Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Royal writ of 1328 (Westminster Abbey. Muniments. Coronation No.II).All images from The New Palaeographical Society 1910, Plate 197.
It's a very amazing thing that the editors of the series The New Palaeographical Society knew their documents so well that every example tells a fascinating story. They never comment on it in great detail though. You have to think about it for yourself. This is presented as an early 14th century royal writ under the privy seal of Edward III, in French, displaying the type of cursive document hand that was typical for letters of less weighty significance than charters. It is somewhat damaged by damp and the seal has been lost. As a privy seal document, the seal should have been attached to the face of the document. It is also a rather scruffy looking document given the significance to history of its content. The privy seal is here not acting as an internal conduit to the chancery, but is dealing directly with the outside world, and with quite an august personage. As copies of privy seal documents were not recorded on rolls, they cannot be traced through the central administration itself, but only, as in this case, where they have been archived by the recipients. Was this some quiet little arrangement between gentlemen?
The writ is addressed to the abbot and convent of Westminster, and orders them to hand over to the sheriffs of London the coronation stone of the Scottish kings, to be returned to that country. The stone, known popularly as the Stone of Scone, had been pillaged from Scotland by his ancestor Edward I (after he had been sent homeward to think again, had thought, and went back with a new plan!) It sat under the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey, where it was part of English coronation ceremonies, until 1996 when it was finally sent back to Scotland. The royal writ was clearly ignored or superseded by later orders.

Coronation Chair
The Coronation Chair, with the Stone of Scone tucked neatly under the seat.
The origin of the stone is unknown, but like all good symbolic objects, it has a mythic history which goes back to Biblical times. It now sits in Edinburgh castle, and Scotland has its own House of Assembly. The Scots now send truckloads of electrical and computer goods down into England rather than waves of blue painted warriors in skirts, but they send some pretty scarey supporters to football matches. Oh flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?
A summary of the history and legends surrounding the famous slab of stone can be found at Lia Fail: The Stone of Destiny website.

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