Late Old English period
Late 11th-early 12th century
After the early 12th century
A-S diploma
  • purpose: dispositive of bookland or privileges
  • language: Latin except boundary clause
  • proem/preamble/arenga
  • boundary clause (vernacular: OE)
  • anathema
  • signa/subscriptions
  • purpose: evidentiary, but by the 13th century dispositive
  • initially a written memorandum of a prior oral transaction and thus evidentiary not dispositive, but by the early thirteenth century probably fully dispositive
  • language: Latin
  • after the early twelfth century, devoid of principal forms of the A-S diploma: for example, witnesses replaced signa/subscriptions and the charter was sealed.
Writ-charter with hybrid diploma forms
  • purpose: evidentiary of a prior oral transaction, probably not inherently dispositive
  • language: Latin
  • hybrid diploma forms included: preamble to some extent; anathema to some extent; signa/subscriptions instead of witnesses and seal(s)
  • but note that only a small proportion of early twelfth-century writ-charters had hybrid diploma forms
  • Note also that the notification/address within the charter replaced the writ

vesica seal matrix
A-S writ
  • language: vernacular (OE)
  • purpose: notification of the diploma
  • purpose: now unrelated to the diploma or charter
  • its purpose was as an executive instrument, an order, command, precept
  • language: Latin (later some in French)
  • whilst the charter had a wide, sometimes general address, the writ had a specific address, to named individuals or officers
  • whilst the charter was sealed patent (open), writs became generally sealed close
  • writs were often sealed on a tongue (simplex cauda) rather than on a tag (duplex cauda) like the charter; before the middle of the twelfth century, however, some charters were sealed on a tongue
  • the writ had thus an administrative function (in the case of royal writs, often to the sheriff -- the viscontiel writ), but the royal writ also became 'judicialised', that is, part of the process of judicial proceedings, indeed to initiate those proceedings to a large degree