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Home > Auctions > 3rd December 2014 > Medieval King Robert the Bruce of Scotland and Dunfermline Abbey Cokete Seal Matrix Pair

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LOT 0744

Sold for (Inc. bp): £151,250

Matrices 2 1/4", case 3 1/2" (337 grams total, matrices 55mm diameter, case 87mm square).

The Cokete Seal of Dunfermline Abbey matrix pair, contained in a hinged wooden box with velvet-lined recesses and labels; the seal matrix in two parts with locating posts (these inserted and soldered in place) and sockets; the obverse matrix (with posts) depicting (reversed and incuse) St. Margaret, founder and benefactress of the abbey, in robe and crown with a sceptre, between two heater shields bearing the royal arms of Scotland (a lion rampant within a double tressure) and the arms of Dunfermline Abbey (a cross moline among five martlets) with the Lombardic legend to the border +S' COKETE REGALITATIS DE DVNFERMELYNN (Cokete Seal of the Regality of Dunfermline); the reverse (counterseal) matrix with heater shield within foliage depicting the royal arms of Scotland and border with the Lombardic legend +ROBERTVS DEI GRACIA REX SCOTORVM (Robert, by the Grace of God, King of the Scots) with floral ornament and quatrefoil stops; the antique, custom made, wooden box with old paper and ink label to the lid with monochrome depiction of the counterseal; also with paper labels to the inside of the box with handwritten text 'The Cokete Seal of the Regality of Dunfermline presented to S. Henderson by Hon. W. Ogilvie - Cowden's Muck(h)art 2nd February 1867' and 'The Cokete Seal of the Regality of Dunfermline A.D. 1323 - Vide Dalyells Monastic Antiquities page 72: - Mercers History of Dunfermline page 63 Chalmers's History of Dunfermline no.1 page 253 (E. Henderson 2 Feb. 1867)'; also with inked date 'Feby 2d 1867'; offered with original editions of three books (listed below) which refer to this matrix pair and a bound set of research notes.

Property of a London gentleman; previously with Ebenezer Henderson, before 1878 (see his Annals of Dunfermline, p.766 where he lists items related to Dunfermline, including these matrices, then in his possession); by inheritance from S. Henderson after 1867; by presentation from the Hon. Sir William Ogilvie, 2nd February 1867; exhibited at the library of the Society of Advocates, early 19th century (possibly by Ogilvie or his father); referred to by Laing (see below) in 1850 as having "been in possession of the writer of the Annals for a great many years". Accompanied by the Art Loss Register certificate reference number 1418AR.

Contemporary documents:

1) Robert the Bruce royal charter of 1315 AD to Dunfermline Abbey: "Robert, by the grace of God King of Scots, to all upright men in his whole land, greeting: Know ye that, for the safety of our own soul and that of our predecessors and successors, Kings of Scotland, we have given, granted, and by this our present Charter, have confirmed to God, the Blessed Mary the Virgin, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and St. Margaret, Queen of Dunfermlyn, and to the monks serving and to serve God for ever in the same, the right of patronage of the vicar Church of Inverkeithing, with the pertinents, as freely and quietly, fully, peacefully, and honourably as the predecessors formerly of Roger de Moubray, knight, who had forfeited it to us, have held and possessed the said right of patronage most freely, quietly, and honourably in all things, by rendering to us nothing therefore by only the suffrages of their prayers: Besides, we give and grant, and, by this our present charter, confirm to the foresaid monks, the whole of our new great Customs from all their lands within our kingdom, viz., the land of the burghs of Dunfermlyne, Kirkcaldy, Musselburgh, and Queensferry, and from all their other lands whatsoever; To also let the said monks have and use their own Koketa, according to the liberties of their regality, and our present concession in all their foresaid lands; and let this Koketa be acknowledged and admitted by all burgesses and our people, and foreign merchants throughout our whole kingdom, without obstruction from our chamberlains, or other servants of ours whatsoever for the time being, without petition from any other allocation of liberation, by finding for this our donation and concession of the said Customs for us and our successors, in honour of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the aforesaid Blessed Margaret in the Choir in front of her shrine, one wax candle solemnly lighted, continually and forever. In testimony whereof we have caused our seal to be attached to our present Charter, these fathers being witnesses. William, and William, Bishops of St. Andrews and Dunkeld; Bernard, our Chancellor, the Abbot of Aberborthick; Duncan and Thomas Randolph, of Fife" (Registrum de Dunfermelyn, No. 346, p.232-233);

2) Royal writ of Robert the Bruce dated 10th July, 1322 to the Magistrates of Bruges: "Robert, by the Grace of God, King of the Scots, wishes prosperity and a continual increase of happiness to our very dear friends, the Magistrates and Ministers of the Burgh, and the whole community of the City of Bruges, Know ye, that from a regard to Divine charity, we have granted to the religious men, the Abbot and Convent of Dunfermline, our Monks, the whole of our large Customs from all their lands within our kingdom, in free, pure, and perpetual alms; wherefore we have thought, wherever and whenever your merchants with their merchandise, shall present to you in due form the seal of the said religious men, your whole community should be requested to be careful to receive it as our own proper Seal. In testimony whereof we send you these our letters patent. Given at Scone, on the tenth day of July, in the sixteenth of our reign” (Registrum de Dunfermelyn, No. 596, p.415; Fernie’s Hist. Dunf. pp.195-196; Mercer's The History of Dunfermline from the Earliest Records Down to the Present Time, pp.306-307);

3) For the year 1322 AD, from the records of Dunfermline Abbey: "The Cocquet Seal of the Regality Court of Dunfermline was engraven this year by sanction of King Robert the Bruce, by Chapter, dated at Scone, 10th July, 1322, along with letters patent to all who paid customs at Bruges, in Flanders, or elsewhere, notifying that wherever this Seal was in due form produced, it was to be recognised as the authority for collecting the customs granted to the Abbey by the King, &c."

4) Great Customs of Dunfermline. Robert the Bruce intimated, by Charter, to his Great Chamberlain, that the Abbey had a gift of the Great Customs of Wool, Skins, and Leather, arising from their own lands and men throughout the whole kingdom. This Charter is dated “Forfar, 10th September, 1322.” (Registrum de Dunfermelyn, p. 247, No. 362; Dal. Mon. An. p. 20, also p. 252, No. 369.)

Published citations:

1) Dalyell, John Graham, A Tract Chiefly Relative to Monastic Antiquities, with Some Account of a Recent Search for the Remains of the Scottish Kings Interred in the Abbey of Dunfermline, Edinburgh, 1809, pp.72-73 and plate (illustrating a lead impression of the obverse) - with an original edition of this book;

2) Mercer, Andrew, The History of Dunfermline from the Earliest Records Down to the Present Time, Dunfermline, 1828, p.63, footnote;

3) Chalmers, Rev. Peter, History of Dunfermline, Blackwood & sons, 1844, vol. 1, p.253;

4) Laing, Henry Descriptive Catalogue of Impressions from Scottish Seals, Edinburgh, 1850, pp.215-216, numbers 1190 and 1191 ("This and the counter seal following, are fine and interesting specimens, in most excellent preservation. The design of this one is an elegant full-length figure of Saint Margaret, with an open crown of three points. In her right hand she holds a scepter, and a book in her left. At the dexter side is a shield bearing the arms of Scotland, and at the sinister another, with a cross fleury between five martlets, being the paternal arms of the Queen. The back-ground is elegantly ornamented with foliage. S COKETE REGALITATIS DE DVMFERMLYN. Counter Seal of the last. Merely containing the arms of Scotland. Foliage surrounds the shield. ROBERTVS DEI GRACIA REX SCOTORVM". This seal is and has been in possession of the writer of the Annals for a great many years") - with an original edition of this book.

5) Dunfermline Press, Dunfermline, Thursday, 1 September 1859, cols. 6-7, report of the Presentation of the Freedom of the City and Dinner to Dr. Henderson (wherein his speech mentions the Cokete Seal, among others) - with a printout of the newspaper article.

6) Henderson, Dr. Ebenezer, Annals of Dunfermline, Glasgow, 1879, pp.107-147 and 766 (for a list of items in the possession of the author) - with an original edition of this book.

7) Birch, Walter de Gray, Catalogue of Seals in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum, British Museum, 1895, vol. IV, numbers 15,512 (a contemporary red wax impression) and 15,513 (19th century sulphur casts from these matrices) - with a copy of these entries;

6) National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, reference K.1999.802 (19th century sulphur cast of the obverse matrix), with a printed image of this cast;

Harvey, P. D. A. and McGuiness, Andrew, A Guide to British Medieval Seals, British Library and Public Record Office, 1996, pp.41-42 and fig 36 (for brief discussion of customs service and cokete seals, illustrated with an example for Inverness and Cromarty); see TimeLine Auctions, 19 June 2013, lot 1322 (part) for an electrotype of a cokete seal for Winchester.

Shortly after his accession to the throne in 1124, David I raised the Church of the Holy Trinity, at Dunfermline, to the rank and dignity of an Abbey, and translated to it a colony of 13 Benedictine monks from Canterbury, in England - this carrying out the pious wishes of his deceased brother and predecessor. In 1124 the monastic community of Dunfermline thus numbered 13 Culdees (non-monastic devotees) and 13 Benedictine monks.

King Robert I of Scotland (known as 'the Bruce' for his family name of de Brus) had a longstanding connection with the abbey of Dunfermline. After his death, possibly from leprosy, the king was buried there, beneath what was then the centre of the church, below the high altar and next to his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, but not before his heart was removed and buried at Melrose Abbey. His tomb, lost for centuries, was rediscovered during building works at the abbey in 1818 when workmen uncovered a sealed vault containing a decayed oak lead-lined coffin, still draped in shreds of gold cloth. The king's skeleton was reburied, with some ceremony, the following year and still rests within the abbey, which now bears the legend 'KING ROBERT THE BRUCE' around its rebuilt eastern tower.

Queen Margaret, descended from pre-Norman kings of Wessex and England, was married to King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070. She founded Dunfermline Abbey in 1072 and in 1250, she was canonised. As St. Margaret, her worship was enshrined at Dunfermline Abbey, which fictively claimed that Margaret herself had founded the monastic community and went so far as to create a 'foundation charter' in her name. Margaret was born in exile in Hungary along with her brother Edgar Ætheling, (circa 1051–circa 1126), the children of Edward the exiled King of England. She returned to England in 1057 with her kinsmen, but had to flee to Scotland after the Norman invasion of England of 1066. She was noted for her charitable works, including the establishment of a ferry across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to Dunfermline Abbey, after which the towns of South Queensferry and North Queensferry took their names. She was the mother of three later kings of Scotland and a queen consort of England.

John Graham Dalyell (1775-1851), son of Sir Robert Dalyell, 4th Baronet, was an advocate, naturalist, author and antiquary, a member of the Society of Arts for Scotland (president, 1839-1840) ; the seal matrices are recorded as having been kept in the library of the Society of Advocates, Edinburgh, of which he was a member, in the late 18th-early 19th century period.

William Ogilvy, Baronet of Nova Scotia (succeeded to the title on the death of his father, 1824), of Carnoustie, presented the seal matrices to S. Henderson (father of Ebenezer Henderson) in 1867.

Dr. Ebenezer Henderson (1800-1879), of Muckhart, was the son of a Dunfermline watchmaker. As a boy he displayed a great taste for the scientific study which subsequently gained him the position of importance which he occupied in scientific and literary circles; he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical and Royal Antiquarian Societies, while a degree of LL.D was conferred on him by an American college. His work on the Annals of Dunfermline (published 1879, in which he confirms that the matrices were in his possession from at least 1878) greatly influenced the government's decision, in 1856, to recognise Dunfermline as a city. In recognition of his valuable services he was made a Freeman of the City of Dunfermline in 1859.

A Cokete Seal was used by customs officials. Seal matrices were important artefacts with legal standing; they were kept securely and would normally be destroyed when obsolete or damaged; this pair show signs of usage wear and the beginnings of cracking at the edges resulting from the pressures exerted when used in a seal press to force the beeswax mixture fully into the design recesses. It is possible that the pair was discarded from use when the damage became evident but before the matrix broke and it was then inadvertently preserved.