Letter of Credence

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Letter of Credence


a document accrediting a diplomatic representative. It duly certifies the representative (diplomatic) character of his mission and of his person as a diplomatic representative. The letter of credence of an ambassador or envoy is drawn up in an established form and is addressed by the head of one state to the head of another, the appropriate signatures and seals being duly affixed thereto. The signature of the head of state is usually confirmed by the signature of the head of the department of foreign affairs. Chargés d’affaires and political representatives, when accredited, are furnished with a letter from the head of the department of foreign affairs of their country to the head of the department of the country to which they are appointed.

A letter of credence states the name and title (rank) of the sender and recipient, the name and diplomatic rank of the representative, and a request to “accredit” him in all relations, namely, as a representative of the said state. Sometimes the letter of credence sets out briefly the reasons and aims of the diplomatic mission and the state of diplomatic relations between the two countries at the time.

The letter of credence is handed over by the diplomatic representative at his first audience with the head of state, and a certified copy thereof is forwarded beforehand to the head of the department of foreign affairs.

A letter of credence states the general powers of the diplomatic representative. Once accredited, he needs no further authority for his statements and declarations in the country in which he is stationed, and all his official acts, letters, and utterances are entirely the responsibility of the government that has appointed him. However, his credentials as such do not empower the diplomatic representative to sign international agreements without special authorization.

A letter of credence loses its validity in the event of the death of the head of state who appointed the diplomatic representative or of the head of state to which he is accredited, or if the form of government in the country in which he is stationed or of his own country has been changed, or if the rank of the diplomatic representative is changed. When a diplomatic representative leaves his post he hands over his letter of recall (lettre de rappel) and in turn sometimes receives a recredential (lettre de récréance) to remit to his own government on returning to his country. The form of the letter of recall and of the recredential conforms to the letter of credence.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.