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Cambridge University Archives : Letters patent of 12 Elizabeth I dispatching a new code of laws or statutes to the University of Cambridge

Cecil, William, First Baron Burghley (1520/1-1598), Parker, Matthew (1504-1575), Whitgift, John (?1530/1-1604)

Cambridge University Archives

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The Elizabethan statutes of the University of Cambridge, in force from 1570 until 1858-82, prescribed the content of University education and the machinery of University administration. Changes to the latter were sweeping. They increased the number of regent masters (Masters of Arts with responsibilities for teaching -‘serving their Regency’) by extending the period of regency to five years, granted the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of the Colleges the sole right to interpret the statutes and influence University appointments. Nomination for membership of the Caput (strictly the Caput Senatus, a body first mentioned in 1526 and originally elected ad hoc, but from 1570 until 1856 annually, to oversee all Graces prior to their presentation to the Regent House) was vested in the Vice-Chancellor and the Proctors; the electoral body was to consist of the Heads, all doctors, the Proctors and two Scrutators (MAs, in pairs, charged with the counting of votes) of the Non-Regent House. The Vice-Chancellor was to be elected by regents and non-regents (Masters of Arts and Bachelors of Divinity, Law and Medicine of such standing as to be no longer statutorily obliged to lecture, and Doctors in the superior faculties); the field limited to two candidates nominated by the Heads. The Vice-Chancellor was given full reponsibility for the University’s finances. Celibacy was enforced on the Fellows of Colleges.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The document bears the sign manual of Queen Elizabeth and the Great Seal on silver strings. It is in book form and bears a note on the final page signed by William Cecil, Chancellor, that four copies of the statutes have been made, one for the Common Treasury, one for the Chancellor and two for the Proctors.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Jacqueline Cox, Keeper of the University Archives</p>

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