By the end of the 16th century, the two Inns of Court had erected many fine buildings at the Temple, yet their position as tenants was not a secure one. In order to protect what they had built up from any future whims of the Crown, they petitioned King James I for a more satisfactory arrangement. On 13 August 1608 the King granted the two Inns a Royal Charter giving them use of the Temple in perpetuity.
One condition of this was that the Inns must maintain the church. The Temple and the church are still governed by that charter. In gratitude, the Inns gave King James a fine gold cup. Some years later, in the Civil war, his son Charles I needed funds to keep his army in the field. The cup was sold in Holland and has never been traced.
Her Majesty The Queen graciously re-issued the Letters Patent in 2008.
Here are extracts from the Letters’ new translation by Professor Sir John Baker.
Whereas our realm of England, having flourished mightily for so many ages in the arts of peace and war, and having by the singular providence of God in his own time devolved upon us by hereditary right, is acknowledged with good reason to owe a great part of its happiness to the ancient laws proper to this realm, proved through a long series of ages and being particularly adapted to that populous and warlike people and approved by continual experience, and whereas the Inns of the Inner and Middle Temple, London, having long been among those four most celebrated colleges of all Europe continually filled with persons studious and learned in the aforesaid laws, have for a long time been dedicated by the liberal bounty of our forebears, as Kings of England, to the use of those studying and professing the said laws, unto which, as to the best seminaries of instruction and upbringing, a great many young persons of honourable background, excellently endowed in mind and body, have daily flocked from all parts of this realm, and from whom by reason of their highest merits many have been advanced, both in our own time and in the times of our forebears, to occupy public and arduous positions in the state and in the administration of justice, wherein they have provided high examples of prudence and integrity, to the honour of the said profession, the adornment of this realm, and the no mean benefit of the whole commonwealth, as is to us abundantly manifest:
Know ye therefore that we, being desirous of perpetuating, so far as in us lies, the happy estate of this realm of England, which has flourished throughout so many ages by the administration of the said laws, and earnestly seeking not only the continuance of the ancient renown of the said Inns but also the accession of new glory, and that we may leave behind to all posterity clear evidence of our good will and bounty towards the profession of the said laws and those professing the same, have of our especial grace, certain knowledge and mere motion given and granted, and by these presents for us, our heirs and successors do give and grant unto our well beloved and faithful [here follow the names of the grantees] our aforesaid Inns, and the capital messuages and buildings with the appurtenances, called or known by the name or names of the Inner and the Middle Temple, or the New Temple, London…
The Letters specified, in relation to the Inns, messuages, houses, buildings, chambers and other premises, that
we will and by these presents for us, our heirs and successors do strictly command [that the Inns] shall serve for the accommodation and education of those studying and following the profession of the aforesaid laws, abiding in the same Inns, for all time to come.
The Letters continued:
And the said [grantees], for themselves, their heirs and assigns, covenant with and grant to us, that they will well and sufficiently maintain and keep up the aforesaid Church, the chancel and the belfry of the same, and all other things in any way appurtenant to the said Church, in all respects and for all time to come, at their own expense, for the celebration there in perpetuity of divine service, the sacraments and sacramentals, and all other ecclesiastical offices, ministries and rites whatsoever in so far as it is befitting and has until now been used…
To mark the grant of the Letters Patent, in 1609-10 the Inns presented to the Church two silver gilt communion cups. The Calendar of Inner Temple Records lists: ‘To Terry, a goldsmith, for two new communion cups for the Temple church, abating of the exchange of one old one, 13 li. 12s. 2d.; the Middle Temple paid one half, 6 li. 16s. 1d. …For a black leather case for one of them, 4s.
To mark the Quatercentenary of the Letters Patent, Inner and Middle Temple commissioned for the Temple Church a stained-glass window from Caroline Benyon, one of the UK’s leading glaziers. The window is installed in the central bay of the Church’s south side. On the left- and right- hand lights are the symbols of the two Inns: the Pegasus of Inner Temple, and the Lamb and Flag of Middle. In the centre light, the scales of justice are suspended from the centrally positioned sword. On either side of the Crown are symbols from the Coat of Arms of King James VI of Scotland and I of England: the three lions guardant of England and Scottish lion rampant; the Irish harp and the fleur de lys of France are below. Beati pacifici, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers,’ was the King’s motto. The Commonwealth symbol and the stars of the European Union are incorporated near the base of the design. The window was dedicated by the Dean of the Chapels Royal, The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, at Choral Communion on Sunday 27 April 2008. Caroline Benyon’s father, Carl Edwards, designed the Church’s East Window