Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Writ of Henry II (New College, Oxford, Takeley, No.136). From Salter, 1929, No.31.

This very brief document is a writ of Henry II which formerly belonged to Takeley Priory. It is addressed to the justices and sheriffs of England, and the king forbids anyone to accept gifts of lands belonging to St Walery from unwise abbots. There has got to be a good story here somewhere, but I don't know what it is.

It is a nice example of the brevity of a writ, as compared to the more florid language of a charter. The script is a protogothic chancery hand, of similar type but rather more informal to those used for charters of the period. However, many charters for the benefit of monastic houses at this time were not actually scribed by the chancery, but were written in the monasteries themselves, utilising book hands or charter hands of a more ecclesiastical character. It is interesting that this document belongs to a set which includes several charters pertaining to the monastery, none of which were written in chancery hand.

The script is very angular and spiky. For some reason this entertains me, as Henry II was a cantakerous and spiky character himself (Remember, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"), and somehow the writ looks like something that was snarled to a hapless chancery clerk in a fit of temper. And did he really say "unwise abbots" or something more vulgar? OK, so we're not supposed to get too carried away with the imaginative reconstruction.

Part of the seal for this document evidently survives, but it is not illustrated.

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