Internet Shakespeare Editions


More administrative offices

From the Roxburghe Ballads.
University of Victoria Library.

This screen continues the list of officials connected with the administration of the Kingdom.


  1. The Mayor and Aldermen

    The Mayor and his Council of Aldermen were officials of cities and boroughs with duties like Justices of the Peace in the counties; they presided over borough councils of leading citizens, who organized such needs as water supply and sanitation.

  2. Judges

    Twelve judges of the London law courts at Westminster conducted tours of the counties in mid-February and June, carrying administrative instructions to the local level, checking that laws were enforced, and holding judicial assizes to supplement quarter sessions held by Justices of the Peace.

  3. Regional Councils

    There were two Regional Councils: one of the North and one of the Marches (the border country) of Wales, each governed by a Crown- appointed regional assembly headed by a Lord President. They held wide powers that were more parallel to the Privy Council than subservient to it.

  4. Justices of the Peace

    Justices of the Peace were the most active representatives of government at the local level. From 20-80 J.P.s were appointed by the Lord Chancellor for each county, acting as the chief law enforcement officers and as dispensers of justice at quarter sessions. They were responsible for social legislation such as fixing of wages, regulation of trade, and relief of the poor.

    The quarter sessions consisted of a quorum of county J.P.s who presided over a jury and passed sentence concerning both civil and criminal justice.

  5. Constables

    Parish law enforcement officers were elected annually from among local labourers or artisans; they were responsible for organizing harvests, road maintenance, and for reporting law-breakers or suspicious strangers. They were assisted by numerous petty officials, including beadles, sidesmen and sextons of the Church.

    Shakespeare's opinion of parish constables was low--neither Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing, nor Elbow in Measure for Measure is a model of intelligent law enforcement.