Les Cinque Dragownes

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Les Cinque Dragownes was a magical law court which operated in Northern England in the twelfth through fourteenth centuries.

Medieval Operation

Les Cinque Dragownes was a special court which in medieval times tried magical crimes committed by humans (whether magicians or not) and "crimes against the person of John Uskglass". Les Cinque Dragownes, noted for its severe judgments, was presided over by twelve magicians (according to Jonathan Strange, these presumably were required to be practicing rather than theoretical magicians). Both Les Cinque Dragownes and its Southern England counterpart, the Petty Dragownes of London, were based on the same body of law despite being in two different countries. Although both courts were eventually dissolved, the laws which they operated on were never revoked [37].

The court's name (in English, "The Five Dragons") comes from the elaborate carvings in the chamber where the court originally sat - a room in John Uskglass's house in Newcastle. These carvings were the work of both human and fairy craftsmen, and the most striking of all were those of five dragons. By common report the chamber was said to be twelve-sided [37].

Revival of English Magic

The idea of reviving Les Cinque Dragownes arose several times during the Revival of English Magic. In 1814, Gilbert Norrell proposed using a system based on what was known of the operation of Les Cinque Dragownes and supplemented by the system used by Doctors Commons (a contemporary ecclesiastical court) for the sole purpose of trying Christopher Drawlight, but this plan was rebuffed due to its narrow focus and Norrell's proposed involvement as both plaintiff and adviser in magical law [37].

In 1816, the Ministers briefly contemplated using the court to try Norrell himself for having deliberately caused Jonathan Strange's book, The History and Practice of English Magic to vanish. They were forced to abandon the idea on account of their own unfamiliarity with magical law [50].

In 1817, after Strange and Norrell disappeared, the Minsters again considered reviving Les Cinque Dragownes in order to contend with the many new magicians who arose in the absence of Strange and Norrell [69]. Historical sources, unfortunately, are unclear on whether action was decidedly taken on this occasion.

See also the courts of Folflures and the Petty Dragownes of London.

Les Cinq Dragownes.jpg

The Five Dragons (in red robes) at work. This illuminated manuscript from about 1460 is the earliest known depiction of the English Magical Court.