chapter  12
14 Pages

“Deus est procurator fatuorum”: Cloistered Nuns and Equitable Decision-Making in the Court of Chancery

In 1468, a subpoena was sued in the Chancery for the breach of a parol [verbal] promise. The defendant argued that the plaintiff ’s only remedy lay in the Church courts. The Chancellor [the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Robert Stillington] was short with him. ‘You say that for breach of faith he must sue by the Canon Law; but in this case, because he is damaged by the non-performance of the promise, he shall have a remedy here.’ The defendant persisted that, had the plaintiff taken the trouble to obtain the defendant’s promise under seal, he could have sued in Covenant [by that writ in a common law court], and that it was ‘his folly not to have a deed.’ But the Chancellor dismissed the suggestion with the beneficent, if uncomplimentary maxim, Deus est procurator fatuorum.1