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Exchequer

Court of Exchequer. In the subdivision of the court in the reign of Edward I., the Exchequer acquired a separate and independent position. Its special duty was to order the revenues of the Crown and recover the king's debts. It was denominated Scaccarium, from scaccum (a chess-board), and was so called because a chequered cloth was laid on the table of the court. (Madox: History of the Exchequer.)

Foss, in his Lives of the Judges, gives a slightly different explanation. He says: “All round the table was a standing ledge four fingers broad, covered with a cloth bought in the Easter Term, and this cloth was `black rowed with strekes about a span, like a chess-board. On the spaces of this cloth counters were arranged, marked for checking computations.' ”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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