Plea rolls containing the record of pleas on both the Crown and Plea Sides of the Court of King's Bench from the reign of Edward I to that of William III.
Their title derives from the fiction that proceedings in the court were held before the king in person (coram rege), although that was rarely true. The record is of formal stages in cases; not of what was said during pleading.
Until 1292, but never thereafter, there is often more than one roll for each term, where the main roll, made for the chief justice, is supplemented by a roll or rolls of puisne (junior) justices. From 1276 to 1289 a series of 'king's rolls', kept for Walter of Wimborne, who was both a puisne justice of the court and king's attorney, are included. There are also five similar ones from the few previous years kept for Richard of Staines, a puisne justice.
The separate subdivision for the rotuli carrying crown pleas and associated with the office of the king's attorney in the court, identified by the heading 'Rex' at the top of each one, developed after 1290. The division between the civil pleas and 'Rex' sections of the rolls is complete by 1324. The fines and forfeitures section, which physically separates the two, begins in 1323, and there is a section for appointments of attorneys at the end, after the 'Rex' section. Both these small sections disappeared during the reign of Charles II. Essoins are included in some of the early rolls but disappear after 1290.
The series is remarkably complete. There are no inexplicable gaps after the reign of Edward I, for which rolls are wanting for seven terms, during one of which, Trinity 1277, it is known that no session was held because of the Welsh war. Later missing terms are all explained by events: the plague (Trinity 1349, 1361, 1368 and 1545, and Michaelmas 1569), the Peasants' Revolt (Trinity 1381), the return to London of Edward IV after the readeption of Henry VI (Easter 1471) and the interregnum between James II and William III (Hilary 1689).
Digital images of some of the records in this series are available through the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website. Please note that The National Archives is not responsible for this website or its content.