Catalogue description Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
|Title:||Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury|
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related jurisdictions, including wills and other probate matters.
|Note:||Some early wills, and all probate acts until 1733 except in the Interregnum, are in Latin; most wills after c1500 are in English|
Official records of Doctors' Commons are in:
Correspondence and papers of the Principal Probate Registry of the High Court are in J 86
A sample of case files and papers relating to contentious probate is in J 121
Registered copy wills from 1858 are deposited with the Principal Registry of the Family Division under the Public Records Act 1958. Probate records of other ecclesiastical courts, whose testamentary jurisdiction was also removed under the Court of Probate Act 1857, are deposited locally under the Public Records Act 1958.
|Held by:||The National Archives, Kew|
|Legal status:||Public Record(s)|
|Language:||English and Latin|
Court for Probate of Wills and Granting Administrations, 1653-1660
Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1653
Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1660-1858
|Physical description:||57 series|
|Immediate source of acquisition:||
Principal Probate Registry , from 1964
Further information on the history of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury during the period of the English civil War is given in Christopher Kitching, Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum. Part I: The survival of the Prerogative Court in the 1640s (Journal of the Society of Archivists, V, 1974-1977, pages 283-293). For information on how the seat system operated in the 1650s see Christopher Kitching, Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum. Part II: The Court for Probate, 1653-1660 (Journal of the Society of Archivists,V, 1974-1977, pages 346-356, 356). See also Christopher Kitching, Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum. Part II: The Court for Probate, 1653-1660 (Journal of the Society of Archivists, V, 1974-1977, pages 346-356). The standard index to Prerogative Court of Canterbury administration acts for the period of the English Civil War is John Ainsworth (editor), Index to administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, vol 1, 1649-1654 (Index Library, LXVIII (London, British Record Society) 1944). All the probate acts and letters of administration with will annexed are covered by personal name indexes. However there is no single union index to Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate acts and letters of administration with will annexed, and there is no single series of indexes compiled on uniform principles. Instead there are a wide variety of different personal name indexes. The majority of them were compiled before the act books that they index were transferred to the PRO, and therefore do not use PRO references. Most of the personal name indexes are of two broad types: Indexes to testators compiled directly from the registered wills (PROB 11), probate act books (PROB 8), and original wills (PROB 10). Indexes of this type have been published for all the probate acts to 1700, and for American probate acts 1610 to 1857;Original indexes (known as calendars) of testators and intestates compiled by the Court contemporaneously with the issue of grants (or later copies of such indexes), and other indexes compiled from them. Modern indexes have been published by the British Record Society, the Friends of the PRO and the Society of Genealogists.
|Administrative / biographical background:||
From at least the thirteenth century Archbishops of Canterbury had claimed some prerogative authority to grant probate and administrations where persons died with personalty or debts in more than one diocese. It is not, however, until the fifteenth century, during the archiepiscopate of John Morton (1486-1500), that there is a clear mention of a Prerogative Court with its own officers.
The Court, which from the sixteenth century sat mainly in Doctors' Commons, London, exercised jurisdiction where the deceased had bona notabilia, namely personal property, credit or debts, to the value of £5 or more, within the jurisdiction of more than one bishop within the southern province of the church (£10 in some dioceses by special composition). The Court's jurisdiction did not, however, extend to real estate. From the 1570s a similar court existed at York for the northern province. Where the personal estate was divided between the two provinces Canterbury dealt with the southern element; it also exercised jurisdiction where death occurred at sea or abroad.
Appeal from the Court lay to the Court of Arches and, before the Reformation, to Rome. After 1534 the papal role was replaced by delegates of the Crown in Chancery (25 Hen. VIII c19), later collectively known as the High Court of Delegates. This Court continued to function until 1832 when its powers were transferred to the King in Council and subsequently to a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
In 1653, during the Interregnum, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) was replaced by a Court for Probate of Wills and Granting Administrations, whose jurisdiction covered the whole of England and Wales. With the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, however, the PCC was reinstated, along with the lesser ecclesiastical courts.
Under the Court of Probate Act 1857 the PCC was abolished and a Court of Probate established as part of the state judicial system. Consequent upon this the Principal Probate Registry started functioning on 12 January 1858.
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