Inquest of Sheriffs

Orig. the *sheriff was appointed by the king; his duties included financial and judicial matters. He collected money annually for the *exchequer and presided at the *county court. After the *Anarchy of Stephen's reign, sheriffs no longer acted as agents of the crown, but of their local magnate. This corruption grew worse as sheriffs began also to abuse powers which had been granted by the Assize of Clarendon, e.g. the power to seize the property of criminals, and to collect taxes. Therefore, in 1170, Henry II attempted to correct abuses by instituting this Inquest of Sheriffs. It was designed to take securities and pledges from sheriffs and the local barons and magnates, reclaiming crown authority.

Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases. .

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