History Tax - Scutaqe, Land Tax on Knights

History of Accounting > Tax History > SCUTAQE. THE LAND TAX ON KNIGHTS’ FEES

Scutages in the reign of king Richard. In the reign of John. Refusal of the northern barons, in 1214, to pay the scutage for Normandy. The clause in Magna Oarta against scutage. Repealed in 1217. Scutages in the reign of Henry III. How scutage was collected. The cartels of the barons. The scutage of Gascony, 1234, how assessed. Scutages in the reign of Edward I. Scutage falls into disuse. The last of the scutages.
The practice of taking a tax on the fee, in commutation for the personal service of the military tenants in capite of the king, continued for a century and a quarter after the scutage of Toulouse. The principal scutages in the reign of Eichard I. were one taken in 1189, the first year of the reign, for a pretended expedition to Wales, at the rate of 10s. on the fee; another in 1195, on those tenants in chief who had not accompanied the king to Normandy, at the rate of 20s. on the fee; and a third, in 1196, also for Normandy and at the same rate ;1 while the aid for the ransom of the king in 1193 was partly levied by means of a tax of “20s. on the fee.
In the reign of John no less than ten scutages were levied, commencing with the scutage for his expedition to Normandy in 1199, the first year of the reign. This scutage was at the high rate of two marks on the fee, the amount taken for the expedition to Toulouse; and some of the scutages taken after 1201, when the levy became almost annual, were at an increased rate of two and a half marks (ll. 13s. 4d.}.
1 Madox, pp. 443-4. VOL. I. E
This constant taxation to which the barons were subjected, and the increase in the rate for scutage, formed one of the principal grounds of complaint in their disputes with the king. And the northern barons, who regarded their military duty to consist mainly in the defence of the northern border, began to question their liability to service or any composition for service, in these expeditions for the recovery of the lost duchy of Normandy. In that view, when, in 1213, the king called on them to follow him in an expedition to the continent, they pleaded exhaustion in consequence of previous expeditions in this island, and went so far as to deny their liability to serve in transpontine expeditions. And subsequently, when the king, on his return from the continent, demanded from them a scutage in accordance with the precedents in the reign of his brother and his father, they flatly refused to pay. Thus was accelerated the crisis that resulted in the signature by the king of the Articles of the Barons and the issue of the Great Charter.
The extent of the irritation caused by the scutages of John may be inferred from the terms of the twelfth article of the charter, which follow those of the thirtysecond of the articles of the barons, and are as follows: ‘No scutage or aid shall be imposed in the kingdom unless by the common counsel of the realm, except for the purpose of ransoming the king’s person, making his first-born son a knight, and marrying his eldest daughter once, and the aids for these purposes shall be reasonable in amount.’ While the fourteenth article contains provisions for the summons of the prelates, earls and barons, by personal writs, and the other tenants in chief by a general writ to the sheriffs and bailiffs, to take the common counsel of the realm for imposing such an aid or for imposing a scutage.
The effect of this would seem to be to abolish, during the life of the king, the arrangement for a composition for non-attendance at the array introduced by Henry II. and re-establish the obligation of the military tenants to serve personally in the king’s expeditions for forty days in the year. But this was probably more than was intended, and accordingly the provision regarding scutage was not embodied in the charter on its first re-issue in the reign of Henry III.; and on the second issue in 1217, a clause was inserted, clause 44, to provide that ‘scutage should be taken for the future as it was accustomed to be taken in the time of king Henry our grandfather—’ sicut capi consuevit,’ according to the precedents, in the reign of Henry II.
Several scutages were taken in the reign of Henry HI., of which the principal were—one in 1221, for the capture of Biham, which William of Albemarle had fortified, of two marks on the fee; another in 1231, for the expedition to Bretagne, of three marks on the fee; another in 1242, for the expedition to Gascony, of 20.9. on the fee; and another in 1253, for an expedition to Gascony, of three marks on the fee.1
The assessments for a scutage were, as a general rule, based upon returns, which were required by the king’s writ from the tenants in chief upon their fealty, ‘per fidem et ligantiam quam nobis debes,’ though perhaps returns may not have been required on every single occasion of a scutage.
In their returns, or certificates, or cartels, cartae baronum they were usually termed, the military tenants stated the number of fees for which they were liable. The returns, though subjected to examination by the exchequer officers, and tested as to their correctness by reference to previous entries in the exchequer rolls, were, as a rule, accepted and entered in order in the red book of the exchequer. If any dispute arose regarding the number of fees for which a tenant was liable,2 the entry on the exchequer rolls was made as follows:—So-and-so is charged for so many fees ‘quos non recognoscit,’ in respect of which he denies his liability.8 The original cartels were kept in a hutch in the exchequer, and the entries formed the basis of subsequent taxation.
When the entries were completed, the king’s writ issued to the barons of the exchequer to collect his scutage, and it was paid into the exchequer directly by those liable to payment.
1 Matt. Paris, ii. 247, 329, 466, iii. 136.
2 The disputes that arose had chiefly reference to lands held by ecclesiastics, bishops, and abbots claiming probably to hold in frank almoign, a tenure not liable to scutage, and not by baronial and military service.—Madox, p. 466.
» Madox, p. 451.
When the king took scutage from his tenants in chief, the great lords who had tenants holding under them, by knight service, the fees for which they were immediately liable to the king, had the right to take their scutage from their tenants according to the number of fees held by them; a right which extended also to occasions where the lord performed personal service for his fees in an expedition and therefore himself paid no scutage. And these scutages the lord collected from his military tenants, where he had the power of distraining for the amount, personally, ‘per manum suam,’ as it was termed. In other cases he had, on payment of a fine, or without a fine, a writ of assistance directed to the sheriffs. For instance, Eoger de Verli paid, 21 Hen. II., into the exchequer xxvis. and viiid. that he might have the service or scutage of his men (or tenants):1 this was for the scutage of Ireland, William de Say had from Henry III. a grant of his scutage from the fees which he held of the king in chief, because he had done personal service with the king in Gascony.2 Henry de Braybrook had, 6 Hen. III., for the scutage of Biham, 1221, a writ of aid directed to the sheriff, who was ordered to assist him to distrain his knights who held of him the fees which he held of the king in capite, for payment to him of the scutage for those fees, at the rate of two marks a fee, which scutage was charged against him at the exchequer.3
In process of time difficult questions arose regarding the tenure of lands, ‘ whether they were holden by knight’s service or some other tenure, or, if holden by knight’s service, whether they were holden immediately of the king or of some other lord, or by how many knights’ fees they were holden, and the like; and for these and other causes, it became almost necessary that scutage should be collected by the sheriffs of counties, who might make inquisition by the oath of jurors concerning these and such like articles proper to be inquired into.1 Thus it was that in 1243, under the direction of the common council of the kingdom, writs were issued to the sheriffs, ordering them to collect the scutage of Gascony.2 And in the writs the sheriffs were directed to make inquiry by the oath of twelve knights and freemen, through whom the truth might best be known, men of substance so as to be responsible to the king in case of default, and find what lands were holden of the king, or of others who held of the king in capile, &c., and to distrain the tenants of such fees to pay their scutage for the same.3
1 Madox, p. 469. 3 Ibid. p. 470. 3 Ibid. p. 469.
The confusion into which the records of the exchequer fell during the reigu of Henry III., aud the irregular manner in which the entries had been made, rendered it difficult, in the following reign, to discover the value of lands; while any attempt to do so would, under the circumstances of the time, have caused numberless disputes and much ill blood among the nobility. This Edward was anxious to avoid, and therefore, though he took a scutage in 1277, the sixth year of the reign, on his return from the expedition to Wales, at the rate of 40s. on the fee, and, in 128 % another of the same amount for another expedition to Wales,1 his subsequent exactions were such as not to involve any collision with the barons— taxes on wool, levies in kind of all sorts, and general taxes on moveables. The heavy taxation from 1290 to 1297 touched the landowners only in regard to their crops and cattle.
1 Madox, p. 472. For a petition for apportionment of souteg-e, see Par. Rolls, i. 47, No. 20.
2 Ibid. p. 473.
3 Writ for Lincolnshire, Madox. p. 472.
Towards the close of the reign scutages appear to have been levied for the armies of Scotland in 1300, 1303, and 1306, but such was the difficulty in collecting them, that as late as 10 Edward II. writs had to be issued appointing commissioners to levy and collect these scutages in the county of York. The writs were headed ‘Quod rebelles et inobedientes collectoribus scutagii amerciantur.’ The rate to be enforced was 40s. on the fee.2 The commissioners were to inquire by the oath of freemen of the county what fees were held in capite of the king at the time of the armies for Scotland. The sheriff was to summon the freemen to appear before the commissioners to make inquisition touching the matters aforesaid, and the commissioners were to amerce severely all rebellious or disobedient jurors and bailiffs of the king or lords of liberties, who should neglect to attend and to assist and obey them, causing the estreats of the amercements to be sent into the exchequer, that the same might be levied for the king’s use.
1 Ann. Dunstapl., Ann. Monast. iii. 317. - Madox, p. 474.
In short, a tax on the fee was so difficult to collect and so insignificant in the yield that it was now practically abandoned. The last vestiges of scutage are to be found in the records of fines imposed for not serving in the army summoned to march against the Scots in 1322, after the victory at the battle of Boroughbridge and the execution of Lancaster had rendered Edward supreme. They were collected from the archbishops, bishops, clergy, widows’ and other women, who owed service in that army and were desirous to make fines for the same.

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