UK bans export of Robert the Bruce seal

UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a two-part bronze seal commissioned by Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, to provide a chance to keep it in the UK.

The seal is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the current asking price of £151,250, the UK government said.

Authorised in 1322 by Robert the Bruce, it was used to seal customs documents by Dunfermline Abbey as proof of their authority and endorsement by the King.

The upper part of the seal is engraved with St Margaret, Dunfermline Abbey’s founding saint, and the lower part bears the royal arms of Scotland.

The inscription on the side translates as ‘Robert, by the Grace of God, King of the Scots’.

The UK government said the the seal is extremely rare, and is of outstanding significance for the study of medieval Scotland, and medieval goldsmiths’ work.

“This amazing artefact represents one of the few objects directly associated with Robert the Bruce’s reign,” said Vaizey.

“Its departure would not only result in the loss of this irreplaceable item, but it would also strip us of the opportunity to learn more about this exceptional figure.”

Vaizey decided to defer granting an export licence for the seal matrix pair following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds that it was of great value for the study of medieval goldsmith work and sigillography and the re-establishment of Scottish institutions under Robert the Bruce.

“This remarkable and handsome seal-die is of national importance on several counts,” said RCEWA member Leslie Webster.

“It is closely linked to the charismatic figure of Robert the Bruce, and to the history and institutions of Scotland at a crucial time in its evolution as a nation.

“Its association with the royal abbey of Dunfermline sheds light on how the king acted out his authority, delegating the powers of the crown — and its outstanding quality may suggest the influence of French craftsmen.”

The decision on the export licence application for the seal matrix pair will be deferred for a period ending on June 21.

This period may be extended until September 21 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to buy the seal matrix pair is made at the recommended price of £151,250.

* Contact the RCEWA Secretariat on 0845 300 6200 for further information.

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.