[Custody of] The TEMPORAL GOVERNMENT. [Orphans.]327

[Custody of] The TEMPORAL GOVERNMENT. [Orphans.]

It is pity to let such considerable Letters of the Maior and Aldermen be utterly lost and vanish, if we can retrieve them and bring them to light; and therefore I have inserted it. And the Plea enclosed they put to the Lords for this Custom, was to this Tenour.

"How agreeable the Custom for the Device of the Goods of the Dead into three parts, was to the ancient Laws of this Realm, and usually put in Practice in most Parts of the Realm by a Writ De rationabili parte bonorum."

The City's Plea for Orphanage.

"That the Maior and Aldermen being by the Custom, Patrons, and Guardians, as well of the Bodies as of the Goods of Orphans; by reason whereof, during their Nonage, the Court of Orphans took care for their reasonable Maintenance and vertuous Education, foresaw that they were not defrauded by the Executors, by Concealment or mispraising the Goods by false-Accompt, nor abused by Disparagement in Marriage, provided safeguard for their Portions; so that neither themselves nor others might mispend the same; and in the behalf of the Orphans, did prosecute Suits for Recovery or Defence of their Right; where otherwise the Children, for want of Ability, Discretion, and Friends to follow their Suits, would often prejudice their Titles, and sometimes lose their Rights. And that by this Custom, if any Orphan died within Age, the Interest of his Portion was preserved to his Brothers and Sisters surviving; where otherwise they might (by Flattery or other Abuse) be induced to bestow the same by their Wills upon Strangers. Which provident Care had of the Orphans, as aforesaid, did not only extend to their Benefit, but stretched farther to the Good of the Widows, Creditors and Legatories of the Dead, who might by sinister Practices of the Executors be greatly prejudiced, if such exact Care were not had. And which was more, that there were a great number of young and towardly Merchants and Occupiers within the City, relieved and profited by the use of Orphans Portions; yielding but an easy Allowance to the Orphans for their competent Maintenance. And therefore they hoped this their Custom would seem to their Lordships, with all favour, the more worthy to be supported."

"Where, on the contrary part, if it should be holden or deemed as a thing lawful and arbitrable for every Freeman at his own Discretion and Pleasure, by fraudulent Deed of Gift in his Lifetime, or by his last Will, to dispose of all his Goods after his Death, hereof it would ensue, that many counterfeit Wills and Deeds of Gift would be forged, and, for maintenance thereof, much Perjury committed; many true Wills would be suppressed; many wilful Men, to advance one Child, for Affection, would leave the rest Beggers. That hereby also Men would defraud their Wives. So that neither rich Woman, nor wise Woman would marry with a Citizen, not having Lands of Inheritance. And Women already married would all persuade their Husbands to become Purchasers. That hereby would be opened a Gap to much Perjury in these Devices. For that every Freeman was sworn to defend, obey, and maintain this Custom. That hence also it might proceed that the Court of Orphans being discouraged, might slack the Care and Diligence which was taken in Orphans Causes; and Orphans, having present Possession of their Portions, being very young at the time of the Death of their Parents, would presently depart out of the City, and be in danger, before they were of reasonable Discretion, to be defrauded of their Portion, and to be abused in Marriage, either to Beggers, Persons irreligious, or of light Name. Whereby the Trade of Merchandize would wax cold, the City in Strength and Wealth feebled, Navigation neglected, her Majesty's Subsidy and Custom diminished, rich Mens Children (deprived of their Birthright) should become Beggers, the Hospitals surcharged, and intolerable Burthen imposed on the City, and all by Fraud; where Fraud, even in things of themselves lawful, was not favoured in Law."

Now who shall be Guardians to the City Orphans, I meet with this Case about an Orphan in the Reign of King Henry III. when the Mother strove to be its Guardian. And for securing the Child the better in her own Possession, went with it into Alhallows Breadstreet Church. The Case was this. Christian, the Wife of Josce le Spicer, appealed Simon Fitz-Mary, and Robert de Herbyntone, [Aldermen, as it seems] before the King's Justices sitting at the Tower; that they on Saturday after the Invention of the Holy Cross, Anno 25 Hen' III. about the Hour of Three came to the Church of All Saints, Bredstreet, and by force entred that Church, and took William Fitz-William, who was under Age, and in her Custody, from Place to Place, and led him away, and detained him in Person, until the Feast of St. Lucie following, so that he died in their Prison. And she saith, that she was the worse for it, to the Value of 200l. Then comes one Josce [of Kin, as it seems, to the Father] and he pleads, that the Custody of the said William was bequeathed to him, with six Marks and four Shillings Rent, and the Appurtinences in the City of London, to put it in Use and Profit for the said Child till he came of Age.

Who had the Custody of an Orphan formerly.

It was enquired by the said Justices concerning the Custom of these Legacies; viz. to whom after the Death of Father and Mother, the Custom of their Children ought to belong. They [the Maior and Citizens] say, that it is lawful for any of the City to bequeath in his Will, to whom he will, the Custody of his Child, with his Goods and Inheritance, until he come of Age, to the Use and Profit of the Child. But if he shall not make any such Legacy, and an Inheritance comes from the Father, then the Mother of the Child, or the Kin of the Part of the Mother, shall have the Custody, with all his Goods. But if the Inheritance come of the Part of the Mother, then the Kin of the Part of the Father shall have the Custody. So that these Custoses are bound to answer to the Heir, when he comes to Age, for all the Issues of the Inheritance.

And this for the Children of Freemen. To which may be subjoined the Oath that every Freeman takes, an ancient Act of Common Council concerning Freemen and their Apprentices, and certain Instructions given to Apprentices for their good and dutiful Behaviour. And then this material Case shall be considered, Whether Apprenticeship extinguishes Gentility in Blood, and degrades from the Degree of a Gentleman. Next shall be added certain old Ordinances for the Assize and Weight of Bread in the City, together with the Assize of several Trades, employed about the provision of Meat and Drink.]

Lib. Alb.

Customs about Freemen and their Apprentices.


The OATH of every FREEMAN of the City of London.

 

YE shall swear, that ye shall be good and true to our Sovereign Lord, King CHARLES, and to the Heirs of our said Sovereign Lord the King. Obeysant and Obedient ye shall be to the Maior and Ministers of this City, the Franchises and Customs thereof ye shall maintain, and this City keep harmless in that which in you is. Ye shall be contributory to all manner

of