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Plates 3.26-3.30: Scottish Seals—Plate 3.27
Plates 3.26-3.30 of Vetusta Monumenta depict seventy-five medieval Scottish seals. The study of these seals was undertaken by a committee appointed to select for engraving significant previously-unpublished Scottish seals held in the Westminster Chapter House, the British Museum, the Tower of London, and elsewhere. Engravings by Barak Longmate senior and his son, Barak Longmate junior, after drawings by Longmate junior. 444 x 306 mm, 442 x 304 mm, 440 x 306 mm, 443 x 305 mm, 442 x 306 mm. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1792. Current locations: the National Archives, Kew, UK; the National Records of Scotland and the National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, UK; the British Museum and the British Library, London, UK; the Durham Cathedral Archives, Durham, UK; the Balliol College Archives and Manuscripts, Oxford, UK.
Click here to access the introduction and overview for Plates 3.26-3.30.
The plates in this series were engraved by the heraldic engravers Barak Longmate, senior, and his son, Barak Longmate, junior. Longmate, senior, died in 1793, leaving most of the task to his son, who produced all the final preparatory drawings for these plates, as well as the engraving for at least one. The drawings of the five plates of Scottish seals were signed by Longmate, junior. Plate 3.27 is the only plate to carry a date and it has a unique signature on the lower right: B. Longmate Junr del et sculp 1792. All the other plates are signed thus: B. Longmate Junr del (on the left) and B. Longmate sculp (on the right). All but one of the plates carry the signature of Longmate, senior, as engraver. However, the Longmates did not produce the initial drawings of these Scottish Seals. The first set of drawings were made by Jacob Schnebbelie, who produced images for Vetusta Monumenta between 1788 and 1791. Thomas Astle, who wrote the explanatory account published with the engravings, first mentioned this project in a letter to Schnebbelie in 1788. Astle chaired the committee charged with selecting seals for engraving and reported on Schnebbelie’s progress to the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The Longmates may have corrected some heraldic details when they took over the project for engraving.
1. Burgh seal of Edinburgh (c.1296)
2. Burgh seal of Roxburgh (c.1296)
3. Burgh seal of Stirling (c. 1296)
4. Burgh seal of Perth (c. 1296)
5. Burgh seal of Aberdeen (c. 1357)
6. Burgh seal of Crail (c.1357)
7. Burgh seal of Dundee (c. 1423)
Commentary by Rachel Meredith Davis:
Thomas Astle’s illustrative plates of Scottish burgh seals were taken from documents he had access to in eighteenth-century London. As a group, they are early burgh seals, dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, with the exception of the Dundee seal, which survives attached to a document dated 1423. Each of the burgh seals were attached to documents pertaining to Anglo-Scottish relations during a period of conflict between the two realms. While Astle seems to have broadly had an interest in this period of Scotland’s history, his commentary on the seals does not delve too much into the historical context surrounding the contemporary use of these burgh seals. He did note Nos.1-4 were taken from the homage rolls dated 28 August 1296, in which more than fifteen hundred Scots swore fealty to Edward I at his parliament held at Berwick (Astle 1792, 13; McAndrew 1999, 663). The instruments of homages taken from Scots in 1291, 1292, and 1296 are known collectively as the “Ragman Rolls,” and are held by the National Archives, Kew (TNA, C47/23/3-5; McAndrew 1999, 663). The later seals of Aberdeen and Crail were attached to separate 1357 instruments relating to the ransom of David II for 100,000 merks whilst he was prisoner in England (TNA, E39/28/1; E39/99/36). The Dundee burgh seal, which dates from an instrument from 1423, was a joint bond between Dundee, Edinburgh, Perth, and Aberdeen to Henry VI of England for the release of James I, who was in captivity there (TNA, E39/38/1). Despite the documents to which these seals were attached, Astle used his commentary to discuss place meaning and the origins of these burghs in Scotland, rather than the use of these seals during Anglo-Scottish conflict. It seems Astle’s methodology in compiling the plate of burgh seals seems to have fallen to seals he was familiar with, rather than indicative of the breadth of surviving Scottish sigillographic materials. It should also be emphasized that the burgh seals of Scotland were not fixed corporate seals, and later matrices were made for some burghs, such as Perth and Aberdeen.
As royal medieval burghs, Roxburgh, Stirling, Perth, Aberdeen, Crail, and Dundee shared common characteristics. They were founded by royal charter and had a relationship with the king. Burgh status in Scotland afforded the civic communities special tenurial, legal, and commercial privileges (Dennison 2017, 11; Barrow 2015, 109). The towns can all be found on the Scottish east coast, which was the location of royal expansion in Scotland from 1100 to 1300 (Barrow 2015, 105). Stirling, Perth, and Aberdeen, especially, were considered, as G.W.S. Barrow has argued, as “ancient centres of kingly power” (Barrow 2015, 105). As Scottish kings were peripatetic in this period, these burghs would have been locations in which the king held court and parliament during his yearly tour of the kingdom (Dennison 2017, 8; Barrow 2015, 105). The context in which the burgh seals were contemporarily used indicates the political importance of Scottish burghs, especially from the late thirteenth-century onward. The 1357 instruments, in particular, are of significance, as burgesses were able to leverage their financial support of David II’s ransom payments to gain increased representation within Scottish parliament (Ewan 1988, 240; Ewan 1990, 2).
It is important to note that the burgh seals represented a community, rather than an individual, therefore we might think of the imagery of each of the burgh seals as representative of the community’s shared history and identity. As Elizabeth Ewan has argued, the burgh seal was a “physical symbol of the unity of burgh action” (Ewan 1988, 238). While each of the seals included as illustrations here show a communal identity unique to each burgh, there are commonalities amongst all six of the seals. The six seals employ motifs common amongst urban seals in medieval Europe – secular and ecclesiastical buildings; ships; and armorial devices, saints, and other religious imagery (New 2015, 298). While the use of these images is tropic, they still reflect the specific identity of an urban community, using shared symbols that are unique to each locality.
No. 1 The burgh seal of Edinburgh (c.1296) and No. 2 The Burgh seal of Roxburgh (c.1296)
Astle erroneously attributed the illustration of No. 1 to the burgh seal of Edinburgh, when it is, in fact, the counterseal (reverse) belonging to the burgh of Roxburgh, the obverse of which is depicted in No. 2 (Astle 1792, 13; Bute, Stevenson, and Lonsdale 1903, 277; Martin and Oram 2007, 359). Bute et al. conjectured that the original impression of the seal, a 1298 impression consulted by Henry Laing, was lost between 1866 and 1884 (Bute et al. 1903, 277). However, both the obverse and the reverse impressions of the seal from the 1296 homages remain extant, held by the National Archives Kew (TNA, SC 13/F141). Astle’s misidentification of No. 1 may owe to the fact that Scottish burgh seals differ from their English counterparts. They are more often double-sided, where the common seals of English towns were more often one-sided (New 2015, 298). Furthermore, the deployment of the arms of the king of Scots (a lion rampant within a double tressure) on the ramparts of the castle depicted in No. 1 may have also contributed to his conclusion that it was a depiction of Edinburgh Castle, as it had a strong association as the Scottish capital by the eighteenth century, rather than interpreting the arms as a generic indication of royal burgh status, which it would have visually denoted in the Middle Ages. Bute et al. has argued that the Roxburgh counterseal may date slightly later than 1296, and, rather, is taken from a “lost” 1298 instrument (Bute 1903, 277). The discussion that follows of subsequent interpretations of the image here will consider the arguments presented by antiquarians, but it is important to emphasize that later antiquarians used mediated interpretations of source material for their own descriptions of the reverse image of the Roxburgh burgh seal. Catalogue descriptions of Edinburgh burgh seals date later than this seal, with Henry Laing and Walter de Gray Birch both citing a c.1392 seal as the earliest example (Laing 1850, 210 [nos. 1156, 1157]; Birch 1887, 215 [no. 15,516]). I will suggest that the reading of this image should be amended, in light of the fact that the reverse impression is extent and attached to a 1296 instrument.
The obverse seal (No. 2) depicts the arms of Scotland, a lion rampant within a double tressure, on a tree, on each side a rook on the branches. The use of the arms of Scotland show the affiliation and association of the burgh with the king. Martin Colin and Richard Oram have noted the rook supporters as a “canting allusion” to “Rooks Burgh” (Colin and Oram 2007, 359). The legend of the obverse reads “† SIGILLUM COMMUNE : BVRGENSIV[M] • DE : ROKESBVRG” [The communal seal of the burgesses of Roxburgh]. Henry Laing gives a different, and incorrect, legend of “[S’] COMUNE BURG[I] DE ROKESBURG” [The common seal of Roxburgh] in his descriptive catalogue entry for this seal (Laing 1860, 223 [no. 1255]). The reverse seal (No. 1) shows the burgh gateway, with upper battlements, from which a shield hangs bearing the arms of Scotland, a lion rampant within a double tressure, as interpreted by Martin and Oram (Martin and Oram 2007, 359). From the side turrets, a warder is sounding an alarm. In the gateway is a figure, possibly a pilgrim. And two crowned heads appear in the windows. English flags fly from the side turrets, beside the warders.
There have been debates about the legend of the counterseal, as it was slightly damaged, which can be seen in the illustrative plate here. It’s worth noting that the reverse of the seal impression was not consulted Birch in his consultation at the behest of Bute et al., instead relying on illustrations and interpretations from Laing and Astle (Bute et al. 1903, 277). Laing posited the legend as “...CHASTEL R MOIT ... ECI EMND ESTATE LEGE VE ESTEM,” whereas Bute et al. suggested the legend reads “† CEO : CHASTEL : RENOME : MARCHEMUND : EST : APELE : EN : LEQUEL : ESTEIT ... IURE :,” as deciphered for them by Birch (Bute et al. 1903, 278). It is important to note that Bute et al. claimed to be working Astle’s illustration of what they deemed a now lost impression, relying on Birch’s interpretation of the legend (Bute 1903, 278). Bute et al. suggested then that the legend commemorated the specific occasion for which the reverse image was created, namely the swearing of fealty of the burgesses of Roxburgh to Edward I in 1296. The legend, then, was possibly a rhyming verse “Ceo chastel renommé / Marchemund est appellé / En lequel esteit / [The homage to Edward I] iure” [This castle renamed / Marchmont it is called / in which was / [done] the homage [to Edward I]] (Bute 1903, 278). The two crowned figures, Bute et al. have suggested, represented Edward I and John Balliol after his submission to the English crown (Bute 1903, 281). However, the fact that the reverse impression does survive, along with the obverse, casts doubt on these interpretations, rather they may be glossing an earlier event in Roxburgh, as both were sealed in 1296.
No. 3 The burgh seal of Stirling (c. 1296)
The illustration of the burgh seal of Stirling also comes from a 1296 instrument of homage to Edward I. An extant impression of the seal is held by The National Archives, Kew (TNA, E 39/93/19). An extant impression of the obverse of the seal is on display at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling. The same gallery holds the original matrix, consulted by Laing in his catalogue compilation.
The obverse image shows a bridge with seven arches, with the river water at the bottom of the visual field. A depiction of Christ on the cross occupies the center of the seal design, with three figures on either side. In the top dexter [right] corner above the cross, there is a star, with a crescent moon in the sinister [left] corner. The figures on the dexter [right] carry bows, with the figure closest to the cross ready with bow and arrow, pointing at the figures opposite. The figures on the sinister [left] carry spears, with the figure closest to the cross with spear raised and ready. The legend reads: “HIC : ARMIS : BRVTI : SCOTI : STANT : HIC : CRVCE : TVTI” [Here stand brute Scots in arms, saved (protected) by this cross]. There is debate over the meaning of the imagery and the text of the legend. Birch glosses the meaning of the seal design to be a celebration of the Scottish victory led by William Wallace against the English at Stirling Bridge (Birch 1887, 243). However, the use of this seal precedes the date of the battle, which took place in 1297. Contextually, this makes little sense, given the fact the seal was used to do homage to Edward I in 1296, acknowledging his overlordship of Scotland and John Balliol’s submission. The Marquis of Bute and J.R.N. MacPhail’s interpretation of the imagery is more persuasive, they noted the significance of Stirling’s geographic position (Bute and MacPhail 1897, 370). The River Forth, over which the Stirling Bridge was built, was considered in the medieval period to be the natural division between the Highlands and Lowlands. Indeed, Matthew of Paris’s thirteenth-century map of Britain connects Highland and Lowland Scotland by a single bridge at Stirling (BL, Cotton MS Claudius D. vi, f.12v; Broun 2015, 125). Even today, Stirling is considered the ‘gateway to the Highlands’. Bute and MacPhail’s interpretation, suggested the commonality of Christianity amongst both Highlanders and Lowlanders. Astle offered an interpretation of the image along these lines, reading the men armed with bows as Britons and the men armed with spears as Scots. He draws his interpretation from John of Fordun’s chronicle, referencing the border of the Briton’s kingdom of Strathclyde with Stirling and the two distinct cultural groups (Astle 1792, 14). Recently, A.A.M. Duncan has suggested the legend could be translated “here brutes with arms, here safe in the cross, stand Scots” (Duncan 2016, 28). In this translation, he contrasts the bruti and tuti as descriptors delineating Highlanders and Lowlanders. Highland Scots were considered brutes contemporarily, and Duncan argued that the imagery and text gave a sense of the divide between the two cultural groups (Duncan 2016, 28).
The reverse image shows the front of a castle, triple-towered with masoned walls. The front of the castle has a round-headed portal, with the doors bearing floriated hinges. In the foreground, possibly a lawn or a representation of the rock on which Stirling Castle is built. On either side, two trees with two roses and five stars. The meaning of the image is glossed in the legend, which reads: “CONTINET : HOC : IN : SE : NEMVS : ET : CASTRVM : STRIVELENSE :” [Here is contained in itself the woods and castle of Stirling]. The trees either side of the castle gloss the wood [nemus]. Both the obverse and reverse images signify the geographic position and locality of Stirling, unique and distinctive to the royal burgh.
A description of the seal appears in Henry Laing’s 1850 catalogue of Scottish seals (Laing 1850, 215 [nos. 1188, 1189]. His source material appears to be the original impression of the matrix in Stirling. The seal is also described in Walter de Gray Birch’s catalogue, although he incorrectly glosses the obverse of the image, as discussed above (Birch 1887, 243 [no. 15,625]). Casts of the seal are held by the British Library (Seal XLVII, 911, 912). A wax cast of the obverse seal is held by National Museums Scotland and is also described in John Horne Stevenson and Marguerite Wood’s 1940 Scottish seal catalogue (NMS K.1999.853; Stevenson and Wood, 1.80 [no. 263]).
No. 4 The burgh seal of Perth (c. 1296)
The illustration of the impression of the Perth burgh seal is the earliest version of the town’s seal, dating from the thirteenth century. The seal can be found in The National Archives, Kew, amongst the instruments from 1296 relating to homages to Edward I (TNA, E 39/99/11). Astle’s chief interest in the seal seems to be a potted history of the different names of Perth, rather than any interest in the imagery (Astle 1792, 14).
The obverse seal shows the figure of St John the Baptist standing under the central arch of the church building, in raiment of camel hair, holding on a platter, the lamb of God (Agnus Dei). Citizens kneel in worship within the dexter [right] and sinister [left] arches. The legend reads “† S’ COMUNITATIS VILLE SANCTI JOHANNIS BAPTISTE DE PERTH” [The town seal of the community of St John the Baptist of Perth]. The reverse seal (counterseal) depicts the decollation and martyrdom of St John. He kneels before his executioner, who holds John by the hair, with a sword raised in his dexter [right] arm. Herod the Great’s daughter waits for the head with a charger in her hands. The legend reads the same as the obverse seal. In his description of the seal, Laing gives a later date for the reverse image, stating that it is attached to a 1423 instrument relating to the ransom of James I, rather than the 1296 homage rolls (Laing 1866, 221 [no. 1248]). Additionally, Laing describes the figures kneeling in the obverse image as monks, rather than citizens, which is the interpretation of the image offered by the Marquis of Bute and J.R.N. MacPhail (Laing 1866, 221 [no. 1247]; Bute and MacPhail 1897, 314).
The imagery of the obverse and reverse of the seal depicts the patron saint of Perth, St John the Baptist. The portrayal of John in the obverse image, shows him as herald of the coming of Christ, with him holding a disc emblazoned with the Agnus Dei (Ryan 2012, 328). The camel hair dress, as shown in the seal, visually parses descriptions of John from the Bible, as he was a prophet that had a wild appearance (Matthew 3:1-4). In addition, the visual depiction of John offering the Agnus Dei is a further biblical allusion. According to the Book of John, John the Baptist was to have said, upon seeing Jesus coming toward him, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). The reverse image shows the martyrdom of John the Baptist. According to popular hagiographies of the saint, John the Baptist rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife while his brother was still living. Herod devised a plan to get rid of John, by inviting the men of Galilee to a banquet for his birthday, at which the daughter of Heriodas danced. After her dance, Herod vowed to grant her whatever she wished. What she wished for was the head of John the Baptist (Ryan 2012, 519). This scene is depicted within the reverse image of Perth’s seal. We see John in the moment before his decollation, with Herodias’s daughter waiting for John’s head, which she would deliver to her mother. The parish church of a burgh was a focal point of the community as well as a symbol of power and strength (Dennison 2017, 21; Ewan 2017, 139; Ewan 1988, 237). The obverse and reverse images suggest a community identification with the town’s patron and shows the importance of this specific religiosity to the burgh’s communal identity.
This early version of Perth’s seal is described in Henry Laing’s 1866 Supplemental Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Scottish Seals (Laing 1866, 221 [nos. 1247, 1248]). A later impression of a secret seal belonging to the town of Perth is described in Walter de Gray Birch, and a nineteenth century plaster cast of this seal is held by the British Museum (BM, 2000,0103.249; Birch 1887, 233 [no. 15,591]). This seal featured an eagle rising and on its breast a shield of arms, a Holy Lamb passant reguardant, staff and cross, with the banner of St Andrew, all within a double tressure, flory counterflory. The imagery carried over from the earlier seal is represented in the arms, an obvious allusion to the Agnus Dei, even though the more direct association to St John the Baptist through the name in the legend has been dropped.
No. 5 The burgh seal of Aberdeen (c. 1357)
The burgh seal of Aberdeen is one of the burgh seals attached to an October 1357 notarial instrument agreeing to the ransom of David II of Scotland for 100,000 merks (Astle 1792, 14). The seal impression, as depicted in Astle, survives attached to the notarial instrument now held by The National Archives, Kew (TNA E 39/28/1). This seal has been attributed as the first burgh seal, dating from 1357. The same seal was in use earlier, in the thirteenth century, as it is among the seals attached to the 1296 homages to Edward I (TNA, SC 13/F140). Aberdeen was an ancient town in Scotland, however, the evidential record for its early history is patchy (Boardman 2002, 203). It was a regular stop on the royal itinerary by the reign of David I in the twelfth century and was considered a “frontier burgh” from the Scottish king’s east coast orbit of power to western and Highland Scotland (Boardman 2002, 204-05).
Astle incorrectly identified the obverse and reverse impressions of the seal and counter seal of Aberdeen, which is an error that follows through in later descriptions in seal catalogues. The obverse image of the seal features a stone building with three towers and a central portal. Each of the towers is surmounted with a cross. The legend supports the argument that this is the obverse of the burgh seal, which reads “† : SGILLVM : DE : COMMVNI : ABIRDONENSI : *:” [The common seal of Aberdeen]. It is more likely that the obverse image would note the seal belonging to the community of Aberdeen in the legend. The reverse image shows a central figure representing St Nicholas, in episcopal robe and mitre, holding the bishop’s crozier in his left hand and making a sign of the benediction with his right. On the dexter [right] of the figure is a crescent, on the sinister [left], a six-pointed star. The legend reads “† : SINGNUM [sic] : BEATI : NICOLAI : ABIRDONENSI : * :” [The sign (seal) of St Nicholas of Aberdeen]. St Nicholas was the bishop of Myra known as a saint for his intercession (Ryan 2012, 21-27). Among other things, he is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, and brewers, all of which are professions associated with a medieval port town. The parish church of Aberdeen was named for St Nicholas. As seen with the Perth seal, the patron saint and distinct religious identity of the burgh community is represented in this seal, commemorating the locals of the burgh and the parish community of St Nicholas.
The burgh seal of Aberdeen is well-catalogued. Henry Laing included it in his 1866 supplemental catalogue, however, he also incorrectly identified the seal depicting St Nicholas as the obverse impression (Laing 1866, 213 [nos. 1197, 1198]). This error likely owes to the fact that Astle’s commentary was his source material. The seal is also described in Walter de Gray Birch’s catalogue, also with the obverse and reverse images incorrectly identified, with Laing cited as his source for the description (Birch 1887, 203 [no. 15, 477]). The British Library holds casts of the seal (Seal XLVII 731, 732). Laing and Birch also catalogued a later common seal belonging to the burgh, which was taken from a 1430 impression of the seal (Laing 1850, 208 [nos. 1146, 1147]; Birch 1887, 203-04 [no. 15,478]). The fifteenth-century burgh seal seems to be the impression that Astle described in his commentary, as his description includes a discussion of the arms of Aberdeen and the use of the town motto “Bon Accord” [Good Agreement] (Astle 1792, 14). While the town motto was in use from the fourteenth century, the depiction of the arms was not in use before 1430, when the new matrix for the town was produced (Boardman 2002, 206). Astle’s potential conflation of the fourteenth-century seal and fifteenth-century seal may explain his error in describing the obverse and reverse impressions, as it seems that the seal depicting St Nicholas might have been adapted as the obverse image in the later seal, with the seal legend “SIGILLVM COMMVNE DE ABERDEN.” Casts of the fifteenth-century burgh seal are also held by the British Library (Seal XLVII 733, 734). National Museums Scotland holds electrotypes of the obverse and reverse matrices of the fifteenth-century seal (NMS, H.NM 23; H.NM 24), however the whereabouts of the bronze original are not immediately apparent.
No. 6 The burgh seal of Crail (c. 1357)
The burgh seal of Crail is one of the burgh seals attached to a 26 September 1357 notarial instrument regarding the ransom of David II by Edward III. The seal survives attached to this instrument, which can be found in the National Archives, Kew (TNA, E39/99/36). Crail was a burgh founded by Robert I; the burgesses of Crail were granted privileges by the king in 1314 (RRS, v., no. 403).
Astle incorrectly gives the image of the Virgin Mary with Child as the obverse image of the seal in his illustrative plate, with the galley and mariners as the reverse. Instead, the galley was the obverse image, and the Virgin Mary and child were the reverse. The obverse of the seal shows a galley with seven faces, representing mariners. The sails of the galley are furled. There are four stars in the dexter [right] side of the seal and one star and a crescent moon in the sinister [left]. A pennant flies from the mast in the dexter. The legend reads “† SIGILLVM : COM[UNI BURGI] DE : KARALE” [The common seal of the Burgh of Crail]. The image of the galley with mariners alludes to Crail’s geographical position and status as a port town, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth in Fife. Thus, the imagery conveys the maritime importance of Crail as a community. The reverse image, the counter seal, shows the Virgin Mary and Child in the center of the visual field with angels worshipping at their feet on either side. The legend is the same as the obverse seal, “† SIGILLVM :COM[MUNE BUR]GI :DE : KARALE.” The image of the Virgin and Child visually signifies Crail’s parish Church of St Mary, which later became a collegiate church in the sixteenth century (Millar 1903, 162). As with other burgh seals, the religious imagery is directly associated with the town’s parish church and commemorates this in the town’s communal identity represented in the seal.
The seal press of the burgh seal was found in Crail in 1902 (Millar 1903, 160). Evidence suggests that the obverse image of the galley continued to be used after the Reformation, but use of the image of Virgin Mary and Child was discontinued (Millar 1903, 162). The seal is described in Henry Laing’s 1866 seal catalogue, as well as a later matrix of the seal depicting the galley (Laing, 214 [nos. 1204-1206]). Walter de Gray Birch includes a description of a seventeenth-century cast from the later matrix, which also depicts the galley of Crail’s medieval seal (Birch 1887, 210 [no. 15,498]). A seal cast depicting the galley is held by both the British Library and National Museums Scotland (BL, xlvii 760; NMS, QL. 1961.124).
No. 7 The burgh seal of Dundee (c. 1423)
The burgh seal of Dundee is the latest seal amongst the seal impressions depicted in Plate XXVII. It is attached to a document dated 20 February 1423, regarding the redemption of James I from his captivity in England under Henry VI (Astle 1792, 15). The seal survives attached to the same document consulted by Astle, now held by the National Archives, Kew (TNA, E39/38/1). Dundee township gained burgh status during the reign of William the Lion (r. 1165x1214), however, the charter granting its burgh privileges no longer survives. Initially, the town and its port were under the superiority of David, earl of Huntingdon, brother of King William, and it was converted to a royal burgh later in 1292 (Dennison 1990, 23). Medieval Dundee, like Crail, was a port on the east coast and played an important role in Scottish economy (Dennison 1990, 11).
As seen with other burgh seals, Astle, again, incorrectly identified the obverse and reverse images. The obverse image of the Dundee burgh seal, shows the Virgin Mary and Child, seated and crowned in the center of the visual field. On either side of the Virgin Mary, stand angels, each holding a thurible or censer. The central image is surrounded by tracery. The legend of the seal corroborates that this is, indeed, the obverse seal. It reads, “SIGILLVM : COMMUNE : VILLE: DE: DVNDE: AVE MARI ...” [The common town seal of Dundee, Hail Mary]. The parish church of Dundee was called St Mary’s (Bute and MacPhail 1897, 106-11). The reverse image depicts St Clement sitting mitred, he makes the sign of the benediction, with an anchor supported by his left arm. Citizens of Dundee kneel on either side of him. The legend reads “SIGNVM SANCTI CLEMENTIS DE DVNDE” [The sign (seal) of St Clement of Dundee]. St Clement is depicted in episcopal dress, with the mitre and sign of the benediction made with his right hand communicating his role as bishop of Rome in the first century CE (Rye 2012, 715). The anchor signifies the martyrdom of St Clement, who was killed at Emperor Trajan’s command in the early second century CE. He was killed by having an anchor tied around his neck and thrown into the sea (Ryan 2012, 717). As such, he was the patron saint of mariners and an obvious choice of patron saint for the seaport of Dundee. An early parish church in Dundee was dedicated to St Clement. Thus, the obverse and reverse images of the burgh of Dundee’s seal conveyed the communal religious identities of the burgh and commemorated two important parish churches.
The seal is well-catalogued. Henry Laing describes it in his 1866 supplemental volume (Laing 1866, 215 [nos. 1211, 1212]). Walter de Gray Birch also describes the seal, noting the anchor as a reference to the port of Dundee (Birch 1887, 213 [no. 15,508]). The British Library also holds casts of the seal (Seal XLVII 771A, 771B).
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