Heriot.——Norman-French: heriet (Britt. 178a). late Latin: heriotum, from Anglo-Saxon: hergeata, heregeatve, an implement of warfare, because the lord on the death of his tenant was entitled to a certain number of the tenant's horses and arms, varying according to his military rank (Cnut's Laws, II § 70), or, in the case of a villein, to his best beast (William I.'s Laws. 20. Compare the German Besthaupf, Grimm's R.A. 364). Originally, heriot and relief (q.v.) were spoken of as synonymous, but after the Conquest, "relief" became appropriated to free tenants, and "heriot," to villeins. (Britt. 178a.)

Heriots are of three kinds: Heriot service; suit heriot; and heriot custom.

  1. Heriot service can only exist as incident to a freehold tenure created before the Statute of Quia Emptores. It consists in the right of the lord to the best beast of a tenant dying seised of an estate of inheritance, and is recoverable by seizure or distresss [sic]. Hence it is said to lie both in prender and in render. ...
  2. Suit heriot is the right to some chattel of a deceased tenant, reserved on a grant or lease of freehold lands made in modern times. It is not confined to the best beast or to the case of a tenant dying seised of an estate of inheritance. A suit heriot being a species of rent, the lord must either distrain or bring an action for it, and cannot seize it. ...
  3. Heirot custom is usually found in copyholds, though it also occurs in freeholds held of a manor in which the freeholders are subject to a set of customary rules. It is not recoverable by distress except by special custom, and is in other respects entirely regulated by local custom. Thus, it may be confined to the second best beast, or to animals of a particular kind, or to "dead goods." A heriot custom may also be due on alienation as well as on death. ...

Source: Rapalje, Stewart, and Robert L. Lawrence. A Dictionary of American and English Law. Vol. I. Jersey City, N.J.: Frederick D. Linn & Co., 1888 (pp. 604-5).

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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