King Stephen, in a Legal Compilation
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
A large compilation of documents relating to English law, this manuscript is only part of the original book, with others now kept by the Corporation of London and Oriel College, Oxford. Compiled about 1321, it appears to have been connected with Andrew Horn, Bridge Street fishmonger and Chamberlain of the City of London who bequeathed the manuscript to the City upon his death in 1328. Written by several scribes, it was decorated by a team of artists, some of whom were working in a style seen in luxurious contemporary manuscripts from London, such as the 'Queen Mary Psalter' (now in the British Library). Its visual impressiveness and chronological ordering (not done since the 10th century) places its purpose beyond the utilitarian law book, perhaps as a history in times when the use and idea of law were changing.
During the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), common law began, called 'common' because it was common to all of England unlike the customary law which varied from region to region. Stephen is shown in an idealised portrait enthroned with an eagle on his shoulder.