DCD 1.5.Reg.1

Inspeximus confirmation by letters patent of King Henry IV, 1401

Cf. Calendar of the Patent Rolls 14 p.

The Inspeximus evolved as a form of document in England during the twelfth century, originating in episcopal chanceries and taking its final shape in the royal chancery in 1227, when King Henry III came of age and the call for such documents was especially high, see Cheney (1950) pp. 90-96, although it is the case that no bishop of Durham is known to have set his seal to one before Richard Poore (1228-37). Its essence is an authoritative verbatim recitation of an existing document or documents, and, while it was sometimes used simply to provide an authoritative exemplification or copy of the existing document (cf. MC 1227), in the manner of a notarial exemplification, it was much more common for it to confirm the substance of the existing document; many institutions felt the need to obtain such confirmations from successive kings and consequently the later period saw a proliferation of inspeximus of inspeximus of inspeximus of ..., rather like a nest of Russian dolls. In general the example here is typical of a simple inspeximus. Beginning with the common address of letters patent (to all to whom the present letters shall have come, see Chaplais (1971) p. 19), King Henry simply announces that he has inspected (rather than an accusative-and-infinitive construction "Sciatis me inspexisse", which was employed by Bishop Poore in 1230 and Bishop Kellawe in 1316, see Registrum Palatinum ii,1299-1302) a document which is described ('litteras patentes domini E[dwardi] nuper Regis Anglie progenitoris nostri') and then recited in full; this is followed by Henry's confirmation, in terms that had become quite elaborate by this date, notably by referring to the fact that the monks had enjoyed the benefits of King Edward's grant since it was issued ('ijdem nunc Monachi et predecessores sui Monachi qui ibidem moram traxerint dictos tresdecim marcas et decem solidos annuos a tempore confeccionis litterarum predictarum rationabiliter percipere consueuerunt' [view]). The document displays the features characteristic of its production in the royal chancery: at the end of the text the name Bubbewyth, the chancery clerk responsible for overseeing its production; the note hidden by the upper edge of the turn-up, recording that it was drawn up on the authority of a privy-seal writ and for 20s. paid in the hanaper; and the note on the turn-up that it had been examined by Nicholas Bubwith and John Rome clerks. On the other hand it is a very lavish document: the margins are exceptionally generous; the script is an extremely proficient example of a formal cursive script, time-consuming to execute; the seal is attached on blue and white silk cords passing through pairs of holes in the turn-up which were arranged to create maximum display effect; spaces were left for a large initial at the beginning and four smaller initials in the text, which were filled, probably outside the chancery, with finely executed penwork decoration and, in the opening initial, brushwork shading. The monks' penchant for laying out what must have been significant sums on the decoration of documents is well-attested during the reign of Henry IV's immediate predecessor, witness several documents concerned with the foundation of Durham College Oxford (see 4.5.Ebor.4b ), and a huge royal inspeximus (3.4.Reg.6) measuring 1070 X c.750 mm. which has an elaborate border, inhabited along the top by depictions of the various classes of persons addressed (archbishops, bishops, etc.), see Danbury (1989).
The letters patent of King Edward II survive as 1.4.Reg.10. In themselves they are a confirmation but could not be an inspeximus, for there was nothing to inspect. Instead the king accepted that his father had verbally conceded to the monks of Durham's cell on Farne Island 10 quarters of wheat and 2 casks of wine annually from the mayor and bailiffs of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and commuted this to 13 marks (£8 13s. 4d.) and 10s. from the farm of the town, 5 marks for each cask and 5s. for each quarter.