Catalogue description Court of Requests: Books

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Details of REQ 1
Reference: REQ 1
Title: Court of Requests: Books

This series contains the various series of registers of the Court of Requests, including both drafts and fair copies, sometimes for the same period. They begin in the reign of Henry VII, when most of the court's records, except depositions and affidavits, were in Latin. By early in the reign of Henry VIII they were nearly all in English. The earlier books, from the reign of Henry VII and the early part of that of Henry VIII, when the court was still very much a part of the king's council, contain varied material; later they developed into the several series of dedicated registers.

These dedicated registers consist chiefly of Affidavit Books, Elizabeth I to Charles I (vols. 119-149); Appearance Books, Henry VIII to Charles I (vols. 104-117); Commission Book, 1-16 James I (vol. 208); Note Books, Elizabeth I to Charles I (vols. 151-170); Order Books, Elizabeth I to Charles I (vols. 39-103); Order and Decree Books, Henry VII to Charles I (vols. 1-38); Process Books, Elizabeth I to Charles I (vols. 171-197); and Witness Books, Elizabeth I to Charles I (vols. 198-206).

Appearance books were initially recorded in the same registers as decrees and orders, but a series of separate appearance books had developed by 1520. They record the appearance of defendants, often through an attorney rather than in person, to answer petitions submitted by plaintiffs. They also include a record of the appointment of attorneys; sometimes they are separate entries, but on other occasions the appointment of an attorney was added later to an entry of the original appearance by the defendant in person.

Appearances by relatives or friends of defendants unable to attend are also recorded, sometimes with a marginal note that they had sworn that the defendant was genuinely unable to appear. Appearances continued to be recorded in Latin throughout the life of the court, although nearly all its other records were in English by the reign of Henry VIII.

The affidavits, which are given in full mostly relate to the service of process, especially the writs under the privy seal summoning defendants before the court. Some of them contain draft memoranda, which are often struck through, presumably after a fair copy was made, and are signed by the person making the statement.

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.

Date: 8 Henry VII - 18 Charles I

The books were arranged in their individual series, and chronologically within those series. This arrangement included some errors, and did not in any case work especially well since in some cases several items were bound together. The volumes were carefully re-examined and described in 1994, and cross-references inserted to make it easy to identify particular types of material in chronological sequence. The draft registers, the earliest dating from 23 Elizabeth I, are also identified as such.

Many of the registers have retained their original bindings. The pagination or foliation within them, where it exists, is usually contemporary and not always accurate. Sometimes it is clear, especially from tears, that the first or last few pages for a term are missing; on other occasions where a volume appears complete there are missing pages. Some volumes have become disordered due to errors in binding.

Within the decrees and orders books the records run chronologically within terms, but there are often entries, at the end of a term sequence, of orders made during that term but not entered in chronological order. Similarly, some final orders and decrees are given among the entries for the following term, although correctly dated. In some cases cross-references are given at the point where the entry should have appeared.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 210 volume(s)
Physical condition: Many registers are badly damaged, especially by damp.
Administrative / biographical background:

The registers reflect the fact that the court developed out of the king's council, whose meetings took place throughout the year, not only in law terms. However, by the reign of Henry VIII the records were regularly ordered by term, when most business took place, but some continued to be heard during vacations. The court gradually came to sit more regularly at Westminster, but still occasionally held sessions elsewhere; it sat at Reading as late as Trinity 1625.

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