The Conventual Bailiffs

  • Jonathan Riley-Smith


The Grand Commander or Preceptor of the Hospital was the chief officer after the Master. He was invested at a General Chapter before all other bailiffs, his insignia being a purse and, in the later thirteenth century, a seal of green wax upon which was portrayed a griffon. Earlier, he may have used the wax seal of the Master.1 In the early fourteenth century it is possible that he made use of two seals, his official bulk and perhaps a private wax seal, but evidence for this is very doubtful.2 The General Chapter of 1206 permitted him to have four horses and to be accompanied by a brother sergeant with two horses, a scribe, two turcopoles and one or two footmen. A brother could travel with him as his companion. The statutes of 1292 gave the Master discretion in deciding how many horses were to be issued to him; but in 1302 he was allowed five, with three esquires to look after them. His entourage now consisted of a valet, a chamberlain, a page, a butler and a sergeant.3 He is first to be found in 1150; and after the resignation of Gilbert d’Assailly in 1170 it was he who led the Convent in Chapter and administered justice. Although as late as 1206 he may not have been regarded as a permanent officer, his duties being regulated by each General Chapter, in practice the bailiwick seems always to have been filled, and by the middle of the thirteenth century was fully developed.4


Thirteenth Century Fourteenth Century Twelfth Century Minor Office Chief Officer 
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© Jonathan Riley-Smith 1967

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  • Jonathan Riley-Smith

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