June 2017: Royalty and the Inn

This month, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s official birthday we’re looking at records and artefacts relating to royalty in the Inn’s collections. A wealth of fascinating material relating to the Kings and Queens of England, Scotland and the United Kingdom - and their families - lies within the archive and throughout the historic collections, reflecting the Inn’s well-established royal connections.

One of the earliest royal records in the archive is also one of the most important in the history of the Inn: the Letters Patent, sealed by James I in 1608, conveying the land on which the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple lie to the two societies. Beforehand, the land had been rented from the Crown by the two Inns, but James handed it over in perpetuity, to be held in trust by certain Benchers, provided that legal education and the accommodation of lawyers were continued, and that Temple Church and its Master were well-maintained. In 2008 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II marked the 400th anniversary of James’ charter by sealing new letters patent confirming the earlier document.

Letters Patent under the Great Seal granting the land of the Temple to the two Inns (MT.4/JAS/1)

James’ son, Charles I, was often in communication with the Inn, and a number of his letters are kept in the archive. Notably, in March 1631, he sent a somewhat disgruntled missive, admonishing the Bench for their failure to observe Lent properly. He demanded obedience to a recent proclamation for the ‘due observation of Lent and for restraint of killing and eating of fleshe during the same’, and noted that at the Inn the Lent Readings had ‘of late growne to an excesse of entertainment and Charge, much beyond that of former tymes, which we wish reformed’.