Monday, February 19, 2007

Bots #1 (Aethelbert of Kent)

My present immersement in Albania's Kanun has rekindled my interest in the codification of the blood-feud and other aspects of Anglo-Saxon good manners. Take the laws of Aethelbert, King of Kent (560-616), which set out clear penalties for humping female members of the royal household:

If a man lie with the King's maiden, let him pay a bot [compensation] of fifty shillings. If she be a grinding slave [?!], let him pay a bot of twenty-five shillings. The third class, twelve shillings."

The mid-section of Aethelbert's code deals with the prices to be paid for inflicting various wounds. A struck-off ear cost 12s, a merely pierced one 3s, though if it were also mutilated the perpetrator would have to cough up 6s.

"Let him who breaks the chin-bone pay for it with twenty shillings...for every nail, a shilling..."

The premium-end of GBH was covered by clause 64: "If anyone destroy (another's) organ of generation, let him pay with three leud-geld; if he pierce it through, let him make a bot with six shillings; if it be pierced within, let him make a bot with six shillings."

Three leud-gelds were in effect 3 x the wergeld for ordinary manslaughter, a clear deterrent against low-blows!

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