The Marquis of Montrose’s death and re-assembly

Marquess of MontroseOn 21 May 1650 the royalist hero James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, was publicly executed by hanging on a scaffold at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh, and his body dismembered. A remarkable account of expenses held by National Records of Scotland throws light on how, a decade later, Montrose’s remains were reassembled with pomp and ceremony, ready for his elaborate funeral. The revealing account is one a small group of papers in the miscellaneous series (National Records of Scotland, RH9/1/38).

The former Scottish covenanting commander was captured in 1650 by his enemies and condemned to death for his treachery to the covenanting cause and his military action against them during the 1640s. Rather than facing honourable execution by beheading, the Marquess was hanged like a common criminal. He went to his death defiantly, maintaining his adherence to the Covenant. He also went stylishly, dressed in a black suit, a scarlet coat with silver trimmings, and a beaver hat. In an exceptional move designed to inspire fear and awe in the populace, his head was placed on a spike on the Edinburgh Tolbooth next to the High Kirk (St Giles), his limbs distributed to other Scottish burghs, and his torso buried near the Burghmuir loch, at the east end of the modern Meadows.  Continue reading “The Marquis of Montrose’s death and re-assembly”

A window into the 18th century: John Home’s estate plans

The NRS maps and plans collection contains many exceptional items, but we’re looking today at the estate plans of John Home. Home was a land surveyor who worked across Scotland during the mid to late 18th century. It was something of a golden age of surveying in Scotland – a time when estate plans were much in demand from landowners wanting to assess and ‘improve’ their holdings.

His plans are highly detailed and contain a wealth of information which users may not initially expect. A major point of interest is that many give the names of the owners, tenants or possessors of individual holdings in rural areas, or of dwellings in his urban plans. A good example is this plan of Stonehaven in 1795, which gives individuals’ names and the location of their dwellings.

Detail from: National Records of Scotland, RHP142494: Plan of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, 1795.

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What’s in a name?

The annual NRS publication on the most popular baby names in Scotland is always popular. But did you know that the policy and process behind the registration of those names is quite complicated, and different to that used by other countries?

The graph shows the popularity of the name Kayleigh increased massively after the Marillion single was released.
The release of the Marillion single “Kayleigh” greatly increased the popularity of the name – image produced with our data visualisation tool.

In France, for instance, until 1993 parents had to choose from a list of officially sanctioned baby names (and only those names). Since then parents have had a greater degree of choice, but a name can still be banned if a French court decides it is not in the best interest of the child. Recent cases have seen the names ‘Strawberry’ and ‘Nutella’ disallowed for baby girls, as the court considered they might be bullied because of them!

In Scotland, parents have more freedom to choose and register the name of their new baby. We don’t have a formalised list of names, or enshrine acceptable names in law, but it isn’t quite a free-for-all. Names are discouraged which refer to a ‘title of dignity or status’ (such as sir or lord); which are objectionable, or otherwise offensive; which are fanciful; which are spelled in an unusual manner; or which contain initials not standing for any other name.

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Scotland’s population is increasing

We’ve published figures today on Scotland’s increasing population. Over the last 20 years, the number of people living in Scotland has increased by 312,000 (6%).

The latest estimate of the population is 5,404,700 at 30 June 2016, the highest level recorded. This was an increase of 31,700 (0.6%) people since the previous year.

Scotland's population has gone from 5092,190 in 1996 to 5,404,700 in 2016.
Infographic showing increase in Scotland’s population from 1996-2016.

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Preview: Medieval Charters Exhibition

NRS archivist Dr Tristram Clarke, Head of Outreach, talks about Scribes & Royal Authority: Scotland’s Charters, 1100-1250, a free exhibition at General Register House, Edinburgh.

The exhibition, which runs from 5 April to 17 May, is a rare opportunity to see examples from two of Scotland’s most important collections of medieval charters.

You can find out more here.

Medieval Charters Exhibition

Scribes and Royal Authority: Scotland’s Charters 1100-1250

5 April – 17 May 2017

Free Exhibition, Matheson Dome, General Register House

For the first time precious examples from two of Scotland’s most important collections of medieval charters are going on show in National Records of Scotland.

1. GD_45_13_223
Charter of Thor, son of Swain for Holyrood Abbey, National Records of Scotland (GD45/13/223)

The charters from Holyrood Abbey and Melrose Abbey reveal how government developed in the period between 1100 and 1250, as part of the emergence in Western Europe of government as we recognise it today. These charters are but a tiny sample of what survives from the period and they offer a glimpse into the work of Scotland’s medieval scribes. This exhibition investigates how changes in the handwriting of the royal and monastic scribes reflect these crucial changes in charters that granted lands and rights.

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Changing lives with data

Data can change lives! Huge amounts of data are made freely available by government and other organisations across Scotland, including NRS. Lots of people use this data in all sorts of ways, but there are plenty of people who don’t, just because they don’t know what is available. To try to help people get started, we ran a free event as part of the recent Data Festival, called ‘Changing lives with data’.

Datafest - Amy Wilson speaking
Our Head of Statistics Amy Wilson speaking at Datafest. Thanks to Dave Fitch (@dere_street) for the picture.

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Manuscript pedicure

There are many exciting things a Conservator can find between the pages of a manuscript. Not only animal droppings, human hair originating from unknown body parts, and other delights, but also something that looks very much like toe nail clippings. Except, at a closer look, they are actually quill pen shavings!

Page of a book, with old handwriting and small white quill shavings
A late 18th c. Scottish Board of Custom minute book with quill pen shavings and residues of feather.

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