Richard fitz Nigel (1130-98), Bishop of Ely and author of The Dialogue of the Exchequer, has been described as a model civil servant. His treatise on the royal finances, compiled for Henry II (r. 1154–89), set out the revenues due to the king and the methods for collecting them. ‘Although the king’s wealth is not invariably obtained by strict process of law,’ wrote Richard, ‘his subjects have no right to question his actions.’ The Dialogue admitted that royal wealth ‘proceeds sometimes from the secret devices of their own hearts and sometimes even from their mere arbitrary power’, charges which could easily be levied against King John. Another chapter recognised, however, that barons were treated differently from other offenders, provided that, after receiving a summons, they pledged their faith to the sheriff. On this page, the Dialogue explains how tally sticks were made, by making cuts of varying sizes in wooden sticks.
- Article by:
- Dan Jones
- Medieval origins
When Magna Carta was created, England had endured 16 years of John’s kingship – a rule based largely on extortion, legal chicanery, blackmail and violence. Here Dan Jones discusses King John's infamous reign.