It only remains to give a brief account of certain illustrations accompanying this volume.
One of these is a photograph of the Foundation Charter of Exeter Cathedral, placed by Edward the Confessor, (as the document itself declares) on the altar of the Church of St. Peter, at the enthronement of Leofric the first Bishop. This most interesting monument has been lately found, with other Charters, among the archives of the Cathedral. Its existence - that is, of the actual document here photographed - appears to have been unknown to our historians for three hundred years. Certainly none of them mention it, but refer only to transcripts of it (or rather of duplicates of it) preserved in Bishop Brantyngham's Register, and in the MSS. of C. C. College, from whence it has been copied by Kemble (Codex Diplo-Tnaticus). Those copies differ from the document before us in having a greater number of signatures. It was by no means unusual to make such duplicate charters at the time, not always signed by the same persons. That this is an original, will not, I conceive, be questioned by Saxon scholars and archaeologists. Though written in Latin, it is endorsed in Saxon, and carries in it other marks of genuineness. The absence e.g., of the cross, usually prefixed to the signatures, and the substitution for it of a dot after the name, is common to charters of Edward the Confessor's time, as may be seen in Kemble, and in Oliver, p. 9. That this is, further, the original, and not a duplicate; that it is the very parchment which was laid by the Confessor upon the altar at Leofric's enthronement, is at least most probable, from the fact of its being found among the Chapter archives. The objections of Dr. Hickes (Epistle to Showere, A.D. 1702, p. 16) are fully refuted by the occurrence of the supposed marks of spuriousness in undoubted charters of the period (Kemble, p. 769, 796).(86)
The signatures attesting the Charter are of unique and wonderful interest. Those slightly undulating vertical lines of dots mark the places where, 823 years ago, the most famous men of the realm - some of whom, too, have left an indelible mark on the world's history - put their hands, not always very steadily, to a grant of no common significance. The Confessor himself and his two Archbishops, - Earl Godwin, - Earl Harold his son, afterwards King of the English, who fell axe in hand at Hastings fighting for his crown - and Tostig, his rebel brother, - are among the number.
As to the contents of the document: - after the usual religious exordium, the preamble sets forth that it is "glorious and most laudable to re-build sacred edifices when ruined, wherein to seek the divine aid; as also to vest the sacred altars with fair coverings (not forgetting to accompany them with the pure beauty of a pious heart); and to make every assembly of the faithful (sinaxis), whether by night or day, to resound with musical utterance." "Wherefore," proceeds the august document, or rather the King speaking through it, "I EADWEARD, by the grace of God King of the English, possessed with the laudable desire (pursuant to the Divine decrees) of establishing the seat of a Bishop in the Monastery of the Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, situate within the walls of the said city, do, by the authority of the Supreme King, and by mine own, and by that of my wife Eadgytha, and of all my bishops and lords, by this charter and sign manual, to hold for all time, appoint the prelate LEOFRIC, that he be Bishop there, and after him all others who shall succeed him, to the praise and glory of the undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and in honour of the Blessed Apostle Saint Peter." It proceeds further to give all the possessions belonging to the Monastery to God and St. Peter and the Canonical brethren serving there: and to signify to the reigning Pope, and to the nobility of the realm, that he makes over the Diocese of Cornwall to the See of Exeter, so that there may be one Episcopal seat; and this "on account of the fewness and wasted condition of goods and persons there: the pirates having been able to devastate the Churches of Cornwall and Crediton; wherefore it seemed good to provide better safeguard against enemies in the City of Exeter." "And therefore," he proceeds "I will that the See be there: that is that Cornwall with her Churches, and Devon (Devenonia) with hers, be in one Bishopric, and be ruled by one Bishop. Therefore I, Eadweard, King, with my hand do place this charter (privilegium) upon the altar of St. Peter; and leading the prelate Leofric by his right arm, and my Queen Eadgytha also leading him by his left, I do place him in the Episcopal Throne (cathedra), in the presence of my lords and noble relations, and my chaplains; with the affirmation and approval of the Archbishops Eadsine and ’lfric, with the rest whose names will be written out (desribentur) at the end (meta) of this charter." Blessings and the contrary are then invoked, as the manner was, on the furtherers and hinderers of the good design respectively. The date is the year of our Lord's Incarnation 1050.
Such is the charter by which, properly and strictly, the See and Cathedral Church of Exeter, hold their original privileges and possessions. The genuineness of it is confirmed by the co-ordinate authority which it ascribes to Queen Eadgytha (or Edith). For, as has been shewn by the historian of the Norman Conquest, (Mr. E. A. Freeman), Exeter was most probably given to her as well as Winchester, as her wedding morning gift. And after the capture of the city by the Conqueror, two-thirds of the payment laid on the city was granted, in continuance no doubt of existing rights, to the then widowed Queen Edith. As Lady Paramount, therefore, she was naturally recognized in so important a step as the erection of the city into a See.