21st Conference 1978

The 21st Conference of the Scottish Medievalists was held at Pitlochry, 7-8 January 1977. Minutes Secretary Patrick Wormald.

21st Conference 1978

21st Conference Saturday 7 January 1978 4.15 p.m.

‘Law and Order in Later Medieval Scotland’: Two Shorter Papers by Dr Jenny Wormald and Dr Sandy Grant

Chairman: Dr E. J. Cowan

Dr. Grant began this pair of papers with a discussion of the ‘Law and Order’ problem under the early Stewarts, Scotland in this period was, he said, no exception to the generalization that all medieval societies had an unsatisfactory law and order situation, yet the experience of living in Belfast in the 1970s had shown that there was a long way to go before a situation of total anarchy was reached. Three pieces of evidence, in particular, had contributed to the view that there was an almost complete collapse of law and order in the early Stewart period. The first was the famous entry in the Moray Chronicle for 1398. Secondly there were similar passages in the A.P.S. for example in 1384, 1388, 1397 and 1399. Thirdly, there was the sheer weight of reference to the problem of law and order in the A.P.S., up to 40% of the whole, with many repetitions. Yet none of the three would sustain the interpretation normally placed upon there. mite apart from the normal propensity of medieval chroniclers for exaggeration, it was possible to see that the new Bishop of Moray in 1398 was at odds with the Earl of Buchan, the sheriff of Inverness and possibly the justiciar, so that his chronicler had ample personal reasons for disillusionment. The Parliamentary evidence needed to be seen against the background of the power struggle within the royal family; each extreme statement coincides with change of power, which led naturally to accusations of incompetence in a central aspect of royal business. Finally, the repetition of statutes against lawlessness is to be explained by the point that the repeated acts were originally intended to be temporary, and the legislation as a whole was more concerned to redress faults in a sound system than to take drastically new measures.

It was equally fallacious to suppose that the alleged breakdown of law and order in early Stewart Scotland was an aspect of the lawlessness of the nobility. It was true, as elsewhere, that some notorious artisto-cretic crimes could be catalogued, that it was difficult to bring nobles to justice, and that the privileges of regality meant that lords could excuse the crimes of their henchmen. However, the penalties of forfeiture were enforced, end remission was offered only at a price, probably, as later, involving compensation to victims; the sons of the Wolf of Badenoch are last heard of imprisoned in Albany’s Castle of Stirling. When outrages did go unpunished, this was probably for political reasons. Crimes such as the deaths of the Duke of Rothesay and of Malcolm Drummond, lord of Mar in 1402 removed the political opponents of the ruling Duke of Albany, and the failure of the government to act in such circumstances was scarcely evidence of its weakness. Political considerations also explained customs-plundering. Regents were not permitted to grant land, money or privileges, and permission to loot customs revenue may have been an underhand form of patronage. Generally spooking, the nobility were as much concerned to promote, as to undermine, law 2nd order, as is illustrated by Albany’s own bond with Douglas (1409), and the decisions of the sole surviving record of an early Stewart council (1599), where nobles were strongly represented. Nobles did have recourse to the courts, whose decisions did not always favour the strong, Albany himself being the loser in a case over which he presided.

Nevertheless, there clearly was a law and order problem in this period, since otherwise there would have been no parliamentary complaints at all. Individual monarchs should not bear too much of the blame; the contrast between David II and James I on the one hand, and Robert II and III on the other can be exaggerated. More important were the deficiencies of the system. The crown’s main agents were the itinerant justiciars for the -north and the south, who were supposed to hear appeals in civil cases and the pleas of the crown, and the sheriffs, who, with their subordinates, dealt with lesser crimes. But for centuries, the nobility had also been hearing cases in their own courts. Lords who had baronial powers were entitled to try all but the pleas of the crown within their baronies, and were responsible also for deciding whether the plea was the crown’s, and for arrest. In the early Stewart period there were over three hundred lay baronies and many more ecclesiastical ones, amounting to perhaps half the courts. Lords of regalities had even greater powers; regalities excluded the justiciar altogether. There were twenty-two lay regalities, plus several ecclesiastical ones; some were very large and they amounted in total to between 10 and 20% of the country. Yet this extent of private jurisdiction is probably not the problem. It was not in the interests of the nobles who held these courts that disorder should prevail on their estates, and the nobility can be seen to be concerned about law and order. The barony courts were essentially a framework for local community justice, while the regalities tended to be concentrated on Scotland’s very extensive periphery, where they dealt much more directly with crime and dispute than central government could have. Moreover the holders of regalities were members of the royal family for the most part, who did not need such privileges to abuse their power. Finally, the privileges of regality could be withdrawn as happened to Thomas Fleming of Wigtown in 1367. Strong nobles wore necessary to the enforcement of law and order.

In fact, to judge from the emergency measures of 1372 and 1397-9, it was the justiciars who were at fault. The effect of these measures was temporarily to suspend the rule that only justiciars could judge serious crimes outside regalities. The implication was that the justiciars were not capable of fulfilling their responsibilities, and this is scarcely surprising. Dr Grant suggested. that the root of the problem lay in the fact that the process of centralization which Scotland, like England and France, had experienced in the thirteenth century, had been arrested in the crisis of the early fourteenth century. Despite several efforts, it was not until the sixteenth century that effective central courts developed. That it was indeed the institution of the justiciar that was unsatisfactory in early Stewart Scotland was further suggested by a. comparison with England where commissions of the pence were set up in the fourteenth century because justice Byres were now insufficient to cope with the burden of complaint; herc, too, the local landowners had to take on new responsibilities. England, moreover, helped to put the early Stewart law and order problem into perspective; things were never as bad under Robert II and III as under Henry VI. In England, the sustained governmental attack on local jurisdictions since the twelfth century, and the extreme complexities of tenure led to a potentially explosive competition between nobles to establish spheres of influence in their localities, and necessitated firm government such as Henry VI was unable to supply. But in Scotland, the jurisdiction of the nobility had been institutionalised and extended, and tenure was less complex. Local spheres of influence were thus more clear-cut, and there was less occasion for demarcation disputes. Stability was not so dependent upon central government. Though the lack of sophisticated central institutions could cause problems, the decentralised legal system could still operate after a fashion even in periods when royal supervision was not very energetic. It might be argued that precisely because the Scottish judicial system was so unsophisticated it could not break down altogether, even under the early Stewarts.

Dr Wormald began by apologizing to those members of the conference who had previously heard her discuss the role of kindred and bloodfeud in the preservation of law and order in later medieval Scotland. She had been tempted to return to the theme, because Dr Grant here, and at BARG in September, had raised the question whether such kin-based justice was a new feature of later fifteenth century Scotland, and because Professor Barrow had suggested to her that the word ‘slanys’, used to describe a letter of reconciliation from an offended kindred, might be of Old Irish origin. She would therefore investigate various aspects of the terminology of the system in order to discover its possible roots.

First, though, she proposed to survey the evidence for the operation and acceptability of feud. In its bloody form, es in modern Albania, the feud was obviously intolerable, but where compensation had replaced bloodshed there was no reason for a government to attack it, and the Scottish monarchy clearly sought to exploit rather than limit the feud, adding penalty to the crown to compensation for the kin. As early as the Assisa regis David, killing or injuring within the king’s peace involved a fine to the king as well as compensation to the injured party. In 1425, James I made a grant of remission conditional on compensation for victims, and in 1432 he ordained that those officials who failed to enforce the law were to give compensation – ‘croy’ – to the victim’s kin as well as pay £40 to the king. Later still, James VI significantly encouraged compensation and the making of a bond of manrent by a murderer to the head of his enemy’s kin, on the grounds that it served; ‘ane necessar and guid caus, viz for keping…the parties… in perpetuall quietnes.’ Sixteenth century lawyers were equally sympathetic. Balfour’s Practicks was a mine of information about feud, including case-law, and we find here that it is for the judge to decide the amount of compensation due. The tariffs of the early period, dependent upon rank, had now given way to considerations of the nature of the crime, the criminal’s means, the condition of the victim and the number and age of his children (the heir appropriately getting least, and unmarried daughters twice as much as sons). Thus the State was putting its weight behind private reparation, yet for Balfour the basic responsibility to initiate an action still rested with the kin. Finally, a vast quantity of private settlements revealed the system at work in the localities, and established that the lord’s responsibilities were the same as the head of kin’s. A powerful lord or kinsman would. force a settlement more quickly and effectively than a central court in Edinburgh or infrequent justice ayres. Ogilvy of Dunlugus regained possession of his Banffshire lands, thanks to the head, of his kin and Huntly, the local magnate. Those settlements, moreover, show crimes being literally ‘made good’ by their perpetrators; having murdered Drummond of Leidoreif, and thus deprived his dependents of their natural protector, Chelmer of Drumlochy restored the status quo by marrying his son to his victim’s daughter and his cousin to his sister – in each case without the benefit of a dowry for himself — and also gave his bond of manrent to Lord Drummond, the head of the offended kin, as a guarantee of future peace. What was impressive about this kind of justice was thus that it left effective action ro the man of local power, be he lord or heed of kin, and that it satisfied the social need not only for quick justice, but also for compensation to those injured in accordance with the extent of the damage. It was naturally acceptable to both crown and lawyers as such, and so assimilated into more formal processes.

In the second half of her paper, Dr Wormold discussed the terminology of the system in order te discover whether the prominence of the kin was a new feature in later fifteenth-century Scotland. These words fell into three groups. First there were those of Irish or Welsh origin which turned up in the early texts: ‘Cro’, ‘Enach’, ‘Galnes’, ‘Kelchyn’. The distinction between them was by no means obvious, even in the sixteenth century, but all meant some form of compensation or honour-price. They survived because of their presence in classical texts, like Regiem Maiestatem (‘cro’ having its last fling in the 1432 statute already mentioned), but by the sixteenth century they were certainly archaic, and Skene had to be told the meaning of ‘Gailchen’ by the earl of Argyll. Secondly, there were two further words of Gaelic origin, ‘culreach’ meaning surety and ‘colpindach’ meaning a calf given as compensation, both of which survived throughout the period. Thirdly, there were words referring to compensation, which, like ‘manrent’, entered later medieval Scottish vocabulary from northern England: ‘assythment’, from Middle English ‘assithe’ (late Latin ‘ad satis’); ‘kinbuit’, from Anglo-Saxon ‘cynebot’, a rare word originally referring to the penalty paid to public authority for the murder of a king, but in later medieval Scotland denoting compensation for the kin; and, allegedly, ‘Slanys’, for which, however, Professor Barrow had now suggested a Celtic origin. Mr Donald Meek of the Glasgow Celtic department had indeed been impressed by the possibility that this word, first recorded 1473/4,was cognate with Gaelic ‘slan’, ‘slainte’, ‘slanachus’, meaning health, safety, wholeness, spiritual salvation, and, legally, freedom from liability. The key word could be ‘slanachus’, from which the middle syllable has dropped out, giving a plural appearance to what is obviously a singular word, and this word does turn up as a translation of Latin ‘redemptio’ in the seven teeth century translation of Calvin’s catechism. It does of course fit the principle of the letter of ‘slanys’ perfectly.

We do, therefore, find continuity between the early and later medieval terminology of bloodfeud, and between Celtic and non-Celtic Scotland (points further demonstrated by the survival in Fife of the ‘Law of Clas Macduff’). But there had also been change. Professor Darrow had further suggested to her that the prominence of royal justice in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was to be explained by the fact that the Normans in Scotland were kinless men, and thus the responsibility of the king. But in Scotland, as in Ireland but not England, the Normans were assimilated, formed their own kindreds and adopted the corresponding legal system. Later medieval Scottish Law thus merged royal involvement, and a consequent concern to look beyond the value of the blood spilt to consideration of motive and the needs of the victim, with a much older kin-based Celtic justice, which survived the Anglo-Norman period almost unrecorded. Moreover, though later medieval Scotland was a status-conscious society, this reflected a growing uncertainty about rank, and a blurred distinction between magnates and gentry. The abandonment of the terminology of ‘cro’ and Igelnes’, which was. associated with precise social classification, may reflect this development. The appearance of a new terminology, replacing that of the classical texts, was explained by the growth of lay literacy; just as ‘manrent’ became common after 1450, because bonds of manrent were now made, so ‘slanys’ appeared because there wee now a written letter of reconciliation. With the growth of the written record, there gradually emerged a legal profession, whose very existence imposed’its own mystique, and opened up a gulf between the professional’s expertise and the practical settlements of ameteurs, and which thus contributed far more than government policy to the end of the system sketched here. But that was in the future. The complex mtcture of royal end central, with local and kin-based, justice that characterized this period was well brought-out when, in 1548, Alexander Spens of Wormestoun demanded to be received of the traditional law of Clan Macduff, and then refused to be satisfied with symbolic acceptance into the king’s peace, ‘be ane wand’, demanding instead a written testimonial, so that the Steward-depute of Fife had to borrow his father’s seal! This complex system was the result of a gradual evolution over centuries rather than the revival of something long forgotten.


Mr Seller agreed with Dr Wormald that there was a striking element of continuity with the Celtic past in Scottish Law. ‘Culreach’ was important to regalities in that lords gave”culreach’ that they would deal with crime, and ‘Can’ (of. Old Irish ‘cain’) was still being collected from Kinross estates in the mid 1960s! In the same connection, Professor Barrow cited James I’s confirmation of powers given to a tenant of Leuchars by Robert Stewart as earl of Fife; these powers were: arrest, incarceration and scrutandi, which is Gaelic ‘ransocht’. Mr Seller added that ‘ransocht’ appeared in a Lennox charter of the fourteenth century.

Mr Cowan asked about jurisdiction given to the Church, and Dr Grant said that there was a 1398 record of the Bishop of Moray acquitting a man of horse-theft. Dr Murray cited the Lord Lyon on the ‘democratic’ nature of the barony court, and Mr Cant said that in the foothills east of Ochill, the earl was called a ‘regulus’. Dr Grant referred to an act of 1401, dealing with baronies within earldoms; the cool of Douglas actually granted land in regality in 1407. Dr McNeill thought that the obligation to compensate was academic, because most wrongdoers had no money; Dr Wormald replied that the kin of a pauper were supposed to pay up for him, though this was of course only possible if the kindred had money.

Mr Cowan asked about material benefits for the dispenser of justice, and Dr Murray said that the crown could be bought off provided that the offender gave surety to satisfy the injured party; Dr Grant drew attention to laws of James I and II against letting people off for a price. Mr Lyall said that the remissions issue was very lively in the fifteenth century, and later added that, in the Thre Prestis of Peblis, the king was held responsible for a murder, in that its committer had been twice remitted. Professor Barrow asked about evidence for retributive or exemplary justice, for example in James I’s treatment of Duke Murdo. Dr Wormald said that the crown was as lacking in altruism as anyone else, and there was no legal issue at stake in the treatment of Albany. On the other hand the case of Drummond under James IV, or. James VI’s treatment of Sanquhar showed that kings could act against public crime. Mr Cant said that James I was influenced by the notions of his English captors, and there were no exact parallels to his behaviour until James VI, when, again, English ideas were influential.

Dr Grant suggested that the changeover from archaic terms marked an increase in kin-based justice, and Mr Wormald asked whether the new terms were any less archaic. Mr Cant said that the use of the vernacular in James I’s statutes had set a fashion. Dr Grant then suggested that, with the disappearance of the great earldoms, a vacuum was left, so that a kin-based system operating side by side with new forms of lordship emerged. supreme. Dr Wormald wondered whether earls as a class really did disappear; the vacuum was certainly short-lived. The heads of kips were lords in practice. Besides, the Albany-Douglas bond showed that the system predated 1450. After a further exchange betwem the two speakers, the Chairman invited them to continue their discussion in private.

Mr. Cowan then said that literacy brought problems; a poem in the Liber Pluscerdensis referred to people unfit to dispense justice, who needed schooling in the laws. Dr Simpson confirmed that the habit of signing deeds pre-dated the Education Act, which grew out of social changes, rather than causing the rise of literacy. Mr Seller said that there was a long tradition of secular literacy in Celtic society, but Mr Wormald pointed out that this was confined to the professionally learned classes.

21st Conference Saturday 7 January 1978 8.30 p.m.

‘Scotland’s Military Might at the end of the Middle Ages’ Illustrated talk by David Caldwell N.M.A.S.

Chairman: Dr Cant

For the conference’s customary Saturday Night at the Movies, Mr. Caldwell proposed a wide-ranging discussion, with slides, of most aspects of the Scottish forces in the first half of the sixteenth century.

Turning, first, to the ‘host’ itself, he suggested that the Scottish population may have been between three-quarters of a million and one million by the end of the sixteenth century. The host consisted, in theory, of the whole male population, but, since the Government never summoned anyone below the rank of yeoman, a typical turn-out would have been at most 30, 000 Pinkie, as reflected by Patten, involved 30,000 foot and 400 cavalry. There would also have been non-combatants; an English intelligence report on Regent Moray’s army in 1568 listed 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 non-combatants. These hosts were called out by sheriffs, but fought under local notables: captains in 1523 and 1540 were appointed for each group of twenty. They could be called out only for forty days in the year, although Regent Albany tried a quarterly summons. Attempts at raising supporting taxation were generally less successful.

The equipment of the host was illustrated by a contemporary depiction of Pinkie, and, earlier, by the fifteenth-century Scotichronicon illustration of Bannockburn; here, armies were compounded of well-armoured men at arms, sometimes heavily mounted, and footmen who were archers or equipped with axes and targes. These pictures were probably reliable, -their evidence is generally supported by treasurers’ accounts and by effigies. In general, British armour is similar, and different from the continental. As, well as breastplate, it involved a laminated fauld for the abdomen, and a hip-belt. Headgear was the bassinet, a helmet with a rounded visor, and guards for the chin and neck. This plate armour was worn by all who could afford it, including a high proportion of the nobility. The English remarked on the good quality of Scots armour, and it may have betrayed them at Flodden; at any rate, armour which so hindered escape became less fashionable thereafter, and the English at Pinkie commented that they could not tell whether they were killing lords or peasants. Otherwise, protection was afforded by jacks and brigantines: quilted jackets containing metal plates which were sometimes elaborately decorated. There is little evidence of a Scottish armour industry, again perhaps because of Flodden: Scottish kings tried, without success, to import French armourers. Fighting was normally on foot during the first half of the sixteenth century, though the proportion of light horsemen increased thereafter; horses were also used to get to battle, but not to fight. Weapons consisted of spear and short sword. Swords were simple until the mid sixteenth century, because of the armoured glove; thereafter we find the basket-hilted sword which may have originated in Scotland, and which survived in the Highlands until the eighteenth century. Hand-firearms first appeared in the later fifteenth century, and James IV in 1511 had Dutch or German culverin-makers in Edinburgh castle. The earliest reference to the use of pistols was to a. fight in a Stirling street, involving a Dutchman (1549); they were more important for town-walking than for battle. Armour was generally lighter in the Highlands, and the type represented by the Iona effigies survived until late. This involved a quilted garment, with a pisane round the neck, a simple bassinet, a small spear and a hand-and-a-half sword, with the characteristic upward-angled hilt and Scandinavian style pommel. There was a general tendency for swords to get longer in the fifteenth century, developing towards the two-handed type. Other foot-weapons in the sixteenth century, including Lochaber axes and Jedburgh Staffs also had long shafts.

Mr Caldwell confined his comments on the Scottish intelligence system to the observation that it was elementary by Tudor standards, and then turned to artillery. We find. records of the manufacture of artillery as early as 1380, and William Bonner, master of artillery, appears in the 1450s, as does Mons Meg (1457). James III had cast-bronze guns, as the Treasurer’s account for his reign reveals. A corps of gunmen was established by the early sixteenth century. James IV’s artillery train at Flodden involved siege-guns, of which the smallest needed eight oxen and six drivers, the largest thirty-six and nine respectively. By contrast with these monsters, attempts were made to develop smaller, breach-loading, guns.

As regards the Navy, Mr Caldwell suggested that James lire interest in ships was largely directed against piracy. Ships were small, as elsewhere in Europe, and single-masted developments of those used by the Hanseatics. James IV’s Great Michael was in contrast: it fired sixteen guns a side. There is no indication of the overall size of his navy; he had three major ships, plus many small ones, not all of them royal. But Pitscottie’s 300 sailors is in part confirmed by the Treasurer’s accounts, and there was development of naval facilities at Aberdeen, Burntisland and Blackness. After Flodden, naval policy atrophied, with disastrous results at Pinkie. James V had few ships, all of small size. Galleon-building did not develop. There was no concerted attempt at fortification by the Scottish government, which preferred to help private owners, as, for example, on the borders or in coastal defences. James IV’s torts where the Forth Bridges stand were exceptional. His own castles, Dunbar, Linlithgow, Stirling, Rothesay and Tarbert, were supply-bases, but none offered defence against artillery. In this respect, the Dunbar blockhouse was an important achievement of the underrated Albany; its wide-mouthed gun-loops were influential at Blackness, Tantallon and also Edinburgh, where the gun-loops were later designed to accommodate either guns on carriages or hand-held and trestle-supported guns. Of the group of castles offering accommodation for army and artillery, Craignethen and Cadzow were Hamilton contributions to Scottish military history.

Summarizing, Mr. Caldwell suggested that the Scots could produce a fair-sized army by continental standards, and were not beaten by superior numbers or equipment, but by bad generalship, political disunion, and the absence of far-sighted strategy. The record of the earl of Leven in the following century was a suggestive contrast with that of the Scottish forces in the sixteenth.


Dr Stewart drew attention to the nautical descriptions in ‘the ‘Monologue Recreative’ section of Wedderburn’s ‘Complaynt of Scotland’, c.1550. Mr Shead asked about the importing of guns and armour. Mr Caldwell mentioned the Inverary gun, allegedly from an Armada ship, but recorded in Campbell papers before dredging of the wreck took place, and identical with guns known to have been in the sixteenth-century royal collection. In answer to a further question from Mr Shead about the shortage of iron in Scotland, Mr Caldwell noted that bronze monastic bells were commandeered by the sixteenth-century government, and, when Professor Legge repented the point, suggested that iron was imported. In reply to Mr Grant’s point that armour was necessarily imported in 1385, Mr Caldwell said that only from the mid fifteenth century are there references to native armourers; imports were apparently later still, end the armour in British and continental effigies differed. Mr Caldwell told Dr Ash that he was looking for archers, but they had died out, except in the Highlands, by the seventeenth century, and Mr Cant, that there were siege-sappers in the army, but as auxiliaries to the artillery; Mr Cant then assured Dr Watt in the same connection that there was no trace of either mine or counter-mine at St Andrews.

21st Conference Sunday 8 January 1978 11.00 a.m.

‘The value of coins as evidence for economic and political history’: Talk by Ian Stewart, M.P.

Chairman: Professor Barrow.

In this long, and eagerly, anticipated paper by the doyen of Scottish numismatists, Mr Stewart began by discussing methodological problems. Numismatics was unique among branches of medieval studies. The material was widely dispersed, and much of it remained unpublished. Coins were scattered in the period of their use, and continued to circulate among collectors to this day; dealers’ lists and auction-sale catalogues were themselves a vital source for the numismatist. The literature was diffuse and of very uneven quality. Most writers had been amateurs, there were virtually no professional posts in numismatics outside museum curatorship and thus no flow of qualified students. Collectors tended to specialize, and their approach to the material generally lacked historical perspective, or contact with other disciplines ; Mr Stewart was himself fortunate in his profound debt eto Philip Grierson, who was both a historian and a numismatist of distinction. The history of Scottish numismatics be*an with Cochran-Patrick’s publication of the records (1876), and with Edward Burns’s three-volume work (1887), which was ahead of its time, and still a primary source for the description of individual coins. Studies had resuMed since 1945, but there were still very few involved. Publication of the 1977 Oxford conference by British Archaeological Reports (Vol. 45) marked another landmark, in linking numismatics with economic history.

The process of numismatic study Vas multi-staged: material must first be recorded, then assembled and analysed, and only then interpreted The Dyke hoard was an example of a badly-recorded discovery, but at least the assembly of material was now facilitated by photography. It was now possible to say that there were some 15-20,000 extant Scottish medieval coins, 600 from the twelfth century, 6,000. from the thirteenth, fewer from the fourteenth, and 5,000 from the fifteenth. Up to the thirteenth century, moreover, coin-dies could easily be counted, and mules (hybrids, born of two dies not normally paired) established chronological chains of die-use. Archaeology was an indispensable aid to the numismatist, since it was vital to arrange hoards in a careful sequence. • :Unfortunately, a number of hoards were turned up in the second half of the nineteenth century, ‘with the foundation of railways and new towns (before detailed classification now ‘available for recording them). The post-war building boom had led to better-recorded discoveries, but there were still no adequately recorded hoards buried in Scotland, 1180-1280; And nowadays metal-detectors posed a new threat to the recovery of accurate information: e.g., a number of recent discoveries had allegedly :beep made between the low and high-water marks at Sew – outside the jurisdiction of both the Port of London authority and the Treasure-trove commissioners!

Turning to the history of medieval Scottish currency, Mr Stewart said that the proportion of Scottish coins discovered in the British Isles as a whole is higher in the thirteenth century than later; coins of Alexander III were 15% of those recorded from his period, While Robert I’s are only 2% (There were no Scottish coins from 1296.1318, when English medieval mints were at their most active). Evidence of this sort, however, needed careful assessment. Later in the period, it was difficult to reconcile James III’s extant coinage with what we are told about his monetary policy. One needed disturbance to get a good coin-hoard, and the rarity. of hoard evidence from the second half of the twelfth century until the later thirteenth, because there was so little disturbance, might distort the picture. Nevertheless, the number of dies used in the thirteenth century did establish that Scottish mint-output multiplied by two or three times between the 1250, and 1280s:- from £50-60,000 up to 6150,000 – probably as a by-product of a favourable balance-of-payments. At this period, the relative output of different mints could be estimated, though Alexander’ III used codes, not names, for .his mints. Edinburgh was not the main mint before 1358. David I’s first mint was at Carlisle, where both silver and machinery were available when he took it in 1136. Than came Roxburgh (not Berwick) – the site of a royal residence which had a, fair, and, for long, it was the main or only mint. After the 1250 re-coinage was completed, Berwick was almost the sole minut until 1280.

Both Edward. I, and, probably, Robert I also used it. hints were at strategically and commercially important sites where they were available (the coin evidence does not reflect the view that Falaise led to Angevin garrisons in the southern Scottish castles). Their location helped armies (as at Roxburgh in 1460), followed the king’s capital (as in the case of lcrth from the later fourteenth century) or were the personal choice of the king (like Kinghorn, the residence of Alexander III). Dundee, on the other hand, appeared only in an emergency, for example in what appears to have been a coinage for rehabilitation after the 1385 campaign. Linlithgow features only once, while the new palace was being built. It was after James II’s death that the overwhelming dominance of the Edinburgh mint was re-established.

The limited range of inscriptions on the Scottish coinage made its interpretation for political history difficult. But James VI consistently used coins as propaganda, reflecting the influence of Buchanan under the regency and of James’s own views later. Coin-types were generally rather dull, but there is a significant resemblance between Malcolm IV’s Roxburgh type, and one of Henry II’s, especially as it seems to have been commissioned at the same time as his elaborate charter for Kelso. There are two James III coin portraits, one of which is cognate with the later portrait on the Trinity Altar-piece. This puzzling situation did at least establish that we have here the first portrait coinage in North-West Europe.

Coinage, then, was a subject on its own, demanding its own specialist disciplines. Historical conclusions could be derived from it. For example, one could argue that a highly organized coinage could not have been produced by a highly disorganized government; and one could say that the function of coinage was, in the early Middle Ages, the conversion of foreign silver, while later it served both as a currency for the people, and a source of profit for kings. But such conclusions had to be developed slowly, and with due respect for the proper limitations of the evidence.


Dr Simpson asked whether Baldwin the Lorimer, David I’s Flemish ‘cliens’ et Perth, might not have been the maker of the coins bearing his name. Rr Stewart said that moneyers did not make their own dies or coins in the thirteenth century, but may have done so in the twelfth. Baldwin’s coins show a crown with roundels, perhaps copied from life, and the dies were not the work of a professional moneyer and so might have been made by Baldwin himself. Dr Simpson confessed that he was shocked to hear that Scottish coinage had begun at Carlisle, but Mr Stewart assured him that David developed a pro-existing mint, and set up a more widely-based and unified coinage; as one would expect, no coins were made before 1136.

Professor Barrow wondered about Turgot’s description, in his Life of Margaret, of Malcolm III distributing coins; in reply to a comment of Mr Scott’s, on the rarity of references to money payments before Malcolm IV, Professor Barrow said that some southern Scottish documents tie refer to money-rents, though northern ones do not. Professor Barrow then asked, a propos of the Sawyer thesis (on the connection between later Anglo-Saxon coinage, and the import of bullion in exchange for a flourishing- wool export), whence Scotland. derived its silver. Mr Stewart said that there was no native silver available in Scotland, hence the importance of Carlisle, and the small scale of the twelfth century coinage, but once wool exports got under way, the Scottish coinage developed as an aspect of an economy exporting merchandise in exchange for bullion.

Dr Grant said that Froissart almost certainly exaggerated the destruction of the 1385 campaign, which only lasted a fortnight. Mr Seller asked about coins found in the Northern. Isles during the Scandinavian period, and their possible use as currency. Mr Stewart said that hoards continued in the northern Isles until the early eleventh century, and then resumed, after a break until the mid twelfth century, nearer England. There were also Northumbrian coppers of the eighth and ninth century in Lothian. He doubted whether there was a clear-cut distinction between coins as currency and coins as treasure in the Viking Age.