Will Eves

Contact Details: wae@st-andrews.ac.uk
Thesis title: The Assize of Mort d’Ancestor in the Late Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Centuries
Professor John Hudson

I have a background in law, graduating from the University of Warwick with an LL.B (first class hons.) in 2006 and an LL.M (with distinction) in 2007. After working in an employment law firm for a short time I decided to change direction and dive into the somewhat hazier, but much more intriguing, world of medieval law. I came to St Andrews in 2011 to take the M.Litt in medieval history and have now begun a Ph.D. in which I am researching twelfth and thirteenth- century English legal history.

My research focusses on the assize of mort d’ancestor, a legal procedure created during the reign of Henry II. The action was designed for use by the nearest heir of a recently deceased tenant to claim seisin of their predecessor’s land (if held in demesne and as of fee) when faced with a lord reluctant to allow this succession.

My project aims to investigate the manner in which the assize was used and how it evolved during the early years of its operation. This involves research into the substantive legal issues arising from the assize and also the socio-legal aspects of the action. The latter include questions as to the status of the litigants, the types of cases subject to litigation and the tactical (or otherwise) use of the assize. As the successful litigant would be granted possession (seisin) of their ancestor’s land, but not the ultimate ‘right’ to it, the way mort d’ancestor was used within the context of broader disputes over right to land is also a consideration of my research.

This research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.