their final authorisation, charters had to go through various stages known as
'passing the seals'. Charters were initiated by a 'signature', a warrant for the
drawing up of the charter under the royal sign manual and written in the vernacular.The
Signet Office issued a further precept, in Latin, ordering the Keeper of the Privy
Seal to issue yet another precept under his seal to authorise the issue of the
charter under the Great Seal. Although from the late 17th century some grants
could pass directly from the signature to the Great Seal, most had to go through
the whole procedure with fees payable at each stage. This very expensive and cumbersome
process continued until 1847.
Chancery was the office which, from the 12th century onwards, issued the official
written acts in the king's name - charters and other grants, letters patent conferring
offices, titles, legitimations and remissions and brieves (brief warrants) initiating
judicial or administrative processes. |
The charters bore the King's great
seal as evidence of royal authority. At the head of the Chancery was the Chancellor
who had custody of the King's Great Seal.
Later he was also responsible
for documents passed under the authorisation of the 'quarter seal' (actually the
top half of the great seal) and the Prince's seal.
The Treaty of Union provided that there should
be one great seal for the whole United Kingdom but that a new seal should continue
to be used in Scotland for 'private rights'. Today the First Minister is keeper,
and the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland is deputy keeper having custody of
the 'great seal', the quarter seal, prince's seal and cachet (a stamp bearing
a facsimile of the royal sign manual).
Great Seal RegistersCharters
issued under the Great Seal consisted mainly of royal grants of lands and confirmations.
The registers also contain patents of nobility, commissions to major offices,
letters of remission (or pardons), naturalisation and legitimation, and charters
of incorporation, patents (until 1853) and licences to print money. Registration
was supposed to be compulsory but by no means all charters were actually recorded.
Although the first crown charters were issued in the 11th century, many
of the early charters and charter rolls have been lost. The earliest surviving
roll is from the reign of Robert I, 1315-21 but there are many gaps until 1424
when the registers in volume form begin. Apart from the Commonwealth period, the
charters are in Latin until 1847.
It is rarely necessary to consult the
original registers as the records of charters under the Great Seal are published
from 1306 to 1668 in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (Registrum Magni
Sigilli Regum Scotorum or RMS for short). These are fully indexed. The indexes
are in Latin until 1651.
Magni Sigilli (Great Seal Register)||1315-current
of Confirmations and Resignations||1858-1868||C6/7
and in each volume|
of Crown Writs||1869-1874||
C6/7 and in each volume|
by RMS and typescript indexes except for the paper register between 1596 and 1608
and patents for inventions|
Seal Warrants (1st series)||1663-1794, 1807-current||MS
Inventory lists contents of each bundle.|
Great Seal Warrants||1732-1886 || |
Great Seal Warrants (Paper Register)||1738-1902|| |
of Crown Writs ||1869-74 || |
indexes are all available in the Historical
Search Room at General Register House.
Register of the Great Seal
of Scotland , 1306-1668 (11 volumes)
Index of persons, places and offices
in each volume. Published (NAS ref. C1-3, C16)
Charters in the Register
of the Great Seal (NAS ref. C2)
Charters in the Paper Register
(NAS ref. C3)
Charters in the Principality Register
(NAS ref. C4, C5, C16, C17)
(NAS ref. C3, C16, C38)
ref. C2, C3, C7, C19, PS2, SP4)
1668-1906 (2 volumes) Typescript
institution of baronetcies in England by King James VI dates from 1611. In 1625,
King Charles I instituted Scottish baronetcies of Nova Scotia in an attempt to
encourage settlement in that colony. Since the Union of 1707, all baronetcies
are of the United Kingdom.
Patents to baronets of Nova Scotia (NAS ref. C2 and
Quarter Seal records, 1652-current
(NAS ref. C14-C15)
The Quarter Seal was used from the reign of James I for
precepts (orders) to crown officers to give 'sasine' of lands following on from
retours (abolished in 1847) and to grant gifts of landed property fallen to the
crown as the last heir (ultimus haeres)
Quarter Seal Record, 1751-61,
1831-current (NAS ref. C14).
List of contents in each volume from 1831.
Seal Warrants, 1652-58, 1662-current (NAS ref. C15).
Prince's seal, 1620-1874 (NAS ref. C16-C18)
Seal was used for grants of land in the principality or stewartry of Scotland
lying mainly in Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and the Lothians. The warrants are arranged
to correspond with the registers. After 1800 only one specimen draft warrant for
each year has been retained.
Seal Registers||1620-1819 with gaps|
Seal Warrants||1717-1874 with gaps|
Prince's Seal Warrants||1739-1819 with gaps|
Charters in the Principality Register (NAS ref. C4, C5, C16, C17)
Patents for inventions, 1765 - 1875After 1707, English
patent law was applied to Scotland but it was still necessary to obtain a separate
grant to protect the invention in Scotland. Applications were made through the
Home Office in London, but the 'charters of gift', the Scottish term for patents,
were recorded in the Register of the Great Seal. A separate record was only established
after 1813. Chancery retained the original specifications, including drawings,
which were not reproduced in the registers. In 1852 the Patent Law Amendment Act
(c.83) provided that letters patent should apply to the whole United Kingdom but
a separate record was maintained for Scottish grants which were pending before
the act. Between 1852 and 1883 certified copies of letters patent and specifications
were transmitted to the Scottish Chancery Office. In 1911 the Secretary for Scotland
authorised the destruction of all the certified copies.
to Patents and Specifications (NAS ref. C3, C7, C9, C19, C20)
photostat of manuscript||1813-1848|
photostat of manuscript||1813-1848|
and Subjects||Negative photostat of manuscript||1849-1855|
Woodcroft, 'Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Inventions, 1617-1852' (Commissioners
of Patents, 1854) relates to English patents only but may be useful in tracing
a corresponding Scottish patent.
Registers of Retours and Service of
Heirs Retours, or services of heirs, were sent to Chancery to show that,
as a result of an inquest, the heir was legally recognised as rightful inheritor
to lands owned by his deceased ancestor. For further information on these records,
read our guide on inheriting land
of Retours and Papers ||1530-1912|
of Heirs||from 1847|
of Heirs before 1700 (NAS ref. C22)
'Inquisitionum Retornatarum Abbreviatio,
1425-1700'. Published in 3 volumes.
Index of persons and places arranged by
county in volume 3. Printed.
These have been published on CD-ROM by the Scottish
Services of Heirs after 1700 (NAS ref. C22
Each volume contains two indexes: one by the name of the heir, the
other by name of the ancestor.
(see below) ||1900 -1909 ||Printed|
Volume 5 includes
additional indexes for 1700 -1796 (NAS ref. C25/10 -11) and 1792 -1846 (NAS ref.
Tutories and curatories in the record of retours
retour procedure was also used to appoint a tutor to administer the affairs of
a fatherless child.
1701 -1897 Typescript (NAS ref. C22)
(NAS ref. C31-34)
Conveyances, leases and other deeds concerning crown property
Responde books , 1545-61, 1573-1847 (NAS ref. C35)
of the 'casualties' payable to the crown on an heir being given sasine of his
lands. Early records are printed in the Exchequer Rolls.
Sheriffs' Commissions, 1748, 1829-current (NAS ref. C38)
to the National Archives of Scotland' (Stationery Office, 1996) pp82-94.
Memorial Encyclopaedia, The Laws of Scotland, vol 7' (1995), pp586-92.
Archives of Scotland
Crown copyright 2006