Illustration of a trial at the Court of King's Bench

Description

The Court of Kings Bench, pictured here by Thomas Rowlandson in 1808, was established during the medieval period to cover a range of both criminal and civil matters. From the 17th century onwards however the court dealt predominantly with those cases that related directly to the crown (financial issues and trespasses for example). Sitting in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, the court was presided over by the Chief Justice of the Kings Bench: one of 12 ‘superior judges’ who exerted enormous political and judicial influence during the 1700s. By the late 18th and 19th centuries the Court of Kings Bench became closely associated in the public mind with famous ‘Criminal Conversation’ cases: salacious cases of adultery where wronged husbands demanded huge sums in compensation from their spouse’s suitor, sometimes running to several thousand pounds and reported in full detail by the press. The Court of Kings Bench last sat in Westminster Hall in 1875, after which its jurisdiction was merged with the new High Court of Justice.

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