The early Tudor Court of Requests was closely attached to the king's person and his duty to provide ‘indifferent’ justice. In practice, however, it was staffed by members of the attendant royal household and council. Utilizing the little-studied but extensive records of the court, this article traces the rising dominance of the dean of the Chapel Royal and the royal almoner as administrators and judges there from the 1490s to the 1520s. It examines the relationship between supposedly ‘secular’ and ‘spiritual’ activities within the central administration and between the formal and informal structures and ideologies of the church, the law and the royal household. It explores the politics of proximity and the ad hoc nature of early Tudor governance which made the conscience-based jurisdiction in Requests especially convenient to the king and desperate litigants alike. Overall the article argues that although the influence of clergymen in the court waned towards the end of the sixteenth century in favour of common-law judges, its enduring association with ‘poor men's causes’ and ‘conscience’ grew directly from these early clerical underpinnings.
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