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Robert the Bruce seal

Export bar on the seal of Robert the Bruce

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed an export bar on the seal of Robert the Bruce to prevent its sale abroad. Robert the Bruce was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329. He famously led the Scottish to victory over the much larger English forces at the Battle of Bannockburn on 24th June 1314, and also led devastating raids on the English counties as far south as Lancashire and Yorkshire. As such, he has become closely associated with Scottish struggles for independence and is now remembered as a national hero in Scotland.

Robert the Bruce as depicted on the Clydesdale Banknote.
Robert the Bruce as depicted on the Clydesdale Banknote.

Despite his importance, very few artefactsObjects made by humans that are of historical interest. remain that are directly associated with his reign. His 700-year-old bronze seal is one. Created in 1322, it was used on documents by Dunfermline Abbey as proof of their endorsement by Robert, and as RCEWAMore infoThe Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest that advised the Culture Minister. Member Leslie Webster explains, it 'sheds light on how the king acted out his authority, delegating the powers of the crown'.

But now this nationally important item could pass into foreign hands, unless a British buyer can be found to match the asking price of £150,000. The temporary export bar has been placed on the seal after it was bought by a foreign buyer at auction in December 2015. It will remain in place until 21st June 2016 to enable rival buyers to come forwards with the full £151,250, or can be extended until 21st September 2016 if someone can show serious intention to raise the funds by then.

As Ed Vaizey says, the seal's '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.'

It is not the first time this month there have been issues over the export of historically significant items bought at auction. There is currently a dispute over the sale of Joan of Arc's ring, which was bought by French theme park Puy du Fou in February and which may have left the country without the proper export licence in place.

To read more about Robert the Bruce's seal, click here.

Author Info

Debbie Kilroy

Having read history at the University of Birmingham as an undergraduate, where I won the Kenrick Prize, I worked as a trouble-shooter in the public sector until I took a career break in 2009. Thereafter, I was able to pursue my love of history and turn it into a career, founding Get History in 2014 with the aim of bringing accessible yet high quality history-telling and debate to a wide audience. Since then, I have completed a Masters in Historical Studies at the University of Oxford, from which I received a distinction and the Kellogg College Community Engagement and Impact Award. As well as continuing to write for and expand Get History, I am now a freelance writer and historian. I have worked with Histories of the Unexpected and Inside History, and my article for Parliaments, Estates and Representation won the ICHRPI Emile Lousse essay prize (2019).