Temporalities of Bishops

Temporalities of Bishops as, in law, are the lay revenues, lands, tenements, and fees belonging to the sees of bishops or archbishops, as they are barons and lords of Parliament, including their baronies. They are defined as all things which a bishop hath by livery from the king, as manors, lands, tithes. From the time of Edward I to the Reformation, it was customary, when bishops received their temporalities from the king, to renounce in writing all right to the same by virtue of any provision from the pope, and to admit that they received them from the king alone. The custody of these temporalities is said by Blackstone to form part of the king's ordinary revenue, and thus, a vacancy in the bishopric occurring, is a right of the crown, originating in its prerogative in Church matters, the king being, in intendment of law, preserver of all episcopal sees. For the same reason, before the dissolution of religious houses, the sovereign had the custody of the temporalities of all such abbeys and priories as were of royal foundation. There is another reason in virtue of which the king possesses this right, which is, that as the successor is not known, the property of the see would be liable to spoil and devastation. The law, therefore, has wisely given to the king the custody of these temporalities until a new election, with power to take to himself all intermediate profits, and to present to all preferments falling vacant during the vacancy of the see. This revenue cannot be granted to a subject; but the 14 Edward III, stat. 4 ch. 4:5, empowers the king, on a vacancy occurring, to lease the temporalities to the deal and chapter, with a reservation of all advowsons, escheats, and the like. To remedy the wrongs to the Church perpetrated by former sovereigns, who sometimes kept bishoprics vacant in order to enjoy the possession of their temporalities, and when they did supply the vacancy compelled the new bishop to purchase back his temporalities at an exorbitant price, Henry I, by charter, agreed neither to sell, let to farm, nor take anything from the domains of the Church until the successor was installed. By Magna Charta provision was made that no waste should be committed in the temporalities of the bishoprics, and that neither should the custody of them be sold. At present this revenue of the crown is of very small account; for as soon as the new bishop is consecrated and confirmed, he usually receives, restitution of his temporalities entire and untouched from his sovereign, to whom he at the same time does homage, and then possesses, which he did not before, a fee simple in his bishopric, and may maintain an action for the profits.

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