First, we kill all the lawyers. With these immortal words from Henry VI, Shakespeare summed up the attitude of the man in the street to the law and lawyers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

But what was the law? Obviously, it was different in the two nations of Scotland and England, but it was also different in Ireland, even though the country was, theoretically, ruled by England. 

Welsh law, too, was separate until the Act of Union of 1536. But even within each country there was canon law to set against the King’s law which had several branches, the laws of the Marches and Borders, customary law and local manorial law. With so much complexity it's hardly surprising lawyers flourished and people were confused.

But the period also saw developments – the creation Court of Session in Scotland, and the work of the great jurists Coke and Bacon to clarify English common law.