Laudabiliter: Text and Context

  • Michael Haren


For more than a generation, Maurice Sheehy’s argument in favour of the authenticity of Adrian IV’s letter, Laudabiliter,1 sanctioning Henry IPs proposed invasion of Ireland, has served as the main point of reference in Irish historiography on the subject.2 Sheehy’s analysis has been generally successful, if not in utterly allaying the misgivings of historians on the central issue of authenticity, at least in converting energies into an engagement with the significance of Laudabiliter considered as a genuine papal response to a royal overture. In important respects, Sheehy’s article left diplomatic discussion of the document in as advanced a condition as is possible in dealing with a copy. His general conclusion from study of the formulae of the text was that it contained nothing incongruent with chancery style so as to warrant its rejection on internal grounds. On the other technical criterion, he demonstrated its competent deployment of the cursus, the rythmical prose constructions, at least in final periods, which is a feature of contemporary papal chancery usage and whose non-observance would be deterrent. As regards engagement with the historical context, Sheehy, following in this and on some other points the analysis of J. F. O’Doherty,3 noted the close association of John of Salisbury (whose account of his part in the issue of a papal letter to Henry II is a crucial piece of evidence in all discussion of Laudabiliter) and Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury.


Trinity College National Archive Irish Society Irish Context Final Syllable 
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© Michael Haren 2005

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  • Michael Haren

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