In England the chief officer of the crown in the two centuries following the Norman conquest who was charged with governing the country in the king's absence.
Whilst Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (d. 1097) and Rabdalf Flambard, Bishop of Durham, (d.1128) were technically justiciars in office, they were not actually named as such during their lifetimes, and the office was properly established during the reign of Henry I with the appointment of the king's chancellor, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury (d.1139). During the 12th century the office of justiciar reached its height of prestige, whilst the Angevin kings were preoccupied with their continental territories. It would later decline in importance and no justiciar was appointed between 1234 to 1258. Revived by the Provisions of Oxford (1258) which reformed the executive powers of the King and properly established a standing Parliament, the last Justiciar was Hugh le Despenser, who was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265.
Related term(s): Itinerant Judges; Justice; Reeve; Sheriff; Magistrate
Category: Government and Law
Last modified: 10.05.05
Contributor(s): Alan Chanter
Source information: Kenyon, J.P. The Wordsworth Dictionary of British History. Wordsworth Editions, 1998.