Curia regis is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court". It was the name given to councils of advisers and administrators who served early kings of France as well as to those serving Norman kings of England.
|Houses||Magnum Concilium and the Royal Court|
|Succeeded by||Parliament of England and Privy Council|
The Magnum Concilium political groups
The Royal Court political groups
The Normans, following the conquest of England, used a council called the curia regis to conduct much of the business of state in England. It was similar to, but not the same as, the Witenagemot (or Witan) which advised the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and the Curia Ducis which served the Dukes of Normandy.
This council existed in two forms, one large and one smaller form. The council in its smaller form, which was in continuous session, was made up of the king's officers of state and those magnates who were at court. This small council was known as the "lesser curia regis". The lesser curia regis was in essence the king's royal court and as such was an itinerant court that followed the king in all his travels. The king, when traveling throughout his realm and as an integral part of the court, often heard suitors in person.
On special occasions the king would summons others to the council including tenants-in-chief, the great officers of the king's court, and those ecclesiastics who held lands belonging to the king. The ecclesiastics included archbishops, bishops and certain abbots.[a] This larger assembly was known as the "great curia regis", Magnum Concilium, or simply the Great Council.
The curia regis in either the large or small form did the business of state whether legislative, judicial, or diplomatic. These functions were executed seamlessly with no regard to specialized functions. Neither the greater or lesser curia regis was subservient to the other, as it was considered the same entity. Under the Norman kings the business of government was handled the same regardless of which curia was meeting at the time.
In judicial matters, the basis for the law remained the Anglo-Saxon laws of Edward the Confessor which both William the Conqueror and Henry I promised to uphold. The powers of the sheriffs were retained as well as those of the communal courts (hundred courts and shire courts). The curia regis attempted to maintain continuity with its predecessor as the Norman kings wanted to be seen as the lawful successors of Edward the Confessor.
Gradually the curia regis began to branch off into entities which formed into other institutions, including the Cabinet, the Star Chamber, Chancery, and others. One of the first was the exchequer, which specialized in the financial matters of government.
During the thirteenth century the two forms of the curia themselves began to separate. The great curia regis after taking on representative elements formed into Parliament. The first mention of a court of the king's bench (curia regis) being termed "Parliament" was in 1236 during the Michaelmas term (of the great curia regis). The small curia regis became the Privy Council.
Even after a split between the two parts both continued to involve themselves in all three functions of the original curia and only slowly began to specialize in one function over the others. Some judicial functions of the House of Lords persisted until 2009.
In France the King's Court, called the Curia Regis in Latin, functioned as an advisory body under the early Capetian kings. It was composed of a number of the king's trusted advisers but only a few traveled with the king at any time. By the later twelfth century it had become a judicial body with a few branching off to remain the king's council.
By the fourteenth century the term curia regis was no longer used. However, it was a predecessor to later sovereign assemblies: the Parlement, which was a judiciary body, the Chamber of Accounts, which was a financial body, and the King's Council.