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An Anglo-Saxon term that meant wise men, persons learned in the law; in particular, the king's advisers or members of his council.

In England, between the sixth and tenth centuries, a person who advised an Anglo-Saxon king was called a witan, or wise man. A witan's basic duty was to respond when the king asked for advice on specific issues. A witan gave his advice in the Witenagemote, or assembly of wise men. This assembly was the forerunner of the English Parliament.

The Witenagemote was the great council of the Anglo-Saxons in England, comprising the aristocrats of the kingdom, along with bishops and other high ecclesiastical leaders. This council advised and aided the king in the general administration of government. The Witenagemote attested to the king's grants of land to churches or laypersons and consented to his proclamation of new laws or new statements of ancient customs. The council also assisted the king in dealing with rebels and persons suspected of disloyalty. The king determined both the composition of the council and its meeting times.

The Witenagemote generally met in the open air in or near some city or town. Members were notified by public notice or particular summons issued by the king's select council. When the throne was vacant, the body also met without notice to elect a new king.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the council was called the commune concillium, or common council of the realm. This was transformed into the Curia Regis, or King's Council, and by the late thirteenth century, it was called Parliament. The character of the institution also changed during this period. It became a court of last resort, especially for determining disputes between the king and his nobles and, ultimately, from all inferior tribunals.


English Law.

References in periodicals archive ?
Bishops here can be found administering justice, shaping law codes, promulgating more robust notions of sacral kingship, going on diplomatic missions, and fully participating in the life of the witan or council of royal advisers who helped prepare for war (ch.
9 TOPCIMA success award 2007, sponsored by Witan Jardine.
Rival fund managers F&C, Witan and Henderson also run funds on behalf of children focusing on investment trusts.
I HAVE a sense of humour and do not have any problem with your lighthearted approach to my commitment to the reinstatement of the Witan of Mercia.
He is Chairman of The Strategic Investment Board (Northern Ireland) Limited and has recently been appointed as a non-executive director of Hammerson plc and Witan Investment Trust.
Paet hi dydon for pam dingum pe hi woldon witan hu heah hit waere to daem heofone, and hu dicce se hefon waere and hu faest, oddes hwaet paer ofer waere.
The gate guard of Edoras, on the other hand, does not succeed in his character analysis of Gandalf; he is unable to "gescad witan, / worda and worca" ("understand the meaning of words and deeds") (288-99), to use his counterpart's phrasing.
Many are currently trying to buff up a tired and tarnished image - even the giant Witan has changed management after years of underperforming.
Administrative institutions such as kin, hundred, borough, and witan figure prominently, as do feast, fast day, religiosity, and language.
Most recently, she worked for The Witan Group in St.
The earliest ancestor of Parliament was the mediaeval Curia Regis, in which judicial, executive and legislative functions were fused, and this derived ultimately from the pre-Norman conquest, Anglo-Saxon, Witan.