Catalogue description Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Files of Commissions and Requisitions for Wills from 1796

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Details of PROB 52
Reference: PROB 52
Title: Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Files of Commissions and Requisitions for Wills from 1796

Files of commissions which were issued by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury to authorise local officials to administer the oaths of executors who were unable to visit the Court in London. Period covered 1796 to 1857 Commissions addressed outside the province of Canterbury were known as requisitions. They supply the name of the proctor acting for the executor, and the date of the testator's death, if this is not given on the warrant in PROB 14. They can also be used as a guide to the executor's place of residence.

Date: 1796-1857

If an act for the period 1796 to 1857 says that the executor was sworn by commission, then there should be a commission or requisition in the appropriate file in PROB 52. There should also be a warrant in PROB 14

Commissions and requisitions should be approached via probate acts.

The livings of clerics within the province of Canterbury are not identified on the commissions, and it is necessary to ascertain them from other sources. However requisitions addressed outside the province may be accompanied by a letter from the person taking the oath or by an official of the relevant diocesan court, and such letters generally state where the oath was sworn. If a testator's estate was subject to legacy duty and or succession duty then much more precise information about the executor's place of residence may be found in the registers to these duties in IR 26. Some commissions and requisitions bear executors' signatures. Some of these executors were Quakers (members of the Society of Friends), and were allowed by statute to make an affirmation instead of swearing an oath.

The commissions in this series were filed in monthly bundles, with a separate bundle for each of the seats of the court. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury divided the business of granting probate and administration acts between a number of different seats, divided between five different seats with distinct responsibilities between 1719 and 1858. In PROB 52 there is not usually a bundle for the London seat, since executors living within the area covered by this seat were almost invariably able to go to the court to swear.

Accordingly, in order to find the commission relating to a particular individual in PROB 52 it is necessary to ascertain the month in which probate was granted and the seat at which the grant passed.

Each piece in this series consists of the extant files of one or more months. The files are not generally labelled by seat, but with knowledge of the seat system it is possible to identify the seats to which they belong, and therefore to locate the appropriate file to search for a particular commission. A few of the files are known to be wanting.

Some commissions in a file may bear the date of a day of an earlier month. This is because executors swore oaths by commission before the grant of probate was made, and the commissions are filed by the month of the grant of the probate, and not by the date of the commission itself.

Related material:

For the month of the grant of probate see also:

For the month of the grant of probate see the probate act appended to the text of the will in PROB 11




Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1660-1858

Physical description: 328 file(s)
Administrative / biographical background:

An executor seeking a grant of probate from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury had to swear an oath that the testator's will was authentic, and that he or she would perform the duties of an executor, paying the testator's debts and legacies, making an inventory of the testator's personal estate, and, if required, producing an account of his or her administration of the estate.

If the executor was unable to come to London the Court would issue a commission so that the oath could be sworn near the executor's place of residence.

If the executor lived within the province of Canterbury the commission would be addressed to one or more clerics of the province.

If the executor lived outside the province of Canterbury it would be addressed to the bishop of the diocese, within the communion of the Church of England, in which the executor lived, or to an appropriate civil official. Commissions addressed outside the province are more properly known as requisitions.

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