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Seal of Robert the Bruce at risk of export

A seal commissioned by Robert the Bruce is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £151,250.

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

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

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

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

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision 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 their 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.

RCEWA Member Leslie Webster said:

“This remarkable and handsome seal-die is of national importance on several counts; 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 21 June inclusive. This period may be extended until 21 September inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the seal matrix pair is made at the recommended price of £151,250.

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