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Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Court for Probate of Wills and Granting Administrations: Muniment Books

Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Court for Probate of Wills and Granting Administrations: Muniment Books

Registration of exhibits, orders and decrees and appointments of officers of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury such as judges, principal registrars, deputy registrars.

Held by:
The National Archives, Kew
Legal status:
Public Record
Physical description:
17 volume(s)
Administrative / biographical background:

The muniment books contain the registration of some exhibits produced in court, including wills, codicils, probates, inventories, deeds, accounts and correspondence. When the original documents were returned to the parties who had exhibited them, a receipt was signed, dated and entered in these volumes.

Orders and decrees occupy almost half the space in the earlier volumes but later there are less, and none by the 19th century. These were orders made by the judge for the distribution of an intestate's estate, often in cases where there were a number of people standing in equal relationship to the deceased; who would have been provided for in a will. Distribution by the court was an old practice which fell into disuse after the time of James I, but was revived in the Statute for better settling of Intestate's Estates, 22 and 23 Charles II c10. By the terms of this act, the ordinary was empowered to call administrators to render account, and then distribute the remains of the estate among the surviving relatives.

Appointments of judges, principal registrars, deputy registrars and other officers of the court were also entered in the muniment books. Until 1634 the only appointments so entered were those of the judges or general commissaries, masters or keepers of the court. The first entries of the other officers are as follows: apparitors, 1634; registrars, writers or scribes of the acts and keepers of the registers and records, 1718; deputy registrars, 1735; clerks of seats, 1743; mandatories, 1792; auditors, 1836; record keepers, 1838; examiners, 1844; entry clerks of the papers, 1850. Also registered in the muniment books were the commissions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, commissions sede vacante and confirmations by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, and orders on the proceedings of the court and other matters on the internal organisation of the registry.

Original documents are inset in the muniment books from towards the end of the 17th century.

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