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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

4.—Crown Land Public Property, and Unalienable

4.—Crown Land Public Property, and Unalienable.

It appears from Domesday Book that the crown acquired the entire property of 1,422 manors. To these are to be added 68 royal forests, 13 chases, and 781 parks in different parts of the country g. Although this, as has been seen, included what had been the private bôcland of the Confessor, that is, had belonged to him as his private inheritance, the greater portion of this land appears to have been viewed by the fundamental laws of the kingdom as the property of the whole nation, and therefore strictly inalienable. On this last point the language of the coon law is very strong and unambiguous. Fleta's words are, "Antiqua maneria vel jura coronæ annexa regi non Licebit alienare sed omnis rex coronæ alienata revocare tenetur" h. And he repeats the same doctrine in his third book, and adds, "nec valebit deforciantibus longi temporis praescriptio : diuturnitas enim temporis tantum in hoc casu magis injuriam auget quam minuit, cum constare debeat singulis, quod hujusmodi libertates de jure naturali vel gentium ad coronam tantum pertineant" i. And Noy, Attorney-General to Charles I., says (Rights of the Crown, 50), "The king may raise money and improve the revenue of the crown by lands, as by selling that which hath been often and usual, and if they were not of the ancient page 184 lands which our forefathers held impious for to alienate from the crown, and those were such lands as go under the title of terra regis, and were the lands of Edward the Confessor." But by the statute 21 Jac. I. c. 5 (amended and rendered more effectual by 9 Geo. III. c 16) it was enacted that a quiet and uninterrupted enjoyment, for sixty years before the passing of that act, of any estate originally derived from the crown, should bar the crown from any right or suit to recover such estate, under pretence of any flaw in the grant or other defect of title.

In regard to lands acquired by the crown by escheat or forfeiture the rule was different, for these the king might alienate, and, in regard to them, time ran against the king as against any other person k.

On this point Sir John Sinclair, in his History of the Public Revenue, has the following important observations:—

"Among the various measures taken by this monarch (Henry II.) after his accession, perhaps the boldest and most important was the resumption of such of the crown lands as had been granted by his predecessor Stephen, and even by his mother, the Empress Matilda. And here it is necessary to take notice of a very material distinction in regard to the royal demesnes. The ancient patrimony of the crown, called in Domesday Book terra regis, was held to be so unalienable, that if any portion of it was given away, cither the king by whom it was granted, or any of his successors, could at any time resume the donation. Whereas lands which escheated to the crown, in consequence of a default of heirs, or any feudal delinquency, it was in the power of the sovereign to dispose of in any manner he thought proper" l.

i Fleta, lib. 3, cap. 6 5 3 fo. 183. "Nor will prescription of length of time avail the wrongful holder of this property, for length of time only in this case aggravates rather than lessens the injury, since it ought to be clear to all that such things by the law of nature and nations belong only to the crown."

l Sinclair, Hist, of Revenue, 84. See also 5 Cru. Dig., 36,43, 3rd Ed. See also Statute 47 Geo. III. sess. 2 c. 24, as to lands acquired by the crown by escheat or forfeiture.