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The History of Brechin to 1864
Charter of William I


WILLELMUS, Rex Scotie, omnibus probis hominibus to this Scotie ; Salutem : Sciatis me concessisse et carta mea confirmasse Episcopis et Keldeis de ecclesia de Brechin, donationem illam quam dedit eis Rex David, avus meus, per cartam suam de foro imperpetuum habituro in villa per dies Dominicos adeo libere sicut Episcopus Sanctiandree forum habet. Testibus, Andrea, Episcopo de Catones, Nicholaio, cancellario. Apud Brechin.


William, King of Scotland, to all honest men of the whole of Scotland, greeting: Know me to have granted, and by this my charter to have confirmed, to the bishops and Culdees of the church of Brechin that donation which King David, my grandfather, gave them by his charter, of market to be held in perpetuity in the city on the Lords-days (or Sabbaths) as freely as the Bishop of St Andrews holds a market. Witnesses, Andrew, Bishop of Caithness, and Nicholas, the chancellor. At Brechin.

Note.—The original of this charter does not now exist, but it is copied into a transumpt of the principal charters of the church of Brechin, made before Robert, Bishop of Dunkeld, at the instance of John, Bishop of Brechin, on the 16th May 1433, which transumpt is No. 54 of the charters in the charter-room of the city of Brechin; and it is also copied into another transumpt of a variety of charters made at the sight of the sheriff and a number of landed gentlemen of Forfarshire, on 21st July 1450, and which last mentioned transumpt is No. 106 of the charters of the town. Both transumpts are printed, by the late Patrick Chalmers, Esq., of Aldbar, in his “ Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis,” vol. i. pages 56 and 138. The above copy is taken from the original transumpts, and collated with Mr Chalmers’s printed charters. Mr Chalmers also prints briefly, (i. 9,) a transumpt of the same charter, made before the Bishops of St Andrews and Dunkeld in 1318.

We stated in our first edition that Brechin was a royal burgh in the twelfth century. This statement has since been contradicted, and it has been assumed that Brechin held of an ecclesiastical superior, and that, as after the Reformation, that superiority was vested by Act of Parliament in the crown, Brechin only became a royal burgh in the time of Charles I. in 1641. No evidence exists that the burgh had privileges from the bishop, although many tenements in town were held feu of him and of the other ecclesiastics connected with the burgh; and of the Knights Templars; and also of various laymen, as well as in free burgage. In the work entitled “ An Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of Parliament,” by Alexander Wight, Esq., advocate, Edinburgh, edition 1806, page 36, we find it said, “ At what precise time the erection of such corporations (royal burghs) first took place in Scotland, cannot indeed be discovered with certainty. The oldest charters to burghs now extant, or of which we have any knowledge from later instruments, were given by William the Lion; and the most, if not all, of these, are rather to be considered as grants of particular privileges to the inhabitants, than as charters erecting them into communities or bodies corporate, with power to choose their own magistrates/' and, in proof of this remark, Mr Wight gives a charter by James III. to the town of Inverness, which recites verbatim four charters by William the Lion and other princes, in which grants by David I. are mentioned. Now this is exactly the case of Brechin, which is included in the roll of the royal burghs from the earliest period.

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