Privy Seal Records
Privy Seal Records
The privy seal was originally the king's own personal or private seal. Alexander III is known to have had a privy seal by 1272, but there is no evidence that one was in regular use before Robert I's reign (1306-29), when it was called the privatum sigillum or 'privy' seal as in England. During his reign it was used for financial and household matters, though not to the exclusion of the great seal, and it was probably during this reign that it came to be used for mandates to the chancellor requiring him to issue charters under that seal, the origin of the procedure known as 'passing the seals' Writs passing under the Privy Seal were recorded in the Register of the Privy Council. The earliest register begins in 1488 by which time the seal had been affected by the growing use of the signet and sign manual for authenticating the sovereign's written commands. There are no surviving registers for the period of the Cromwellian administration.
Grants under the Privy Seal fall into two main groups:
- Those passed on the strength of a warrant under the signet ('per signetum' ) comprised those precepts or warrants for documents which were to pass the Great Seal, mainly charters, remissions, and legitimations. In Latin.
- Those passed on the authority of a warrant under the sign manual ( 'per signaturam' ) where the Privy Seal alone was sufficient authority, including grants of pensions, leases of crown lands, respites, gifts of moveable property which had fallen to the crown by escheat, 'ultimus haeres', suicide or otherwise, appointments to minor offices in central and local government, university chairs and presentations to benefices, passports, licences to travel overseas and licences to print. Generally in the vernacular.
A great many precepts in the Privy Seal Register are not in the Great Seal Register. The order of documents in the register also relates to the date of sealing, which could be several years after the issue of the original warrant for the grant, rather than the date of the grant. Some grants were never recorded at all, but are documented by surviving warrants.
The Privy Seal of Scotland was last used in 1898.
The Register of the Privy Seal, 1488- 1584 (Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum or RSS for short) has been published in 8 volumes. They are fully indexed by person, place and office with the addition of a subject index in volume 8.
|PS1||Register of the Privy Seal, old series||1488-1651||td>|
|PS2||Latin Register, new series||1661-1788, 1795-1810||A few of the volumes have indexes. See also PS7/2-3.|
|PS3||English Register, new series||1661-1898||Some of the volumes have indexes. A gap in the register between 1789 and 1795 partly filled by surviving warrants. See also PS7/3.|
|PS4||Register of Precepts of Remissions under the Great Seal||1611-22|
|PS5||Register of Precepts for Charters under the Great Seal to Baronets of Nova Scotia||1625-38|
|PS6||Minute Books||1499-1745||See also PS7/3.The earlier minute books list the contents of the registers, though the entries are undated. After 1661 the minute books are in chronological order of sealing which does not distinguish between Latin and English writs and bears no direct relation to the contents of the two registers.|
Index to apprisings and offices, 1499-1651.
Latin Register, index of persons, 1661-1705.
'Index' (minute book) to Latin Register, 1744-73, and to English Register, 1745-1811.
|PS8||Responde Books||1752-1791, 1795-1847||Fees due for writs passing the privy seal.|
|PS9||Account Books of Privy Seal fees||1763-97, 1808-98|
|PS10-13||Warrants||1571-1898||Including warrants for the English and Latin registers|
|PS15||Registers of Precepts for Charters to Baronets of Nova Scotia||1627-37||Typescript list of patents of baronetcies of Nova Scotia, 1625-1707. The 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.|
|PS16||Miscellaneous papers||pre-1600 - 1898||These are mostly 19th century papers and relate to the business and procedures of the Privy Seal Office|
|PS1||Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland||1488-1584||Index of persons, places and offices in each volume||Published in 8 volumes|
|PS1||Presentations to Benefices under Privy Seal||1567-1587||Persons and places||Typescript|
|PS1||Presentations to Benefices under Privy Seal||1587-1600||Persons and places||Typescript|
|PS3 and PS13||Privy Seal English Record||1660-1782||Persons and offices||Typescript|
Using the records
The records of the Privy Council are available at the Historical Search Room in General Register House.
'Guide to the National Archives of Scotland', (Stationery Office, 1996) pages 19-27.
'The Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, The Laws of Scotland, volume 7' (1995), pages 592-4.