Letters Patent (always in the plural and always capitalized) are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a Monarch, Princess, Prince and/or by High Nobility, a 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 also may be used to grant various offices such as Lord Lieutenancies, ecclesiastical ministries and High Court judgeship’s. New peerages are also created by letters patent.
Letters Patent are so named from the Latin verb pateo, to lie open, exposed, accessible. The originator's Seal was attached from the document, so that it did not have to be broken in order for the document to be read. 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 proclamation and a vestigial exercise of extra-parliamentary power by a monarch or president. Prior to the establishment of a Parliament system, the Monarch usually ruled with the aid of the Nobility and selected advisors 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, approved by the Monarch whose signature gives it force. No explicit government approval is contained within Letters Patent, only the seal or signature of the Monarch.
Letters Patent are also issued for the appointment of representatives of the Crown as well as appointing a Royal Commission. In the Principality of the Northern Forests they are issued for the creation of peers of the Principality. They can be as simple as a Royal signing a napkin to an elaborate commissioned piece on vellum costing thousands of Forest Dollars. Today the exercise of the royal prerogative by issuance of Letters Patent are written instructions or orders from the Sovereign, whose order is law, which were made public to reinforce their effect. The Principality Patent Rolls are made up of office copies of Royal Letters Patent.
Principality of the Northern Forests
In the Principality of the Northern Forests, Letters Patent are issued under the prerogative powers of HRH the Princess of the Northern Forests, as an Executive or Royal Prerogative. Letters Patent may also be used to grant royal assent to legislation. No legislative matters can become law in the Principality of the Northern Forests without the Princess's consent.
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant & Charles, 260th. thousand
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, op.cit., p.321
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant & Charles, 260th. thousand: "Literae, Plur: that which is written; Cicero: Dare alicui literas (plur) ad aliquem: to give to a messenger a letter for a third person"
- Turpyn, R. (1846). The Chronicle of Calais: In the Reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. to the Year 1540. Ed. from Mss. in the British Museum (Vol. 35). Camden society.