National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

State Papers

State Papers


The first clear evidence of the existence of a royal secretary is in the reign of David II (1329-71). It was the task of the royal secretary and his officers to draft treaties, credentials for envoys, the king's letters to foreign potentates and other diplomatic documents. Very little survives, however, from the Scottish secretariat, and much that does was once in private hands. It seems that many of the Scottish secretaries were tempted to retain the papers as their private property. In contrast to England, no attempt was made to recover these papers after the Secretary had resigned or died. For this reason, the State Paper series held at National Records of Scotland (NRS) is the result of a random accumulation or a conscious selection. Some documents and letter books, such as the Declaration of Arbroath, 1320, the earliest letter of Mary Queen of Scots, 1550 and the Exemplification of the Act of Union, 1707, have found their way back into the national archives. Others, like the letters of Mary Queen of Scots to the Earl of Cassillis, are preserved in private papers in NRS, the National Library of Scotland and elsewhere.

The records

Many of the records in the State Papers have been printed and are listed below under Publications.

Records in State Papers Series
NRS reference Description Dates Notes
SP1 Royal letter books 1505-1631 Other Scottish royal letter books are in the National Library of Scotland and the British Library
SP2 Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine 1543-1588  
SP3 Letter Book of James Johnston, Joint Secretary 1692-4  
SP4 Warrant books of the Secretary for Scotland 1670-1709 Entry books of warrants of instruments under the Scottish great and privy seals, commissions in the army, instructions to officials and other documents passing through the office of the secretaries of state.
SP6 Treaties with England 1328-1605 63 items. Including the Treaty of Edinburgh/Northampton, 1327/8 and the Treaty of Perpetual Peace,1502.
SP7 Treaties with France 1326-1612 51 items. Including the Treaty of Corbeil, April 1326, documents relative to privileges extended to Scottish merchants in France and to the marriage of the Dauphin Francis to Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1558.
SP8 Treaties with Norway, Denmark and Sweden 1312-1589 8 items. Including the treaty for the marriage of King James III of Scotland and Margaret, daughter of King Christian of Denmark in 1468, as a result of which the Orkney and Shetland Islands became part of Scotland and the contract for the marriage of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark in 1589.
SP9 Treaties with the Empire, Burgundy, The Low Countries and Friesland 1427-1552 8 items. Including James V's oath on his investiture with the Order of the Golden Fleece, 1532.
SP10 Oaths of sovereigns at their succession 1689-1952  
SP11  Royal proclamations 1736-1847 Mainly relating to public thanksgivings and calls for a general fast.
SP12 Regalia papers 1704-1953 Mainly relating to the deposit of the Scottish regalia in the crown room at Edinburgh Castle in 1707 and the opening of the room in 1817.
Miscellanea 1292-1740 Including the letter of the barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII, 6 April 1320, the 'Declaration of Arbroath' (SP13/7); act of settlement regulating the order of succession to the Scottish Crown, 4 April 1373; copies of the National Covenant, 1638-1639; the Treaty of Union, 1707; letters of King James V, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I, King James VI and others.
Other Sources for State Papers in the NRS
NRS reference Description Date Notes
CH7  Inventory, with appendix of bulls noted in other collections in the NRS, 1174-1560. Papal Bulls 1164-1556 Letter books
GD149 Cuninghame of Caprington muniments    
GD149/264 Royal letter book ('Caprington Manuscript') 1524/5-1548/9  
GD149/265 Royal letters and state papers 1565-1628    
GD149/266 Letter book of the Regent Lennox 1570-71  
GD249 Haddington Muniments    
GD249/2/2 Royal letter book ('Tyningham Manuscript') 1529-1532 (1542)  
GD249/2/1 nos. 1-51 Royal letters 1596-1627  
Warrender Papers 1542-1625 . Miscellaneous collection of letters and papers formerly in the possession of Archbishop Spottiswoode, Chancellor of Scotland 1634-38
RH5 Documents returned from the Public Record Office (now The National Archives, London) 1189-1305 Including a charter of Richard I, restoring the liberties of Scotland (1189); papal bulls affirming the partial independence of the Scottish church (1218); the marriage contract between Eric, King of Norway, and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III (1281) and acknowledgement by the magnates of Scotland of the Maid of Norway as heir of the kingdom (1284).
RH9/6 English Papers series Some treaties with England td>  
RH9/5 Foreign Papers series References to privileges of Scottish merchants in France    


Many of the surviving state papers are in print. 'The Guide to the National Archives of Scotland', chapter one, includes a brief history and guidance on printed sources. Those listed below will be useful:

R K Hannay. 'The Letters of James IV,1505-1513' (Scottish History Society, 1953) on the National Library of Scotland's website

R K Hannay. 'The Letters of James V, 1513-42' (HMSO, 1954)

G P V Akrigg, ed., 'The Letters of James VI' (University of California, 1984)

'Memorials of the Earls of Haddington' (Edinburgh, 1889), vol. 2

'The Melrose Papers' (Abbotsford Club, 1837) vol. 1

Annie I Cameron, ed., 'Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, 1542 - 1560' (Scottish History Society, 1927)

Marguerite Wood, ed., 'Foreign Correspondence with Marie de Lorraine, Queen of Scotland from the originals in the Balcarres papers, 1548-1557' (Scottish History Society, 1925) lxi. The Balcarres papers are held by the National Library of Scotland

'Papers relative to the Regalia of Scotland, 1651-1660' (Bannatyne Club, 1829)

'The Warrender Papers' (Scottish History Society, 1931-2).

J. Bain, ed., 'Calendar of Letters and Papers relating to the Affairs of the Borders of England and Scotland', 2 vols. (1894-6)

J. Bain, ed., 'Letters and Papers Illustrating the Political Relations of England and Scotland in the XIVth Century. Formerly in the possession of the Dukes of Hamilton, now in the British Museum', 2 vols. (1890-2)

Foreign correspondence: England

Rymer, 'Foedera, conventiones…et acta publica inter Reges Angliae…' (1816-69)

Joseph Bain, 'Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland' (Edinburgh, 1881-8) and supplement (Edinburgh, 1986)

'Calendar of Letters and Papers (Foreign and Domestic) of the reign of Henry VIII' (HMSO, 1870-1932)

'Calendar of State Papers' (Domestic)

J Bain and others, ed. 'Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots, 1547-1603', (HMSO, 1898-1969)

Foreign correspondence: France

A Teulet, ed., 'Inventaire chronologique de documents relatifs a l'histoire d'Ecosse' (Abbotsford Club, 1839)

Foreign correspondence: Norway

Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift Institutt, 'Diplomatarium Norvegicum', (Oslo, 1910)