Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Private letters patent of 1347 (Eton College Library). All images from The New Palaeographical Society 1910, Plate 200.
This document is an example of private letters patent, in which Ralph, Baron Stafford assigns a coat of arms with crest, wreath and mantling to his cousin Master Edmund de Mortayn. This is an example of a member of the aristocracy assuming the right to carry out this procedure without reference to higher authority, for which there are other extant examples. The script is a small and compact cursive charter hand. The language is French, still the vernacular of the aristocracy in England.
An interesting feature is the reference, in the address, to "those who see and hear these letters", indicating that this is a letter for public proclamation, and the process involves oral as well as written practice. The document was delivered open, and has a seal attached to the bottom fold by a parchment tag. Unfortunately, this is not included in the photograph, but the description given says it bears the arms of Stafford, or a chevron gules (ie. a red chevron on a yellow background). These are depicted on the heraldic tabard on the figure at right, which represents our man, and were also on the shield, although that is not really visible on the photograph as the shield was hollowed out to present the heraldry in coloured inlay.
Stafford on funerary brass
Small figure representing Ralph, Baron Stafford on the funerary brass to Sir Hugh Hastings in the parish church of Elsing, Norfolk.

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 16/5/2005.