Since charters were privatae conventiones and since the gift may have
been made by oral disposition, one function of the charter was to proclaim the
act more widely. It is possible that charters were written to be read aloud in
courts or other meetings (which often affects the punctuation, in particular the
punctus elevatus -- a hiatus in the reading to allow the drawing of
breath). The wider proclamation is represented in the notification and the
address, which are sometimes distinct and separate clauses, but sometimes
conflated within a single clause.
The notification may have progressed from narrower (honorial) to wider (the
rest of the world), although that is rather a broad differentiation, since such
a chronology was not exact and there were many nuances. There are, nonetheless,
several different forms which reflect different levels of notification.
- Honorial notification: (a) to the honorial baronage (men) of the donor;
(b) to specific officers of the donor; (c) to all the men of the donor both
French and English. Such addresses are generally the earliest form and (a) may
represent the importance of the honorial baronage and honorial court in the
early 12th century. The second form (b) is perhaps analogous to the writ, a
precept, as much as the charter (and so compare the difference in the
addresses of royal writs, charters and letters patent, according to their
functions -- the former specific as precepts, the second wider but to
specified groups of dignitaries [barons, bishops, abbots], and the last widest
of all [to all to whom these present letters shall come]).
- (a) to the rest of the world -- to all to whom these presents shall have
come; know all present and future etc.; (b) to the Christian world -- most
particularly in gifts in free alms -- to all sons of Holy Mother Church; to
all the faithful of Christ. The notification now addresses a wider world
rather than the seignorial world of the early 12th century. The Church, in
particular, encouraged a wider notification and a Christian one to record
benefactions. The information was now also more widely broadcast since it was
intended for the future as well as the living.
The purpose of the notification was to make known, perhaps by reading aloud
in judicial and other assemblies, what had happened privately and orally, to
make those acts public and broadcast. It was an integral part of the evidentiary
nature of charters, which may not originally have been dispositive, but merely
recorded an oral disposition and symbolic livery.