Guernsey Law Review – February 2008
"HARROW!" QUOD HE
Haro! Haro! A l'aide mon Prince. On
me fait tort" [Haro! Haro! Haro! Help me, my prince. I am being wronged."]. The clameur de haro is
one of the oldest and most remarkable institutions of Channel Island
jurisprudence. By declaiming these
time-honoured words in appropriate circumstances, the private individual may,
without any judicial intervention, impose an immediate interim injunction upon
the perpetrator of an allegedly wrongful interference with his or her
possession of immovable property.
The precise manner (if not circumstances) in which the clameur may be raised varies somewhat between the Islands but in both Bailiwicks the legal effect is the same: the other
party must, on pain of contempt of court, immediately cease the alleged
wrongdoing. The claimant must then
bring the matter before the court so that the injunction may be lifted or
confirmed and the parties’ differences resolved. It is not so much that the clameur de haro is
a remedy of self-help that makes it unique but rather that it enables
the private individual to co-opt the power of the courts in proclaiming an
injunction. Such a powerful tool is
not to be invoked incautiously. A
claimant who is found to have raised the clameur
de haro incorrectly risks not merely a penalty in
costs but also punishment for contempt of court.
clameur de haro
is recorded in some form or another in Norman law since the thirteenth century
but it is only in the Channel Islands that it
remains in force. In this article I
wish to examine some popular beliefs about this ancient and picturesque remedy.
to various earlier sources, sixteenth and seventeenth-century commentators on
Norman customary law, such as Terrien, Godefroy, Berrault and Basnage, tell us that William the Conqueror's funeral in
1087 was interrupted by an audacious clameur
de haro raised by a dispossessed burgher of Caen. This story is repeated
in a number of later legal texts and has found its way into many popular
histories. Indeed this is sometimes
said to be the first known instance of the clameur
same commentators also inform us that the clameur
de haro has its origin in an appeal to Rollo, the
Viking founder of the Norman dynasty in 911 who was, they say, renowned for his
strict integrity and justice. Rollo
was known as Rou in the Norman French vernacular. According to this theory, the origin of
the clameur is revealed by the word "haro" itself: the vernacular word for the latinized "Haro"
was (in one spelling) "Harou" and
"Harou", so the theory goes, is a
contraction of "Ha! Rou!".
The clameur de haro
was thus originally an appeal to Rollo himself. It is a pleasing story, which has
similarly stuck. The form of
invocation used in Jersey and Guernsey today, as quoted above, is still implicitly
based on the notion that the claimant's appeal is to the posthumous authority
of "Prince" Rollo.
to this is the notion that the clameur de haro was an institution peculiar to the law of Normandy and that the
word itself was a specifically Norman
How much of this is actually true?
3 Godefroy, writing in the 1620s, provides a convenient
summary of the two stories referred to above -
tous sont d'accord que l'origine de cette clameur est fondée sur l'integrité [du] premier duc Roul
ou Rollo . . . [à] cause de la grande Justice
et integrité duquel, ceux qui etoient oppressés s'escrioient
Ha-rou, comme l'appellant
à leur aide; & depuis ce cry a
passé en forme d'action & clameur ordinaire à la posterité, pour empescher
tous malefices & voyes
de faict, & retenu le nom de son autheur . . . Cette clameur fut praticquée
apres la mort de Guillaume le Bastard,
pour empescher sa sepulture
en l'Eglise que luy-mesme avoit
fait bastir à Caen, sur la terre d'un pauvre
homme qu'il avoit prise sans payer."
[. . . everyone agrees that the
origin of this cry is founded on the integrity of the first duke Rou or Rollo .
. . by reason of whose great Justice and integrity those who were oppressed
cried Ha-Rou, calling him to their aid; and since those times, this cry has
become a form of action and ordinary clameur,
in order to prevent all wrongs and assaults and it has retained the name of its
author. This clameur
was practised after the death of William the Bastard in order to prevent his
burial in the church which had had himself built at Caen, on the land of a poor man which he had
taken without payment.]
William the Conqueror's funeral
the Conqueror's funeral took place in the autumn of 1087 at the abbatial church of St. Stephen in Caen.
The first surviving description of that event is to be found in the Gesta Regum Anglorum (Deeds of the English Kings) by the
Anglo-Norman monk William of Malmesbury, a work which
he completed in about 1120. William of Malmesbury tells us that the King
William's body was buried at Caen
in the presence of a large number of clerics. "At this point," he goes on,
"the pitiful ups and downs
of human life were well displayed: that great man, who at one time reflected
honour on the whole of Europe and was the most powerful of all his line, could
obtain no place for his eternal rest without due process of law; for there was
a knight to whose ancestral property the land belonged, and he maintaining with
a loud voice that this was robbery forbade the interment, saying that the soil
was his by inheritance from his forebears, and the king ought not to rest in a
place which he had seized by brute force.
At the wish, therefore, of his son Henry, the only one of his children
present, this bold claim was settled by paying a hundred pounds of silver to
will be noted that, though William of Malmesbury
relates the well known story, he makes no mention of the clameur
The next surviving account is that of another Anglo-Norman monk, Orderic Vitalis of the abbey of
St Evroul in Normandy. This account is contained in Book VII of
Orderic's Ecclesiastical History. According to the work's editor, Majorie Chibnall, it is a reasonable hypothesis that Book VII was
written between 1130 or 1131 and 1133.
There are some interesting further details in Orderic's
account. Most importantly he gives
us a name for the claimant – he was "Ascelin,
son of Arthur" – and he also purports (less believably) to quote
from the claimant's own words. In Orderic's account, Ascelin is
said to have stepped forward from the crowd and, after telling his story, he is
supposed to have proclaimed in a loud voice: "I lay claim to this land,
and openly demand it, forbidding in God's name that the body of this robber be
covered by earth that is mine or buried in my inheritance." Faced with this claim, so Orderic goes on, the assembled bishops and magnates
appeased Ascelin with gentle words and offered him
sixty shillings for the place of burial, payable then and there, with a like
sum to follow for the remainder of the land. Thus was the matter settled. But, once more, there is no mention of
the clameur de haro.
6 Orderic was merely the first of at least three authors to
place a speech in Ascelin's mouth, each differing
from the other. The next was
Jersey-born Wace who put the same story into vernacular verse in his Roman
de Rou some thirty or forty years after Orderic Vitalis. In this respect Wace is
late and largely derivative of Orderic. In Wace's account, Ascelin
makes his appeal "In the name of Almighty Jesus and by the pope in Rome – I cannot
invoke any higher authority."
There is likewise no mention of the clameur
view of the lateness of Wace's account, he cannot be treated as an historical
source for the event itself, let alone for the actual words spoken. Even William of Malmesbury
and Orderic Vitalis were
not writing anything like contemporaneously with the events of 1087. This might cause one to entertain a
degree of doubt as to the truth of their story, but, as chance would have it,
surviving documentary evidence independently attests to the existence not only
of Ascelin but of certain houses belonging to Ascelin's family on the site where the abbey of St. Stephen
was built. In particular
contemporary evidence attests to the acquisition of certain land from Ascelin's father and the renunciation by his son, Ralph, of
his rights therein. It thus appears
entirely reasonable to accept that Ascelin did indeed
exist and that he probably interrupted William's funeral in order, in some way,
to assert his right to the land.
the idea that Ascelin specifically raised the clameur de haro is
quite another matter. The
historical record makes not the slightest mention of it. It would have been noteworthy if it
had. The legal institution of haro is not referred to at all in the earliest
Norman customary, the Très Ancien Coutumier, whose Latin
redactions appear to date between about 1200 and 1230. The first reference in
any surviving Norman legal context to the clameur
de haro is in the somewhat later Summa de Legibus of Normandy (known as the Grand Coutumier in its French version), whose probable dates
of composition lie within the period 1235 to 1258. The clameur
de haro was presumably settled practice by the
time of the Summa de Legibus
in the thirteenth century, but in this, its earliest known form, it is
permitted to be raised only in criminal matters, in the presence of imminent
peril in the form of assault, robbery, rape, murder and the like – and
even within this category it appears to have been restricted to crimes that
were "de sang et de plaie" [of blood
and wound]. The use of the clameur for possessory claims, which began not long
afterwards in the thirteenth century, gradually assumed greater and greater
importance. By the time of the Style
de 1515 the shift is complete and the clameur
de haro is restricted solely to possessory
matters. It is perhaps not
surprising, then, that lawyers of the sixteenth and later centuries, versed in
the civil law haro, readily assumed that Ascelin's claim would have taken the form of a clameur de haro.
the commentators derive this notion from any specific source? Basnage cites
Chronique". By "vielle
Chronique" he presumably means the work
known as the Grande Chronique de Normandie, a popular late compilation of Norman history
compiled in the fourteenth century, which was based to a large extent on the Roman
de Rou of Wace. As such, it is
late and of no independent historical value for events that took place in 1087. Le Royer de la Tournerie refers us to a genuine historical source, Orderic Vitalis. But as we have seen Orderic makes no mention of "haro"
in his account of Ascelin's haro,
refers us to Paul Emile, Baronius and William of Malmesbury. Of
the three, only Malmesbury is an historical source
for the point in question and the "clameur
de haro" is, of course, entirely absent in
his work. The two other authors
cited by Godefroy are not period sources but writers
of the sixteenth century. Caesare Baronius (1538-1637) was
an Italian cardinal and ecclesiastical historian. Paul Emile (variously Paul Aemyle, Paolo Emili and Paulus Aemylius) was an Italian historian who lived from c. 1455
to 1529. He is also cited by Terrien.
is beyond the scope of the research possible for this article to attempt to
identify with certainty the earliest source for the story of
Ascelin's haro. Pissard in his
study published in 1911 restricted himself to the conclusion that the story was
assez tardive". The earliest account of
Ascelin's haro to
which I have found reference is that of Paul Emile. It is possible that the
story is no older than that.
Invited to Paris
by Charles VIII (1483 – 1498) to compose a Latin history of the kings of France, Paul
Emile wrote his De Rebus
Gestis Francorum (The Deeds of the French)
during the first three decades of the sixteenth century. It is in the third book of this work
that we can at last find Ascelin's supposed words
quoted in a way that specifically associates his claim with Rollo. But even here there is no mention of the
clameur de haro,
only a general appeal to the laws of Rollo. The relevant passage has become well
known in the Channel Islands, for it was
reproduced and translated from the Latin by Philip Falle (1656-1742) in his Caesarea
or an Account of Jersey (1694).
Falle's translation is as follows -
"The ground wherein you are
going to lay this man is mine; and I affirm that none may in justice bury their
dead in ground which belongs to another.
If after he is gone, force and violence are still used to detain my
right from me, I APPEAL TO ROLLO, the Founder and Father of our Nation, who though dead, lives in his Laws. I take refuge in those Laws, owing no
authority above them."
The Rollonid etymology
the story that haro was cried at William's
funeral is a late invention, what can be said of the theory that the word
itself derives from an appeal to Rollo?
This too must be placed in the category of things that would be nice if they
were so, but are not. The verdict
of the Grande Larousse de la langue française,
as well as several other etymological dictionaries, is clear: the word "haro" comes from the expression hara, an interjection apparently meaning
"Here!" in Old Frankish, the West Germanic language spoken by the Franks
before it was superseded by Low Latin or proto-French. Reference is also
sometimes made to the related verb haren, to
cry out. Pissard,
in his seminal study of the clameur, likewise
favoured the derivation from hara/haren, citing the works of Littré
and Brunner; it was a pity, he said, that the "Ha! Rou!" theory was no
more than "une légende
charmante". The Oxford
English Dictionary is more cautious, stating that the word is of obscure
origin, but it does conclude without qualification that the Old French forms of
the word are inconsistent with the popular notion that that haro
was originally a call upon Rollo.
to the extent that any theory has been preferred by etymologists, it is that
the word derives from the Frankish hara/haren. Even
when Pissard was writing, in 1911, this was far from being
a novel idea. Pierre Caseneuve (1591-1652) suggested it, and he may have been
the first, in an unpublished manuscript of French etymology that was
subsequently included and referred to by Gilles Menage
(1613-1692) in his Dictionnaire étymologique (1650, 1670). Caseneuve's
view was followed by Menage and later by Johann Georg
Wachter (1663-1757), a German lingist,
in his Glossarium Germanicum
(1737). It was also the view of Georges Metivier, the Guernsey poet and philologist, in his Dictionnaire
franco-normand (London, 1870).
have, however, been other views. Thomas Basin
(1412-1491), the Bishop of Lisieux, disliked the clameur intently. He contented himself with the
consolation that haro originated in an unknown
barbarous idiom. Aimar
de Ranconnet and Jean Nicot
in the Thresor de la langue française (1606) suggested a derivation either
from Rollo or, curiously, Harold Klak, king of Denmark (d.
summarised a number of nineteenth-century etymological speculations, including
the view of Paul Viollet that the word was derived
from the Latin, Ad latronem, which may perhaps
best be translated as “Stop! Thief!”. But Terrien
and a long line of subsequent Norman jurists were in no doubt that
etymologically haro was an appeal to Rollo and
this has proved to be the most lasting theory in the popular imagination.
by the time of Terrien, there was already a long
tradition in Normandy to this effect seems impossible to say; but if there was,
the linking of the Norman cry with an idealized notion of Rollo – about
whom in truth very little is known – would perhaps have helped to
preserve and entrench the custom in law.
Interestingly, it is known that a link with Rollo was made early in the
fourteenth century by Guillaume Guiart: but Guiart's explanation is not as we might expect. Guiart was a
French (but not Norman) chronicler and poet who, between 1304 and 1306, wrote a
history of the French kings (Branche des royaux lignages). He asserts that at the Battle of
Chartres in about 911 the defeated Northmen under
Rollo cried "Ha! Rous! Ha! Rous! Con tu nous mainnes malement" [Oh Rollo! Oh
Rollo! How badly you lead us]. As a
result, says Guiart, it became the custom of Normans always to cry
"Ha-rou" in time of danger or distress. Though the fanciful
etymology is the same, the import here, reflecting distinctly less favourably
on Rollo, is of course entirely different.
Guiart's version does not
appear to have been taken up by any Norman writer.
A Norman word?
is sometimes said that "haro" is a
special Norman word. This is
certainly untrue in so far as the word "haro"
(in various forms) appears in many non-Norman sources from the twelfth century
onwards as an ordinary cry of help, divorced from any Norman context. The question of etymology is for expert
resolution but it would hardly be surprising if both the Norman legal haro and the wider usage outside Normandy shared a common origin in a cry of
help in the ordinary language of the Dark Age northern Franks. At any rate, the story of the word
"haro" in literary sources outside Normandy is interesting,
indeed surprising, in itself and has never been retold in the context of Channel Island legal history. It can be sketched with the help of
examples in dictionaries, of which the following account gives only a
word is first found in surviving Old French sources in a twelfth-century poem
by Marie de France. The poem is
entitled De l'asne ki
volt jüer a son seignur
(The Ass who Wanted to Play with his Master). It is one of over a hundred fables
which, if we are to believe Marie's own words, were translated by her for a
francophone audience from a now lost Anglo-Saxon collection, itself
(apparently) a translation from the Latin by King Alfred the Great. Marie's Fables have been dated,
somewhat roughly, to between 1160 and 1190. The story is of an ass
who, seeing his master often playing with a pet dog, becomes jealous and wishes
to frolic with the master too. The
idea, however, is hopelessly misconceived.
He kicks his master over and the master has to call for urgent help -
un petit ne l'a crevé
Si li sires nen eüst crïé
Haro! Haro! Aidez mei!"
[He would have been killed
Had he not cried out
Help! Help! Help me!]
identity of the author who describes herself as "Marie …de
France" has never been ascertained and she remains one of the elusive
characters of medieval literature.
She appears to have been living in Plantagenet England and,
though French, it is by no means certain – and perhaps doubtful –
that she was of Norman origin.
fanciful etymology of the vernacular "Harou"
proposed in the early fourteenth century by Guillaume Guiart
has been referred to above. Later
in the same work, when describing the commencement of the battle of Bouvines, Guiart puts the cry of
"Harou" into the mouths of heralds -
"Harou, dient-il, quel
Quel ocision, quel bataille
Est ci endroit a avenir"
[Help, they said, what death
What killing, what battle
Is going to take place here]
the gore of war to the pangs of love: in the courtly love songs of the High
Middle Ages we find the cry of "Hareu"
used as an expression of anguish at unrequited love. Adam de la Halle (c. 1237-c.1288), a hunchback from Arras, composed a rondeau which repeats the plaintive cry "Hareu, li maus d'amer m'ochist" [Help,
the pain of love is killing me]. Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377), whose merits as the greatest
composer of his Age are still celebrated by the International Machaut Society, hailed from the champagnoise
city of Reims. One of his works, a three voice motet,
commences thus -
"Hareu! Hareu! le feu,
D'ardant desir, qu'ainc si
ardant ni fu
Qu'en mon cuer ha espris et
[Help! Help! The fire, the fire
Of burning desire, which has never been so hot
As love has kindled and sustained in my heart]
would be rash to suppose that the plaintive cry of the love-struck poet was in
any sense directed at the founder of Normandy. Rather, these examples appear
further to illustrate that that the word was an ordinary cry of help, commonly
understood in the langue d'oïl across
and with no intrinsic Norman connection.
the water in England
the word was known and used by the insular speakers of French. La Estoire
de Seint Edward le Rei
is probably by Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259), the celebrated monk of St Albans.
The work has been dated to the period 1236 to 1245. In the course of the
poem the author describes (in the language of his own time) an incident of
theft in King Edward the Confessor's chamber. The theft has, in fact, been witnessed
by the half-asleep king and the culprit, a poor man, has been forgiven by him.
But the king's chamberlain does not know this. On discovering the crime -
chamberlains . .
Lors cum esbaïz s'escrie
Mes li rois l'en chastie
[The chamberlain . . .
Like one astonished cries out
'Help!' But the king rebukes him.
is more, it was not only French speakers in England who began to use the word,
and herein lies another twist. As
is well known, successive waves of French-speaking settlers after the Norman
invasion in due course enriched the Middle English language with thousands of
new words. Our "haro" was among them. The Middle English Dictionary
reports that in 1276 it is recorded that one Arnold entered the priory of Wale and took
wine and other goods against the will of the monks, who cried "Harou". By
the following century the word appears frequently in Middle English texts as a
cry of help, distress or outrage.
Spelling varies: it occurs, for example, as harrow, harro
Chaucer (1343-1400) uses our expression several times. In The Nun's Priest's Tale,
a man is distraught to find that his friend has been murdered-
out to the ministres,' quod he
'That should kepe and rulen
Harrow, allas! Heer lyth my felawe slayn!'"
the end of The Physician's Tale we find the cry of "haro" directed, rather alarmingly, against the
legal profession itself -
"'Harrow!' quod he, 'by nayles and by blood!
This was a fals cherl [low
fellow] and a fals justice!
As shameful deeth as herte
Come to thise juges and
hire [their] advocatz!'"
are numerous other examples of the cry of "Harrow"
in the literature of fourteenth and fifteenth-century England. In the popular re-enactments of
religious stories known as Mystery Plays the word was familiar in the mouths of
devils. In the Ludus
Coventriae ("Coventry" or N-Town plays) the devils'
comeuppance duly arrives on the Day of Judgment -
and owt! What shall we say?
Harrow, we crye, owt and alas!
Alas! Harrow! Is this that day
To endles peyne that vs
Alas, harrow, and owt, we crye!"
parenthesis, it may be added that a popular scene in the Mystery Plays was the
"Harrowing of Hell" in which Jesus, between the crucifixion and the
resurrection, was shown descending into hell in order to retrieve righteous
souls held captive since the beginning of the world. The expression "harrowing" in
this sense meant "harrying"; it does not relate to our "haro". It derives from an older
Anglo-Saxon root and is first found in this context in Aelfric's Homilies
(c. 1000). Another unrelated
word with an Old English root is the noun "harrow", an agricultural
instrument for breaking the surface of the soil, and the associated verb
Figuratively, this last meaning developed a secondary meaning of severely
wounding someone's feelings or causing great distress.
use of the word in the last sense survives in Modern English – as in
"a harrowing experience" – but by the end of the sixteenth
century the parallel French-derived use of "Harrow!" as a synonym for
"Help!" was becoming rarer.
It soon disappeared. As a
cry of help, the expression occurs three times in Spenser's Faerie Queen
(1590-96) but not at all in the whole of Shakespeare's oeuvre. The ghost of Hamlet's father certainly
utters the word "harrow" to memorable effect, when he appears in
front of his petrified son, but this is as a verb in the older English sense of
"lacerate" or, figuratively, "distress greatly" -
"I could a tale unfold
whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine."
may conclude that far from being purely Norman, or even French, "haro" was for many centuries a familiar word in
the English language, albeit that its usage after Shakespeare's day must have
tended increasingly towards conscious archaism. In France this mode of talking was
also replaced by the modern "Au secours!"
Outside of the Norman legal "haro",
the word survived, and still survives, in the French expression "crier haro sur …."
– to denounce or shame. Le Gros quotes an example from a fable of Jean de la Fontaine
(1621-1695), Les animaux maladies de la peste, in which the animals "cria
haro sur le baudet" merely because the donkey, although having
morals no worse than the rest, was perceived to have the lowest social status. Today the expression
"Haro sur ..
." is a staple of headline writers in the French-speaking world. "Haro
sur les paparazzi" was thus one newspaper headline in the immediate aftermath of the death of
Princess Diana in 1997.
Norman legal institution
history of the clameur de haro is treated in detail and at length by Pissard in his
well-known study. In the earliest
legal source to mention the Norman clameur
de haro, the thirteenth-century Summa de Legibus or Grand Coutumier,
it appears only a remedy for criminal matters. It was permitted to be cried in cases of
imminent peril from fire, assault, rape, robbery and the like. Upon the cry of haro,
the culprit could be immediately arrested and imprisoned but a person who was
found to have cried haro without good cause
was liable to strict punishment. Those who heard the cry were also obliged to
rush to the victim's aid and to arrest the culprit or, if necessary, to chase
the culprit whilst raising a renewed cry of haro. A principal function of the
original clameur de haro
was thus the press-ganging into action of an improvised police force.
sort of custom was far from unique to Normandy. In earlier times the Franks had
analogous laws; Pissard refers to the law of ligatio, which appears also to have been premised on
a formal cry by the victim. Such
laws, Pissard suggests, never fell into desuetude in
Normandy but were taken up, formalised and expanded by the Norman sovereigns at
the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries. Pissard
further notes that similar laws existed or developed in Germany, the
Scandinavian countries and especially England, with its “hue and
cry”, which is treated in the Legibus
Et Consuetudinibus Angliæ
associated with Henry Bracton (c. 1210-1268), as well
as its earlier laws of collective responsibility for policing. Moreover, in other parts of France during
the Middle Ages, there were many cries which resembled, more or less, the
Norman haro, and sometimes even bore the same
name. Thus in Philippe de Beaumanoir’s Coutumes
de Clermont en Beauvaisis (1283) it is apparent
that, in order for a husband to have the right to kill his wife, when the
latter is caught “en flagrant délit”,
he must have raised a cry; that those who seek aid must shout “Hareu, hareu”;
and that this cry obliges neighbours to render immediate assistance to the
victim and to arrest the villain. Other examples of
the use of the cry from outside Normandy
are referred to by Valerie Toureille. We should also
remember that in an age defined by low literacy, the cry of haro
was but one of many cries that were heard in the narrow streets to spread news,
issue warnings or make other pronouncements.
then, was special about the Norman haro? Pissard
informs us that what particularly characterised the early Norman haro was that the sovereign of the duchy made the haro a matter of jurisdiction for his own court and
officers, regularizing its usage and formalising it within a system of laws
designed to keep the peace.
Whereas in the rest of France
the notion that the king was the guardian of public order advanced only slowly,
this idea was present at an early date and is illustrated through the making of
haro a cas
ducal. But what truly made the clameur de haro
particular to Normandy,
and what turned it into the remedy that we know today, was its development into
the civil sphere. In matters of
possession, the cry of haro became an
additional remedy to the plea of novel desseisin,
speeding up the procedure by stopping the act in dispute then and there. As already noted above,
this development into the civil sphere was already evident in the late
thirteenth century: Pissard notes two judgments,
dating from 1292 and 1293, in which the clameur
de haro functioned as a civil remedy. Though the primary domain of the haro long remained the criminal law, its importance
as a possessory remedy grew and by the sixteenth century the criminal haro was almost unknown.
not everyone was pleased by this development. One such was Thomas Basin
(1412-1491), Bishop of Lisieux and chronicler of his
times. Writing in the second
half of the fifteenth century, he complains that it would take a long book to
set out all the inconveniences that were daily being caused by the clameur de haro. The cry of haro,
to which all had recourse, served only to fan the flames of disputes concerning
possession of property of all types, whether movable or immovable. It sufficed only for a single word to
escape from someone’s mouth for the procedure to be commenced, but once
commenced the parties would find themselves trapped in its net and could escape
only at great cost and with difficulty, even if they had become
reconciled. The only people, he
continued, who had reason to be pleased by this “invention of the cry of haro” were the lawyers. The clameur
de haro was but one of many iniquitous coutumes of “my poor Normandy” which had served to enrich
the legal profession. Not the least
of his complaints was that some lawyers had now become so wealthy on the back
of the clameur de haro
and other iniquitous laws that it was not unknown for nobles to rejoice if they
found an advocate or an advocate’s son to take their daughter’s
hand in marriage.
may have been complaints such as these that lead to an Ordonnance
of 1497, mentioned by Pissard, which provided for the
parties’ dispute to be settled at a final trial and for the parties to
set out their respective cases in writing. The procedures
adopted for the civil law haro are described
in some detail by Pissard and I have not sought to
summarise them here.
clameur de haro
and the special customs of Normandy were recognised as having such force that
the kings of France added to their ordinances, edicts, declarations and letters
patent a standard clause preserving the validity of what was ordered “nonobstant clameur de haro et Charte Normande”.
This practice continued until the fall of the ancien
régime at the end of the eighteenth
century and the abolition of Norman customary law.
early use of the clameur de haro in Jersey in
criminal matters is well illustrated by the numerous cases brought before
judges sent to the Island from England to hear
the 1299 and 1309 Assizes. To what extent it is
possible to analyse and describe the use and development of the clameur de haro in
the Channel Islands down to the seventeenth century is
beyond the competence of this author but the local custom appears at any rate
to have followed a parallel course to the continental: the civil haro must have been recognised and growing in
importance it eventually eclipsed the criminal. In the late seventeenth century Poingdestre (1609-91) wrote, somewhat surprisingly, in his Commentaires sur l’Ancienne Coutume de Normandie that the clameur
de haro applied in Jersey
to criminal as well as civil matters.
The scope of the latter extended not only to the possession of land but
also to “rentes, services,
servitudes, bastiments ou autres ouvrages, Jurisdictions, destournements d’eaues courantes, franchises & choses semblable.” Writing not long
afterwards Le Geyt (1635-1716) gives us a very
different view as to whether the criminal haro
still applied. The clameur de haro, he
said, was not used in Jersey for criminal
matters but only for “des faits possessoires en Héritage”. Thus, in his view, it
was restricted to civil disputes concerning the enjoyment of possession of
immovable property. This is
consistent with the evidence before the 1861 Commissioners on the Civil Laws of
Jersey and it is in this form that the clameur
de haro survives as part of Jersey
clameur de haro
was not raised at William the Conqueror’s funeral. The word does not derive from an appeal
to Rollo. The form of words used in
the Jersey and Guernsey
today in order to raise the clameur is based
on a myth. Haro! Haro! Haro! A l'aide mon Prince. On me fait
tort. Does such a
procedure truly belong in the laws of an international finance centre of the
twenty-first century? Is it
appropriate that the private individual may impose an injunction upon his
fellow citizen by the mere utterance of a formula of words, a curious
invocation to a long-dead prince which would seem more at home in the pages of
the latest Harry Potter than a modern legal system? Is it right that a person may be liable
for contempt of court for what in reality could be no more than a procedural
questions are worth asking but it is submitted there is no case for abolition
of the whole custom. The raising of
the clameur in any of the Islands remains a rare occurrence; we are certainly far
from being in the position described by Thomas Basin
in the fifteenth century. This is
not to say that the clameur de haro cannot be misused. Indeed it has often been wrongly raised
and sometimes the abuse has been flagrant. But the court has power
to penalise a wrongful claimant in costs, and also, if justified, by way of
contempt of court. Were the
inappropriate raising of the clameur to become
a real and pressing issue, the custom could no doubt evolve, rather than be
is beyond the purpose of this article to consider the present-day legal
procedures in detail. But there is,
at any rate, surely scope in principle (even if it might require statutory
intervention) for the courts, at the earliest possible opportunity after the clameur has been raised, to consider not only the
whether the case falls within permitted jurisdiction at customary law, but also
whether a "haro" injunction should
be continued pending trial and, in that respect, to adopt the ordinary
principles applied by the courts for status-quo preserving interim injunctions
deriving from American Cyanamid
Co. v Ethicon Ltd. In this way the
injunction privately obtained would be of strictly limited duration and the
matter would thereafter be assimilated with the ordinary principles for interim
38 Whether a wrongful claimant is to be
punished for contempt and, if so the fine or other penalty to be imposed, is a
matter for court's discretion and good sense. But a penalty in costs is no doubt
sufficient where an error has been made in good faith and the claimant need not
in the normal course be found guilty of contempt except where that would
otherwise be the case. The
fact that the clameur is limited to matters of
local immovable property largely delineates it from the concerns of the
finance industry. The clameur de haro might be objectionable if, within its field of
application, there was no alternative way to obtain an immediate ex parte
interim injunction to preserve the status quo. But, in principle, an interim injunction
could equally be obtained on matters of immovable possession by ex parte
application under the American Cyanamid principles referred to above, as
for other claims, even if those principles are more restrictive. Other improvements and clarification to
the procedure could no doubt be made. But that does not mean
that the historic substance of the remedy need be lost. The formula of words
used might be based on a myth. But
it has stood for many centuries and in the process has acquired a life of its
own. In any case, the appeal
to “mon Prince” can equally
be understood as an appeal to the Crown as constitutionally the ultimate
guarantor of justice. In the final
analysis, the clameur de haro belongs not to the intricate utilitarian workings
of the law but to its public face.
Like the public face of a fine historic building, the ancient customs of
these Islands help define our sense of place,
tradition and community. We would
be poorer without them – and they remind others less familiar with our
ways that we have a long and independent legal history.
Andrew Bridgeford is a lawyer and writer. He is an advocate of the Royal Court of
Jersey and a consultant to Ozannes. He also writes “The Weekly Digest of Jersey
Law” and is the author of “1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux
Tapestry” (Fourth Estate, 2004).