Ranulf de Glanvill

Ranulf de Glanvill
Chief Justiciar of England
In office
Monarch Henry II
Preceded by Richard de Luci
Succeeded by William de Mandeville
Hugh de Puiset
Sheriff of Lancashire
In office
1173  ?
Monarch Henry II
Sheriff of Yorkshire
In office
Sheriff of Yorkshire
In office
1175  ?
Justice of the King's Court
In office
Personal details
Born Stratford St Andrew, Suffolk
Died 1190
Acre, Palestine
Relations Hubert Walter, nephew

Ranulf de Glanvill (alias Glanvil, Glanville, Granville, etc., died 1190) was Chief Justiciar of England during the reign of King Henry II (1154–89) and was the author of Tractatus de Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni Angliae (Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Kingdom of England), the earliest treatise on the laws of England.[1]

He was born c. 1112 at Stratford St Andrew near Saxmundham in Suffolk, but there is little information about his early life. He is first heard of as Sheriff of Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire from 1163 to 1170 when, along with the majority of High Sheriffs, he was removed from office for corruption. However, in 1173 he had been appointed Sheriff of Lancashire and custodian of the honour of Richmond. In 1174, when he was Sheriff of Westmorland, he was one of the English leaders at the Battle of Alnwick, and it was to him that the king of Scotland, William the Lion, surrendered. In 1175 he was reappointed Sheriff of Yorkshire, in 1176 he became justice of the king's court and a justice itinerant in the northern circuit, and in 1180 Chief Justiciar of England.[2] It was with his assistance that Henry II completed his famous judicial reforms, though many had been carried out before he came into office. He became the king's right-hand man, and during Henry's frequent absences was in effect regent of England. In 1176 he was also made custodian of Queen Eleanor, who was confined to her quarters in Winchester Castle.

After the death of Henry in 1189, Glanvill was removed from his office by Richard I on 17 September 1189[2] and imprisoned until he had paid a ransom, according to one authority, of £15,000. Shortly after obtaining his freedom he took the cross, and he died at the siege of Acre in 1190.

He founded two abbeys, both in Suffolk: Butley, for Black Canons, was founded in 1171,[3] and Leiston Abbey, for White Canons, in 1183.[4] He also built a leper hospital at Somerton, in Norfolk.

Marriage & progeny

Ranulf married Bertha de Valoignes, daughter of Theobald de Valoignes, lord of the manor of Parham, Suffolk,[5] by whom he had three daughters:[6]

Tractatus de Legibus

The title page of a 1780 edition of Glanvill's Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliæ[8]

Perhaps at the instigation of Henry II, Glanvill wrote or oversaw the writing of the Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae (English: Treatise on the laws and customs of the Kingdom of England), a practical discourse on the forms of procedure in the king's court.[9] As the source of our knowledge regarding the earliest form of the curia regis, and for the information it affords regarding ancient customs and laws, it is of great value to the student of English history. It is now generally agreed that the work of Glanvill is of earlier date than the Scottish law book known from its first words as Regiam Majestatem, which bears a close resemblance to his.

The treatise of Glanvill was first printed in 1554.[10] An English translation, with notes and introduction by John Beames, was published at London in 1812.[11] A French version is found in various manuscripts, but has not yet been printed. The treatise was then edited and translated by G.D.G. Hall for the Oxford University Press 1965.[12] The Tractatus may in fact have been ghostwritten by Ranulf's nephew Hubert Walter, the Chief Justiciar and Lord Chancellor of England under Richard I.[13]


  1. Everyman's Encyclopaedia, 5th edition, London, 1967, vol. 6, p. 31
  2. 1 2 Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 69
  3. "History of Butley Priory". Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  4. "House of Premonstratensian canons — Abbey of Leiston". British History Online. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  5. George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Volume II, ed. Vicary Gibbs (The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., London, 1912) p. 447
  6. S. J. Bailey, 'Ranulf de Glanvill and His Children', The Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, (Nov. 1957) p. 166 JSTOR
  7. 1 2 3 S. J. Bailey, Ranulf de Glanvill and his Children, The Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, (Nov. 1957) pp. 166, 174, 175
  8. Ranulfo de Glanvilla [Ranulf de Glanville] (1780), Tractatus de Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni Angliæ, tempore regis Henrici Secundi compositus, justiciæ gubernacula tenente illustri viro Ranvlpho de Glanvilla, Juris Regni et antiquarum Consuetudinum eo tempore peritissimo. Et illas solum leges continet et consuetudines secundum quas placitatur in Curiâ regis, ad Scaccarium, et coram justiciis ubicunque fuerint. Cum MSS. Harl. Cott. Bodl. et Mill. collatus, London: Prostant venales apud J. White et E. Brooke, OCLC 437769980.
  9. John Hudson, The Oxford History of the Laws of England: c.900–1216, ed. John Hamilton Baker, Vol. II (Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2012) p. 872
  10. Ranulf De Glanville, The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Realm of England Commonly Called Glanvill, ed. G.D.G. Hall (Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2002), p. xix n. 1
  11. Ranulf De Glanville, The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Realm of England Commonly Called Glanvill, ed. G.D.G. Hall (Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2002), pp. lxiv–lxv
  12. Harry Rothwell, English Historical Documents 1189–1327 (Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2004), p. 923
  13. British History Online Deans of York accessed on 10 September 2007


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard de Luci
Chief Justiciar
Succeeded by
William de Mandeville
Hugh de Puiset

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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