Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Scotiae  
Pagination: 28-29
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Translation of text:

which is Edinburgh. On the stated day they gather in the King’s palace at the Monastery of Holyrood, the nobles clad in purple robes, with ermine[?, armelinis] fur, some with more, others with fewer, doubled according to their dignity. The lesser Barons and delegates of the citizens have mantles of cloth. In the court of the same palace, on both the first and the last day, they mount horses and proceed in pairs. First the Burgesses, followed by four door-keepers from the Session, on horses; then the lesser Barons, and two door-keepers from the Council, likewise on horses; next the greater Barons, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes; finally the King, and after the King the Master of the Horse leads the royal horse, who is followed by a guard of soldiers: in that order they advance to the city. Now in the city the streets are strewn with sand, because of the steepness of the ascent. On each side stand [staffiarii], [sclopetarii] and other soldiers, on guard, from the gate to the Parliament House, which is on the northern side of the church of St Giles.

The Treasurer and Chancellor each rides in his own place among the Nobles, but they do not have votes. Also now barred from Parliament are the other Royal Officials, as too the Director of Chancery; although formerly they also had votes in Parliament.

The Justiciar is summoned at any time that the matter in hand requires, but does not have a vote.

Second is the Privy Council; it does not consist of a fixed number of persons, for there are about thirty, all nobles, and among them a few lesser Barons. Although they are of such a number, nevertheless seven being present can decide on all cases. They were formerly created by the King alone by a letter sent to the remaining Lords of Council, and the King also removed whomsoever he wished, at any time. But in the latest Parliament the precaution was taken that they should be chosen with the agreement of Parliament, as too are the Lords of Session and Exchequer. They do not have a determined salary. They meet each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, in time of Session; but during Vacations, only once in a 24 day period. The Chancellor is in the chair, as in all courts where he is present.

In this Privy Council each person states his own case; rarely, or rather never, are Advocates admitted.

They deal with the public affairs of the Kingdom, peace certainly and war, and other matters, likewise with injuries done, etc. They take heed of riots, secret assemblies; for murders, arms[?] etc. they give commissions to other judges. If there are matters of greater weight, they refer them to a meeting of Parliament, and bring them forward themselves. Thus it would not depart from truth to judge them Deputies of Parliament; for all lesser matters are dealt with by them, and greater ones in Parliament.

Third is the College of Justice, or as they call it The Session, which King James V established in the year 1532, on the model of the Parliament of Paris, from a President and fourteen Senators, to whom later were added four other Extraordinary Senators from the Privy Council. There are here three secretaries, the Clerks of the Session, by whom all the acts of the Lords are written.

Before this college all civil cases of the whole Kingdom are dealt with from 1 June to 1 August and from 1 November to the last day of March. In the intervening periods, scil. those of sowing and harvest, there is the vacation and judicial cares are relaxed. They decide according to the Parliamentary statutes of the Kingdom, or from long practice, and where these are lacking, from Roman law; but they declare justice not according to the rigour of the law, but from equity and right, each day, except Sunday and Monday./p>

Royal cases (and no others) are dealt with each Friday; a list of them is handed by the King’s Advocate to the Chancellor. No appeal is allowed from them except to Parliament, which has scarcely happened in a hundred years. For if someone lost his case again in Parliament, great danger threatens him; an example is the case of Baron Forbes of Corsinda[?], who for this reason was thrown into prison in Edinburgh and died there twelve years later.

All these Senators remain for life, or until guilty of neglect. This has also been decided for the Extraordinary Lords, by an act of the last Parliament, who were previously changed at discretion of the King. For their decrees or opinions to be valid, it is necessary that nine are present.

The President of the Session by act of the last Parliament is chosen on the first day of each Session, and this is the first act. He now remains President for that Session only, but was previously for life. He alone has the power in the absence of the Chancellor of introducing what cases he wishes.

In this Council advocates for both parties are heard first, and everything is captured in notes and written by amanuenses. Afterwards they are ordered to go out and a discussion between the Lords of Session takes place behind closed doors, the Chancellor asking them without any order; when the discussion has gone on long enough, he collects the votes, questioning them in order, beginning from the right.

They divide themselves into four Classes, in order the more easily to carry out their duties in succession. Four make up a Class. There are two houses, outer and inner. In the outer house the Senators are clad in purple robes; they sit in turn, and that for the whole week, except on Monday, when there is only one.

All Advocates plead with uncovered head and standing, except Dukes[?] of Parliament, and the Councillor and the King’s Advocate; but the King’s Advocate goes out when interlocutory cases are being argued, and enters after nine o’clock.

There is also a fourth secretary, who is called Clerk of the Supplicatory Pamphlets, Clerk of the Bills. He enters at ten o’clock, and shows the supplicatory pamphlets to that Lord who will sit in the outer house for the following week; his only duty in that week is to subscribe these pamphlets; on the more difficult ones he consults the other Lords before twelve o’clock. He sits alone in a fixed, somewhat lower, place, to the right of the Chancellor, before the table. But he in the outer house decides at once lesser cases on his own, in greater cases he consults from eight to nine o’clock by interrogatories (standing in the middle) repeating the sum of what was said and propounded by the advocates, to the remaining senators, who give their interlocutor, which, after he has gone out, he pronounces sitting in the tribunal of the outer house, and thus on certain matters a decision is given at once by interlocutors. Those that are not decided, where difficulties are present, return to the inner house.

Only the Chancellor has the power of introducing cases in the inner house; he collects the votes, but in his absence the President. The President was formerly nominated by the King alone, and he was for life; but now, by act of Parliament, the Lords of Session themselves choose their President, on the first day of the Session, and thus he is President for the whole of that Session.

Two always sit in the afternoon to examine witnesses, to seek oaths of the accused parties, if the case is referred to their oath. The remainder do not sit in the afternoon, but hear parties in their house.

They declare justice not according to the rigour of the law, but from equity and right each day (except Sunday and Monday) from 1 November to the last day of March and from 1 June to 1 August. In the intervening periods, scil. those of sowing and harvest, there is the vacation and judicial cares are relaxed. They decide according to the Parliamentary statutes of the Kingdom, or from long practice, and where these are lacking, from Roman Law.

The Exchequer Council consists of ten or twelve persons chosen from Council and Session and a few lesser Barons. Their number is indeterminate; they are appointed by the King with the consent of Parliament. They sit in the Exchequer each Monday about nine o’clock, and judge on [regalia]. All signatures which must be settled by either the great or the privy seal or by the witness of the great seal, are presented by the Treasurer. After he has read them all and informed the Lords of the content of the lands, with his consent the sum to be paid to the petitioner is put down. They contract out the royal customs etc., they subscribe all signatures of lands, whence infeftments are granted to those acquiring them, in the vernacular tongue; the signature is then settled, and a Royal precept in Latin is directed on it, first to be signed with the signet by the Secretary, and he keeps the signed copy for his warrant, this precept on paper is handed to the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. Then it is given to the Clerk of the Privy Seal, who transcribes the precept in Latin onto parchment, and at the end splits a piece of parchment for hanging the privy seal, which is done by the Keeper of the Privy Seal. Then it is given to the Director of Chancery, to be written in a large format, and then to the Chancellor’s deputy, who affixes the great seal. And from the two forms of charter, scil. confirmation and resignation, new precepts from the Chancery must be directed to infeft the recipient after sight of the sealed charter, and these charters are corroborated with the testimony of the great seal by the Director of Chancery, and are registered in the Chancellor’s register, and are given to the parties, who complete the sasine on them through a notary.

In criminal matters the principal King’s Justiciar generally holds his court in Edinburgh; this task was for some long time undertaken by the Earls of Argyll, but they renounced it to the King some years ago, except in the Isles and part of northern Scotland. Now the King selects the Justiciar by diploma, for life; he delegates two lawyers, who investigate capital matters, or those which involve mutilation of limbs or loss of all goods. In this court the accused is permitted, even facing an accusation of lèse-majesté, to take for himself an advocate to plead his case.

Justiciars are also sometimes appointed in criminal matters by Royal authority to investigate this or that particular case.

There are also courts which they call The Commissariat. The highest of these is held in Edinburgh, in which before four judges testamentary affairs, the right of ecclesiastical benefices, tithes, divorces, and other

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