By Richard Sharpe
The reality behind charter diplomatic in Anglo-Norman Britain, edited by Dauvit Broun (University of Glasgow, 2010)
Introduction: As King William’s men set about taking over England in the first months of 1067, they must have encountered problems over language. The king himself is said to have tried to learn English, ‘so that he might understand the plaint (querelam) of the subject people without an interpreter’, but he found that he was too old and too busy to achieve his goal. The governance of the country through sires and hundreds would have involved difficulties of communication at many levels, but the new rulers none the less retained existing structures. Writs in the English language were sent out under King William’s seal as they had been under King Edward’s and King Harold’s, and there is clear evidence that they were drafted by English clerks of the king’s chapel under the direction of the chancellor Regenbald. In 1070, however, the language of writs changed, and King William adopted Latin as the normal language of written communication with the instructions of the realm.