Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Congé d'Élire

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From volume VI of the work.
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CONGÉ D'ÉLIRE, a licence from the Crown issued under the Great Seal to the dean and chapter of the cathedral church of the diocese, authorizing them to elect a bishop or archbishop, as the case may be, upon the vacancy of any episcopal or archi-episcopal see in England or in Wales. According to the Chronicle of Ingulphus, abbot of Crowland, who wrote in the reign of William the Conqueror, the bishoprics in England had been, for many years prior to the Norman Conquest, royal donatives conferred by delivery of the ring and of the pastoral staff. Disputes arose for the first time between the Crown of England and the See of Rome in the reign of William Rufus, the Pope claiming to dispose of the English bishoprics; and ultimately King John, by his charter Ut liberæ sunt electiones totius Angliæ (1214), granted that the bishops should be elected freely by the deans and chaplains of the cathedral churches, provided the royal permission was first asked, and the royal assent was required after the election. This arrangement was confirmed by subsequent statutes passed in the reigns of Edward I. and Edward III. respectively, and the practice was ultimately settled in its present form by the statute for the non-payment of first-fruits to the bishop of Rome (25 Henry VIII. c. 20). According to the provisions of this statute, upon the avoidance of any episcopal see, the dean and chapter of the cathedral church are to certify the vacancy of the see to the Crown, and to pray that they may be allowed to proceed to a new election. The Crown thereupon grants to the dean and chapter its licence under the Great Seal to elect a new bishop, accompanied by a letter missive containing the name of the person whom the dean and chapter are to elect. The dean and chapter are thereupon bound to elect the person so named by the Crown within twelve days, in default of which the Crown is empowered by the statute to nominate by letters patent such person as it may think fit, to the vacant bishopric. Upon the return of the election of the new bishop, the metropolitan is required by the Crown to examine and to confirm the election, and the metropolitan's confirmation gives to the election its canonical completeness. In case of a vacancy in a metropolitical see, an episcopal commission is appointed by the guardians of the spiritualities of the vacant see to confirm the election of the new metropolitan.