Writ Of Quare Impedit

Writ Of Quare Impedit
Writ Of Quare Impedit
Quick Summary of Writ Of Quare Impedit

A writ of quare impedit is a legal term used in ecclesiastical law to enforce a patron’s right to present a person for a vacant benefice. It derives from the Latin phrase “why he hinders.” For instance, if a patron believes that a bishop or pseudo-patron is impeding their right to present a suitable person for a vacant church, they can use a writ of quare impedit to compel the disrupters to allow the presentation. If the defendants fail to comply, they must appear in court to justify their hindrance to the patron. This writ was commonly employed in England during the Middle Ages and continues to be used in certain countries today. It serves as a crucial tool for safeguarding the rights of patrons in the appointment of clergy.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Quare Impedit?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Quare Impedit

In the past, a writ of quare impedit was used as a legal instrument to assist church leaders in selecting candidates for positions within their church. This writ was employed when someone obstructed the church leader’s authority to make their desired choice. The writ would instruct the troublemaker to cease their interference and allow the church leader to exercise their preference. Failure to comply would result in a court appearance where the troublemaker would be required to justify their disruptive actions.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Quare Impedit

The Writ of Quare Impedit is an ancient legal remedy rooted in English common law, primarily concerned with disputes over the right to present a clergyman to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice, commonly known as advowson. The term “Quare Impedit” derives from Latin, translating to “Why he hinders,” reflecting the nature of the writ which challenges an obstruction to the exercise of an advowson right.

Historical Context and Development

The origin of the writ dates back to the medieval period when the church played a central role in societal and governmental structures. During this time, ecclesiastical positions were not only spiritual but also carried significant social and economic influence. Consequently, the right to appoint or present a clergyman (advowson) was highly coveted.

Advowsons were treated as property rights, capable of being bought, sold, or inherited. The possessors of these rights, known as patrons, included a variety of stakeholders such as monarchs, nobles, and other significant landowners. The Writ of Quare Impedit emerged as a legal mechanism to resolve conflicts when two or more parties claimed the right to present to a vacant benefice or when a third party impeded the rightful patron from exercising their advowson.

Legal Framework

The writ of Quare Impedit was predominantly addressed in the Court of Common Pleas, one of the principal courts of common law in England. The legal action commenced when a patron believed their right to present had been unjustly hindered. The writ would demand the defendant to answer “why he hinders” the claimant’s right.

Components of the Writ:

  1. Plaintiff (Patron): The individual or entity asserting their right to present a clergyman to a benefice.
  2. Defendant: The party alleged to have impeded the plaintiff’s right.
  3. The Church: The ecclesiastical entity or benefice in question.
  4. Plea: The specific claim outlining the nature of the impediment.


  1. Issuance of the Writ: The plaintiff would petition the court for the writ, which would then be issued to the defendant.
  2. Appearance and Pleading: The defendant would be required to appear in court and respond to the allegations.
  3. Trial: The court would hear evidence from both parties, focusing on the validity of the plaintiff’s claim and the legitimacy of the defendant’s impediment.
  4. Judgment: The court’s decision would either affirm the plaintiff’s right to present or uphold the defendant’s obstruction.

Key Legal Principles

Several legal principles underpin the Writ of Quare Impedit:

  1. Right of Presentation: The fundamental issue in a Quare Impedit case is the right of presentation. This right could arise through inheritance, grant, or purchase, and it was often enshrined in deeds or other legal documents.
  2. Lapse of Time: The right of presentation had to be exercised within a certain period. If the patron failed to present a candidate within six months of the benefice becoming vacant, the right would typically pass to the bishop or the Crown, depending on the specific circumstances.
  3. Disputed Advowsons: In cases where multiple parties claimed the right to present, the court would examine the historical and legal basis of each claim, including any relevant transfers, inheritances, or legal precedents.
  4. Impediments: The nature of impediments could vary, from physical prevention to legal disputes over the validity of the claimant’s title. The court would scrutinize the reasons provided by the defendant for hindering the presentation.

Notable Cases and Judicial Interpretations

Throughout history, several significant cases have shaped the understanding and application of the Writ of Quare Impedit. These cases often revolved around intricate details of property law, ecclesiastical law, and the interpretation of legal documents.

Case Example: Patronage Dispute

In a notable case from the 15th century, two noble families disputed the right to present a clergyman to a prestigious benefice. Both families produced deeds and historical records supporting their claims. The court meticulously examined the evidence, including the lineage of ownership, any relevant grants, and the legal standing of each document. The judgement not only resolved the immediate dispute but also set a precedent for the interpretation of advowson rights in cases where historical records were ambiguous.

Case Example: Royal Intervention

During the reign of a particular monarch, disputes over advowsons sometimes involved royal intervention. In one instance, the Crown claimed the right to present to a benefice following the lapse of the patron’s right due to delayed action. The court’s decision in this case clarified the conditions under which the Crown could intervene and highlighted the importance of timely action by patrons to safeguard their rights.

Decline and Modern Relevance

The importance of the Writ of Quare Impedit waned over time, particularly with the decline of ecclesiastical influence in societal governance and the evolution of legal systems. The creation of more structured and codified legal frameworks reduced the necessity for such specialized writs.

However, the writ’s legacy remains in contemporary property and ecclesiastical law. The principles underlying the writ, especially regarding the transfer and exercise of rights, continue to influence modern legal doctrines. Moreover, the historical significance of the writ provides valuable insights into the interplay between law, religion, and society in medieval and early modern England.


The Writ of Quare Impedit represents a fascinating intersection of law, religion, and property rights. Its evolution reflects broader changes in English society and legal systems, highlighting the dynamic nature of legal remedies and their adaptation to shifting societal contexts. While largely obsolete today, the writ’s historical importance and the legal principles it encapsulated continue to resonate, offering a window into the complexities of medieval and early modern English law.

Writ Of Quare Impedit FAQ'S

A Writ of Quare Impedit is a legal remedy used in common law jurisdictions to resolve disputes over the right to present a candidate for a vacant ecclesiastical benefice (such as a church position).

Typically, only the patron or the person entitled to present a candidate for a benefice can file a Writ of Quare Impedit.

The purpose of this writ is to protect the rights of the patron or the person entitled to present a candidate by challenging any interference or obstruction in the process of appointing a suitable candidate for a benefice.

The grounds for filing a Writ of Quare Impedit may include allegations of improper interference, nepotism, corruption, or any other actions that hinder the rightful presentation of a candidate for a benefice.

To initiate a Writ of Quare Impedit, the patron or the person entitled to present a candidate must file a formal legal complaint in the appropriate court, outlining the details of the interference or obstruction they have faced.

Once the complaint is filed, the court will review the evidence and hear arguments from both parties involved. The court will then make a decision based on the merits of the case.

The remedies sought through a Writ of Quare Impedit may include an injunction to prevent the interference, damages for any losses suffered, or a declaration of the rightful candidate for the benefice.

Yes, if either party is dissatisfied with the court’s decision, they may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court, seeking a review of the case.

The time limitations for filing a Writ of Quare Impedit may vary depending on the jurisdiction. It is advisable to consult with a legal professional to determine the specific time limitations applicable in your jurisdiction.

No, a Writ of Quare Impedit is specifically used in ecclesiastical matters to resolve disputes related to the presentation of candidates for benefices. It does not apply to non-ecclesiastical matters.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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