APPENDIX 1 - The diplomas of King Æthelred: dating and witness lists  pp. 232-268

The diplomas of King Æthelred: dating and witness lists

By S. Keynes

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The diplomas of King Æthelred are generally dated by the year of grace without specification of day or month, so that it rarely seems possible to place a text more precisely than within a twelve-month period from the beginning of January until the end of December. About two-thirds of the documents add the appropriate indiction. Were the indictional system employed properly, one would expect to find some variation of indiction within a series of diplomas dated to the same year, distinguishing those issued after 1 or 24 September from those issued before. However, diplomas (apparently) produced after September have the same indiction as diplomas (apparently) produced earlier in the year, and such variation as does occur seems to be accidental rather than significant. So one has to accept that the indiction was supplied merely as a chronological conceit – that it was not calculated independently each time, but was instead established probably by reference to current Easter tables: consequently it changed in synchronization with the years of grace. Occasionally a regnal year was supplied, calculated either from a point in 978 (S 865, 876 and 891; also S 1817) or from a point in 979 (S 842, 869, 873, 875 and 886; also S 1348): the only conceivable explanation is that the earlier point represents the king's accession (therefore 18 March 978) and the later one his coronation (therefore 4 May 979).