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Letters patent (always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch, president, or other head of state, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation. Letters patent can be used for the creation of corporations or government offices, or for the granting of city status or a coat of arms. Letters patent are issued for the appointment of representatives of the Crown, such as governors and governors-general of Commonwealth realms, as well as appointing a Royal Commission. In the United Kingdom they are also issued for the creation of peers of the realm. A particular form of letters patent has evolved into the modern patent (referred to as a utility patent or design patent in United States patent law) granting exclusive rights in an invention (or a design in the case of a design patent). In this case it is essential that the written grant should be in the form of a public document so other inventors can consult it to avoid infringement and also to understand how to "practice" the invention, i.e., put it into practical use. In the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, imperial patent was also the highest form of generally binding legal regulations, e. g. Patent of Toleration, Serfdom Patent etc.
A plurale tantum is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object. In a less strict usage of the term, it can also refer to nouns whose singular form is rarely used.
Legal instrument is a legal term of art that is used for any formally executed written document that can be formally attributed to its author, records and formally expresses a legally enforceable act, process, or contractual duty, obligation, or right, and therefore evidences that act, process, or agreement. Examples include a certificate, deed, bond, contract, will, legislative act, notarial act, court writ or process, or any law passed by a competent legislative body in municipal (domestic) or international law. Many legal instruments were written under seal by affixing a wax or paper seal to the document in evidence of its legal execution and authenticity. However, today many jurisdictions have done away with the requirement of documents being under seal in order to give them legal effect.
A monarch is a sovereign head of state in a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Typically a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may become monarch by conquest, acclamation or a combination of means. A monarch usually reigns for life or until abdication.
The opposite of letters patent are letters close (Latin : litterae clausae), which are personal in nature and sealed so that only the recipient can read their contents. Letters patent are thus comparable to other kinds of open letter in that their audience is wide. It is not clear how the contents of letters patent became widely published before collection by the addressee, for example whether they were left after sealing by the king for inspection during a certain period by courtiers in a royal palace, who would disseminate the contents back to the gentry in the shires through normal conversation and social intercourse. Today, for example, it is a convention for the British prime minister to announce that they have left a document they wish to enter the public domain "in the library of the House of Commons", where it may be freely perused by all members of parliament.
Letters close are a type of obsolete legal document once used by the British monarchy, certain officers of government and by the Pope, which is a sealed letter granting a right, monopoly, title, or status to an individual or to some entity such as a corporation. These letters were personal in nature, and were delivered folded and sealed, so that only the recipient could read their contents. This type of letter contrasts with the better-known letters patent.
An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally.
Letters patent are so named from the Latin verb pateo, to lie open, exposed, accessible.The originator's seal was attached pendent from the document, so that it did not have to be broken in order for the document to be read.
A seal is a device for making an impression in wax, clay, paper, or some other medium, including an embossment on paper, and is also the impression thus made. The original purpose was to authenticate a document, a wrapper for one such as a modern envelope, or the cover of a container or package holding valuables or other objects.
Litterae in Latin meant "that which is written" or "writing", in the sense of letters of the alphabet placed together in meaningful sequence on a writing surface, not a specific format of composition as the modern word "letter" suggests. Thus letters patent do not equate to an open letter but rather to any form of document, deed, contract, letter, despatch, edict, decree, epistle etc.made public.
They are called "letters" (plural) from their Latin name litterae patentes, used by medieval and later scribes when the documents were written in Latin. This loanword preserves the collective plural "letters" (litterae) Latin language uses to denote a message as opposed to a single alphabet letter (littera).
Letters patent are a form of open or public proclamationand a vestigial exercise of extra-parliamentary power by a monarch or president. Prior to the establishment of Parliament, the monarch ruled absolutely by the issuing of his personal written orders, open or closed.
They can thus be contrasted with the Act of Parliament, which is in effect a written order by Parliament involving assent by the monarch in conjunction with its members. No explicit government approval is contained within letters patent, only the seal or signature of the monarch.
Parliament today tolerates only a very narrow exercise of the royal prerogative by issuance of letters patent, and such documents are issued with prior informal government approval, or indeed are now generated by government itself with the monarch's seal affixed as a mere formality. In their original form they were simply written instructions or orders from the sovereign, whose order was law, which were made public to reinforce their effect.
For the sake of good governance, it is of little use if the sovereign appoints a person to a position of authority but does not at the same time inform those over whom such authority is to be exercised of the validity of the appointment.
According to the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice, there are 92 different types of letters patent.The Patent Rolls are made up of office copies of English (and later United Kingdom) royal letters patent, which run in an almost unbroken series from 1201 to the present day, with most of those to 1625 having been published.
The form of letters patent for creating peerages has been fixed by the Crown Office (Forms and Proclamations Rules) Order 1992 (SI 1992/1730). Part III of the schedule lays down nine pro forma texts for creating various ranks of the peerage, lords of appeal in ordinary, and baronets.
The following table organises the text from the letters patent by columns for each rank, with common text spanning multiple columns, depicting some of the similarities and differences among the proclamations. Gender-specific differences are highlighted in italics.
|Dukes and Duchesses||Marquesses and Marchionesses||Earls and Countesses||Viscounts||Barons||Life Barons||Life Baronesses||Baronets||Lords of Appeal in Ordinary|
|"ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith To all Lords Spiritual and Temporal and all other Our Subjects whatsoever to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting!|
|Know Ye that We of Our especial grace certain knowledge and mere motion||Whereas Our (name of grantee in relevant courtly language) has resigned his Office of a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and the same is now vacant Now Know Ye that We of Our especial grace have in pursuance of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 as amended by subsequent enactments nominated and appointed and by these Presents Do nominate and appoint Our (name of grantee in relevant courtly language) to be a|
|in pursuance of the Life Peerages Act 1958 and of all other powers in that behalf us enabling|
|do by these Presents advance create and prefer Our: |
‡ if Privy Councillor
to the state degree style dignity title and honour of
|do by these Presents erect appoint and create Our (name of grantee in relevant courtly language) to the dignity state and degree of a|
|DUKE OF <PLACE>.||MARQUESS OF <PLACE>.||EARL <NAME/NAME OF PLACE/OF PLACE>.||VISCOUNT <NAME> (OF <PLACE>) of <SOMEWHERE> in <COUNTY>.||BARON <NAME> (OF <PLACE>) of <SOMEWHERE> in <COUNTY>.||BARON <NAME> (OF <PLACE>) of <SOMEWHERE> in <COUNTY>.||BARONESS <NAME> (OF <PLACE>) of <SOMEWHERE> in <COUNTY>.||BARONET||LORD OF APPEAL IN ORDINARY|
|And for Us Our heirs and successors do appoint give and grant unto him the said name state degree style dignity title and honour of||by the style of|
|Duke of <PLACE>||Marquess of <PLACE>||Earl <NAME/NAME OF PLACE/OF PLACE>||Viscount <NAME> (of <PLACE>)||Baron <NAME> (of <PLACE>)||Baroness <NAME> (OF <PLACE>)||Baronet||BARON|
|and by these Presents do dignify invest and ennoble him by girding him with a sword and putting a cap of honour and a coronet of gold on his head [or, if the grant is to a woman, "dignify invest and really ennoble her with such name state degree title and honour of Duchess/Marchioness/Countess of <PLACE>"]|
|and by giving into his hand a rod of gold|
|to have and to hold||To hold|
|the said name state degree style dignity title and honour of||the said name degree style dignity title and honour of||the said Office|
|Duke of||Marquess of||Earl|
|unto him and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten and to be begotten.||unto him for his life.||unto her for her life.||unto him and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten and to be begotten.||so long as he shall well behave himself therein subject to the provisions in the said Act mentioned|
|Willing and by these Presents granting for Us Our heirs and successors that he|
|and his heirs male aforesaid and every of them successively||and his heirs male aforesaid|
|[may have hold and possess a seat place and voice in the Parliaments and Public Assemblies and Councils of Us Our heirs and successors within Our United Kingdom amongst the]|
|[And also that he]|
|[and his heirs male aforesaid successively]|
|may enjoy and use all the rights privileges||with all wages profits privileges rank and precedence whatsoever to the said Office belonging or in anywise appertaining and to hold the said style of Baron unto him the said during his life.|
|and advantages to the degree of|
|a Duke||a Marquess||an Earl||a Viscount||a Baron||a Baronet|
|duly and of right belonging which|
|of Our United Kingdom [have heretofore used and enjoyed or as they] do at present use and enjoy.|
|In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent. WITNESS Ourself at Westminster the nth day of <MONTH> in the xth year of Our Reign"|
The words "may have hold and possess" to "his heirs male aforesaid successively" and "have heretofore used and enjoyed or as they" (shown in brackets above) were deleted for Dukes and Duchesses, Marquesses and Marchionesses, Earls and Countesses, Viscounts, and hereditary Barons by the Crown Office (Forms and Proclamations Rules) (Amendment) Order 2000.
In Commonwealth realms, letters patent are issued under the prerogative powers of the head of state, as an executive or royal prerogative. They are a rare, though significant, form of legislation which does not require the consent of parliament. Letters patent may also be used to grant royal assent to legislation.
The primary source of letters patent in the United States are intellectual property patents and land patents, though letters patent are issued for a variety of other purposes. They function dually as public records and personal certificates.
In the United States, the forgery of letters patent granted by the President is a crime subject to fine, imprisonment up to ten years or both (18 U.S.C. § 497). Without letters patent, a person is unable to assume an appointed office. Such an issue prompted the Marbury v. Madison suit, where William Marbury and three others petitioned the United States Supreme Court to order James Madison to deliver their letters for appointments made under the previous administration.
United States letters patent generally do not fit a specific form, except for the eschatocol, or formal ending:
|IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the undersigned [public official], in accordance with [relevant law], has in the name of the United States, Caused these letters to be made Patent and the Seal of [relevant agency or government official] to be hereunto affixed. |
GIVEN under my hand, in [city] the [date] in the year of our Lord [year] and of the Independence of the United States the [years since July 4, 1776].
By [signature of public official issuing letter]
Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the monarch to withhold assent to laws, the monarch almost never does so, save in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court. Warrants, prerogative writs, and subpoenas are common types of writ, but many forms exist and have existed.
The Great Seal of Canada is a governmental seal used for purposes of state in Canada, being set on letters patent, proclamations and commissions, both to representatives of the Queen and for the appointment of cabinet ministers, senators, and judges. Many other officials, such as officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, receive commissions affixed with the Privy Seal, not the great seal. It is not for sealing up a document as letters close. Although not an official symbol of Canada the seal is one of the oldest and most honoured instruments of the Canadian government.
The precise style of British sovereigns has varied over the years. The present style is officially proclaimed in two languages:
The Statute of Monopolies was an Act of the Parliament of England notable as the first statutory expression of English patent law. Patents evolved from letters patent, issued by the monarch to grant monopolies over particular industries to skilled individuals with new techniques. Originally intended to strengthen England's economy by making it self-sufficient and promoting new industries, the system gradually became seen as a way to raise money without having to incur the public unpopularity of a tax. Elizabeth I particularly used the system extensively, issuing patents for common commodities such as starch and salt. Unrest eventually persuaded her to turn the administration of patents over to the common law courts, but her successor, James I, used it even more. Despite a committee established to investigate grievances and excesses, Parliament made several efforts to further curtail the monarch's power. The result was the Statute of Monopolies, passed on 29 May 1624.
The Canadian Heraldic Authority is part of the Canadian honours system under the Canadian monarch, whose authority is exercised by the Governor General of Canada. The authority is responsible for the creation and granting of new coats of arms, flags, and badges for Canadian citizens, government agencies, municipal, civic and other corporate bodies. The authority also registers existing armorial bearings granted by other recognized heraldic authorities, approves military badges, flags, and other insignia of the Canadian Forces, and provides information on heraldic practices.
The royal sign-manual is the signature of the sovereign, by the affixing of which the monarch expresses his or her pleasure either by order, commission, or warrant. A sign-manual warrant may be either an executive act, or an authority for affixing the Great Seal of the pertinent realm. The sign-manual is also used to give power to make and ratify treaties. Sign manual, with or without hyphen, is an old term for a hand-written signature in general. It is also referred to as sign manual and signet.
In the Government of the United Kingdom, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery is a senior civil servant who is the head of the Crown Office.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its reigning monarch and head of state since 1 November 1981. As such she is Antigua and Barbuda's sovereign and officially called Queen of Antigua and Barbuda.
Dimissorial letters are testimonial letters given by a bishop or by a competent religious superior to his subjects in order that they may be ordained by another bishop. Such letters testify that the subject has all the qualities demanded by canon law for the reception of the order in question, and request the bishop to whom they are addressed to ordain him.
A fiant was a writ issued to the Irish Chancery mandating the issue of letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland. The name fiant comes from the opening words of the document, Fiant litterae patentes, Latin for "Let letters patent be made". Fiants were typically issued by the chief governor of Ireland, under his privy seal; or sealed by the Secretary of State, who served as "Keeper of the Privy Seal of Ireland", just as the English Secretary of State did in England. Fiants dealt with matters ranging from appointments to high office and important government activities, to grants of pardons to the humblest of the native Irish. Fiants relating to early modern Ireland are an important primary source for the period for historians and genealogists. The Tudor fiants were especially numerous, many relating to surrender and regrant. A fiant often provides more information than the ensuing letters patent recorded on patent rolls. There are also fiants for which the patent roll does not list any letters patent, either because none were issued or because those issued were never enrolled, through accident or abuse. Prior to the Act of Explanation 1665, letters patent were enrolled after they were granted; under the act, the fiant was enrolled first, and the letters issued afterwards. Thereafter the rolls, which were catalogued in the 19th century, give the same information as the original fiants.
The monarchy of Jamaica is a constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Jamaica. The terms Crown in Right of Jamaica, Her Majesty in Right of Jamaica, or The Queen in Right of Jamaica may also be used to refer to the entire executive of the government of Jamaica. Though the Jamaican Crown has its roots in the British Crown, it has evolved to become a distinctly Jamaican institution, represented by its own unique symbols.
The monarch of Belize is the head of state of Belize. The incumbent Queen of Belize is Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 21 September 1981. The heir apparent is Elizabeth's eldest son, Prince Charles, though the Queen is the only member of the royal family with any constitutional role. She and the rest of the royal family undertake various public ceremonial functions across Belize and on behalf of Belize abroad.
The monarchy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, forming the core of the country's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The Crown is thus is the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Vincentian government. While Royal Assent and the royal sign-manual are required to enact laws, letters patent, and orders in council, the authority for these acts stems from the Vincentian populace, and, within the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy, the sovereign's direct participation in any of these areas of governance is limited, with most related powers entrusted for exercise by the elected and appointed parliamentarians, the ministers of the Crown generally drawn from amongst them, and the judges and Justices of the Peace.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity attached to the British Monarch, recognised in the United Kingdom. The monarch is regarded internally as the absolute authority, or "sole prerogative", and prerogative the source of many of the executive powers of the British government.
The Court of the Lord Lyon is a standing court of law which regulates heraldry in Scotland. The Lyon Court maintains the register of grants of arms, known as the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, as well as records of genealogies.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.
Royal instructions are formal instructions issued to governors of the United Kingdom's colonial dependencies, and past instructions can be of continuing constitutional significance in a former colonial dependency or Dominion.
The Letters Patent, 1947 are a legal instrument introduced by King George VI, which came into effect on 1 October 1947 and continue to, along with parts of the Constitution Act, 1867, constitute the Office of the Governor General. These letters served to expand the role and powers of the governor general in exercising the Royal Prerogative and allows the governor general to carry out an increased number of the Sovereign's duties in "exceptional circumstances". While the letters patent allow the governor general to use most of the "powers and authorities" lawfully belonging to the Canadian sovereign, this permission can be revoked, altered, or amended by the sovereign at any time and these powers and authorities thus remain with the monarch and are carried out by the governor general on his or her behalf.
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