Catalogue description Crown Side Records

Details of Division within KB
Reference: Division within KB
Title: Crown Side Records

Records of the Crown Side of the Court of King's Bench, that is, those generally relating to matters of crown litigation and crown prosecution.

The principal Crown Side records are the enrolments on the Rex roll within the Coram Rege Rolls (KB 27) until 1702, and thereafter the Crown Rolls: KB 28.

The means of reference to these are the Controlment Rolls and related records in KB 29.

Crown Side affidavits are in KB 1 and KB 2.

Records in error, heard on the Crown Side, are in KB 7.

Indictments are in KB 9 - KB 12, with 'state trials' in KB 8 and coroners' inquisitions in KB 13 - KB 14.

Other Crown Side records are in KB 3-KB 6, KB 15-KB 26, KB 30-KB 32 (also includes Plea Side records), KB 33-KB 37 and KB 39.

High Court of Justice, King's Bench Division, Crown Office, Registers of Appeals KB 174.

Date: 1194-1987
Separated material:

Other Crown Side records are in:

KB 138

KB 140

KB 145

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Court of Kings Bench, Crown Side, 1200-1875

Supreme Court of Judicature, Kings Bench Division, 1901-1952

Supreme Court of Judicature, Queens Bench Division, 1875-1901

Supreme Court of Judicature, Queens Bench Division, 1952-

Physical description: 39 series
Publication note:

R Gude, The practice of the Crown Side of the Court of King's Bench (London, 1828).

Administrative / biographical background:

The Clerk of the Crown and the Crown Side

The Crown Side, though not so termed until the seventeenth century, was that part of the Court's of King's Bench proceedings and administration relating to matters of Crown litigation and Crown prosecution. Originally the province of the king's attorney coram rege, the increase of business and the proliferation of staff to deal with it led to the evolution of a highly organised Crown Office under the day-to-day supervision of the clerk of the Crown. This post, already so called by 1426 when it was still combined with that of king's attorney and coroner, carried responsibility for all the drafting and engrossment of writs, indictments, and enrolments on the Crown Side. It was an office granted by patent, but it had the common characteristics of clerical positions in the courts: first, the influence of the chief justice could affect the appointment; second, the office was commonly regarded as the property of the holder, to be passed on at the best financial or family advantage; third, it was, if not a sinecure, then at least a function which could be supported by underlings and if necessary deputised altogether.

By the early sixteenth century there was a recognised under-clerk or secondary, who in time came to exercise many of the functions associated with supervision of the Crown Office, and further under-clerks, variously termed at different dates, carried out subordinate duties. Of these duties the most prominent, and perhaps the most controversial, were the issuing of outlawries upon defaulted litigants of defendants, and the receipt of informations in criminal matters; the opportunities for excessive fees in these matters led to formal regulation of the Crown Office in 1692 (4 William and Mary, c.22). The continued expansion of offices led to further prescription in 1843, when most of the existing posts were abolished, to be replaced by a master of the Crown Office and four clerks only (6 & 7 Victoria, c.20).

The King's Attorney and Coroner in King's Bench

In 1290 an attorney was appointed specifically to conduct the king's business coram rege, and thereafter the position became established as one with specific fees and responsibilities. As well as having the duty of overseeing all crown litigation in King's Bench, the king's attorney there was ex officio the coroner of the court, chiefly in connection with the deaths of prisoners in the custody of the marshal, and, in addition, seems to have been the chief clerk on the Crown Side of the court, acting (no doubt through under-clerks) as filazer and prothonotary for all the business which found its way to the Rex roll.

This range of duties clearly led to subdivisions of business amongst the staff of the king's attorney, but the changes are frequently obscure. By the middle of the fifteenth century the post of king's attorney in King's Bench was combined with the equivalent post in the Court of Common Pleas to become that of attorney-general, supported (from 1461) by a solicitor-general; both these positions were always held not by attorneys but by members of the bar. Within King's Bench the chief attorney on the Crown Side continued to be called 'the king's coroner and attorney', although his position in prosecuting Crown business was subordinate to that of the attorney-general, and his essentially administrative function was recognised by his alternative title of 'master of the Crown Office'. The principal routine duties of this post were themselves, in turn, devolved, and a distinct position of 'clerk of the Crown in King's Bench' emerged as, in effect, the chief clerkship on the Crown Side.

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