COURT OF KING'S BENCH. (Page 233.)
THIS Court is an enclosure, formed by a handsome Gothic screen, at the upper end of Westminster-hall, on the left; another enclosure on the right, corresponding with this in style, being the Court of Chancery. The four judges are seated on one bench under a canopy in the Gothic style; lined at the back with tapestry embroidered with the King's arms, the fasces and other emblems of justice. Before each is placed a small desk. The Chief Justice takes the second seat on the left of the Plate; the oldest of the puisne judges being on his right. This is the chief of the common law courts, and has its name from the King having anciently presided therein in person. All criminal causes and pleas of the crown are determined in this Court exclusively, as well as civil actions; and the judges hold their offices non durante placito, but quamdiu se bene gesserint.
The judges have no less than five different dresses for various occasions; namely, robes of fine scarlet cloth, trimmed with white ermine; black cloth with white ermine; purple cloth with blue and red shot silk cape and cuffs; scarlet with brown silk cape and cuffs; and gowns of black silk. The four first are robes of ceremony; and with them is worn the large full-bottomed wig. The last is seldom worn but when the judge sits at Nisi Prius; and with it is worn the tie wig. The silk gown of the Chief Justice is distinguished from the rest by a train. Immediately below the judges are seated the clerks of the court; viz. the master and other clerks of the Crown Office, the master of the King's Bench Office with his deputy, and the clerk of the Rules with his deputy. Their duty is to take minutes of the several rules and orders of the court according to their respective departments. These wear a black silk gown and tie wig. The space immediately below the clerks, and between them and the counsel, is allotted to strangers, and to attorneys and other persons concerned in causes. The counsel are seated on benches, enclosing this space in the form of an amphitheatre. A partition called the bar separates the King's counsel's seats from those behind: the former are distinguished also by wearing silk gowns and full-bottomed wigs on the first day of Term, and when pleading before either house of parliament; but on other occasions they appear in tie wigs as other barristers, who wear princes-stuff gowns and tie wigs on all occasions. On the left of the Plate is the jury box; and on the right a box for the law students. Behind the counsel's benches is a space usually filled with strangers. The three royal figures in Gothic niches over the canopy are very ancient, and represent William Rufus, Henry I. and King Stephen. On the other side of the Hall in the Court of Chancery are three similar statues of Henry the Second, Richard the First, and King John. The most probable conjecture is that they were placed there about the time of Henry the Third; for although the Hall was rebuilt by Richard the Second, yet the old south wall appears not to have been taken down. Strangers of distinction are usually invited to sit on the bench, on the left of the judges. This Court has no gallery; and is so small, that the inconvenience to all who have business in it is extremely great. On the first day of each Term the judges of all the four courts, after breakfasting with the Lord Chancellor, proceed in state, attended by their respective officers, to Westminster-hall, according to their rank of precedence; the Lord Chancellor going first; next the Chief Justice of the King's Bench; then the Master of the Rolls; the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; the Chief Baron of the Exchequer; and then the Puisne Judges according to the priorities of their respective courts. The Serjeants in their robes are drawn up in a line on the right hand side of the Hall to receive them as they pass, when each judge shakes hands with every serjeant, and wishes him a Good Term.