RepositoryLambeth Palace Library
Alt Ref NoF II
Extent184 files
DescriptionThis series consists of files of documents leading up to the issue of a faculty. The documents include petitions, certificates and commissions to take oaths, but the essential step in the process is the 'fiat'. This is the order to proceed with the application, signed by the Archbishop or a Faculty Office official. Without this, the faculty cannot be granted.
The various types of faculty issued can be divided into two categories, the procedure differing in each. There are those for which fiats are given by the Archbishop himself, that is those dealing with clerical affairs, and those which pass through the hands of the Master of Faculties or his deputies. In the first category the largest group are the dispensations to hold two benefices. The practice was to present a petition giving the names of the two benefices in question, their value in the King's Books and the distance between them. [The King's Books are the 'Valor Beneficorum' drawn up by a commission resulting from the act of 1534 annexing first fruits and tenths to the Crown. These values were used as the basis of all assessments until first fruits were abolished in 1926. Queen Anne's Bounty used the King's Books as transcribed by John Bacon in his Liber Regis (London, 1786).] On this document the Archbishop signed his fiat for the Faculty Office to draw up the faculty. By 1720 a commission for oaths and a bond were added to the petition, giving the oaths and promises made by the applicant to attend to his livings properly.
The other fiats given by the Archbishop are dispensations for son to succeed father in the same living, for non-residence, for taking orders in spite of impediments, for teaching, for preaching and for killing animals or eating meat during Lent. In all these cases the fiat is signed on the petition which is then sent to the Registrar who supervises the drawing up of the faculty.
By 1660 marriage licences had been separated from the other business, although a few special licences for royal marriages are given by the Archbishop, by warrant from the Crown, and are registered with the other faculties. Dispensations for a bishop to hold in commendam are granted on his presenting a petition on which the Archbishop signs his fiat, and sets down the fee to be paid, in agreement with the Lord Chancellor. The Archbishop and, in a few cases William III, who is the only monarch to do so, issues the warrant for Lambeth degrees while the Faculty Office draws up and seals the grant.
The largest group of fiats not signed by the Archbishop are those for licences for public notaries. In this case the applicant presents a certificate giving details of his age and career, and vouching for his loyalty and good behaviour. On this certificate the Master, or a surrogate signs his fiat for a commission to take the oaths. When the oaths have been witnessed and signed a fiat to draw up the licence itself is given. If the applicant is within easy reach of London he may swear before the Master or his surrogate, instead of commissioners. In some cases there are further papers, such as a birth certificate or a certificate proving that the applicant has taken Communion according to the Anglican rites, or a testimonial from the mayor, aldermen and merchants of a commercial town, or a town in the colonies proving that a public notary is needed. The procedure, and the qualifications required become more rigid in the nineteenth century. In 1801, by the 'Act for the better regulating of Public Notaries in England', it was enacted that all applicants should serve a seven years' apprenticeship as articled clerks before a faculty could be granted. In this way more papers were added to the process, many of which are not filed with the fiats and now comprise the series F III.
The other group of fiats given by the Master concern applications for licences to practice medicine and surgery, or to be a midwife, which form part of the general series of fiats. Application may include letters testimonials annotated with the fiat of the master of the Faculties, a petition, and commission for the taking of the oaths, and occasionally a copy of a diocesan licence or other appointment. The documents include one or more certificates giving details of career, qualifications and suitability, then the text of the oath of allegiance signed by the applicant, with the fiat naming the counties in which he may practise. There are very few of these fiats after 1700.
It is not until the nineteenth century that the procedure becomes clearly defined and regular. In the earlier period there are frequent small changes and experiments, but the essential steps remain the same. Modernisation brings more papers, correspondence and certificates which are filed with the fiat. Ungranted and contested applications are not filed in this series as a fiat is not given in those circumstances. Later endorsements show an increasing efficiency which is lacking in the earlier period when filing and registration leave much to be desired. The seal used on the commissions and final documents is the same throughout, and is based on the matrix used by Cranmer. On the obverse are depicted Moses and the serpents with, in the base, a coat of arms of the See, and, on the reverse, the Crucifixion.
Through the signatures and endorsements we can trace the officials concerned in each stage of the procedure. The Master, the Commissary of the act of Henry VIII, is appointed by the Archbishop, with the approval of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. The Registrar, who supervises the drawing up and issuing of the documents, and deals with any problems arising from them, is similarly appointed. These officers, when they hold other posts as well, in the Court of Arches or the Vicar General's Office, appoint their own deputies or surrogates who do an increasingly large proportion of the work. These surrogates hear the oaths, send out the commissions for oaths to be made and witnessed and sometimes sign the fiats themselves. The section dealing with office papers (F VII) gives fuller details as to the appointment and emoluments of the officers, as well as the precedents for procedure and forms.
ArrangementAll the fiats have now been filed in alphabetical order within each year.

Note the distinction between old style/new style dating with regard to documents filed between January and March before 1753.
FindingAidsNot all fiats have item level descriptions. Item level records are largely based on card index of unregistered fiats, 1660-1800: the fiats up to 1800 have been checked against the registers (F I) and those not entered were entered in a card index. (After 1800 the fiats are all registered and can be found from the existing indices in the registers themselves.) Item descriptions for particular categories of fiats (medical and legal) also based on Melanie Barber, 'Directory of Medical Licences', and on card index to proctors and advocates. Occasional references to the F II series occur in other indexes e.g. the card index to F I. There are full descriptions for fiats for 1836-1843 (F II/177-184) and 1941, 1943-1946 - but not 1942 (F II/282, 284-287).

The following sources contain information on medical licensing, and were used in Melanie Barber, Directory of medical licences issued by the archbishop of Canterbury, 1535-1775, in Lambeth Palace Library, part 2: Faculty Office Series Licences, 1535-1764 (typescript, 2000):
F II/1-33, F II/36-39, F II/41-43, F II/46, F II/48, F II/51-52, F II/54, F II/56, F II/67, F II/70, F II/72, F II/76-79, F II/105 (1660-1764)
PhysicalDescriptionFiats 1660-76 repaired in 1999-2000. Repair of fiats 1677-1700 completed in 2008.
CustodialHistoryFiats were formerly referenced by year, e.g. F II/1660, but each year has now been given a running number, e.g. F II/1. The chronological arrangement referred to the old style year (i.e. beginning in March), rather than new style (i.e. beginning in January).
RelatedMaterialLambeth Palace Library Faculty Office muniment books (registers), ref. F I.
PublnNoteWilliam Gibson, The history of Lambeth Degrees The Burgon Society (2019)
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