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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Alsatia \Alsatia\ n. 1. a region of northeastern France famous for its wines.

Syn: Alsace, Elsass


Alsatia in London, was the name given to an area lying north of the River Thames covered by the Whitefriars monastery, to the south of the west end of Fleet Street and adjacent to the Temple. Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries it had the privilege of a sanctuary, except against a writ of the Lord Chief Justice or of the Lords of the Privy Council; and as a result it was the refuge of the perpetrators of every grade of crime, debauchery, and offence against the laws. The execution of a warrant there, if at any time practicable, was attended with great danger, as all united in a maintenance in common of the immunity of the place. It was one of the last places of sanctuary used in England, abolished by Act of Parliament named The Escape from Prison Act in 1697 and a further Act in 1723. Eleven other places in London were named in the Acts ( The Minories, The Mint, Salisbury Court, Whitefriars, Fulwoods Rents, Mitre Court, Baldwins Gardens, The Savoy, The Clink, Deadmans Place, Montague Close, and Stepney).

Alsatia was named after the ancient name for Alsace, Europe, which was itself outside legislative and juridical lines, and, therefore, they were literally places without law. The name is thought to be a cant term for the area and is first known in print in the title of The Squire of Alsatia, a 1688 play written by Thomas Shadwell.

As of 2007, the word is still in use among the English and Australian judiciaries with the meaning of a place where the law cannot reach:

  • "In setting up the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the state has set out to create an Alsatia - a region of executive action free of judicial oversight," Lord Justice Sedley in UMBS v SOCA 2007.
  • "Nor is it an answer to Mr Woods' claim that it "was in fact against the rules of the game of indoor cricket as it is played in Australia" to wear a helmet. Sporting arenas are not Alsatias where the common law does not run. The law of negligence applies in the sporting arena with the same force and effect as it does in the factory and on the roadway." — Justice McHugh of the High Court of Australia in Woods v Multi-Sport Holdings Proprietary Limited (2002) 208 CLR 460, para 79.

Michael Moorcock's 2015 novel The Whispering Swarm is set in Alsatia.

Usage examples of "alsatia".

I had been giving instructions to the driver, who claimed never to have set foot in Alsatia, a record he seemed anxious to preserve, until I offered the incentive of an extra two shillings.

I remembered a rumour I had once heard about Alsatia, that all of its taverns were honeycombed with cubby-holes, false floors and hidden passages, scores of secret places where fugitives and smugglers concealed themselves or their booty.

Another Alsatia existed depths beneath the soot-rimed surface of timber, stone and thatch, behind a hundred wainscots and boarded entranceways.

Their looks had grown more dubious when I explained that the Golden Horn was in Alsatia, beside the Fleet River.

But I supposed the searchers were no more likely to enter Alsatia than were the bailiffs and catchpoles, so we were safeif that was the wordfrom the graspings of the law.

I had left for Alsatia early that morning, this time travelling upriver by sculler.

But whatever optimism I had felt earlier in the day, in Alsatia, had now vanished completely.

I had been depressed and utterly baffled when I arrived in Alsatia an hour earlier.

I, a law-abiding citizen, a humble bookseller, should now be descending the steps of a brothel in the middle of Alsatia, at nightfall, in disguise.

From there it was just a short walk to Alsatia, which, outcast that I was, I had already begun to think of as home.

But Crump had been the driver of the hackney-coach in Alsatia, that much I knew at once.

Which meant that everything that had happened since the first trip to Alsatia, as well as everything that had followed so smoothly from itthe auction, the copy of Agrippa, the cataloguehad also been staged.

I had arrived back in Alsatia the previous night after spending another entire day on the road.

Was it retribution that I hoped to find as I set out from Alsatia, in the midst of the deluge, in the back of a mail-coach jostling along the Strand and into Charing Cross, heading slowly westward?

How many delirious days had passed since I had returned to Alsatia from the Rolls Chapel?