The Dooms of King Alfred, 871-901CE
The Lord spoke these words to
Moses, and thus said: "I am the Lord your God. I led you out of the land
of the Egyptians, and of their bondage.
At the first
we teach, that it is most needful that every man warily keep his oath and his wed.
If any one be constrained to either of these wrongfully, either to treason
against his lord, or to any unlawful aid; then it is juster to belie than to
fulfil. But if he pledge himself to that which it is lawful to fulfil, and in
that belie himself, let him submissively deliver up his weapon and his goods to
the keeping of his friends, and be in prison forty days in a king's tun; let him there
suffer whatever the bishop may prescribe to him; and let his kinsmen feed him,
if he himself have no food. If he have no kinsmen, or have no food, let the
king's reeve feed him. If he must be forced to this, and he otherwise will not,
if they bind him, let him forfeit his weapons and his property. If he be slain,
let him lie uncompensated. If he flee thereout before the time, and he be
taken, let him be in prison forty days, as he should before have been. But if
he escape, let him be held a fugitive, and be excommunicate of all Christ's
churches. If, however, there be another man's borh, let him make bot
for the borhbryce, as the law may direct him, and the wedbryce,
as his confessor may prescribe to him.
If any one, for
whatever crime, seek any of the mynsterhams to which the king's feorm
is incident, or other freehired which is worthy of reverence, let him have a
space of three days to protect himself, unless he be willing to come to terms.
If during this space, any one harm him by blow, or by bond, or wound him, let
him make bot for each of these according to regular usage, as well with wer
as with wite: and to the brotherhood one hundred and twenty shillings,
as bot for the churchfrith: and let him not have forlongen his
If any one break the
king's borh, let him make bot for the plaint, as the law shall
direct him; and for the borhbryce with five pounds of maerra
pence. For an archbishop's borhbryce, or his mundbyrd, let him
make bot with three pounds: for any other bishop's or an earldormans borhbryce,
or mundbyrd, let him make bot with two pounds.
If any one plot against
the king's life, of himself, or by harbouring of exiles, or of his men; let him
be liable with his life and in all that he has; or let him prove himself
according to his lord's wer.
We also ordain to every
church which has been hallowed by a bishop, this fryth: if a fahman
flee to or reach one, that for seven days no one drag him out. But if anyone do
so, let him be liable in the king's mundbyrd and the churchfryth;
more if he there commit more wrong, if, despite of hunger, he can live; unless
he fight his way out. If the brethren have further need of their church, let
them keep him in another house, and let not that have more doors than the
church. Let the churchealdor take care that during this term no one give
him food. If he himself be willing to deliver up his weapons to his foes, let
them keep him thirty days, and then let them give notice of him to his kinsmen.
It is also churchfryth: if any man seek a church for any of those
offences, which had not been before revealed, and there confess himself ill
God's name, be it half forgiven. He who steals on Sunday, or at Yule, or at
Easter, or on Holy Thursday, and on Rogation days; for each of these we will
that the bot be twofold, as during Lent-fast.
If any one thieve aught
in a church, let him pay the angylde, and the wite, such as shall
belong to the angylde; and let the hand be struck off with which he did
it. If he will redeem the hand, and that be allowed him, let him pay as may
belong to his wer.
If any one fight in the
king's hall, or draw his weapon, and he be taken; be it in the king's doom,
either death, or life, as he may be willing to grant him. If he escape, and be
taken again, let him pay for himself according to his wergeld, and make bot
for the offence, as well wer as wite, according as he may have
If any one carry off a
nun from a minster, without the king's or the bishop's leave, let him pay a
hundred and twenty shillings, half to the king, half to the bishop and to the
church-hlaford who owns the nun. If she live longer than he who carried
her off, let her not have aught of his property. If she bear a child, let not
that have of the property more than the mother. If any one slay her child, let
him pay to the king the maternal kindred's share; to the paternal kindred let
their share be given. . . .
If any one lend his weapon to
another that he may kill some one therewith, they may join together if they
will in the wer. If they will not join together, let him who lent the
weapon pay of the wer a third part, and of the wite a third part.
If he be willing to justify himself, that he knew of no ill-design in the loan;
that he may do. If a sword-polisher receive another man's weapon to furbish, or
a smith a man's material, let them both return it sound as either of them may
have before received it: unless either of them had before agreed that he should
not hold it angylde. . . .
If any one at the
folk-mote make declaration of a debt, and afterwards wish to withdraw it, let
him charge it on a righter person, if he can; if he cannot, let him forfeit his
angylde [and take possession of the wite.] . . .
If a man, kinless of paternal
relatives, fight, and slay a man, and then if he have maternal relatives, let
them pay a third of the wer; his guild-brethren a third part; for a
third let him flee. If he have no maternal relatives, let his guild-brethren
pay half, for half let him flee.
If a man kill a man
thus circumstanced, if he have no relatives, let half be paid to the king; half
to his guild-brethren.
If any one with a hloth
slay an unoffending twy-hynde man, let him who acknowledges the
death-blow pay wer and wite; and let every one who was of the
party pay thirty shillings as hloth-bot.
If it be a six-hynde
man, let every man pay sixty shillings as hloth-bot; and the slayer, wer
and full wite.
If he be a twelve-hynde
man, let each of them pay one hundred and twenty shillings; and the slayer, wer
and wite. If a hloth do this, and afterwards will deny it on
oath, let them all be accused, and let them then all pay the wer in
common; and all, one wite, such as shall belong to the wer.
If a man commit folk-leasing,
and it be fixed upon him, with no lighter thing let him make bot than
that his tongue be cut out; which must not be redeemed at any cheaper rate than
it is estimated at according to his wer. . . .
If a man from one holdgetael
wish to seek a lord in another holdgetael, let him do it with the
knowledge of the ealdorman whom he before followed in his shire. If he do it
without his knowledge, let him who entertains him as his man pay 120 shillings
as wite; let him, however, deal the half to the king in the shire where
he before followed, half in that into which he comes. If he has done anything
wrong where he before was, let him make bot for it who has their
received him as his man; and to the king 120 shillings as wite.
If a man
fight before a king's ealdorman in the gemot, let him make bot
with wer and wite as it may be right; and before this 120
shillings to the ealdorman as wite. If he disturb the folkmote by
drawing his weapon, one hundred and twenty shillings to the ealdorman as wite.
If aught of this happen before a king's ealdorman's junior, or a king's priest,
thirty shillings as wite.
If any one fight in a
ceorlish man's flet, with six shillings let him make bot to the
ceorl. If he draw his weapon and fight not, let it be half of that. If,
however, either of these happen to a six-hynde man, let it increase
threefoldly, according to the ceorlish bot to a twelve-hynde man, twofoldly,
according to the six-hynde's bot.
The king's burh-bryce
shall be 120 shillings. An archbishop's, ninety shillings. Any other bishop's,
and an ealdorman's, sixty shillings. A twelve-hynde man's, thirty shillings. A
six-hynde man's, fifteen shillings. A ceorl's edorbryce, five shillings.
If aught of this happen when the fyrd is out, or in Lent fast, let the
bot be twofold. If any one in Lent put down holy law among the people without
leave, let him make bot with 120 shillings.
The man who has boc-land,
and which his kindred left him, then ordain we that he must not give it from
his maeg-burg, if there be writing or witness that it was forbidden by
those men who at first acquired it, and by those who gave it to him, that he
should do so; and then let that be declared in the presence of the king and of
the bishop, before his kinsmen.
We also command: that
the man who knows his foe be homesitting fight not before he demand justice of
him. If he have such power that he can beset his foe, and besiege him within,
let him keep him within for seven days, and attack him not, if he will remain
within. And, then, after seven days, if he will surrender, and deliver up his
weapons, let him be kept safe for thirty days, and let notice of him be given
to his kinsmen and his friends. If, however, he flee to a church, then let it
be according to the sanctity of the church; as we have before said above. But
if he have not sufficient power to besiege him within, let him ride to the
ealdorman, and beg aid of him. If he will not aid him, let him ride to the king
before he fights. In like manner also, if a man come upon his foe, and he did
not before know him to be homestaying; if he be willing to deliver up his
weapons, let him be kept for thirty days, and let notice of him be given to his
friends; if he will not deliver up his weapons, then he may attack him. If he
be willing to surrender, and to deliver up his weapons, and any one after that
attack him, let him pay as well wer as wound, as he may do, and wite, and let
him have forfeited his maegship. We also declare, that with his lord a
man may fight orwige, if any one attack the lord: thus may the lord
fight for his man. After the same wise, a man may fight with his born kinsman,
if a man attack him wrongfully, except against his lord; that we do not allow.
And a man may fight orwige, if he find another with his lawful wife, within
closed doors, or under one covering, or with his lawfully-born daughter, or
with his lawfully-born sister, or with his mother, who was given to his father
as his lawful wife.
To all freemen let
these days be given, but not to theow-men and esne-workmen:
twelve days at Yule, and the day on which Christ overcame the devil, and the
commemoration day of St. Gregory, and seven days before Easter and seven days
after, and one day at St. Peter's tide and St. Paul's, and in harvest the whole
week before St. Mary-mass, and one day at the celebration of All-Hallows and
the four Wednesdays in the four ember weeks. To all theow-men be given,
to those whom it may be most desirable to give, whatever any man shall give
them in God's name, or they at any of their moments may deserve.