Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plates 3.26-3.30: Scottish Seals—Plate 3.30

Click here to access the introduction and overview for Plates 3.26-3.30.

Plate:  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. Seal of Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus
2. Seal of James Hamilton, Earl of Arran
3. Seal of John, Lord Fleming
4. Seal of A Private Seal of the Abbot of Kelso
5. Seal of Robert, Lord Maxwell
6. Seal of John Erskine, Earl of Mar
7. Seal of Master Adam Otterburn of Aldham
8. Seal of William Stewart, Bishop of Aberdeen
9. Seal of Adam Otterburn of Reidhall
10. Seal of William Cunningham, Earl of Glencairn
11. Seal of George Douglas
12. Seal of William Hamilton of Sanquhar
13. Seal of James Lermont of Balcomy
14. Seal of Master Henry Balnavis of Hallhill
15. Seal of Norman Leslie, Master of Rothes

Commentary by Rachel Meredith Davis:

Astle noted at the beginning of his commentaries for Plate 3.30 that all the seals were attached to records and public instruments “preserved in the Chapter-house at Westminister” (Astle 1792, 39). It is worth noting here that the location of some of these documents are still not known. I have included references to detached seals and casts, when possible, as well as noted where seals might be found in Scottish public and private collections for future research. Each of the documents, and seals attached, were used in contexts regarding Anglo-Scottish relations during the sixteenth-century.

Nos. 1 to 6 taken from an address for the nobility and representatives of Scotland to the duke of Albany, regent and protector of the kingdom of Scotland for the ratification of a truce with England, dated 7 October 1518.

Compilers of Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (RPS), note that while this document has been recorded in the earlier volume, Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland (APS), giving the repository as the Public Record Office (now The National Archives, Kew), the original document has yet to be traced by current researchers. The document was legislation regarding a ratification of the abstinence of war between Scotland and England, agreed to at a meeting of the Estates in Edinburgh, 7 October 1517 (RPS, A1517/10/1).

No. 1 Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus:

As illustrated here, the seal of the sixth Earl of Angus (1513-1557) is armorial, featuring a shield, with lance rest. The arms are quartered. 1st: a lion rampant, the arms of Angus. 2nd: A lion rampant debruised of a ribbon, the arms of Abernethy. 3rd: Five piles in point, for Jedworth Forest. 4th: a fess chequy surmounted of a bend, charged with three buckles, the arms of the Stewarts of Bunkle. Surtout [overall]: a heart, on a chief three stars, the arms of Douglas. A helmet and crest features above the shield, with mantling and wreath, a peacock tail expanded. The shield is supported on either side. On the dexter [right], within a wreathed paling, a wild man. On the sinister [left], a stag. There is foliage in the background of the seal. The legend, on an escroll with a star at each end on the other side, reads, “S * ARCHIBALDI * COITIS * ANGVSIE * DOMINI * DOVGLAS” [The seal of Archibald, Earl of Angus, Lord Douglas].

The arrangement of arms prioritizes the heraldic devices representing the earl’s Douglas and Angus lineages, with the Angus arms, a lion rampant, in the first quarter of the shield, a privileged position. The placement of the Douglas arms, a heart, on a chief three stars in the surtout position also achieves a visual prioritization of the arms. The arms of Abernethy (a lion debruised of a ribbon) and the arms of the Stewarts of Bunkle (a fess chequy surmounted of a bend, charged with three buckles), as well as the Angus arms are representative of claims to lineage that the Earl of Angus acquired through his descent from Margaret Stewart, Countess of Angus and Mar (d.1418) (Davis 2020, 146-49).

The seal is well-catalogued; however, Henry Laing drew exclusively on Scottish material for his description of the seal, which informed Walter de Gray Birch’s interpretation as well. Laing used a 1520 charter and seal held by the private Glamis Castle Archives (Laing 1850, 47 [no. 252]; Birch 1895, 350 [no. 16,063]). MacDonald later used the Glamis charter as well as the material consulted by Astle (MacDonald 1904, 81 [no. 688]). MacDonald also identified a detached seal held by the “Record Office,” now The National Archives, Kew (TNA, SC F/18). Stevenson & Wood provide a description of this seal in their catalogue, with references to the same materials used by Astle, Laing, Birch, and MacDonald, as well as an additional charter referred to as the “Hamilton Charter” dated 13 March 1542/3 (Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.322). The British Library holds a cast of the seal, which Stevenson & Wood judged to be in good condition in 1940 (BL, Seal xlvii. 1902).

Astle’s explanatory account gives a brief overview of the earl’s political career during the regency of James V. He married, secretly, Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland in 1514 (see Plate 3.26, No. 6; Merriman 2006), which produced one child, Margaret Douglas. The marriage between Douglas and the dowager queen was fraught and acrimonious. The queen managed to obtain a divorce in 1527 (Merriman 2006). Astle’s interest in Douglas seems to have related to his parentage of Margaret Douglas, whose son, Henry, Lord Darnley and Duke of Albany, married Mary, Queen of Scots (Astle 1792, 39; Wormald 2017, 150).

No. 2 James Hamilton, Earl of Arran

As illustrated here the seal of James Hamilton, first Earl of Arran, is an armorial seal featuring a quartered shield. 1st and 4th: a galley, the arms of Arran. 2nd and 3rd: three cinquefoils, two and one, the arms of Hamilton. The legend reads, in Gothic lower case, “S * Iacobi *Dni *Hamilton *comitis * De *arane” [The seal of James Lord Hamilton, Earl of Arran].

The seal is not described by Birch but is referenced in Scottish seal catalogues. The source material consulted by Laing and later by MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood included the document used by Astle, with MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood referencing Astle as well in their interpretation of the seal (Laing 1850, 78 [no. 468]; MacDonald 1904, 150 [no. 1204]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.391).

Like the commentary for No. 1, Astle provided a brief overview of Hamilton’s political career as a member of the council of regency for the young James V (Astle 1792, 39-40). He failed to mention, however, the bitter rivalry between Arran and Angus, which led to several instances of violence between the Douglases and Hamiltons and culminated in what Elaine Finnie Greig has termed a “street fight,” better known as the “Cleanse of the Causeway,” on the high street of Edinburgh on 30 April 1520 (Greig 2004). Arran later gained control of Edinburgh in 1521 (Greig 2004). While the relationship of Angus continued to sour with royal authority, Arran maintained an important position with James V’s court (Greig 2004).

No. 3 John, Lord Fleming

The seal of John Fleming, second Lord Fleming, as illustrated here, is armorial, bearing a quartered shield. 1st and 4th: a chevron within a double (royal) tressure. 2nd and 3rd: six fraises, three and three. The legend, in Gothic lower case, reads “S Iohannis dni flemyng” [The seal of John, Lord Fleming].

The seal belonging to Fleming is not well-catalogued. MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood are the only catalogues to include a description of the seal, citing Astle’s explanatory account and the original 1517 document as their source material (MacDonald 1904, 116 [no. 935]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.356). The fact that the seal was haphazardly included by later cataloguers make Astle’s inclusion of an illustration of the seal significant for present-day researchers. Astle noted Lord Fleming’s political career at the courts of James IV and James V, also remarking on his assassination in 1524 by John Tweedie and accomplices (Astle 1792, 40).

No. 4 A Private Seal of the Abbot of Kelso

The seal illustrated here is identified by Astle as belonging by the Abbot of Kelso, or “Calchou,” which was recorded on the tag to which the seal was attached (Astle 1792, 40). “Calchou” was an alternate spelling of Kelso in the medieval period, so it is likely this belonged to the abbot or commendator of Kelso. As noted by Astle, a “S. Abbatis de Calco” is listed amongst the affixed seals to the document (RPS, A1517/10/1; Astle 1792, 40). The illustration suggests that the seal was not entirely intact, as there is a device in the base which is damaged beyond recognition. The seal is armorial, featuring a shield of arms, on a chevron, three mullets [stars], the arms of Ker. There is indication of a device at the base of the shield, which may be a unicorn or stag head erased, which was in contemporary use by the Kers of Ferniehirst (MacDonald 1904, 186 [nos. 1476-7]; Stevenson &Wood 1940, 3.439). From the top of the shield, a crook, indicating the religious office of the sealer. Either side of the shield is decorated with foliage. There are further symbols on the dexter [right] and sinister [left] sides of the crook. The commendator of Kelso from 1513 to 1534 was a Thomas Ker, to whom this seal might belong given the heraldry in the seal (Watt & Shead 2001, 125). Commendator was a slightly different office than abbot, as the office holder was a person that had not taken religious vows. As D.E.R. Watt and N.F. Snead have noted, “such ‘commendatory abbots’ were more property administrators than spiritual superiors” (Watt & Snead 2001, viii). Astle’s inclusion of the seal is significant, even if he was not able to identify it further than belonging to an “abbot of Kelso” as this seal was missed by later cataloguers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

No. 5 Robert, Lord Maxwell

This seal is armorial, featuring a shield at its center bearing a saltire. The legend, in lower case Gothic letters, reads, “S roberti * dni * de * maxwelle” [The seal of Robert, Lord of Maxwell]. He was the fifth Lord of Maxwell and his seal is not well-catalogued by later antiquarians, with a descriptive interpretation only included in MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood, who used Astle’s account and the original 1517 document as his source material (MacDonald 1904, 240 [no. 1886]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.496). Astle’s commentary focused on the political career of the fifth Lord Maxwell, as it did with Nos. 1 and 2, elucidating his later role at the court of James V and including his participation in the marriage negotiation of James V to Marie de Lorraine (Astle 1792, 40; McGladdery 2004).

No. 6 John Erskine, Earl of Mar

The seal is armorial, with a quartered shield at its center. 1st and 4th: a pale, the arms of Erskine. 2nd and 3rd: a bend between six cross crosslets fitchy, the ancient arms of Mar. The legend, in Gothic lowercase, reads, “S Iohannis comitis de erskyn” [The seal of John Erskine, Earl {of Mar}]. This seal belonging to the Earl is not well catalogued, with a description only appearing in MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood, who used Astle and the 1517 document as his source material (MacDonald 1904, 108 [no. 867]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.346).

No. 7 Master Adam Otterburn of Aldham

Master [magister] Adam Otterburn was a lawyer and diplomat who served as provost of Edinburgh during the period of 1528-32, during which time he affixed his seal to the Berwick Treaty of 1528, which Astle consulted for his explanation of the seal impression here (Finlay 2004; Finlay 2000, 218; Astle 1792, 41). The designation “of Aldham” is only part of his title, with his other designation being that of “Reidhall” or Redhall (see No. 9). The seal, judging by the illustration, seemed to be well-preserved at the time of Astle’s writing. It is armorial, featuring a shield at its center, bearing a chevron between three otter heads erased, a quite literal representation of the sealer’s surname, Otterburn. There is foliage decorating along the top and sides of the shield. The legend reads, “S * MAGISTRI * ADE * OTTIRBVRN,” with foliage following the “N” [The seal of Master Adam Otterburn].

The location of the original document at Berwick, which Astle dated to 12 December 1528, does not seem immediately apparent. Current historiography on the reign of James V has used Thomas Rymer’s eighteenth-century Foedera as a reference for this document (Emond 2019, 450; Rymer xiv, 276; 278-82). Antiquarian and other edited volumes only note the indenture as a “Record Office Charter” (L&PHVIII, iv, 2181 [no. 5026]). Birch consulted a 1524 charter that included Otterburn’s seal, which was also consulted by Laing and MacDonald, but only referred to it as “Record Office Charter” dated 4 September 1524 (Laing 1866, 132 [no. 801]; Birch 1895, 527-28 [no. 16,749]; MacDonald 1904, 274 [no. 2176]). Stevenson & Wood include an entry for Otterburn’s seal and link it to his other seal that also appears in Plate 3.30 (see No. 9; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.539).

Astle did not provide much commentary on the career of Otterburn or his seal. Interestingly, he served as advocate to Lord Erskine, the father of Robert Erskine (see No. 6) from 1509 (NRS, GD124/7/10). He also did not seem to note that this was one of two seals belonging to Otterburn within this plate, as No. 9, is a privy seal dating to 1534, which was also used by Otterburn (Astle 1792, 41).

No. 8 William Stewart, Bishop of Aberdeen

Astle noted the source of this seal as the same for No. 9: a deed dated 12 May 1534 concerning the castle of Cawmill in Edrington (Astle 1792, 41). Again, the source material is not apparent, and references to the series of truces and treaties made around this date in recent historiography use Rymer’s Foedera and published state papers of Henry VIII (Finlay 2004).

This is a privy seal belonging to William Stewart, Bishop of Aberdeen, which does not have a seal legend. The seal is round and armorial, featuring a shield bearing the arms of Stewart of Minto, a fess chequy, surmounted of a bend engrailed. Astle notes the initials on either side of the shield, “W S,” likely signified the bishop’s initials (Astle 1792, 41). The shield has a mitre above, which visually signaled the episcopal status of the bearer of the seal. Astle also provides a brief summary of Stewart’s career, noting his death in 1545 (41).

The seal is well-catalogued, and appears in Laing, Birch, and MacDonald, and Stevenson & Wood (Laing 1866, 175 [no. 1034]; Birch 1895, 663-64 [no. 17,245]; MacDonald 1904, 343 [no. 2669]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 1.124). Laing, MacDonald, and Stevenson & Wood gave the same source as Astle: a “Record Office Charter” dated 12 May 1534. Birch relied on a plaster cast of the impression for his description, which he noted was “somewhat indistinct,” held by the British Library (BL, Seal cvii. 41). Birch suggested the impression came from a signet ring, as it measured 7/8 inches (663).

No. 9 Adam Otterburn of Reidhall

Attached to the same document as the seal above, according to Astle, this privy seal of Adam Otterburn “of Reidhall” bears a wyvern passant to the dexter [right]. There is no legend or further indication of identity on the seal. Astle suggests it was either a crest or badge of Otterburn, which is an interpretation suggested by MacDonald as well (Astle 1792, 41; MacDonald, 274 [no. 2177]). A description of this seal only appears in MacDonald and Stevenson and Wood’s catalogues, where they cited a “Record Office Charter” and Astle as source material (Stevenson & Wood, vol. 3, 539). The inclusion of an illustration of this impression by Astle is significant, then, as a record of this seal. Astle provides a brief description of Otterburn’s career, which included service as advocate of the king of Scotland (Astle 1792, 41; Finlay 2004). Although, again, Astle misses that this is the same individual as No. 7.

Nos. 10 to 14 are taken from a deed dated 1 July 1543, concerning the ransom of several Scottish prisoners.

This agreement between English and Scottish commissioners is held by The National Archives, Kew (TNA, E 39/85).

No. 10 William Cunningham, Earl of Glencairn

As illustrated here, the seal of William Cunningham, earl of Glencairn is armorial. The shield bears a shakefork (a pall which stops short of the shield’s edges and has pointed ends), the arms of Cunningham of Glencairn. The legend reads, “‘S’ WILLELMI • CONINGHAME” [The seal of William Cunningham]. Astle notes in his commentary that the legend lacks a note of his comital title (Astle 1792, 41).

The seal is catalogued by later Scottish catalogue compilers, which also cite a 1543 document as source material. MacDonald notes Astle’s account as additional source material for his description, as does Stevenson & Wood (Laing 1866, 44 [no. 263]; MacDonald 1904, 68 [no. 598]; Stevenson & Wood, 1940 2.308).

Astle’s commentary on the Earl’s seal includes a brief summary of his political career, which is factually correct—although he and the other cataloguers mistake him as the “fourth earl of Glencairn,” when he was, in fact, the third earl (Sanderson 2004a).

No. 11 George Douglas

This seal is an ornamented shield bearing quartered arms. There are some mistakes in the depictions of the heraldry in the 3rd and 4th quarters as well as the surtout shield. 1st quarter: a lion rampant, for Angus; 2nd quarter: a lion rampant, for Galloway; 3rd quarter: fives piles are depicted here, but it should be three piles, representing the arms of Brechin; 4th quarter: a fess chequy surmounted of a bend. Although it is not represented here, the bend should be charged with three buckles to represent the arms of the Stewarts of Bunkle. The surtout shield depicted here bears a heart, two stars in chief, although it should be three stars in chief to represent the arms of Douglas. The errors in the depiction of arms raise questions about the condition of the impression that was used for Plate 3.30. The legend reads, “S: DNI: GEORGII: DOVGLAS: EQUITIS: AVRATI:” [The seal of George Douglas, gilded knight {a reference to gilded spurs}]. The term “equitis aurati” used in the legend is unusual amongst the examples of Scottish seal impressions within these plates.

The inclusion of the seal within this illustrative plate is significant, even with the errors in the representation of Douglas’s arms, as the seal was only included in Laing’s later descriptive catalogue and Stevenson & Wood’s 1940 volumes (Laing 1866, 49 [no. 287]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 322).

Astle did not provide much context for assessing George Douglas’s contemporary political significance (Astle 1792, 42). He was the son of George Douglas, master of Angus and Elizabeth Drummond. He was the younger brother of Archibald, sixth Earl of Angus, who married Margaret Tudor in 1514 (Merriman 2004, see No. 1). He gained extensive properties through his marriage to Elizabeth Douglas of Pittendriech (Merriman 2004). His political favor changed in the later 1520s, with Douglas in exile in England until 1543 when he returned to Scotland and recovered his position (Merriman 2004).

No. 12 William Hamilton of Sanquhar

As illustrated here, the seal belonging to William Hamilton of Sanquhar is armorial, featuring a shield of arms bearing three cinquefoils, the arms of Hamilton. Above the shield, a crested helmet with mantling and wreath, a head of an animal, which is difficult to decipher. MacDonald suggests a boar’s head; however, it may also be the head of a stag, as suggested by Stevenson & Wood (MacDonald 1904, 154 [no. 1230]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.395). The legend reads, “SIGILLVM • WILLILMI • DE • SACHA” [The seal of William of Sanquhar]. Astle did not comment much on this seal, only noting that William Hamilton descended from an “ancient family” (Astle 1792, 42).

No. 13 James Lermont of Balcomy

The seal of James Lermonth (Learmonth) of Balcomie is an armorial seal, featuring a shield and a crest. The shield bears on a chevron three mascles [lozenges]. The crest depicts a helmet with mantling, with an indistinct decoration, which suggests that the impression used by Astle for the plate was damaged. Later cataloguers have interpreted this as a dexter [right] hand grasping a garb (Laing 1866, 102 [no. 611]; Birch 1895, 694 [no. 17,332]; MacDonald 1904, 199 [no. 1583]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.452). The legend reads, “SIGILLUM JACOBI LERMONTH MILITIS” [The seal of James Learmonth, knight]. Astle briefly outlines the significance of the Learmonth family to the court of James IV before noting that the family “is now extinct” (Astle 1792, 42). The British Library holds a cast of the seal (BL, Seal cviii. 68).

No. 14 Master Henry Balnavis of Hallhill

A seal featuring an ornamental shield of arms bearing per fess a chevron counterchanged, in the base a cinquefoil, the arms of Balnaves. At the top and the sides of the shield the initials “M H B.” The legend reads, “† S’ MAGISTRI • HENRICI • BALNAVIS” [The seal of Master Henry Balnaves]. The seal is well-catalogued, with descriptions appearing in Laing, Birch, and Stevenson & Wood (Laing 1866, 15 [no. 77]; Birch 1895, 690 [no. 17,317]; Stevenson & Wood, 2.239). Astle’s commentary on Henry Balnaves’s seal concerned the meaning behind his surname rather than any mention of his political career as a diplomat and religious reformer (Astle 1792, 42; Dotterweich 2004). The British Library holds a plaster cast of the seal (BL, Seal cviii. 56).

Nos. 15 5o 18 are attached to an instrument dated 15 March 1546/7 for the delivery of Mary, Queen of Scots, to King Edward VI.

An instrument indicating that the Master of Rothes and others undertake to do all in their power to secure the marriage of Edward VI of England to Mary, Queen of Scots. This instrument is held by The National Archives, Kew (TNA E 39/80).

No. 15 Norman Leslie, Master of Rothes

The illustration suggests that the seal was slightly damaged. The seal is armorial, featuring a quartered shield and crest. 1st and 4th quarters: On a bend, three buckles, the arms of Leslie. 2nd and 3rd quarters: A lion rampant, the arms of Crichton. The crest, on a helmet, a dexter [right] hand and arm erect, holding a sword. The shield is supported by two dragons, although descriptive catalogue entries have suggested these are two lions (Birch, 1895, 45 [no. 16,478]; MacDonald 1904, 202 [no. 1603]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.457). This seems to be an interpretative error, however, as the beasts have wings and lack the characteristic tail associated with heraldic lions. The legend reads, “SIGILLUM NORMANI DE LESLEI” [The seal of Norman Leslie].

Astle’s commentary on this seal includes a brief summary of the political and military career of Leslie, who was the son of George Leslie, Earl of Rothes and Margaret Crichton (Astle 1792, 42; Sanderson 2004b). He was the leader of religious dissidents that conspired against and later murdered Cardinal Beaton, which Astle noted (Astle 1792, 42; Sanderson 2004b; Wormald 2017, 59). The murder of Beaton led to his denunciation as a rebel, and he and his father were disinherited of their property—although this was later recovered by his younger brother, Andrew Leslie; the remainder of his life was spent mostly abroad until his death in 1554 (Sanderson 2004b).

No. 16 James, Laird of Kirkcaldy

The seal, as illustrated here, is armorial. The shield bears a fess between two stars in chief and a crescent in base. There is foliage at the top of the shield. The legend reads, “JACQUES KYRKELDEY” [James Kirkcaldy]. This is a rare instance of a legend in French amongst these plates and amongst Scottish seal impressions more generally. The seal is catalogued by Scottish antiquarians, with descriptions in Laing, MacDonald, and Stevenson & Wood (Laing 1866, 98 [no. 586]; MacDonald 1904, 192 [no. 1519]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.444). MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood described the stars as “flaming” given the wavy design of each of the points.

Astle does not provide much comment on the career of Kirkcaldy; rather, he seemed more interested in the fact that his descendant served as governor of Edinburgh Castle during the minority of James VI. Astle also notes that the arms depicted in the illustration corrected an error in Alexander Nisbet’s A System of Heraldry (1722) (Astle 1792, 43). Margaret H. B. Sanderson has argued that while Kirkcaldy was not as well-known as his son, William, he played an important role in mid-sixteenth-century public affairs (Sanderson 2004c).

No. 17 David Monypenny

An armorial seal featuring a shield bearing three cross-crosslets fitchy, issuing from as many crescents. The legend reads, “S’ DAVID MONIPENY OF PETMYLE” [The seal of David Monypenny of Pitmilly]. The seal is described in later Scottish catalogues (Laing 1866, 123 [no. 738]; MacDonald, 256 [no. 2018]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.515). Astle does not provide much further commentary on David Monypenny, but he does explain that Pitmilly, in Fife, had been bequeathed to his ancestor in the early thirteenth century by the prior of St Andrews (Astle 1792, 43).

No. 18 William Kirkcaldy

An armorial seal featuring a shield bearing a fess, with two stars in chief. The arms represented in this seal differ from the seal of William Kirkcaldy’s father (see No. 16). The legend reads, “S VILIELMI KIRKCALDE” [The seal of William Kirkcaldy]. The seal is not well-catalogued, with a description only appearing in MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood’s volumes, which cite the same document as well as Astle as source material (MacDonald 1904, 192 [no. 1520]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.444). Astle does not provide additional comments on the career or significance of William Kirkcaldy in sixteenth-century Scotland; he was a politician and soldier who championed the Scottish Reformation, but as Astle notes in his commentary, James Kirkcaldy ended his career as Castilian of Edinburgh Castle for Mary, Queen of Scots (Astle 1792, 43; Bonner 2008). He was later tried for treason and executed in 1573 (Bonner 2008).

No. 19 John Johnston of Johnston

Astle notes that the document to which this seal was attached is dated 15 December 1552. He identifies John Johnston of Johnston as one of the commissioners for the Queen of Scotland concerning “debatable lands on the borders” (Astle 1791, 43). The current whereabouts of this document are not immediately apparent.

The seal is armorial, featuring an ornamented shield, bearing a saltire and chief. The chief is charged with three cushions. Above the shield, the intitals “I * I” presumably signifying his initials. On either side of the shield, a star. There is no further legend and the impression seems to be quite small. The seal is not well-catalogued, with a description only appearing in MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood’s catalogues, which cited Astle and the “Record Office Charter” as source material (MacDonald 1904, 180 [no. 1436]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.431).

Nos. 20 to 22 are appended to a treaty dated at Berwick, 5 July 1586, between James VI and Elizabeth I.

The treaty of alliance of friendship between the Scottish king, James VI and the English queen, Elizabeth I, dated 5 July 1586, is currently held by The National Archives, Kew (TNA, E 39/100/107). The alliance formed in 1586 was the end of a longer process in which James VI negotiated his position in the British Isles and his succession to the English crown, as the security of English came under threat with impending war with Spain (Dawson 2007, 316; Grant 2008, 211-12). James VI secured an annuity from England with this treaty, which bolstered his annual income (Dawson 2007, 316).

No. 20 Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, Lord of Hailes and Crichton

Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, served as the lead Scottish ambassador for this treaty in 1586. The seal attached is one of five seals used by the Earl during his political career. The seal depicted here features an ornamental shield bearing quartered arms. 1st and 4th: a bend, the arms of Vaus. 2nd and 3rd: On a chevron, two lions pulling a rose, the arms of Hepburn. Surtout: A lion rampant, within, what appears to be, a double tressure, although it is difficult to ascertain the details of the border precisely. These arms are representative of the royal arms of Scotland. The initials “F E B” appear at the top and sides of the shield. A coronet features above the shield. The seal has a beaded border.

This particular seal is well-catalogued, appearing in Laing, Birch, MacDonald, and Stevenson & Wood (Laing 1866, 156 [no. 937]; Birch 1895, 576 [no. 16,937]; MacDonald 1904, 333 [no. 2611]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 3.607). Laing included a plate illustration beside his description of the seal. The British Library holds a sulphur cast of this seal (BL, Seal xlvii. 2225).

Astle’s commentary includes a brief summary of the career of Bothwell as a courtier and politician (Astle 1792, 43-44). He correctly notes that Bothwell enjoyed high favor at the court of James VI, although he does not mention the familial connection between the men. Bothwell’s career benefitted from a young age through his kinship ties to the royal family (Macpherson 2006). His favor did not last long past the date of this treaty. In 1591 he was accused of consulting with witches, an accusation that he was unable to fully recover from politically. His titles were forfeited, as Astle notes, and following a brief reconciliation with James VI, he once again was suspected of treason. He lived the remainder of his life in exile in Europe (Astle 1792, 44). Curiously, Astle gives the date of Bothwell’s death as 1624, when, in fact, he died in poverty in 1612, as more recent historians have shown (Macpherson 2006).

No. 21 Robert, Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock

The seal illustrated here is armorial, featuring a shield bearing a fess chequy. The shield has a crest, a helmet with mantling and coronet, from the helmet, a dexter [right] hand, giving the sign of blessing [index and middle finger pointing upward]. The helmet is supported on either side by squirrels sejant. The legend reads, “SIGILLVM ROBERTI DO BOYD DE KILMNOK” [The seal of Robert, lord Boyd of Kilmarnock].

The seal is well-catalogued by later antiquarians, although the source material for Laing and Birch differs from Astle. Laing and Birch made use of a 1575 impression, Laing citing correspondence with W.B.D.D. Turnbull as his source material (Laing 1850, 28 [no. 128]). Birch cited the same impression from the 1575 charter, now held by the British Library (Birch 1895, 295-96 [no. 15485]; BL, Add. Ch. 8084). MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood cite Laing and Birch in their description, but they seem to have used the 1586 document used by Astle rather than the source material used by Laing and Birch (MacDonald 1904, 26 [no. 227]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 258). The British Library also holds a sulphur cast of the seal (BL, Seal xlvii. 2175). The lack of a legend suggests this seal might have been made by a signet ring, rather than a seal matrix.

Astle’s commentary on the political career of Boyd is brief, noting he was a “firm and steady friend of queen Mary” until support for her was completely suppressed in Scotland and died in 1589 (Astle 1792, 44). Astle’s assessment of his career was accurate but perhaps did not take into account the complexity introduced by his religious beliefs. He was a supporter of the Queen of Scots while also being an ultra-Protestant with anglophile sympathies (Hewitt 2004). Boyd’s religiosity is perhaps reflected in the crest of the seal, as the crest includes a hand making the sign of blessing.

No. 22 Sir James Home

The seal belonging to Sir James Home, depicted here, appears to be a small armorial seal. The shield bears a quartered shield. 1st and 4th: A lion rampant, the arms of Home. 2nd and 3rd: Three papingos, the arms of Pepdie. MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood suggest that there was also a surtout shield bearing an orle; however, this is not distinct in the illustration here. Above the shield is a crest, a helmet with mantling, with a lion head. As with No. 20, the seal impression does not have a legend—just the initials “S I H.” Again, the lack of a legend as well as the small sign and beaded border would suggest that this impression came from a signet ring rather than a seal matrix, which is put forward by Stevenson & Wood as well.

The seal is not well-catalogued beyond Astle, with a description only appearing in MacDonald and Stevenson & Wood’s volumes. Both cite the 1586 document used by Astle as well as Astle’s illustrative plate as source material (MacDonald 1904, 175 [no. 1390]; Stevenson & Wood 1940, 2.421).

Astle’s interest in this seal and his comments on it pertained to the family from which Sir James Home [Hume] descended, as well as his successors. Astle notes his descent from the Dunbar family, Earls of March, several of whom feature in the other plates (see Plate 3.28 No. 1, No. 9; Plate 3.29 No. 2, No. 8, No. 16). Astle also linked Home’s seal to the contemporary Earl of Home, who was directly descended from this lineage (Astle 1792, 44).

Astle follows his discussion of this seal with a general discussion of his methodology of inclusion for the five illustrated plates. He chose seals, he writes, in order to “make known many important facts concerning the great and eminent persons whose seals appear in the following plates, which are very interesting to most of the ancient and noble families in Great Britain” (Astle 1792, 44). In doing so, Astle hoped to show the relationships and intermarriages between England and Scotland as well to suggest that the death of Margaret, Maid of Norway, which thwarted the union of the two kingdoms in marriage at the end of the fourteenth century, had been the cause of violence and calamity in the intervening centuries (44). He maintained that James VI’s rule and the union of the crowns under him allowed for the “happy union of the two kingdoms” under the reign of Queen Anne in the present day (44). Astle’s interpretation of the material in this way gives us valuable insight into his interpretation of Scottish seals and their meaning as well as his particular interest in lineage and legacy of the individual’s selected to represent Scottish seals here.

Works Cited:

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------, Seal cviii. 56, The British Library.

------, Seal cviii. 68, The British Library.

------, Seal xlvii. 1902, The British Library.

------, Seal xlvii. 2225, The British Library.

------, Seal xlvii. 2175, The British Library.

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Watt, D.E.R. & N.F. Shead, eds. 2001. The Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland from Twelfth to Sixteenth Centuries. Edinburgh: The Scottish Record Society.

Wormald, J. 2017. Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure. Edinburgh: John Donald.

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