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distraint of knighthood

distraint of knighthood. The post-Conquest military obligations attached to knighthood were not necessarily welcome and increasingly avoided. In theory landowners of a certain status were required to present themselves at coronations to be knighted. Henry III began campaigns to oblige freeholders with estates worth £20 p.a. to take up knighthoods, issuing writs of distraint. At this stage, the motive was primarily military but later monarchs were more interested in the revenue they could raise by allowing subjects to compound or pay fines. By Tudor times the estate value had been raised to £40 p.a., but distraints were little used. Charles I, in his search for extra-parliamentary revenue, ordered the records of the Tower to be inspected to discover devices, and from 1630 began distraining, allowing the victims to compound at less than the cost of a fine. Considerable revenue was raised and even more considerable animosity. When the Long Parliament met, John Selden in 1641 carried an Act declaring distraints unlawful and Charles was obliged to give his assent. At the Restoration knight service was abolished.

J. A. Cannon

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