|Subject:||Procedures for electing and initiating a new administration|
|Original source:||Bristol Record Office, MS. 04720 (Mayor's register)|
|Transcription in:||Lucy Toulmin Smith, ed. The Maire of Bristowe Is Kalendar, Camden Society, new series, vol.5 (1872), 69-79.|
|Original language:||Middle English|
It is the case that there have always been mayors in this respectable town, since the Conquest and earlier. After Bristol castle was founded and built by the noble earl of Gloucester, Robert Consul the bastard son of King Henry Beauclerk, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, each year on Michaelmas day [September 29] the mayors of that time used to go there and at the gate of Bristol castle receive their office and take their oath [of office] before the constable of the castle. This custom continued until the blessed prince King Edward III came [to the throne]; he, among other franchises that he kindly granted, through his charters exempted and exonerated the mayors from receiving their office from the constable at the castle gate; instead providing in the same that from that time forward each mayor would on Michaelmas day receive office and take oath before his predecessor in the Bristol Guildhall, in the presence of all of the community who were there. For which reason it has ever since been the custom that the four sergeants who attend the mayor shall, on St. Giles' day, the first day of September, forewarn all the respectable men of the council of Bristol to come to their council chamber in the Guildhall on September 15, for the election of their mayor and other officers for the year to follow, each of them upon penalty of £10 [for default] (as was ordained in the time of Stephen le Spycer, who was mayor in 1344). Once they the mayor, the sheriff, and all their colleagues are seated in the council chamber, the mayor first exhorts each and every one of them, with a Paternoster and an Ave, to pray for the Holy Ghost to influence the election. After which, the mayor is first to declare his vote for some respectable member of the company, and the sheriff follows suit, and so all those present are canvassed, each man giving his vote as he wishes; all being recorded by the town clerk, on the basis of which he reports and identifies the one who has most votes. Which person who has been duly elected mayor gets up from where he is sitting and takes a seat on the right side of the outgoing mayor. And after any further discussions at that time, certain of the company shall provide an honour escort for him when he returns to his home.
All this being done, the person elected mayor shall have opportunity, until Michaelmas day following (on whatever day it may fall that year) to make provision for his household and the respectable decoration of his house, in as pleasing a fashion as he can. The mayor-elect, accompanied by the sheriff and his colleagues of the council, who go to his house to escort him to the Guildhall, shall then proceed to the hall in as solemn and dignified a manner as he can arrange, to his own credit and for the honour and praise of the entire town. Which is to say that if he has previously served as mayor, he is to come in his robe of office that is, his fur-lined scarlet cloak, with his black velour hood or black velvet cap, and all those who have served as mayor in the same costume and livery, with cloaks. If he has not previously been mayor, then he is to come in his scarlet gown, without a cloak, and all others who have been mayor in the same attire, but their servants may carry their cloaks after them. After the common bell has stopped ringing, the outgoing mayor, standing with solemnity on the high dais of the Guildhall, makes his farewell to his colleagues and all the commoners who are present, in the following fashion:
Honourable gentlemen, my friends, you will recall that on this day, twelve months ago, I, although unworthy, was sworn into the office of mayor of this proud city for the year now past. If, sirs, I have wilfully or through negligence treated any man or woman unjustly or unscrupulously, I beg them to approach me, and I am prepared to put to rights any wrong I have done them, either by compensation if I possess the means, or else by asking their forgiveness with the utmost sincerity, trusting in God that they shall [thereafter] have no further cause for complaint.
After this is done, still standing on the high dais of the Guildhall, in front of all the commons, the outgoing mayor is to hold a book before the mayor-elect, and the town clerk is to stand up with his book and read out the mayor's oath and the duties of office, in the following manner:
Now hear this, A.B. my predecessor as mayor, and all the good people of Bristol, that I, R.S., shall be true and faithful to King Edward the Fourth, king of England, our supreme liege lord, and to his heirs and successors, and to the best of my ability I shall protect and preserve this his town of Bristol for him and his heirs and successors. I shall preserve and uphold the peace of this town to the best of my ability. I shall reprimand and discipline those who behave badly or commit wrongs, as law and reason require, to the best of my ability. I shall to the best of my ability uphold in the town all those franchises and free customs which are good, while all bad customs and errors I shall put aside and abolish. I shall to the best of my ability preserve, maintain and protect the rights of widows and orphans of this town. I shall well and truly serve the king in the office of escheator of the county of Bristol. I shall work with all my skill and ability to the profit of the king in all things that are my duties require, and I shall faithfully uphold his rights in whatever belongs to the Crown. I shall not consent to the transgression, nor be involved in the concealment, of the king's rights or franchises. Wherever I know of the rights of the Crown being concealed or withheld whether regarding lands, rents, franchises, or suits I shall do my utmost to counteract and correct this; and, if I should be unable, I shall inform the king or those members of his council who I know will convey the information to the king. I shall treat the people under my jurisdiction honestly and justly, and give justice to every man as much to the poor as to the rich in all duties I must perform. Not for gift, love, friendship, promises, nor hate, shall I do wrong to any man, nor infringe any man's rights. I shall accept nothing as a result of which the king might suffer a loss, or his rights be infringed. I shall hold my inquests in public places, not in private, and then by indenture, as required by the Statute of Escheators. [see note] I shall be painstaking and diligent in suppressing, stopping and eliminating any kind of heresy or erroneous beliefs, commonly called lollardries, within my jurisdiction from time to time, to the best of my ability. And I shall assist the Ordinaries and Commissaries of Holy Church, supporting and siding with them at all times, in all just causes, whenever requested to by those Ordinaries or Commissaries. I shall also help, support and side with the Prior and his brethren, the priests of the house of the Kalendars of Bristol, in all actions I, as its patron, can lawfully and honestly undertake, regarding the verification and protection of the rents, lands and tenements belonging to that house, saving the rights of every man. I shall also uphold, preserve and maintain all commendable ordinances that have been made and enforced in the past by previous mayors, aldermen, sheriffs, and the common council of the town, if not [since] revoked or repealed; [see note] as well as all that shall be made in the future, until the time that they may be revoked or repealed by the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, and common council of the town then in office, to the best of my ability and well and truly. I shall give justice to every man, as much to the poor as to the rich. And all other things that are part of the duties of the mayor and of the escheator I will perform faithfully. So help me God at the holy doom.And then he kisses the book.
Following this, the outgoing mayor delivers to the new mayor the king's sword, his [ceremonial] hat, and the casket containing the seal of the office, the seal of the statute of the staple, the seal of the statute merchant, as well as other authentic seals. Then the two mayors exchange places, after which they proceed from the hall. The whole company is to escort the new mayor to his house, with trumpeters and clareners, in as respectable, serious, and joyous a fashion as can be accomplished; and there they are to leave the new mayor, and then escort home the outgoing mayor.
It has been the custom on that Michaelmas day for the greater part of the council to dine with both mayors; that is, a large number of them with the new mayor, and others with the old mayor in particular, all officials are to dine with the old mayor. After dinner, the whole council is to assemble at the High Cross, from where the new and old mayors, with the whole company, walk in a dignified fashion to St. Michael's church to make an offering. Thereafter they return to the new mayor's house, where they take cakebread and wine. And then, each man bids farewell to the mayor and returns home to evensong.
It has also been the custom that on the day after Michaelmas the new mayor, the sheriff and certain of their colleagues go to the Counter and summon before them the bailiffs, town clerk, steward, and all the sergeants of Bristol, together with the gatekeepers of the town. From the Counter they proceed to the Guildhall, where they take their oaths [of office] in the terms contained in the Red Book made a long time ago by the decision of the community of Bristol and to be preserved forever. Immediately after which, one of the bailiffs is to go, by the mayor's command, to preside over the market court.
It has also been the custom that on the third day after Michaelmas, after oaths have been administered to all other officers, the mayor shall summon before him the most venerable of his colleagues on the council, so that they may accompany him to the Guildhall, where are to be read out publicly the sheriff's commission, the dedimus potestatem, and the writ of attendance. Following which the sheriff is to take his oath, in the terms given in a schedule sent from the king, enclosed within the dedimus potestatem (if it has arrived by then).
Similarly, on the same occasion, the commission of the mayor of the staple is to be read out, together with the dedimus potestatem, and the mayor is to take his oath upon the same, in the terms given in a schedule enclosed within the dedimus potestatem (if it has arrived by then). And the same for the two constables [of the staple].
It has also been the custom for the mayor, on the same day, to summon before him all his sergeants and have them bring their sureties. Who are to be obligated with them towards the mayor, each in a bond of £10 or £13.6.8d [guaranteeing] their [i.e. the sergeants'] good behaviour and faithful execution of their duties during the year, both in the staple court and elsewhere, in regard to conscientousness in levying and honesty in handing over, to the mayor or to such persons to whom recoveries belong as their right, all kinds of fines, revenues, amercements, penalties, and executions [of judgements] made and recovered at any time in the mayor's court.
Similarly, at the same time, they summon before them [sic] the sheriff's sergeants, who are to put up a bond in the same way to the bailiffs, for the year to come.
It has also been the custom, on the fourth day following Michaelmas, that the new mayor has summoned to come before him at the Counter all the chantry priests with whom agreements are registered in the Red Book that is, the priests [of the chantries]of Everard le Frenshe, Richard Spicer, John Spicer, John Stoke, Walter Frampton, Edmond Blanket, Thomas Halleweye, John Burton, William Canynges, John Shipward, and Thomas Rowley so that they can take oath to observe faithfully the terms of the agreements. Their oaths are to be taken in the following way; that is, each of them is to lay his left hand upon the book, and his right hand upon his breast, and to swear the oath by the holy gospel and by words used in holy services.
It has also been the custom, on that fourth day after Michaelmas and in the days following, for the mayor to have summoned to appear before him all the masters of the bakers, brewers, butchers and other crafts of the town. Thereafter they go and assemble [the craftsmen] at their halls or other customary [meeting] places, for purposes of electing their masters for the coming year. Then to bring those masters and present them before the mayor, where they are to take their oaths in the mayor's presence, in the terms indicated in the Red Book. Following which, the mayor is to command each of his sergeants and ensure they comply to bring before him from each ward of Bristol as many honest and suitable persons as each ward demands and rightfully requires (according to the discretion of the mayor) to be sworn as constables for the year coming.
It has also been the custom in the town that the following Saturday, after the market court session has concluded, the mayor will have proclaimed within the town all the articles of communal regulations concerning victuallers and other [market?] matters ordained in times past by the decision of the community of Bristol. After which, the mayor is to proceed to the holding of his court [to hear] all kinds of actions brought before the mayor and sheriff in person, or before the bailiffs then in office. And then to designate and announce the days for assizes and real actions concerning real estate, in a form that includes that all plaintiffs and defendants, claimants and tenants, who have any litigation before the mayor and sheriff of Bristol, or the mayor and bailiffs of Bristol, regarding any assize or other real actions should appear on the date assigned them at the Bristol Guildhall.
It has also been the custom that within a month after Michaelmas day, the mayor, sheriff and bailiffs of Bristol shall hold a lawday in the Guildhall, summoning thereto (by the town clerk of the town) first the entire council of Bristol, without any amercements, and next summoning all freeholders and common suitors, upon penalty of amercement, and finally to summon the constables of every ward. And then proceeding to the inquests. Once the town clerk has made a record of the lawday, within 7 or 8 days after that the mayor, sheriff and bailiffs are to hold the affeering day, and on that basis the town clerk is to compile his estreats for the bailiffs, keeping a register of the same to remain in the mayor's keeping, as has been the practice and custom since ancient times.
This account was produced by newly-appointed town clerk Robert Ricart, at the request of the mayor then in office, as part of a larger reference work intended to provide guidance to Bristol officials in performing their duties. William Spencer, the mayor in question, had been elected to his third and final (non-consecutive) term in office in 1478 when he commissioned the work from Ricart. This is therefore accepted as the year when the book of "various chronicles, customs, laws, liberties and other memoranda and things necessary [to have recorded]", to be known as the Maire of Bristowe is Register, or ellis the Maire is Kalender was planned out and commenced. The compilation doubtless was made over a period of time, and later clerks made a few post-medieval additions.
The manual for mayoral administration provides a relatively intimate look at the annual renewal of local government, its formalized procedures, and its institutions. This level of detail was not something generally committed to writing until towards the close of the Middle Ages, and cannot be taken as evidence for the early period of local self-government. Ricart goes on, after the account of electoral procedures and the initial activities to re-empower other agencies of local administration, to identify other duties of the mayor. Those included ceremonial events and attending the obits of benefactors of the town, holding the assizes of bread and ale, regulating of the price of firewood during the winter season, supervising commerce in coal, auditing the accounts of William Canynges' chantries in St. Mary, Redcliffe, and presiding over weekday court sessions.
The audacious declaration that Bristol had been governed by mayors since pre-Conquest times is not atypical of urban legend, but even the chronicle and list of officers that Ricart compiled cannot extend the names of mayors before 1217 (and the list becomes increasingly unreliable the further back in time it extends), and there is independent evidence suggesting that Bristol first began to elect mayors ca.1216, even though the king refused for some decades to give official countenance to a mayor answerable to the community rather than to him. However, we must allow for the perception that the mayor was simply the successor of the reeve who had indeed taken a leading role in local government since Anglo-Saxon times. Historians do, on the other hand, concur that the great stone keep was probably built by Robert earl of Gloucester, although possibly to strengthen an earlier fortification.
An illustration of the swearing-in of the mayor-elect was made for inclusion in the mayor's register. I have elsewhere shown and interpreted this (on the hypothesis that it represents events of 1479). It is interesting to compare the outgoing mayor's valedictory speech with the recommendations on this subject by Latini, in section 5 of his treatise on the proper qualities and behaviour of rulers; although there are similarities, we cannot conclude with certainty that there was either a direct or indirect influence. There are other points of agreement between the two documents (e.g. upholding the rights of widows and orphans), but again this could reflect a common medieval attitude, rather than direct influence of Latini on English political thought.
"in the same attire"
"county of Bristol"
"Ordinaries and Commissaries"
"statute of the staple" "statute merchant"
"execution of their duties"
"terms indicated in the Red Book"
"assizes and real actions"
"without any amercements"
|Created: May 27, 2003. Last update: November 2, 2014||© Stephen Alsford, 2003-2014|