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Curia regis is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court." It was the name given to councils of advisors and administrators who served early French kings as well as to those serving Norman and later kings of England.
In England the Norman kings after the Conquest of England conducted much of the business of state utilizing a council called the curia regis. 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, the great curia regis or Magnum Concilium, composed of the tenants-in-chief, the great officers of the king's court, and those ecclesiastics who held lands of the king.[a]
This council met on special occasions and were summoned by the king. When not in session it was replaced by a smaller council which itself was in continuous session called the lesser or small curia regis made up of the king's officers of state and those magnates who were at court. 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.
The curia regis in either of its two forms 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 it was 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,[b] one of the first being the exchequer which specialized in the financial matters of government. During the thirteenth century the two forms of the curia themselves began to separate. 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.
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).
Parliament of England
In France the King's Court, called the Curia Regis in Latin, and 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 had served as a predecessor to later sovereign assemblies; the Parlement which was a judiciary body, the Chamber of Accounts which was a financial body and King's Council.