14-12-01-2169NE02A Robert the Bruce seal.jpg
The Robert the Bruce of Scotland and Dunfermline Abbey cokete seal matrix pair that sold for £125,000 at Timeline Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

In the year of the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn they offered the seal of Robert the Bruce on December 4 with an estimate of £80,000-100,000. It sold at £125,000 to an American buyer.

The 'King Robert the Bruce of Scotland and Dunfermline Abbey cokete seal matrix pair' was commissioned on July 10, 1322. Cokete seals were used where certain rights had been assumed or conferred - in this case the right of Dunfermline Abbey to collect and use revenues from customs duties or taxes.

Like many large and important seals, it comprises two elements and was used as a press to form the large wax seal impression that was then attached to a document on a strip of parchment.

Housed in a Victorian hinged wooden box, the obverse matrix (with locating posts) shows St Margaret, founder and benefactress of the abbey, while the reverse (counterseal) matrix depicts the royal arms of Scotland and has a border with the Lombardic legend Robertvs Dei Gracia Rex Scotorvm (Robert, by the Grace of God, King of the Scots).

The Heart of the Bruce

King Robert I, who died in 1329, had a longstanding connection with Dunfermline Abbey and was buried there (his tomb was lost for centuries but rediscovered in 1818). His heart, however, was taken on crusade by Sir James Douglas, his closest friend. After Douglas was killed in Spain (throwing the heart before him, he supposedly charged into the enemy shouting "Lead on brave heart, I'll follow thee") his corpse and the casket containing Bruce's heart were returned to Scotland in 1331 and the heart buried in Melrose Abbey.

This pair of seals was described as being "in extremely fine condition" save signs of usage wear and the beginnings of cracking at the edges that might have seen them 'retired' and replaced before the end of King Robert's reign. It was purchased in the 19th century by erstwhile owner Dr Ebenezer Henderson (1800-79) whose Annals of Dunfermline were published in the last year of his life.

Timeline's vendor was 'a London gentleman'.

Timeline Auctions' sale was held at The Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury Way and the buyer's premium was 17.5% buyer's premium.