to prove the deceased a villein in a principal action of status, [where status] is the  principal matter,1 by witnesses and kindred, for that would be to prove him such and  so alter2 the status of the deceased.3 But whether he died bond or free, or a bastard,  may be inquired into by a jury without changing his status, because villeinage raised  by way of exception neither alters nor changes the status of anyone, dead or alive. It  is one thing to prove by witnesses and kindred that it ought to be so, where there is  someone who could answer the allegations, and another to inquire by a jury simply  whether it was so. And this is true even if the father was in truth a villein, claimed in  court as a villein by writ, who defended himself in his free status up to his death. And  so if, established beyond the potestas of his lord, he was never claimed in his lifetime.  A statuliber is anyone who is beyond the potestas of his lord [who] cannot be recalled to  servitude without plea and writ. And by the same token, a statuservus will be a free  man in possession of his servitude, so established that he cannot attain his freedom  without plea, who dies in that status, whether he has asserted his freedom during his  lifetime or not.
Of certain special cases.
 We have explained in general how the exception of villeinage is to be raised and for  whom it lies. Now we must turn to special cases. Suppose that a freeman enters into a  villeinage to a neif. His status is not changed by that though it is partially concealed,4  since because of the neif, who is, so to speak, a barrier, the person joined cannot withdraw  from the villeinage. He will be bound to do the villein customs not by reason of  his person, but because of the villeinage, because by it neither the status nor the condition  of a free person is changed. But suppose that both husband and wife are fugitives,  the wife is claimed and recalled into servitude and the husband follows her?  Conversely, suppose that a villein outside the potestas of his lord is joined to a free  woman who has a free tenement; if his lord ejects them both, the husband and the  wife, quaere whether they ought to recover despite the exception of villeinage. It is  proper that they should, for the reason given above, until the villein husband is recalled  to servitude. But [if he is recalled] what of the wife and the free tenement if the  lord enters into the tenement? The wife may not claim by herself, without her husband;  if her husband is joined the exception will bar them. What is to be done? It  seems that the lord will retain the tenement as long as the villein lives and after his  death the wife will have a remedy, the impediment, so to speak, being removed,5[but  in truth they will recover property formerly held, but cannot obtain possession not  hitherto acquired.]6 To a lord raising the exception of villeinage an answer may be  given and a replication made in many ways. It may be alleged by way of replication  that the lord acknowledged him to be free in the king's court
1. C. 7.16.13: Principaliter de statu defuncti agi non potest
2. Reading: quia hoc esset probare eum talem et ita mutare