Court of King's Bench: Crown Side: Baga de Secretis
The official records of many of the most important 'state trials', mainly for treason, held between 1477 and 1813, including those of Sir Thomas More, Queens Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard, Guy Fawkes, the Regicides and the Jacobite rebels of 1715 and 1745.
A few are ordinary term indictment files, removed from what is now KB 9, but most are either files of special commissions of oyer and terminer or of the court of the lord high steward and peers. Both were specially commissioned courts, the latter having the particular function of trying peers accused of treason.
The term 'baga de secretis' was first used about 1344 in the Controlment Rolls to refer to bags containing files of indictments made in King's Bench or in sessions of commissioners of oyer and terminer whose records were delivered to the court. By 1385 at the latest a regular series of term indictment files had been established, and during the fifteenth century those files continued to be referred to in the Controlment rolls in the same words, although they were labelled simply as the indictments of a particular regnal year and term. Probably at some point during the reign of Henry VII or Henry VIII began the process by which the term 'baga de secretis' came to be applied to a few bags containing the files of records of what might be referred to as 'state trials' particularly on indictments for treason, although some of the offences tried were merely particularly serious felonies. In each case their presence in the baga de secretis leaves a gap in the main series. They were clearly moved to the bag because of the importance of individual trials recorded in them, but they also include all the ordinary Crown Side indictment business for the term in question, and in some cases it is difficult to see which case was thought important enough to justify their transfer.
The courts which tried them were mainly special ones, although some of the eighteenth century trials took place on ordinary indictments in King's Bench and a number of the earliest items in the series are ordinary King's Bench term indictment files. In 1908 Vernon Harcourt argued that the creation of the new exclusive baga de secretis took place as a result of the trial of Edward Earl of Warwick in 1499, and that the single earlier file in the series was added retrospectively because of its relevance to concerns then current.
The series continued to the time of the internal disturbances of the last years of the Napoleonic Wars, after which it appears to have been discontinued. It includes lengthy chronological gaps. There is only one file for the long period between 1631 and 1713, that of the Regicides in 1660. The bag was kept in a special closet, which is not now known to exist, access to which was controlled by three keys. One was held by the chief justice of King's Bench (informally known as the lord chief justice), the others by the attorney general and the master of the Crown Office.
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