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Speak for Yourself: Legal Personalities

Who could speak in court? If we look at the Tudor Stuart legal landscape, we would quickly see that many people did not have a voice in the system. When we talk about who had standing in the legal system, that is referred to as legal personality. People who had legal personality could enter into contracts, make wills, and give testimony in court. Can you guess who would have legal personality in Early Modern England?

Photo Courtesy of Agecroft Hall


To have legal personality during this time, you would have needed to be a man who was at least 14 years old. Single women over the age of 12 could also maintain a degree of legal personality . The following people were denied legal personality- boys younger than 14, girls young than 12, certain clergy, felons, and people who were perceived to have a mental disability. Women who were married had their legal personality subsumed by their husbands.


How does our modern idea of who has legal standing compare to the system in Early Modern England?


Sources:

Agecroft teachers Notes, Robert Hicks.

Local Government in a Small Town: A Medieval Leet Jury and Its Constituents. Anne Reiber DeWindt. Apbion: Scholarly Journal Concerned with British Studies.

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