Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Englishry Definition:

The proving to the authorities that a killed person was English.

Also spelled Englishery.

An ancient and abolished crime established by William the Conqueror to address the rampant murder of Normans by the conquered Anglo-Saxons subsequent to 1066.

When a person was killed, the local communities sometimes did little if anything to apprehend the suspect, especially if the victim was a hated foreign-born Norman.

William the Conqueror imposed a reverse onus upon the community where such a death occurred. Where the suspect was not rounded up by the community, the community itself would pay a large fine:

"unless they could prove that the slain was an Englishman".1

If the suspect was surrendered, the fine was avoided.

Once the Norman began to assimilate, proving that a victim was English became increasingly difficult. Eventually, the offence of Englishry was abolished.


  • Jeudwine, J. W., Tort, Crime and Police in Medieval Britain: A Review of Some Early Law and Custom (London: Williams & Norgate, 1917), pages 35-36 [NOTE 1].
  • Yntema, Hessel, Lex MurdrorumHarv. L. Rev. 146 (1922-1923)

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