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Admiralty law (usually referred to as simply admiralty and also referred to
as maritime law) is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions
and offenses. Under conventions of international law, the flag flown by a
ship generally determines the source of law to be applied in admiralty
cases, regardless of which court has personal jurisdiction over the parties.
Admiralty law was introduced into England by Eleanor of Aquitaine while she
was acting as regent for her son King Richard the Lionhearted. She had
earlier established admiralty law on the island of Oleron (where it was
published as the Rolls of Oleron) in her own lands (but she is often
referred to in admiralty law books as "Eleanor of Guyenne"), having learned
about it in the eastern Mediterranean while on Crusade with her first
husband, King Louis VII of France. In England special courts, admiralty
courts handle all admiralty cases. These courts do not use the common law of
England, but are civil law courts based upon the Corpus Juris Civilis of
In the United States, admiralty is under the jurisdiction of the federal
courts. However, admiralty courts in the United States are courts of limited
jurisdiction, so state courts have concurrent jurisdiction in admiralty when
state law claims are at issue. Moreover, state courts may have jurisdiction
in admiralty when the matters being adjudicated are local in nature.