Plague, prorogation and the suspension of the courts in fifteenth-century England

Fascinating post by  Dr Simon Payling on History of Parliament Blog:

On Wednesday 6 June 1464, at the beginning of Trinity term, a small piece of theatre was played out in Westminster Hall. Three justices of the court of common pleas ordered everyone present to hear the King’s command. The seal of a royal writ, dated ten days earlier, was then broken and the writ read aloud: the King, absent in the north campaigning against the Lancastrians, had heard of the plague raging in London and Westminster and decided to suspend the court for the whole of Trinity term. This sensible precaution reminds us that, although no visitation of the plague to these shores approached the devastating mortality of the Black Death of 1349, plague remained a recurring and unwelcome visitor into the fifteenth century and beyond. Indeed, over that century, at least ten law terms were lost, in whole or part, to such court suspensions, most notably the successive terms of Easter and Trinity term 1479 when the visitation of the plague to London was particularly severe.

 

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