DCD Loc.XXV:124.

Letter, in English, of Joan [Beaufort] countess of Westmorland, [1426]

Considerable numbers of original fifteenth-century letters are preserved in the monastic archive and this, like Loc.XXV:87, is a typical example. The formidable sender is identified in the centre of the top margin, but the text opens with a general address that does not identify the recipient: 'Reuerent ser in god We grete you oftymes wele And we suppose that it nys nat vnknowen vnto you. how that the right- hie and excellent prince and my right worshipful lorde of Bedford wrote vnto vs for to pray you for his clerc Bradshawe to be preferred to the chirche of Hemyngburgh' [view]. Joan states that she had already communicated her wishes through 'dampz Henry Helawe' (a prominent monk who at the time was terrar or land-agent) that 'next oure son Robert Neuille' she would accept Bradshaw, and that she had never indicated otherwise. She re-iterates her request and expresses her surprise that no presentation had been made 'as youre promys was', adding, somewhat menacingly, that she will certify Bedford 'as ye doo', for Bedford's wife 'hath writen to vs therfore diuerse tymes and specially nowe o late And what ye wil doo in this matere certifie vs writen by oure right- welbeloued and trusted Squier Robert Strangways berar of this' [view]. The closing valediction is curt: 'And oure lorde haue you in his kepyng', perhaps reflecting Joan's annoyance at her failure to deliver to the duke and duchess of Bedford a valuable benefice for their clerk, showing that her influence over the prior of Durham was not as great as she would have liked it to be thought. As usual with such letters it ends by giving the place, day and the month, but not the year, but this is readily established: a vacancy in the church of Hemingburgh occurred when the rector, John Rickingale, was conscrated as bishop of Chichester in 1426, and the outcome of this was settled by 5 April 1427, see Reg. III f. 126r . There is no indication that Joan wrote any part of the letter herself.
The script is an accomplished example of secretary, with little abbreviation, and with the descender of thorn for th [view] well-distinguished from that of y [view], although the latter has lost the superscript dot found in earlier centuries. The second word presents a fine example of the special form of the er abbreviation-sign used on long s.
Informal letters of this kind conform nonetheless to certain norms. Commonly similar in size, about half a full standard sheet of paper, and adopting landscape format, so that the writing ran at right-angles to the wire-lines of the paper, they are characterized by the positioning of the text-block, with three wide margins and none at all to the right. This practice ensured that nothing could be readily added to the unjustified ends of the lines, but the off-setting of the text-block to the right is seen in numbers of fifteenth-century documents where it served no useful purpose, and indeed where the right-hand margin was narrower but not non-existent, e.g. 1.1.Spec.71, 2.13.Pont.12.
On the dorse can be seen the address, to the 'Priour of Duresme', and it is clear how the letter was folded: one long horizontal fold, putting inside the strip that is not discoloured, and two vertical folds, bringing together into a cross the lines of red wax. 40 mm. below the address are two slits, through which was passed a thin strip that was threaded through more slits at the intersection of the lines of red wax and secured close by the seal; only by breaking the seal could the letter be opened. The note 'T Eps. D.' refers to Thomas Langley bishop of Durham and probably indicates, despite the reference to the bearer in the text of the letter, that it travelled with him to Durham; he was in York at Convocation during mid-August 1426.