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Usage Letters patent are a form of open or public proclamation<ref>E.g. document dated 13 July 1527 issued Teste Rege titled: "A Proclamation for establishing of trade and merchandizing and traffique within the towne and marches of Callice with divers immunities and freedoms concerning the same", which is self-referenced in the document by the phrase "by theis his lettres patentes of proclamacion" Nichols, John Gough. The Chronicle of Calais from the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII to the year 1540, London, 1846 p.102</ref> and a vestigial exercise of extra-parliamentary power by a monarch or president. Prior to the establishment of parliament, the monarch ruled absolutely by the issuing of his personal written orders, open or closed.

They can thus be contrasted with the Act of Parliament, which is in effect a written order by parliament, approved by the monarch whose signature gives it force. No explicit government approval is contained within letters patent, only the seal or signature of the monarch.

Parliaments today tolerate only a very narrow exercise of the royal prerogative by issuance of letters patent, and such documents are issued with prior informal government approval, or indeed are now generated by government itself with the monarch's seal affixed as a mere formality. In their original form they were simply written instructions or orders from the sovereign, whose order was law, which were made public to reinforce their effect.

For the sake of good governance it is clearly of little use if the sovereign appoints a person to a position of authority if he does not at the same time inform those over whom such authority is to be exercised of the validity of the appointment. Litterae in Latin meant "that which is written" or "writing", in the sense of letters of the alphabet placed together in meaningful sequence on a writing surface, not a specific format of composition as the modern word "letter" suggests. Thus letters patent do not equate to an open letter but rather to any form of document, deed, contract, letter, despatch, edict, decree, epistle etc.<ref>Cassell's Latin Dictionary, op.cit., p.321</ref> made public.


Letters patent sections
Intro  Usage  Commonwealth realms  In the United States  Form of royal proclamations post-1992  Form of British letters patent  Form of American letters patent  See also  External links  References  

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