Equity developed in the early Middle Ages as a means of alleviating the strict application of legal rules by the then Royal Courts, collectively known as the Courts of Common Law. Those aggrieved would petition the Crown. The appeals were eventually handed over to the Lord Chancellor, then the Crown's principal minister and usually an ecclesiastic. Hence the origins of the jurisdiction as a court of conscience. As anyone who has read Dickens? Bleak House will know, by the 18th Century, equity had itself become rigid. The origins of the jurisdiction have, however, prevailed and the principles of equity can now be applied in every civil court in the land. One of equity's greatest inventions has been the Trust.
Trust law applies whenever one person has placed trust and confidence in another person to manage his or her affairs. The full force of the law of equity governs such relationships and the trust now provides a mechanism for a number of situations, family relationships, charities, pension funds, to name but a few.
Aside from fascinating concepts such as proprietary estoppel and secret trusts, which allow the courts to circumvent formalities in the dealing of property which have been deliberately prescribed by Parliament, an understanding of trusts requires an understanding of a whole variety of technical terms, fiduciary, beneficiary, express trusts, fixed trusts, discretionary trusts, resulting trusts, constructive trusts, purpose trusts, charitable trusts, proprietary and personal remedies. It is no small wonder that Commercial Chancery Barristers (specialists in this subject) are probably amongst the highest earners at the Bar!