Thursday, February 24, 2005
The author of the first Anglo-Saxon contract statute, St. Ethelbert (or Æthelbert) of Kent, died on this day in 616. As king of the southern Saxons and hitherto a worshiper of Odin, he was baptized a Christian by Roman missionaries in 597, and became the chief patron of the Church in England. Under the influence of the Romans, he in 604 he promulgated the first written Anglo-Saxon code of laws in England, the ninety "Dooms of Ethelbert," which includes the first native English contract statute:
If a man buy a maiden with cattle, let the bargain stand, if it be without guile; but if there be guile, let him bring her home again, and let his property be restored to him.