The Adoption of Brieves in Scotland

  • Dauvit Broun


The first half of the twelfth century saw the adoption of new kinds of document within the realm of the king of Scots. Prior to this period property rights may have been the subject of brief written records which lacked a consistent structure beyond the plain information that X had granted Y to Z.1 It is only from the twelfth century that the extant archives of Scottish beneficiaries begin to yield examples of the written expression of a donor’s will in a form that was designed particularly for this purpose. The term ‘charter’ can usefully be reserved as a generic term for any specialized document of this kind.2 The earliest charters in the name of a king of Scots belong to the last years of the eleventh century. These, like all Scottish royal charters before about 1120, survive in the muniments of Durham cathedral priory.3 Durham is the beneficiary or addressee of them all, and almost all were produced by Durham scribes.4 The earliest extant charters written for (and probably by) a beneficiary within the realm of the king of Scots are those of Alexander I (1107–24) for Scone, datable mostly to the last years of his reign.5


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century General Address Eleventh Century Extant Original 
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© Dauvit Broun 2005

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  • Dauvit Broun

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