The History of Leith

July 5, 2004

The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland (1488-1584)

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum. 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 vol. 8.

About The Privy Seal
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 full record can be found at and is a excellent source of Leith History and well worth a visit. There is a link on the rhs

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