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Notice of a Seal of James, First Viscount Seafield


NOTICE OF A SEAL OF JAMES, FIRST VISCOUNT SEAFIELD, AFTERWARDS LORD CHANCELLOR OF SCOTLAND. By Rev. R. R. LINGARD GUTHRIE, F.S.A. SCOT.

I have ventured to exhibit a steel seal which I lately acquired by purchase, because I think it is evident from the armorial bearings engraved upon it, that this is the seal of one who played a prominent part in Scottish history at the end of the 17th century and in the early part of that which immediately followed. The bearings to which I refer are the quartered coat of the extinct, or dormant house of Ogilvy of Findlater and Deskford, differenced by a bordure charged with ermine spots and jewelled annulets, no doubt betokening the cadency of a younger branch of that noble family; the shield surmounted by a Viscount’s coronet, and supported by two lions guardant, the supporters of the house of Findlater; but resting on a scroll bearing the legend "Jugiter," which is not the motto which that family usually bore. The house of Findlater, it must be noticed, though elevated to an Earldom in 1638, never possessed a Viscount, until one was created in the person of James Ogilvy, second son of James, third Earl of Findlater who by letters patent, dated at Kensington, June 24, 1698, was created Viscount of Seafield and Lord Ogilvy of Cullen, and to him I have no doubt, from internal evidence, this seal originally belonged. A younger son,—born in 1664, he was trained to the law as a profession, and was admitted advocate on the 6th of June 1685. In 1693 he was appointed Solicitor-General, when he received the honour of knighthood, and was made Secretary of State in 1695. In 1698, as I have already observed, he was created Viscount of Seafield, and in 1701 was elevated to an Earldom by the same title; so that it was only during those three years that he could have borne the coronet of a Viscount, and it is just to that period, judging from its style and treatment, that the seal which I exhibit, evidently belongs. Unfortunately, the Lyon Register of that period is very imperfect, and has no record of the arms or supporters of the first Viscount Seafield; indeed, those of the Earl of Seafield are merely represented by a blank entry, which has never been filled up to this day; but, I think the motto assumed, "Jugiter," plainly points to one of the legal profession, as do the ermine spots in the bordure, while the jewelled annulets which accompany them, would seem to refer to his descent from the house of Eglinton, to which the first Viscount Seafield’s mother belonged. After being on several occasions Commissioner to the General Assembly, and again Secretary of State, Lord Seafield was elevated to the office of High Chancellor of Scotland in 1702; and for a second time in 1705, when he was nominated one of the Commissioners for the Union, of which he proved a most constant and zealous supporter, setting forth the advantages of that measure by his speeches in Parliament, till that great object was attained. According to Lockhart, it was Chancellor Seafield, who, when the Act of Union was accomplished, gave vent to the well-known saying, "And there’s the end of an auld sang!" Which drew from Sir Walter Scott the angry comment, that it was "an insult for which he deserved to have been destroyed by his indignant countrymen;" and alluding to the pecuniary benefits which the Chancellor was supposed to have received for his support of this measure, the same writer relates in another place a reply made by his brother Patrick, when Seafield objected to his dealing in cattle, as being derogatory to the family dignity, "Take your own tale hame, my Lord and brither—I only sell nowt, but you sell naations." Both of which anecdotes bear witness to the estimation in which the Chancellor’s conduct in this business was held by many of his contemporaries. At any rate he would seem to have lived to repent of what he had done, for irritated at the proposal to extend the malt tax to Scotland, Lord Seafield (now become Earl of Findlater, by the death of his father), himself moved the repeal of the Union in 1713, a motion which was only lost by a majority of four, proxies included, so near then (Absit omen !) was the great cause of Union to receiving a mortal blow. It only remains to say that a doubt having arisen as to his office of Chancellor of Scotland, when Lord Cowper was appointed Chancellor of the United Kingdom, after several changes Lord Seafield was eventually re-appointed "Chancellor of that part of Great Britain formerly called Scotland," and died the last holder of that great office in this ancient kingdom in the year 1730, and the sixty-sixth year of his age. He is described by a contemporary, Mackay, as—"a gentleman of great knowledge of the civil law and constitution of the kingdom; he understands perfectly how to manage the Scottish Parliament to the advantage of the Court; he affects plainness and familiarity in his conversation, but is not sincere; he is very beautiful in his person, with a graceful behaviour and a smiling countenance." The latter part of this statement is verified by a very fine three-quarter length portrait, painted and signed by Sir John de Medina, in 1695, now in possession of the Chancellor’s lineal descendant Mr Ogilvy Dalgleish of Errol Park, Perthshire, who also possesses several other fine portraits of the house of Findlater.


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