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Charters, letters patent, mandates and other official documents, 1266 - 1771

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/Luard

Scope and Contents

As an autonomous corporation the University has as its designation 'the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge'. The University is custodian of its own charters of privilege, title-deeds and administrative records. The charters are particularly important in that they determine the nature of the University as a privileged institution.

The University has no foundation charter and, indeed no known founder. It does not possess the first authentic recognition of its existence by the Crown, a small writ of 1231 concerning the rents of houses of scholars, which is recorded in the Close Rolls. Many of the early muniments were burned during the Peasants Revolt of 1381. However, more than 30 royal charters, letters and mandates survive, as well as several ecclesiastical and other documents, which date from before 1381. The earliest survivng document in the University Archives is a letters patent of 1266, also relating tothe rents of scholars' houses (UA Luard 1*).

The majority of medieval muniments are royal grants and mandates or documents of ecclesiastical privilege. Of royal benefactors in this period, Richard II was most active. The earliest ecclesiastical charter is that of Bishop Hugo of Ely in 1276 limiting the jurisdiction of the archdeacon of Ely (UA Luard 5i-ii). The most interesting and important documents relating to ecclesiastical privilege are those connected with the Barnwell Process of 1430 9UA Luard 107-8). There are also several compositions with Colleges and other bodies and the earliest of these which survives in the important composition of 1270 with the town, arbitrated by the Lord Edward and confirmed by the Crown (UA Luard 3).

For the period 1546-1772 there are a further 18 royal charters, confirmations of charters and letters patent. The greatest royal patrons of the University in this period were Elizabeth I and James I.

Registrary Luard catalogued the charters of privilege and other documents in 1876. His arrangement is retained and his name forms the first element of the classmark.


  • Creation: 1266 - 1771


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (


c. 250 item(s) : vellum and paper

Language of Materials




Related Materials

In assembling the documents in this series, many of them issued by the Crown, H.R. Luard, Registrary, removed several of the seals and put them into a separate category, 'Seals' (qv).


Luard, Henry Richards, Registrary 1862-92

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom