Duhaime's Law Dictionary

King's Bench Definition:

Originally, the common criminal court of the common law; later, the general superior court.

Related Terms: Exchequer, Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, Court of Exchequer, Bench

"Originally," suggested the great English lawyer Harry Poland, "the King's Bench dealt with usurpations of authority or jurisdiction, or cases of violation of the peace of the King."1

This description is reflected in other contemporary writings:

"[T]he King's Bench to correct all crimes and misdemeanors that amount to a breach of the peace, the King being there (as) plaintiff, as such offenses are in open derogation of the jura regalia of his Crown."2

Courts signA traditional distinction is made between the King's Bench (which simply changed its name to Queen's Bench at times where the sitting monarch was of the other gender) and the Common Pleas, which pitted citizen against citizen - cases not involving the Crown but between its "subjects".

For  brief period of time circa 1650, the Court of King's Bench was styled Court of Upper Bench or Court of Public Bench. 3

See also the Legal Definition of Exchequer, re the Court of Exchequer.


  • Bowen-Rowlands, E., Seventy-Two Years at the Bar (London: MacMillan and Co., 1924), page 37 (NOTE 1).
  • Heard, Franklin Fiske, Curiosities of the Law Reporters (Boston: W.S. Bartlett, 1871), page 8 [NOTE 3].
  • Williams, T. W., A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating The Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity (London: Gale and Fenner, 1816) - NOTE #2.

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