Hubert Walter (d. 1205), chief justiciar of England and archbishop of Canterbury, was a relative of Ranulf de Glanvill, the great justiciar of Henry II, and rose under the eye of his kinsman to an important position in the Curia Regis.
In 1184 and in 1185 he appears as a baron of the exchequer. He was employed, sometimes as a negotiator, sometimes as a justice, sometimes as a royal secretary. He received no clerical promotion from Henry II, but Richard I appointed him bishop of Salisbury, and by Richard's command he went with the third crusade to the Holy Land. He gained the respect of all the crusaders, and acted as Richardís principal agent in all negotiations with Saladin, being given a place in the first band of pilgrims that entered Jerusalem.
He led the English army back to England after Richard's departure from Palestine; but in Sicily he heard of the king's captivity, and hurried to join him in Germany. In 1193 he returned to England to raise the king's ransom. Soon afterwards he was elected archbishop of Canterbury and made justiciar.
He was very successful in the government of the kingdom, and after Richard's last visit he was practically the ruler of England. He had no light task to keep pace with the king's constant demand for money. He was compelled to work the administrative machinery to its utmost, and indeed, to invent new methods of extortion. To pay for Richard's ransom, he had already been compelled to tax personal property, the first instance of such taxation for secular purposes. The main feature of all his measures was the novel and extended use of representation and election for all the purposes of government.
His chief measures are contained in his instruction to the itinerant justices of 1194 and 1198, in his ordinance of 1195 for the conservation of the peace, and in his scheme of 1198 for the assessment of the carucage. The justices of 1194 were to order the election of four coroners by the suitors of each county court. These new officers were to "keep," i.e. to register, the pleas of the crown, an important duty hitherto left to the sheriff. The juries, both for answering the questions asked by the judges and for trying cases under the grand assize, were to be chosen by a committee of four knights, also elected by the suitors of each county court for that purpose.
In 1195 Hubert issued an ordinance by which four knights were to be appointed in every hundred to act as guardians of the peace, and from this humble beginning eventually was evolved the office of justice of the peace. His reliance upon the knights, or middle-class landowners, who now for the first time appear in the political foreground, is all the more interesting because it is this class who, either as members of parliament or justices of the peace, were to have the effective rule of England in their hands for so many centuries. In 1198, to satisfy the king's demand fnr money, Hubert demanded a carucage or plough-tax of five shillings on every plough-land (carucate) under cultivation. This was the old tax, the Danegeld, in a new and heavier form and there was great difficulty in levying it. To make it easier, the justiciar ordered the assessment to be made by a sworn jury in every hundred, and one may reasonably conjecture that these jurors were also elected.
Besides these important constitutional changes Hubert negotiated a peace with Scotland in 1195, and in 1197 another with the Welsh. But Richard had grown dissatisfied with him, for the carucage had not been a success, and Hubert had failed to overcome the resistance of the Great Council when its members refused to equip a force of knights to serve abroad.
In 1198 Hubert, who had inherited from his predecessors in the primacy a fierce quarrel with the Canterbury monks, gave these enemies an opportunity of complaining to the pope, for in arresting the London demagogue, William Fitz Osbert, he had committed an act of sacrilege in Bow Church, which belonged to the monks. The pope asked Richard to free Hubert from all secular duties, and he did so, thus making the demand an excuse for dismissing Hubert from the justiciarship.
On May 27, 1199 Hubert crowned John, making a speech in which the old theory of election by the people was enunciated for the last time. He also took the office of chancellor and cheerfully worked under Geoffrey Fitz Peter, one of his former subordinates. In 1201 he went on a diplomatic mission to Philip Augustus of France, and in 1202 he returned to England to keep the kingdom in peace while John was losing his continental possessions. In 1205 he died. Hubert was an ingenious, original and industrious public servant, but he was grasping and perhaps dishonest.
See W Stubbs, Constitutional History, vol. i. (1897); Miss K Norgate's England under the Angevin Kings, vol. ii. (1887); W Stubbs, preface to vol. iv. of Roger of Hoveden's Chronicle ("Rolls" series, 1868ó1871).