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Letter of attorney

A letter of attorney is more commonly nowadays called a Power of Attorney. Letters of attorney have existed since medieval times. Although the word 'attorney' is often used as another word for a lawyer, anybody could be appointed as an attorney in this sense.

Letters of attorney were drawn up for a wide variety of purposes. For instance, someone setting off for a long journey overseas might appoint a trusted friend to run his estate while he was away. Letters of attorney are also commonly found with feoffments. This is because delivery of seizin was a potentially dirty and inconvenient job which the landowner might want his agent to undertake on his behalf. Likewise, attorneys often appeared at manorial courts to take admittance of a piece of a copyhold land on another person's behalf.

 

Sometimes attorneys were not appointed by separate letters of attorney. Instead, clauses in other documents will refer to the appointment of an attorney. This is particularly the case with feoffments and also with copies of surrenders and admittances from manorial court rolls.

Purpose

Appointment by one person of another person to do something on his behalf

Features of letters of attorney

  • 12th-19th centuries
  • Written on parchment in the medieval period; usually paper from 18th century
  • Written in Latin until 1733
  • Deed poll (straight top edge)
  • Seal

Important words and phrases

The usual form of letters of attorney was as follows:

  • A greeting ('Know all Men by these presents...')
  • The name of the person appointing the attorney
  • The name of the attorney, and words appointing him as an attorney:

    [Latin]

    fecisse et attornasse

    or

    attornasse deputasse et in loco meo posuisse dilectum mihi in Christo AB meum verum attornatum...

     

     

    [English] have made constituted named and authorised

    or

    ordained and appointed AB as my lawful attorney...

     

  • A description of the thing which is the attorney is to do
  • A clause verifying that everything done by the attorney is to stand as if it were done by the first party
  • Date, signatures, seals and witnesses

Examples 

Ne D 949 - Letter of attorney (Latin) from Sir William Babyngton and Sir John Byron to Thomas Stanhope and William Nevell; 12 Oct. 1429

Deed Ne D 949

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View a line-by-line breakdown of this deed

This letter of attorney is in a typical medieval form. The seal is attached to a tongue of parchment cut from the document. A further narrow tongue has been cut for use as a wrapper. This indicates that the document was intended to be folded and tied and then transported for personal delivery to the attorney.

Transcription:

[line 1] Nou[er]int uniu[er]si p[er] p[re]sentes nos Will[ia]m Babyngton militem & Joh[an]em Byron militem ordinasse & in loco n[ost]ro posuisse dilectos nobis Thomam Stanhop[e] Armig[er]am & Will[ia]m

[line 2] Nevell coniunctim & diuisim ad deliv[er]and[um] p[ro] nobis & in no[m]i[n]e n[ost]ro Ric[ard]o de Beuercotes Armig[er]o plenam & pacificam sei[sin]am de & in una clausina siue p[ra]to vocat le

[line 3] Westparke cu[m] p[er]tin[enciis] in hoghton ac de & in duab[us] p[ar]tib[us] Man[er]ij de Beuercotes cu[m] p[er]tin[enciis] in Com[itatu] Notyngh[am]ie s[e]c[un]d[u]m vim formam & effectum cuiusd[a]m scripti n[ost]ri p[re]fat[o] Ric[ard]o

[line 4] inde confecti Ratum & gratu[m] h[ab]iturum quidquid ijdem Attorn[atus] n[ost]ri v[e]l eor[um] alter no[m]i[n]e n[ost]ro fec[er]int v[e]l fec[er]it in p[re]missis v[e]l aliquo p[re]misso[rum] In cuius rei testi[m]oni[um] p[re]sentib[us] sigilla

[line 5] n[ost]ra apposuim[us] Dat[um] apud Beuercotes duodecimo die Octobris Anno regni Regis Henrici sexti post conquestu[m] octauo

 

Translation: 

[line 1] Know all by these presents that we William Babyngton, knight, and John Byron, knight, have ordained and put in our place our beloved Thomas Stanhope, esquire, and William

[line 2] Nevett, together and separately, to deliver for us and in our name to Richard of Bevercotes, esquire, full and peaceful seizin of and in one close or meadow called le

[line 3] Westparke with its appurtenances in Houghton [Haughton] and of and in two parts of the Manor of Bevercotes with its appurtenances in the County of Nottingham according to the true intent and meaning contained in our writing to the said Richard.

[line 4] It is ratified and consented that whatsoever our said Attornies or any others in our names shall do or have done in or about the premises shall be lawful. In witness of which thing we have affixed our seal to these presents.

[line 5] Dated at Bevercotes on the twelfth day of October in the eighth Year of the reign of King Henry the sixth after the conquest.

 

Ne D 519 - Letter of attorney of Henry, Earl of Lincoln [later 2nd Duke of Newcastle under Lyne] for the execution of deeds; 6 Mar. 1768

Deed Ne D 519

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Transcription:

Know all Men by these Presents that I Henry Earl of Lincoln Knight of the most Noble Order of the Garter Have made Constituted and appointed and in my place and stead put John Rayner of Sunbury in the County of Middlesex Esquire my true and lawful Attorney for me and in my Name place and stead to sign and seal and as my Acts and Deeds deliver and fully execute certain Indentures of Lease and Release intended to bear date the seventh and eighth days of this Instant March and to be made between me the said Henry Earl of Lincoln of the one part and John Roberts of the Parish of Saint George Hanover Square within the City and Liberty of Westminster Esquire of the other part which said two Indentures of Lease and Release import to be and to constitute a Mortgage in Fee from me the said Henry Earl of Lincoln to the said John Roberts of the Manor of Brinkhill and diverse Messuages Lands Tenements Tythes and Hereditaments situate arising and being in the several Parishes of Stourton Magna Stourton Parva Baumber Brinkhill and Hemingby some or one of them in the County of Lincoln for securing the Payment of the sum of Twenty thousand pounds with Interest in such manner as in the said Indenture of Release is mentioned And I do also authorize and impower the said John Rayner for me and in my name to sign a Receipt for the said sum of Twenty thousand pounds to the said John Roberts and to acknowledge the Receipt of the said sum of and from the said John Roberts In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this sixth day of March one thousand seven hundred and sixty eight.

[Signature and seal of 'Lincoln']

Sealed and Delivered (being first duly stampt) in the presence of

[Signatures of P. Vitti and Jno Jackson]

 

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