERCEMENT

A fine imposed on a person or a village by the coroner, for some breach of the complex regulations of the law. The coroner would record the amercement, but the collection of the money would be ordered by the King’s Justices, when they visited at the Eyre of Assize (
q.v.
).

APPEAL

Unlike the modern legal meaning, an Appeal was an accusation by an aggrieved person, usually a close relative, against another for a felonious crime. The remedy was either financial compensation, trial by combat or undergoing the Ordeal. Historically, it preceded (and in the twelfth century, competed with) the Crown’s right to prosecute.

ARCHDEACON

A senior cathedral priest, assistant to the Bishop. There were four in the diocese of Devon and Cornwall, one responsible for Exeter.

ASSART

A new piece of arable land, cut from the forest to enlarge the cultivated area of a manor.

AVENTAIL

A chain-mail neck armour, similar to a balaclava, attached to the edge of the helmet and tucked in to the top of the hauberk (
q.v.
).

BAILEY

The outer enclosure of an early Norman castle of the ‘motte and bailey’ type. An artificial mound was thrown up and a wooden tower erected on top (donjon
q.v.
). Around its base, usually asymmetrically, a ditch and stockade demarcated the bailey, in which huts were erected for living quarters, kitchens, etc., the donjon being used as an inner refuge during siege.

BAILIFF

Overseer of a manor or estate, directing the farming and other work. He would have manor reeves under him and in turn be responsible to either his lord or the steward or seneschal.

BALDRIC

A diagonal strap over the right shoulder of a Norman soldier, to suspend his sword scabbard on the left hip.

BURGESS

A freeman of substance in a town or borough, usually a merchant. A group of burgesses ran the town administration and elected two Portreeves (
q.v.
) as their leaders, later replaced by a mayor.

CANON

A priestly member of the Chapter of a cathedral, also called a prebendary, as they derived their income from their prebend, a grant of land or a pension. Exeter had twenty-four canons, most of whom lived near the cathedral, though unlike the majority of other cathedrals, the canons were paid a small salary and had a daily allowance of bread, candles, etc. Many employed junior priests (vicars and secondaries) to carry out some of their duties.

CAPUCHON

Man’s headgear, consisting of a long length of cloth wound round the head like a loose turban, the free end hanging down to one shoulder.

CHAPTER

The administrative body of a cathedral, composed of the canons (prebendaries). They met daily to conduct business in the Chapter House, so-called because a chapter of the Gospels was read before each meeting.

CHASUBLE

A thigh-length garment, usually embroidered, with wide sleeves, worn over the alb (
q.v.
) by priests during the celebration of Mass.

CONSISTORY COURTS

The ecclesiastical courts, which had the right to try priests, rather the secular courts. Anyone who could read and write – even just sign their name – could claim to be tried by this court, as literacy was virtually confined to the clergy.

CONSTABLE

Has several meanings, but here refers to a senior military commander, usually the custodian of a castle – sometimes called a castellan. Appointed by the King in royal castles such as Exeter, to keep him independent of powerful local barons.

CORONER

A senior law officer in a county, second only to the sheriff. First appointed in September 1194, though there are a few mentions of coroners in earlier times. Three knights and one clerk were appointed in every county. The name comes from the Latin
custos placitorum coronae
, meaning ‘Keeper of the Pleas of the Crown’, as he recorded all serious crimes, deaths and legal events for the Royal Justices in Eyre (
q.v.
)

COVER-CHIEF

Headdress of a Norman woman, more correctly called a
couvre-chef
. In Saxon times it was known as a head-rail and consisted of a linen cloth held in place by a circlet or band around the forehead, the ends hanging down over the back and bosom.

CROFT

A small area of land around a village house for vegetables and few livestock, used by the occupant (cottar) who was either a freeman or a bondsman (villein or serf).

CUIRASS

A breastplate or short tunic, originally of thick boiled leather but later of metal, to protect the chest in combat.

DEODAND

Literally ‘a gift from God’, it was the forfeiture of anything that had caused a death, such as a sword, a cart or even a mill-wheel. It was confiscated by the coroner for the King, but was sometimes given as compensation to a victim’s family.

DONJON

The central fortified tower in early Norman castles, later called the keep. Originally of wood, it was soon replaced by masonry. The word dungeon, meaning a prison cell in the base of a castle tower, is a later derivative of donjon.

EYRE

A sitting of the King’s Justices, introduced by Henry II in 1166, which moved around the country in circuits. There were two types, the ‘Justices in Eyre’, the forerunner of the Assizes, which was supposed to visit frequently to try serious cases, and the General Eyre, which arrived at long intervals to check on the administration of each county.

BOOK: Crowner's Quest
10.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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