The overall aim is to collect, edit, and interpret the royal acts issued in the names of two English kings, William II (reigned 1087 to 1100), and his brother Henry I (reigned 1100 to 1135), who was also duke of Normandy from 1106 until 1135. Royal acts, mainly charters but also writs and other letters, are the prime documentary source for the period, providing the means to understand the workings of the realm in a way not possible from chronicles and other narrative sources.
This edition differs from previous work on documents of this period by treating beneficiary archives as a unit. Although the king issued documents for his own reasons in many circumstances, for example royal proclamations, treaties, royal letters, and writs concerning fiscal administration, these rarely survive. What remains, therefore, is very largely the material in whose preservation someone had a direct interest. Most documents, even those representing the exercise of the king’s power such as the appointment of bishops or abbots, survive through the archive of the beneficiary who received and retained the documents. Different beneficiary archives tell different stories. The organization of the edition presents, for the most part, beneficiary archives with a headnote to explain the background, including the motivations behind seeking the king’s seal and the reasons for preservation.
When complete, the edition will include several hundred beneficiary archives. The acts are not distributed evenly between them: almost half are contained in just thirty archives. The files currently available on this site represent about an eighth of the material to be included in the final edition, which will be published as a multi-volume book.