The documents in C 47/6, with a few exceptions, comprise proceedings taken under the law of arms in the Court of Chivalry, and under law maritime in the Court of Admiralty (records otherwise in HCA). They are all of fourteenth and fifteenth century date.
Many of the documents in these files can be read at more than one level: as evidence of the procedure and jurisdiction of the courts to which they relate; as particular evidence for the cases themselves, and for the history of the principal parties to them; and as source material evidence for a far wider range of subjects touched on by deponents or by the parties by way of circumstantial evidence in support of their case.
Both courts proceeded by way of a bill and answer process, under variant names for the formal documentation, and took proofs in the form of depositions, supported by the examination of deeds and other instruments and, if necessary, examination of other physical evidence. The copy proceedings may thus include enrolments of both pleadings and proofs, as well as of the acta of the courts themselves.
Of the three earliest items in this section, one, C 47/6/6 no 1, appears to be a stray from the diplomatic process before the Anglo-French tribunal sitting at Montreuil to deal with mutual claims of piracy by both English and French, going back to 1293, and is misplaced here. C 47/6/6 no 2 is a return on a certiorari concerning the arrest of a ship by the admiral in a context which both pre-dates the formal establishment of the Court of Admiralty, and which does not predicate a legal action. C 47/6/6 no 3 is an example of the council's jurisdiction in Admiralty matters.
The remaining records are copies of proceedings in the courts of Chivalry and Admiralty, or are subordinate to the jurisdiction of those courts. Most of these records appear to have been returned into Chancery under a writ of certiorari. The writ ran certis de causis, for certain causes, which are neither recited nor indicated. The context, however, suggests either an appeal against the judgement of the specified court, or a request for enforcement of that judgement.
One possible administrative course following the return of the certiorari might be a scire facias to summon the case into Chancery for an initial hearing , followed by a mittimus into King's Bench for jury trial; and it is known that some Admiralty cases subsequently appear in King's Bench. An appeal from the Court of Chivalry proper lay to the Crown in Chancery which might then respond by the issue of commissions delegating responsibility to specified persons, most usually both knights and doctors of law, to hear the case. A number of commissions in appeals from the Court of Chivalry are enrolled on the Patent Rolls.
The king's council might also take cognisance of matters which might otherwise come before these courts; and Chancery, or the council in parliament, appears in the first half of the fourteenth century to have heard cases involving the law of the sea, a jurisdiction which continued, in cases of piracy at least, for much of the fifteenth century, both in tandem with the Admiralty Court and in de facto preemption of it.
It is possible that the proceedings alluded to in Lovell v Morley, C 47/6/1, referring to an earlier process Burnell v Morley at the time of the siege of Calais, 1345-1347, may record one of the earliest known proceedings of the court; equally, they may record a process taken under commission rather than of a single court, of which there are other examples in C 47/6.
A number of the documents in C 47/6 bear evidence of early use or sortation, probably going back at least to William Prynne.